Created for the extreme experience
Iceland was created for the extreme experience. With its abundance of mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, rivers, lakes, caves and otherwise rough terrain waiting to be tackled, Iceland is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise
Hiking has long been a popular activity in Iceland and beautiful trails can be found in all parts of the country, from shorter day hikes to multi-day treks such as the 53 km long, world famous Laugavegur trail, which will take you past Eyjafjallajökull volcano and into the interior of Iceland. This is considered one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world.
Icelandic hillsides are also good for skiing and snowboarding from late fall through spring. Reykjavík’s local Bláfjöll are not reliably snowy from year to year, but a number of mountains in North, East and West Iceland can be counted on. For some, remote slopes around the country can be reached via helicopter.
For those who would rather enjoy motorized adventures, it’s possible to choose between guided snow mobile trips around Iceland’s glaciers or jeep safaris across the highlands, Iceland’s largely untouched interior.
Although Iceland doesn’t immediately bring to mind water sports, they are alive and well on this North Atlantic island. Every kid in Iceland learns to swim in grade school and swimming remains is a popular pastime for Icelanders of all ages. The geothermal energy under your feet is used to heat more than 170 public swimming pools around the country, and nothing says awesome like pulling over on the side of a gravel road to find one of Iceland’s natural hot springs tucked away just out of sight.
Be it the ocean or a glacial river, the cold water is nothing to be afraid of if you’re prepared. White water river rafting, in fact, is a classic activity that has traditionally seen more Icelanders than tourists. Since 1983, more than 150,000 Icelanders, which is roughly half of today’s population, have gone rafting down Hvítá River in South Iceland. More advanced rafters can also tackle 4+ grade rapids of Jökulsá River in East Iceland.
Being one of few islands sitting on the mid-Atlantic ridge, Iceland not only offers the rare opportunity to see this geological phenomena, but also the even more rare opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive between continental plates. Although we’re talking about getting into a glacial river as it empties into Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn, the cold water offers some of the best visibility in the world, allowing you to see clearly Earth’s youngest crust pushing up and out approximately 2 centimetres per year.
Sharing Icelandic nature with its natural inhabitants is just as rewarding. Whether you are on board one of the many whale-watching boats around the country, taking in bird life, or trekking around the country on an Icelandic horse, the riveting beauty of the rugged landscape will never cease to amaze you.
The local natural wonder that is perhaps most ingrained in the fabric of Icelandic culture is the bounty of geothermal energy, the naturally heated water that powers our lives and heats our homes, baths and pools, public as well as private. And as unlikely as it may sound, Reykjavík sports its own geothermal beach, with white sands and warm ocean water.
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that it is descendent from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation.
The extreme dark of the Icelandic winter has a few perks. Between September and April, Iceland is treated to a magnificent natural display: the phenomenon of aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. This is what we commonly call the Northern Lights.
Because Quality Matters
VAKINN is the official quality and environmental system within Icelandic tourism. Only companies that maintain the highest standards in all aspects of business practices and meet a comprehensive assessment criteria have earned the right to carry VAKINN – Iceland tourism's official quality and environment label.
The quality system is divided into two categories, star grading system for accommodation and
other tourism services.
VAKINN is run by the Icelandic Tourist Board which has led the project in close cooperation with The Icelandic Travel Industry Association, Innovation Center Iceland and the Icelandic Tourism Association.