Hi.

Welcome to my site. Thank you so much for visiting.

Five Active Adventures You Can't Miss in Iceland

Five Active Adventures You Can't Miss in Iceland

At 65 degrees north, you’re atop one of the most seismically active spots on earth. You can hear it hiss from the cracks and fissures in the earth, see it spew from steam vents rooted deep beneath the earth’s crust, and feel the warmth of it on your skin from the naturally occurring hot springs. In Iceland there’s an energy you can literally feel beneath your feet.

Locals rub shoulders with violent volcanoes, powerful waterfalls, boiling hot geysers and sprawling glaciers every minute of every day—and do so completely unfazed. There, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the North American and Eurasian plates are slowly moving apart, literally opening up the earth’s crust.

The country’s rugged landscape is always changing, making way for some of the world’s most challenging and awe-inspiring hikes, bike trails and glacier treks, each complete with unparalleled views. Naturally, there’s no better place to work up a sweat—and just when you think you’ve seen everything, the next adventure is just around the next bend in the road.

The Ring Road, a 1,332km ribbon of asphalt that runs around the entire country, connects most of its inhabited parts. To experience the unadulterated Iceland, however, map out your journey, hop in a 4×4 (trust us, you’ll need one to experience the really good stuff) and get ready for an adventure.

Together with three others, I headed out of Reykjavík on one of Icelandic Farm Holidays’ bespoke, self-drive trips and checked out these five active adventures that will get you up close and personal with Iceland’s wild side.

1. Go inside a volcano

Despite that Iceland has shown up in global news a lot lately for its active volcanoes, we decided it was great idea to find out what one looks like from the inside. After a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík to Bláfjöll Country Park, we headed out in a torrential downpour and trekked for an hour across black lava fields to the base of the Þrihnúkagígur, one of Iceland’s 130 volcanoes. The metal hut at base camp is temporary; each May supplies to build it are helicoptered in, then it’s taken down at the end of the season for conservation purposes. There, we hung our coats over the radiators, warmed up with some tea, then got into harnesses and helmets and headed up the steep incline to the opening of Þrihnúkagígur—a very deep, very dark hole.

A cable lift rigged across the opening slowly descended us 400 feet into the vast volcano, which last erupted 4,000 years ago. The opening was so narrow (four meters wide) that we could touch the slimy sides of the volcano, which were wet with water trickling down from above. The volcano’s uneven, slippery base is filled with volcanic rocks and boulders, and from the bottom up the chamber is taller than both the Statue of Liberty and Reykjavík’s beloved church, Hallgrimskirkja (which stands at 244 feet). The walls, lit by massive floodlights, are scorched with colour—orange, red and yellow near the top, and deep purple and blue near the bottom—a canvas displaying the natural wonder’s power and force. Back at base camp, after, we tucked into a bowl of warm lamb stew; the guides lug the ingredients up and cook a fresh pot every morning.

What you need to know:

The only way to get inside Þrihnúkagígur is on an Inside the Volcano tour between May and October; so don’t let its $350 CAD price tag deter you. You only have 30 minutes to explore once you’re down there, so spend your time wisely (don’t fiddle with your camera settings, just take it all in).

What to wear:

The weather is unpredictable. Guides provide you with a head-to-toe raincoat, but a good pair of hiking boots and layers are essential. Guys, add an extra layer of water-resistance with our PNW Jacket. Ladies, cozy up with our Fluffin’ Awesome Vest—you’ll appreciate the warmth when you’re 400 feet underground.

 

2. Hike under the midnight sun

There are plenty of hikes throughout the country, but some of our favourites are around Landmannalaugar for its wildly coloured rhyolite mountains and free roaming Icelandic ponies and sheep. Here, the light crawls across the hills illuminating each crevasse in the landscape that has been carved by extreme weather conditions.

The area has lots of one- to four-hour hikes, but it’s also the starting point of Iceland’s most celebrated hike, the Laugavegurinn trail. This 53km, four-day journey takes you through glaciers, hot springs, rivers and lakes, connecting the Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk Nature Reserves. Limited accommodation is offered along the Laugavegurinn trail in six huts. You’ll need to make reservations well in advance.

Whatever hike you choose, don’t miss out on a dip in the bubbling hot springs. (Our secret: beer was banned in Iceland until 1989, but these days a locally brewed Viking beer goes down a treat in a warm nature bath with this view. Just make sure you take your empties away with you.)

What you need to know:

Iceland is close to the Arctic Circle, so from June to August the sun shines for nearly 24 hours every day. (Icelanders can fall asleep in broad daylight. My advice? Invest in a good eye mask.) Most of the hiking trails in the area, including Laugavegurinn, are only open during the summer months when the northern elements aren’t putting a damper—or time constraint—on your journey.

What to wear:

Make sure you’ve got warmth, water-resistance and a sturdy pair of hiking boots. If you decide to tackle Laugavegurinn, you’ll cross four glacial rivers by foot, so pack some serious footwear. Icelandic sheep roam freely in Landmannalaugar—fit right in wearing a traditional hand-knitted lopapeysa from theIcelandic Hand Knitting Association (they’ll set you back at least $150 CAD). Icelandic wool has a reputation for its warmth, lightness and insulation abilities. Beware, it’s itchy—wear a Metal Vent Long Sleeve or a Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve underneath to stay comfortable.

Tip:

Another favourite place to go for a dip into nature is Reykjadalur (translation: Steam Valley), a 45-minute drive from Reykjavík and an hour-long, moderate hike from the parking lot to a hot river. It’s much less busy than Landmannalaugar, but note that there are no facilities here, so you’re on your own.

