Iceland is a country unlike anywhere else in the world, boasting a wealth of rare attractions and exceptional activities. In this article, read on to check out eight of the most unique experiences that you can enjoy during your stay Iceland.
Iceland is full of exciting activities and breathtaking landscapes. You can witness geysers, waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, valleys and endless stretches of black sandy beaches. For activities, you can go hiking, biking, snowmobiling, kayaking or just soak up the warmth of a natural hot spring. The options are endless.
With so much on offer, it is hard to pinpoint both the best places to go and the most exceptional things to do. Some experiences can only be enjoyed in the summertime, others only in wintertime, some all year long—the most unique only happen occasionally (such as volcanoes erupting!).
Witnessing a volcanic eruption has got to be the most spectacular and unique experience that Iceland has to offer. The last eruption stopped in February 2015, but while we wait on the next one, here are a few natural phenomena and activities that we think stand out from the crowd, making Iceland a unique and unforgettable destination.
Not many people can say they've been dogsledding in their lifetime, so if you're looking for a unique activity where all you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the view, then dog sledding is a good pick for you!
It's possible to go dog sledding here all year round, either on dry land or across the snowy fields of Iceland's countryside. If the conditions are right, one could even sled across one of the country's might glaciers.
Thankfully, dog sledding can picked up easily. Two people mount each sled (plus the Musher steering the sled), who are then whisked off through the beautiful landscape by 6-8 energetic and adorable Husky dogs. Most of the dogs come from Greenland, although there are also some Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Huskies. If you're a dog lover, you'll find this is the right tour for you!
Enjoy the scenic landscape, remember to dress warmly (or, at least, according to the weather), and get ready to rub some furry bellies.
Iceland is known the world over as the land of ice and fire. As well as containing a multitude of glaciers and snow-peaked mountains, volcanoes are also dotted around the island. Þríhnjúkagígur volcano, in the south of Iceland, is just one of them but stands as a prime example of just how incredible these geological phenomena are. The volcano's name translates to 'Three Top Crater', though it has not erupted since the second century BC, making it perfectly safe to enter.
What makes this volcano unique is the fact that you can actually go inside the magma chamber! The magma chamber is 213 metres deep (699 ft) and covers 3,270 square metres (35,200 sq ft). To get there, you will board a specially constructed elevator that will you take you all the way down to the bottom.
Two bands have played inside Þríhnúkagígur's magma chamber to date. The Icelandic band, Kaleo, performed their song 'Way Down We Go' for a live recording, and the American artist Chino Moreno of Deftones held a public concert in 2016 for the music festival, Secret Solstice.
Exploring the inside of the volcano is a colourful and exciting experience that’s not to be missed by any serious traveller to Iceland. The Inside The Volcano tour is available in the summertime only, from the 15th of May until the end of September.
Any activity during an Icelandic summer night instantly becomes unique with the gorgeous midnight sun hovering above. The midnight sun only occurs during summertime, meaning the following experiences are only available sometime between late May to early August.
Horseback riding in Iceland is always a unique experience as the Icelandic horses are famous for having an extra gait and being smaller than horses elsewhere. So how do you make a horseback riding trip even more unique? By doing it under the midnight sun, of course. Where else in the world can boast trail riding quite so surreal as this?
In Iceland, you have the distinctive opportunity to play golf throughout the summer nights; many golf courses are open 24 hours a day, allowing golfers a seemingly endless amount of time to smack a ball into a hole. You might be surprised to hear that Iceland boasts a wide variety of golf courses; for such a small population, there are, in total, 65 golf courses found all over the country. Many of them are easily accessible, whilst some are a challenge to even the most experienced players. 16 of these courses are 18-hole, 2 of them are 27-hole, but most golf courses in Iceland have 9 holes.
Unfortunately, Iceland is known to be quite windy, however, the wind often dies down in the bright summer nights. You'll also be rewarded with incredible scenery on Icelandic golf courses, playing within lava fields with views towards impressive mountainscapes or out towards the open Atlantic Ocean.
Photo from Golf Digest
For golf enthusiasts, the courses here offer an experience quite like anywhere else, a point made all the truer during the midnight sun season. To make it even more appealing, the courses are also surprisingly affordable, with many even offering a special discount for couples.
Iceland is full of hot springs, be they man-made hot tubs or naturally warm rivers. The greater Reykjavík area has 18 swimming pools, as well as a hot foot bath by Grandi and a beach with geothermally heated water.
Around Iceland, one can easily stumble across natural hot springs, though the highest density is found in the Westfjords area. Nothing beats relaxing in a secluded hot spring during the summer; it is truly one of the most wonderful experiences that Iceland has to offer.
Visiting a glacier is a unique activity on its own. Although glaciers can be found all over the world, they are slowly diminishing and one glacier in Iceland has already lost its glacier status, the former glacier 'Ok'. The sad reality is, if you would like to hike on a glacier, you should do it sooner rather than later.
In summer, the days don’t get dark and the evenings are cool but bright and bathed in a gorgeous mix of sunset and sunrise. In other words, the conditions are perfect to go hiking!
