Until a few years ago, Iceland was not necessarily synonymous with adventure travel. In fact, up until a few years ago, Iceland wasn't even on the radar of most travelers at all. It used to just be an obscure European country in the middle of the ocean that people assumed was covered in ice and not much else. But then word started getting out that Iceland is, in fact, a pretty cool place to visit.
There are thermal pools, rumbling volcanoes, furry horses, wild waterfalls, dancing Northern Lights, and a fairly serious belief in things like elves.
And, as tourism has started to take off in the Land of Fire and Ice, more and more adventure activities have become available, too. Some activities are only offered during certain seasons, but most can be booked any time of year.
Here are some adventurous things to try on your next visit to Iceland.
In the center of Iceland's Thingvellir National Park lies a massive fault line where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart from one another. This pulling apart happens mostly below the surface of Thingvallavatn Lake, and you can go snorkeling or diving here in some of the clearest water in the world, with more than 100 meters of visibility. The water is cold year-round, but you'll get a thick wetsuit (if you're diving) or a puffy dry suit (if you're snorkeling) to keep you warm.
Iceland is not called the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing. The country still has many active volcanoes, which cause earthquakes and thermal pools and still contribute to the shaping and reshaping of Iceland itself. If you're interested in getting a better look at to the raw power of nature here, consider booking a tour that will take you to some lava tube caves and craters, like Leidarendi Cave.
The lava tube caves cover the fire, but if you're also interested in the ice aspect of Iceland, it's quite easy to get up close and personal with glaciers, too. Many companies offer glacier-hiking tours year-round, which include trekking on the ice itself. Since Iceland has so many glaciers, options are plentiful. Book a trip from the capital of Reykjavik to hike on Solheimajokull, or perhaps a tour from Skaftafell to visit Vatnajokull, one of the largest glaciers in Europe.
Iceland has a unique breed of horse that has been bred in relative isolation over the centuries. Icelandic horses are short, stocky, longhaired in the winter months and extremely hardy. They have more gaits than the average horse - five, in fact - instead of the normal three. If you decide to go on a trail ride through some of Iceland's moon-like landscapes, you'll probably get to experience tolt, one of their extra gaits. It's a very fast, smooth walk that will make you appreciate how unique and beautiful these horses are.
Lastly, the ultimate adventure to have in Iceland is to rent a car and drive the famous Ring Road. The Ring Road (or Route 1, as it's officially called) circles the island of Iceland and will take you close to all of its top attractions, from waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, to the well-known Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Driving on this road is best in the late spring and summer, when you'll have the midnight sun to lengthen your days.
This of course is not an exhaustive list. Iceland has no lack of outdoor activities. In addition to everything listed here, you can also go quad biking around volcanoes, kayaking in fjords, and even ice climbing on some of the glaciers. Just be sure to pack layers, a good camera, and your sense of adventure.
Which adventure activity would YOU most like to try in Iceland?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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