This section is not just for athletes and adrenaline addicts, but for any traveler seeking recreation and adventure in Iceland's great outdoors.
Some Reykjavík companies, all of which blur the line between tour operator and travel agency, offer a wide range of tours across Iceland. The Activity Group, Tunguháls 8 (tel. 580-9900; www.activity.is), and Mountaineers of Iceland, Skútuvogur 12E (tel. 580-9900; www.mountaineers.is), are oriented toward private tours and tend to be pricier. Arctic Adventures, Laugavegur 11 (tel. 562-7000; www.adventures.is), specializes in more robust sporting activities and has very reasonable prices. Nordic Adventure Travel, Svarthamrar 17 (tel. 898-0355; www.nat.is), and Touris, Frostaskjól 105 (tel. 517-8290; www.tour.is), serve mostly as travel agencies but are also licensed to lead tours. The two regional companies with the most creative roster of outdoor adventures are Nonni Travel, Brekkugata 5, Akureyri (tel. 461-1841; www.nonnitravel.is), in north Iceland, and West Tours, Aðalstræti 7, Ísafjörður (tel. 456-5111; www.westtours.is), in the Westfjords.
Iceland's two preeminent hiking organizations, Ferðafélag Íslands, Mörkin 6, Reykjavík (tel. 568-2533; www.fi.is), and Útivist, Laugavegur 178, Reykjavík (tel. 562-1000; www.utivist.is), lead small groups in down-to-earth expeditions that usually include Icelanders and revolve around hiking; others delve into anything from skiing to yoga under the midnight sun.
Unless otherwise indicated, tour prices quoted here include transportation (within Iceland only), meals (except for day tours), accommodation, and a guide.
Dog sledding on glaciers is not an authentic Icelandic tradition; but it's a quiet and graceful alternative to roaring around on snowmobiles, ATVs, or Super Jeeps, and the sled dogs -- all Greenlandic huskies -- are awfully cute. Tours are possible all year, but conditions may be too unfavorable in fall and early winter. Forget about epic dog-sledding treks; all that's usually offered are short jaunts of 45 minutes to 2 hours on Langjökull or Mýrdalsjökull. Snowsuits and gloves are included in tour prices, but make sure to bring sunglasses for snow glare.
From Reykjavík, Eskimos, Tunguháls 19 (tel. 414-1500; www.eskimos.is), runs scheduled day trips to Mýrdalsjökull in summer and Langjökull in winter, starting at a whopping 31,000kr ($496/£258) per person. The Activity Group, Tunguháls 8 (tel. 580-9900; www.activity.is), has similarly priced half-day and full-day tours on Langjökull from February to August. If you have your own transport, the best option is to drive to the base camp of Dog Steam Tours (tel. 487-7747; www.dogsledding.is), by Mýrdalsjökull, where 50-minute tours run for 10,900kr ($174/£87).
Despite its high winds and changeable weather, Iceland is a golf-loving nation with over 50 courses. Most courses are open from May through September, and a few try to stay open all year. Course fees range anywhere from 1,500kr to 6,500kr ($24-$104/£12-£52). Settings are spectacular, of course, and teeing off under the midnight sun is especially memorable.
Other golf courses singled out include Hamarsvöllur in Borgarnes, Vestmannaeyjavöllur in the Westman Islands, and Akureyri's Jaðarsvöllur, the site of Iceland's best-known tournament, the Arctic Open.
The best online resource, with basic descriptions and contact information for every Icelandic course, is www.nat.is; click the "Golf Guide" link.
Britannia Golf (from North America tel. 877/249-7354; outside North America tel. 1804/346-8716; www.britanniagolf.com), a golf tour company based in Glen Allen, VA, customizes Iceland golfing itineraries lasting 2 days to a week.
Game animals in Iceland are reindeer, seals, foxes, geese, ducks, ptarmigan, and a variety of seabirds, particularly shags, guillemots, cormorants, and razorbills. Reindeer season is from August 1 to September 15, but only around 300 licenses are auctioned each year, with a cap on the number of foreign buyers. Ptarmigan -- by far the most popular target for wing shooting -- can be hunted from October 15 through December 20. Most seabirds are fair game from September through early May.
