Karl Cushing finds that easy adventures are abundant in the wild landscapes of Iceland
With Iceland’s beguiling blend of epic landscapes and soft adventure options set to attract around two million overseas visitors this year, a five-fold increase on 2010 numbers, it’s no surprise operators are looking to lure clients away from well-trodden paths such as the Golden Circle for pastures and activities new.
From skiing, 4×4 ‘superjeep’ tours and Northern Lights spotting, to hiking, camping and even venturing inside a volcano in the summer months, Iceland’s soft adventure options are on tap throughout the country all year-round, offering good scope for repeat visitors.
What’s more, although many excursions are limited to the over 12s, there’s an ever increasing range of family-friendly options on offer from the likes of Nordic Experience, Intrepid Travel and Regent Holidays.
DO A MULTI-DAY TREK
Where: Landmannalaugar Trek, southern central highlands
Why: Multi-day walks don’t come much better than the trek from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. As routes go, it’s up there with the world’s best, with a variety of sights and experiences en route, from hot springs, rivers and waterfalls to canyons, glaciers and volcanoes. Most people take four to five days to complete its 34-mile route, overnighting in cabins along the way.
Sample: Regent Holidays’ six-day Iceland Landmannalaugar Trek tour costs from £2,035pp with departures from June to the end of September. Price includes flights with Icelandair from Heathrow, transfers, accommodation in three-star hotels and huts, some meals, and guided sightseeing.
HIT THE ROAD
Where: All around Iceland
Why: One of the best, most flexible ways to take in the majesty and varied topography of the country is by taking a fly-drive trip and hitting Route 1, the country’s 832-mile ring road that encircles the island. It’s one of the world’s most iconic drives and most of the big sites are easily accessible along the route, enabling clients to be as active or adventurous as they choose.
Sample: Discover the World’s 14-night Around Iceland tour has 2018 departures from May to September, when the days are longest. Plus, when they pick up their car, clients receive an iPad Air pre-loaded with their personalised itinerary and handy destination info. discover-the-world.co.uk
Where: Skjalfandi Bay and Eyjafjordur,
Why: Iceland’s waters are home to more than 20 kinds of whale and Husavik, on Skjalfandi Bay, is often called Europe’s whale-watching capital. April to September offer prime viewing, when clients stand the best chance of snapping a humpback leaping out of the water — a real Attenborough moment. Winter brings its own marvels, such as watching feeding orcas mass off westernly Snaefellsnes Peninsula between January and March. You can also set off on excursions from Reykjavik Harbour.
Sample: Discover the World’s seven-night escorted tour, Orcas, Aurora & Icebergs. It departs on 4 and 17 March 2018, costing from £2,344pp and £2,196pp respectively. Price includes flights, day trips and two whale-watching boat excursions. discover-the-world.co.uk
TAKE A WALKING CRUISE
Where: Various locations
Why: Taking to the waters around Iceland in the summer months offers a great opportunity to experience the country’s dramatic scenery and birdlife amid the elements. It’s also a nice way of dipping in and out of different areas along the coast (including its dramatic fjords), to stretch your legs and put your camera through its paces.
Sample: Ramblers Cruise and Walk Holidays’ nine-night Arctic — Land of Fire and Ice cruise from/to Newcastle takes in a number of Icelandic ports of call, including Akureyri to the north and Isafjordur in the stunning Westfjords. While in port, visitors can join a series of moderate-graded walks. Prices for 2018 departures, on 18 June, 22 July and 12 August, start from £1,450pp, including on-board accommodation and entertainment, meals and the walks programme.
LEARN ARCTIC DRIVING
Where: Golden Circle, Eyjafjallajokull and the Highlands
Why: What better way to spend a long winter weekend than getting to grips with the testing Arctic terrain behind the wheel of a modified 4×4 truck. While you’re busy offroading, traversing the Golden Circle route or speeding over black-sand beaches, there’s also plenty of time for gazing at the Northern Lights and soaking in hot tubs, as well snowmobiling and hiking.
Sample: Nordic Experience’s four-night Arctic Truck Experience costs from £2,555pp — with selected October to April departures — which includes two nights in Hotel Centrum, Reykjavik, lodging in wilderness huts or tents, most meals, and flights from a choice of UK airports. nordicexperience.co.uk
GO SUMMER HIKING
Where: Southern Iceland
Why: There’s a variety of one-day hiking options such as the demanding 15-mile Fimmvorduhals Hiking Trail, around Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Highlights include hiking the Reykjadalur Valley and lava formations around Hengill volcano.
Sample: Scandinavia Only’s five-night Hiking Like a Viking tour takes in much of this. Packages include flights, transfers, twin/double room hotel accommodation with breakfast, tours and guided hikes. scandinaviaonly.co.uk
Why: With its long winter, abundant snowfall and volcanic slopes, the country is a ‘fantastic but little-known skiing destination’, notes specialist Ski Iceland, which has options that include backcountry snowcat and heli-skiing in areas such as the Trollfjord peninsula. For more accessible skiing, Akureyri, regional capital of the north, makes a great base.
Sample: Ski Iceland offers five-night packages from £1,620pp, including flights, accommodation for two nights in Reykjavik and three nights in Akureyri plus a five-resort ski pass.
RIDE ICELANDIC HORSES
Where: The Kjolur Trail, the Highlands
Why: Watching Iceland’s stunning scenery unfold from a galloping horse is simply epic and Icelandic horses are a breed apart. The historic Kjolur Trail takes in some of the Highlands’ best views along its 130-mile route between two icecaps. Plus, any aches or pains that develop during the day can be hot-tubbed out come the evening.
Sample: Horse-riding holiday specialist Unicorn Trails’ six-night Iceland — Glacier Trail takes in some of the Kjolur along its 115-mile exploration of the Highlands, with stays in mountain cabins en route. It’s priced from £1,859, tour only. unicorntrails.com