Ten Unique Activities in Iceland

Ten Unique Activities in Iceland

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Iceland has been on my bucketlist for a while, the land of fire and ice is unlike anywhere else on the planet.  For the moment, I’ve had to postpone my Iceland travel plans until I save up some more cash, but to keep my wanderlust in check I’ve been exploring some of the unique activities in Iceland that you can do on this magical island and nowhere else!  So read on for some inspiration for unique things to do in Iceland, and you won’t be disappointed!

Ten Unique Activities in Iceland

Explore a Natural Ice Cave

A cave made of ice.  Seriously, Iceland is so cool that you can go inside a glacier.  The blue ice caves are carved by rivers of melted ice running beneath the glacier surface, and are usually only safe to visit in the winter, as they are filled with water in the summer!  You can visit man-made ice tunnels in the summer though, but for me, natural is best, and the blue colour of the ice will transport you to another world!

Svartifoss Waterfall in Iceland. Photo courtesy: Iceland.is
Svartifoss Waterfall in Iceland. Photo courtesy: Iceland.is

Go Chasing Waterfalls

Although waterfalls are not unique to Iceland, there certainly are some spectacular waterfalls here.  Some of the more unusual waterfalls include Gljúfrafoss, which is almost completely hidden from view as the water tumbles into a cave, only accessible by crack in the cliff wall.  Svartifoss falls over a cliff of hexagonal, black columns, formed from cooled lava flows, and Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, nicknamed the Niagara of Iceland for its crashing spray.

Snorkelling Between Two Continents

Undoubtedly one of the best tours in Iceland, how many countries can offer the chance to do this?  Granted, the water will be exceptionally cold, but surely it is worth it to snorkel in the Silfra fissure, the crack between the American and Eurasian continental plates.  Here the water is so clear that visibility can be more than 100 metres, and if you have your PADI license you could even go diving in the crystalline water.

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Go Inside a Volcano

Hiking a volcano can be done in many places around the world, but the Thrihnukagigur Volcano is the only volcano in the world where you can descend into the magma chamber.  Fear not, the volcano is obviously dormant, so the closest you will get to lava will be the solidified kind, leaving a colourful cave in the chamber.

Hike on a Glacier in the Midnight Sun

Although there are glaciers in other places around the world, sadly there are diminishing due to global warming.  So now there aren’t many places you can go hiking on a glacier, glacier hiking in Iceland is truly unique if you go in summer during the midnight sun, when it never really gets dark.

Icelandic Horses - Get to know this unique breed. Unique Activities in Iceland
Icelandic Horses – Get to know this unique breed. Photo courtesy: Iceland.is

Meet the Icelandic Horses

One of the hardiest breeds in the world, Icelandic horses developed from ponies taken to the island by Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries.  Throughout the years they have survived harsh weather conditions and volcanic eruptions, and are protected from cross breeding by a law preventing the importation of other horse breeds, which has been in place for over 1000 years.  The horses are also unique as they move with extra gaits that are not found in other breeds, allowing these little horses to move much quicker than other horses.  Take a horseback riding tour in Iceland to get up close and personal with this special breed, and for a unique view of the island.

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Try Some Traditional Icelandic Food

Iceland has its fair share of weird and wonderful foods to sample.  Hverabrauð is a rye bread which is steam baked in a hot spring – not something you can try everywhere.  How about sour ram’s testicles (súrsaðir hrútspungar), fermented shark (hákarl) or boiled sheep’s head (svið) for the more adventurous foodie?  Traditional foods here hark back to Viking times, when food storage was more challenging than just popping something in the fridge, and clever Vikings would pickle, smoke, dry or rot food to help preserve them.  There are plenty of tastier options too if you’re not feeling quite this brave, Iceland is also known for fabulous fish dishes, lamb, and hot dogs bizarrely!

Bathe in Hot Springs

All the geothermic activity in Iceland means that there are plenty of places to take a dip in a hot spring.  The most famous is the Blue Lagoon, but you could also try Nautholsvik, a man-made beach close to Reykjavik, or Landmannalaugar which has spectacular views of multicoloured mountains and crystal-clear lakes to enjoy while you bathe.  Be wary of just jumping into any hot spring though, some are extremely hot, so ask for advice or dip a toe in before you take the plunge.