Most visiting hunters bring their own guns and ammunition. To do this, you must be sponsored by one of the operators below; customs will require a police permit, which only a sponsor can secure for you. Guns can also be rented from the tour operators. Note: Bringing dogs of any kind to Iceland is prohibited.
Organized tours are especially convenient because the tour company takes care of the paperwork for securing licenses and exporting trophies. Group sizes remain small, usually two to five hunters. Angling Club Lax-á, Akurhvarf 16, Kópavogur (tel. 557-6100; www.lax-a.is), offers hunting expeditions lasting 4 to 8 days, with everything arranged from the moment you step off the plane. Angling Service Strengir, Smárarima 30, Reykjavík (tel. 567-5204; www.strengir.is), specializes in hunting trips for ptarmigan, geese, and ducks. The Icelandic Hunting Club (tel. 894-3905; www.huntingiceland.com) can arrange just about any private or group tour.
Iceland's fjords, inlets, and sheltered coastlines are ideal for sea kayaking, which can bring you up-close to seal colonies, bird cliffs, and sea caves that are inaccessible from land. All tours recommended below are guided, and none require prior experience.
From Reykjavík, the best tour operator is Seakayak Iceland (tel. 690-3877; www.seakayakiceland.com), which leads excursions to nearby islands. The company is headquartered in Stykkishólmur, on Snæfellsnes peninsula, and day tours from there among Breiðafjörður's countless islets are highly recommended. From either point of departure, 3-hour trips cost 6,000kr ($96/£48) and 6-hour trips are 10,000kr ($160/£80), with a three-person minimum. (If you're fewer than three, see if others are signed up.) Seakayak Iceland also leads multi-day adventures -- some scheduled and others by arrangement -- through Breiðafjörður, with camping on uninhabited islands. West Tours (tel. 456-5111; www.westtours.is), the leading Westfjords tour operator, offers 2- to 6-hour tours (5,000kr-11,000kr/$80-$176/£40-£88) around Ísafjörður and Ísafjarðardjúp, with a two-person minimum; the tour in Mjóifjörður is particularly idyllic, with friendly seals en route. The best tour operator in the Eastfjords is Kayakklúbburinn Kaj (tel. 863-9939; www.123.is/kaj), offering splendid 2-hour tours for 4,500kr ($72/£36) from their base in Neskaupstaður.
Iceland's phenomenal scenery and magical light have long enticed professional nature photographers -- and even amateur snapshooters are almost guaranteed impressive results. From experience we offer two small bits of advice. First, don't neglect the close-ups. Iceland's broad vistas always command attention, but the landscape's finer textures and patterns create fascinating worlds unto themselves. Second, have prints made by a quality developer. Iceland's subtleties of light and detail -- always so enthralling in person -- often don't come across in inferior prints.
In late July or early August, Borea Adventures (tel. 899-3817; www.boreaadventures.com) leads a 5-day excursion around Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, with instruction by photographer Thorsten Henn. The cost is 157,500 kr ($2520/£1260), and participants are whisked from fjord to fjord on an 18m (60-ft.) racing yacht. Nature photographer Daniel Bergmann (tel. 697-9515; www.danielbergmann.com), who lives in Stykkishólmur, conducts 1- to 11-day workshop tours around the country in June and July. The cost is $3,250 to $4,500 (£1,625-£2,250) and slots fill up months in advance. Strabo Tours (from North America tel. 866/218-9215; outside North America 1607/756-8676; www.phototc.com), a U.S.-based photography tour company, puts together an annual 10-day Iceland trip led by a professional photographer for $4,995 (£2,498).