 

3. Go river rafting through Hvítá

Iceland’s most dangerous river, the Hvítá, is nonetheless alluring for its rapids and frigid temperature. We took on 7km of it in rafts, paddling furiously and taking hits from the rough rapids at parts, and leisurely floating at others, the scenic canyon towering above us. Halfway through the route we maneuvered the boats into a cove at the Brúarhlöð Canyon, and took the plunge from a cliff into the river.  The water is seriously cutting—Hvítá’s source is a lake at Langjökull glacier, the second largest ice cap in Iceland.

What you need to know:

This adventure with Iceland Travel is great for all levels of experience because though the rapids aren’t the most physically challenging, the surroundings make it worth everyone’s while. It’s a 45-minute drive from Reykjavík and available from May to September ($123). Helmets, wetsuits, booties, waterproof jackets and fleece, are provided.

What to wear:

After taking the plunge, you’ll want to pull on clothing that will warm you up quickly. Ladies, cozy up in the Om and Roam Pullover. Gents, the Revolution Hoodie II can be used during or after this adventure—the guides recommend layering with fleece under your wetsuit (we know, it sounds weird, but it works) to help lock in your natural body heat.

 

4. Take a walk on vanishing ice

We followed a rough road to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue. From the parking lot, the walk to the ice gets larger every year; the glacier is shrinking at an alarming rate, about the size of a football field every year. At one point it stretched all the way down to the ocean, which is now about 7km away (so get there soon).

Rocking crampons and helmets, we tackled the glacier, leaning in to see sink holes and placing our pick axes across streams then doing push-ups on them to sip of water straight off the glacier. (Note: no need to buy bottled water in Iceland, the tap water literally comes straight off the glaciers.) Small balls of moss called glacier mice are the only thing that can survive in this frigid glacial environment, and they show up everywhere. Considered quite precious, we were instructed to avoid stepping on them as they take years to grow.

What you need to know:

Iceland Travel offers easy ($206 CAD) and moderate ($282 CAD) walks and climbs on the glacier. They provide everything you need: a helmet, waterproof jacket and pants, crampons, ice axe, and a super knowledgeable guide to take you across the unpredictable terrain (it’s a glacier after all, we don’t recommend trying to tackle it without one).

What to wear:

No matter what time of year you visit, the glacier is going to be cold (duh). On average the temperature sits at a chilly 5°C. Ladies, hold onto the heat with our Run With Me Ear Warmer and gents, lock in that body heat with our Down The Coast Sweater

 

5. Swim in a volcanic crater

A trip to the desolate, uninhabited interior is an absolute must. If you choose only one of these adventures, this is it. Venture 100km off the Ring Road and you’ll find yourself in the highlands. We drove across a smorgasbord of terrain including two rivers, unpaved roads, volcanic rock and sand dunes to get to the base. We hiked 3km to get to the craters: Askja, a volcanic crater lake surrounded by the wreckage of past eruptions, and Viti the much smaller crater on Askja’s shore created by an explosion in 1875.

The landscape is out of this world, which is why NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trained here in the 1960s for the Apollo space program.

We shuffled down the walls of the crater, almost knee deep in clay. (Wear something you don’t care about, your clothes will be permanently stained by the mud.) The creamy blue water that fills the Viti crater is the perfect temperature for a quick dip, but watch where you step, there are smoking, sulphurous steam vents all around the shore.

Since this is quite far from Reykjavík for a day trip, we spent the night in a nearby guesthouse. The charming apartment at Hali was the perfect base for exploring southeast Iceland. We cooked local haddock, drank Brennivín (a cumin-flavoured Icelandic liquor, a staple) and went to sleep with a view of the ocean, which we shared with a friendly family of sheep. In the morning we fueled up for breakfast in true Icelandic style—homemade bread, thinly sliced meat and veggies and lox, with all kinds of tasty jams and spreads.

What you need to know

Iceland’s interior is only accessible for a few months each year, and the journey to Askja explains why. Just book the 4×4, and stay on the marked routes. To conserve nature, off-road driving is highly illegal in Iceland (think: $4,500 fines).

What to wear:

Guys, pack your El Current Short II to slip on before you make your way into the Viti crater (we won’t tell if you happen to forget them though—skinny dipping is encouraged here). Pack The Towel to help you dry off quickly.

 

Bonus adventure: Survive the Runtur

A trip to Iceland isn’t really isn’t complete without venturing onto Reykjavík’s bustling Laugavegur Street on Friday or Saturday evening. Locals let loose on the weekend in a pub crawl they call the Runtur. Coffee shops and eateries turn into bars and clubs come midnight and stay open until morning. Even if you’re not partying, drive downtown to see it in action. It’s an even more bizarre experience in the summer when all the shenanigans happen in broad daylight.

What you need to know:

As 5am approaches and the clubs begin to empty, stop at Bæjarins Beztu Plysur for one of its infamous hot dogs ($3.50 CAD). Icelanders take their hot dogs very seriously. Ask for eina með öllu (aka ‘the works’): ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði (a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish). And yes, there’s always a line up. To name drop, both Bill Clinton and James Hetfield approve.

What to wear:

Icelanders take a lot of pride in their appearance and come the weekend, it’s next level. Dudes can look the part in our Rival Button Up while ladies need but slip on the Here To There Dress for a seamless transition from a day of exploring the city to a night on the town.

Tip:

If you need a pick-me up in the morning, head to Yoga Shala for one of Rachel’s classes. She teaches in English—trying to decipher asanas in Icelandic the morning after isn’t such a treat. Or, make like a local and head to one of the seven geothermal swimming pools, also a must while in Reykjavík.

Words and Images by Alicia-Rae Olafsson

 

Found in Vancouver, BC: Lagree West

Found in Vancouver, BC: Lagree West

Enjoy Waikiki Like a Local

Enjoy Waikiki Like a Local