Unique Activities in Iceland - Visit the Whale Musuem, or see the real thing! Photo: Iceland.is
Unique Activities in Iceland – Visit the Whale Museum, or see the real thing! Photo: Iceland.is

Visit some Unusual Museums

Iceland is also home to some unusual museums – Europe’s (and possibly the world’s) largest whale museum, with full size models of the gentle giants, the Sigurgeirs Bird Museum, which houses a unique collection of 330 stuffed birds born of one man’s obsession, and the Icelandic Punk museum stuffed into a former public lavatory.  Part museum and part art exhibit, you can also visit the Library of Water, which displays water from Iceland’s 24 glaciers, including the Ok Glacier, which has since completely melted.  If a whale museum isn’t your thing, you can also arrange whale watching tours to get up close to the real thing!

Go to Álfaskólinn (Elfschool)

Apparently, there are thirteen types of elves in Iceland, and you can learn all about them at Elf School.  The ‘Hidden People’ as they are more commonly called live throughout Iceland, in boulders and rocks.  Although the school gets mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, learning more about the culture and beliefs of the Icelandic people surely can’t be a bad thing.  And you’ll even get a certificate at the end of the class to show you attended the Elf School.

 

This is just a taste of the unique activities in Iceland to enjoy, and with so much to see and do I hope I get to visit soon!

Have you been to Iceland?  What was your favourite activity?  Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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Iceland is an incredible country, with so many natural wonders to see in the 'Land of Fire and Ice'. I've picked my top ten unique activities in Iceland to enjoy, from hiking on a glacier to snorkeling between two continents, these are my favourite unique things to do in Iceland.  #Iceland #thingstodoinIceland #traveltips #travelinspiration #Europe #travel #waterfalls #elves #hotsprings

Thank you to Guide to Iceland for providing the inspiration, and Iceland.is the photographs for this post.

Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.

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12 thoughts on “Ten Unique Activities in Iceland

  1. We loved Iceland! My favorite country in the world to date! Though there is so much to do it’s impossible to fit it into one trip, and I have to get back for the snorkelling in-between two continents, and bathing in a hot springs. We pretty much spent our whole week there chasing waterfalls and hiking through the incredible landscapes!

  2. Those traditional Icelandic food sound so scary to me. I do have chicken and mutton but these… I don’t think I can have them but Iceland is definitely in my list of must visits. The unusual museums are a great option. And those horses! I hope I get an opportunity to photograph them.

  3. Every time I see a post on Iceland, I make a mental note to actually visit! It’s been on my list far too long. I’m really up for seeing those beautiful horses.

  4. Definitely some unique things to try in Iceland. I’d heard of the horses but not that they had a special gait. Would love to see that and attend an Elf School! Love how the little people pop up around the world.

  5. This sounds amazing! I’ve been planning to go to Iceland forever – thinking about e. g. hanging out in a hot spring, but never thinking about snorkeling – wow! I’d like to join the activities you are describing, but I’m not so sure about the delicacies – I’d might fix myself a sandwich…

  6. I’ve been reading so many posts on Iceland this year, I have to make a trip there soon! I would love to hike to waterfalls, swim in hot water springs, go to ice caves, snorkel between two continents and just drive through amazing beauty ! I am quite intrigued by the Elf School, think I’m gonna add that to my list! Thanks 🙂

  7. I have not traveled to Iceland but it is definitely very high on the travel list. I’d love to run into these beautiful horses in their natural habitat. Nature is just breathtaking, I’d like to see it with my own eyes.

  8. I love the idea of snorkelling between two continents- how cool is that?! I’d totally love to do a road trip around Iceland too, but you’re right the costs of travelling there can be quite prohibitive.

  9. Iceland is one of my favorite countries! I’ve been to the Blue Lagoon and snowmobiled on a glacier, but I’d love to go to elf school and hike at midnight in the summer.

  10. I’ve always wanted to go inside a volcano! Iceland is definitely on my list! This is a very helpful list. I cannot imagine trying those foods though!

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