Iceland boasts many mountains, volcanoes, glaciers and hiking trails; an endless plethora of trails from which to choose from. There are multiple glacier & ice cap tours available, but here is also one example of a midnight sun glacier hiking tour.
What better way to get close to the nature you are admiring than to get on the water and actually interact with your surroundings. Kayaking presents the opportunity to take in the natural wonder of the landscape in a completely different way and see things from unique angles unknowable from land.
Kayaking in the midnight sun is an authentic and exciting way to take in the breathtaking sights whilst the warm glowing sunlight reflects off the water. The radiance and warmth of the persistent sun will feel genuinely neverending while you navigate Iceland's rich and clean waters.
You can book a midnight sun kayaking tour here to see one of Iceland's most iconic landmarks bathed in the rich oranges and reds of summertime.
There’s nothing quite like seeing Iceland from above – and what better way to do it than in a helicopter? A helicopter brings you high enough to see the vast landscapes from above but is also able to get up close, even landing in spots rarely explored by your average, land-dwelling mammal.
By going on a helicopter tour, you’ll be able to see some parts of Iceland that are otherwise impossible to reach, such as the lava-spewing ground zero of Iceland’s last volcanic eruption. You can also choose to fly over Reykjavík, or over glaciers and waterfalls, perhaps even making a stop at Eyjafjallajökull volcano, just to feel the warm lava still bubbling underneath the surface. The choice, once again, is yours.
Helicopter tours can be arranged all year round, weather depending.
Seeing the Northern Lights is on the bucket list of many people and Iceland is an excellent location to make that dream a reality, despite their notorious elusiveness. Although they occur all year round, it needs to be dark (and a clear sky) to be able to see them—as reality would have it, the lights are only visible in wintertime since the summers don't get dark!
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is between late August/early September through until the end of April. Here you can find more information about the Northern Lights.
Plunge into ice-cold water and discover the incredible and unique beauty that exists just metres below the rippling surface.
Þingvellir National Park is a part of the popular Golden Circle route and holds Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn. This is the location where you can see two tectonic plates, the American and the Euro-Asian plate, gradually breaking apart year by year. It is the only place on the entire planet where you can see both tectonic plates exposed dramatically from the earth.
You can also swim between the two plates by going diving or snorkelling in Silfra, a gorge that’s filled with crystal clear water—so clear, in fact, that the visibility is more than 100 meters! Snorkelling is available all year round.
Surely the most unique adventure to experience in Iceland is to visit a blue ice cave, found deep inside one of the country's awesome glaciers.
Iceland is brimming with glaciers, some of which are host to some truly spectacular ice caves. These caves are carved out by glacial rivers, caused by the melting ice cap above, during the summertime. The blue colour of the ice really shines through as you walk inside a glacier cave, an unforgettable experience in itself.
This 2-day tour takes you inside an ice cave, along with other winter attractions of South Iceland
Given that, in summer, the caves are filled with water, it is only possible to explore inside during the winter months. The temperature needs to be cold enough for the ice to stay frozen, meaning that the ice cave season is between mid-October and March; note that some operators do not start tours until November. If you're here in the summertime and still want to visit an ice cave, however, there is no need to despair. Ice tunnels, hundreds of metres long, have been dug through Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull.
These man-made ice tunnels are Iceland’s newest attraction and have been open from June 2015. During the construction process, a large glacier cave was found deep within the glacier, proving just how alien and unexplored these great ice caps are.
Besides being able to walk 200 metres into the depths of the glacier, where you will witness the stunning blue light in the ice, you can also get married inside an ice chapel, specially made for such occasions! The ice tunnels are available all year round.
Additionally, a natural ice cave is accessible near the volcano, Katla. However, the ice inside this natural cave is not blue, though it still presents a unique opportunity to go ice caving during the Icelandic summer! Book the Katla ice cave tour here.
Snowmobiling in Iceland is, without doubt, one of the most unique, exhilarating and memorable activities that can be undertaken in the country, offering unprecedented access to incredible, untouched ice-caps. Unlike glacier hiking, snowmobiling does away with the need for a physical excursion, allowing you to pick up heart-thumping speeds with the flick of a wrist.
Iceland’s glaciers act as a bare white canvas for snowmobilers, and whilst a professional and experienced guide will lead you on certain routes, there is still plenty of opportunities to independently weave and carve across these great frozen expanses.
Three of the most popular ice caps for snowmobiling in Iceland are Langjökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull; snowmobiling on the former is often combined with the popular Golden Circle sightseeing route—tours routinely depart from Gullfoss waterfall car park—whilst the latter two are found along the picturesque South Coast.
On a side note, Vatnajökull is Europe’s largest glacier, covering approximately 8% of Iceland’s land area, which makes it one of the optimum locations for snowmobiling on the continent. It is possible to go snowmobiling from Iceland's unofficial northern capital, Akureyri, or alternatively, in the mystical 'Troll's Peninsula,' Tröllaskagi.
What will be your unique experience in Iceland? Have you composed your own bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!