Iceland has four glacier-fed rivers that are ideal for white-water rafting while the glorious scenery rolls by. For trips on the Hvitá -- in the Golden Circle area, about an hour from Reykjavík. For trips on the Eystri-Jökulsá and Vestari-Jökulsá -- both near Skagafjörður in northwest Iceland. Tours on these three rivers cater to most temperaments and ability levels, but the most experienced (and adrenaline-addicted) rafters head to the Hólmsá in south Iceland, 230km (143 miles) from Reykjavík. Hólmsá tours are run by Arctic Adventures, Laugavegur 11, Reykjavík (tel. 562-7000; www.adventures.is) once per week from mid-June to late August, with a minimum age of 18 for rafters; an 11-hour day tour from Reykjavík, with 5 hours on the river, goes for 10,990kr ($176/£88).
Iceland is not a major rock-climbing destination, because its rock faces tend to be crumbly and insecure. You'll still find plenty of established routes, all detailed at www.outdoors.is/rock-climbing-areas. Further inquiries or requests for private guides should be directed by email to the Icelandic Alpine Club (firstname.lastname@example.org); their website, www.isalp.is, is scheduled to have extensive information posted in English. The Alpine Club plans some expeditions for members, and visitors who are serious climbers can often schmooze their way into being invited. The club also sponsors a rock-climbing festival in May or June; email email@example.com for details. Klifurhúsið, Skútuvogur 1G, at Holtavegur (tel. 553-9455; www.klifurhusid.is; Mon and Wed 5-10pm, Tues and Thurs 3-10pm, Fri 4-9pm) is Iceland's only indoor climbing center. Climbs cost 700kr ($11/£5.60) plus 200kr ($3.20/£1.60) for shoe rental.
Arctic Adventures, Laugavegur 11, Reykjavík (tel. 562-7000; www.adventures.is), leads a 4-hour climbing tour to a vertical rock face in Hvalfjörður, an hour north of Reykjavík. Tours cost 5,900kr ($94/£47) and run from April to November -- when the weather cooperates -- with a four-person minimum -- if you're less than four, see if you can combine groups with others who are signed up. No experience is necessary, and the minimum age is twelve. More challenging trips can be arranged on request.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Iceland's top two diving sites feature some fish sightings, but the main attractions are geological formations quite unlike the scenery typically found in warmer waters. The most popular site is Silfra, a deep, dramatic fissure at the bottom of Lake Tþingvallavatn, next to Tþingvellir National Park. Tþingvallavatn's waters are so clear that divers experience a heady flying sensation as they plunge through the waters. The other main site, in the ocean near Akureyri, is Strýtan, a 55m-high (180 ft.) limestone pillar formed by a geothermal spring 70m (246 ft.) beneath the surface. Another diving highlight is El Grillo, an English oil tanker sunk by a German air raid on Seyðisfjörður during World War II.
The only diving-tour operator in Iceland is PADI Dive Center, Skipasund 85, Reykjavík (tel. 663-2858; www.dive.is). All participants must be certified for diving in a dry suit; if you want to learn in Iceland, PADI offers a 4-day certification course for 54,900kr ($878/£439). Eight-hour tours from Reykjavík -- either to Silfra or the ocean off Reykjanes Peninsula -- are 24,900kr ($398/£199). Five-day tours of Iceland's best diving sites, with some sightseeing thrown in, are 129,900kr ($2,078/£1,039), not including lunches and dinners.
For non-divers, PADI offers a 5-hour snorkeling tour of Silfra from Reykjavík, for 14,900kr ($238/£119).
Whale-watching tours have taken off in recent years, partly in response to all the publicity raised by Iceland's return to whale hunting. The season runs from late April to early October, and 3-hour tours cost between 3,700kr and 5,000kr ($59-$80/£30-£40) for adults. The most common sightings are minke whales -- which are not particularly huge or entertaining -- but lucky tour-goers also spot humpback whales, blue whales, orcas, sei whales, fin whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises.
We provide tour information for all the major whale-watching launch points: Reykjavík; Keflavík, on Reykjanes peninsula; Ólafsvík, on Snæfellsnes peninsula; Hauganes and Dalvík near Akureyri; Húsavík; and the Westman Islands. Of the above, Húsavík is the most popular launch point, with a slight edge in dramatic sightings.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.