Out of the 31 countries I have visited thus far in my travels, Iceland is by far the most magical. From its incredible out-of-this-world natural landscape to the quirky art scene of Reykjavik, Iceland is a country you have to visit at least once in your life. Or twice. I’m already planning my return visit.
Iceland offers a variety of unique activities that you can only do in this small country in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland is home to natural and human-made hot springs, Icelandic horses, volcanos, and even a glacier lagoon. Because of its unique landscape, Iceland is the place to spend your hard earned money on amazing adventures that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
5 Incredibly Unique Iceland Activities
Iceland is home to roughly 80,000 Icelandic horses, a unique breed that can trace its roots back to the Vikings in the 9th century. Due to its isolation, the Icelandic Horse is one of the purest breeds in the world. While most people, myself included, would consider this breed to be a pony due to its small size, the Icelandic Horse is in fact considered a horse.
You’ll find Icelandic Horses throughout Iceland. There is no shortage of these cute, fluffy animals that will meet you at the fence for some kisses and hopefully some treats. Icelanders love their horses and have competitions throughout the summer months.
You don’t need to be a horse lover to enjoy the beauty of these creatures. There are numerous riding schools throughout the country, with many right around Reykjavik, where you can enjoy a range of trail rides ranging from an hour up to a week-long trek across the countryside.
Not only are these horses cute, but they also have an additional gait that other horse breeds don’t naturally have. The tolt is a four-beat gait similar to a walk but at the pace of a trot. The horses pick their feet up higher and can even reach the speeds of a gallop in this gait. If you’ve ever ridden a horse at a trot, you probably know that it can be a bumpy ride, but the tolt is smooth as butter. Trust me, I’ve seen people ride a tolt while holding a pint of beer in one hand without spilling a drop!
If you’re looking for a unique activity in Iceland, discover the surreal landscape and the tolt of the Icelandic Horse while on a horseback riding tour.
There are some pretty fantastic snorkeling and dive sites around the world, but nothing compares to discovering the underwater world between two continents! The Silfra fissure is a large crack between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates that continues to grow by 2 cm every year.
The Silfra in Iceland is the only place in the world where you can snorkel or dive between two continents making it a unique activity that you have to do in Iceland!
Several companies offer both snorkeling and dive options for certified divers year-round. The Silfra is fed by glacial water from nearby Langjokull and filtered by underground lava rocks for 30-100 years before it reaches the Silfra making it some of the purest and cleanest water in the world. Drink up!
The water temperature is a consistent 2 to 4 degree Celsius year-round, so you’ll have to button up in a dry suit. You might expect to see some marine life in the fissure, but you won’t. Instead, you’ll see heaps of “troll hair” and an incredible range of water colors.
You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to snorkel between two continents. After all, it’s the only place in the world you can do that!
Image via Flickr by Diana Robinson
Discover the Surreal Beauty of an Ice Cave
There is a reason Iceland is known as the “land of fire and ice.” With heaps of volcanoes and glaciers, Iceland has no shortage of adventurous activities you can do, like the ice cave tour in Iceland or a glacier walk.
Vatnajokull Glacier is the largest glacier in Europe, covering about 8% of Iceland. Walking or snowmobiling across a glacier is cool in itself, but seeing the belly of the glacier in its ice caves is truly a unique Iceland activity.
Ice caves don’t happen overnight. And, you can only visit them between the months of November and March after the Spring meltwater has frozen. No two ice caves are alike, and they often move every year depending on the melting pattern.
So dress warm and bring your camera for this totally unique Iceland experience.
As a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that is often covered by snow and ice, Iceland has a ton of water in both the frozen and liquid form. Thanks to its natural geothermal activity and volcanoes, you can find a lot of this water in the shape of natural hot springs.
Most tourists visit the Blue Lagoon as its Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa, and it has even been named as “one of the 25 wonders of the world.” The Blue Lagoon is a man-made spa from the waters of a geothermal plant. People have been bathing it its silica-rich waters since 1976.
If you’re looking for a place less crowded and more natural, Iceland has heaps of options. The Secret Lagoon near Fludir is one of Iceland’s oldest thermal pools and is very relaxing. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you’ll want to head to North of Iceland to Grjotagja, a hot spring located in a cave.
No matter what hot spring you choose, you’ll be sure to have a relaxing time, especially if you just got back from horseback riding or touring an ice cave!
If you’re heading to Iceland soon, someone has probably told you that you need to try the fermented shark. Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? Well, in my opinion, it’s not too bad. Just like other cultures around the world, Iceland has its unique foods. From boiled sheep head to the fermented shark to horse meat, Iceland has an impressive selection of traditional foods.
Not all of the Icelandic delicacies will cause you to gag; Skyr yogurt is amazing and high in protein. Since Iceland is an island, it has an unbelievable selection of fresh fish and seafood. If you love fish, make sure you try fish jerky, too. Kjotsupa, or “meat soup,” is similar to beef stew, but is made with lamb instead of beef. After a cold day of chasing waterfalls, it certainly hits the spot.
If you’re the type of person who loves to discover a culture through its food, Iceland offers a broad range of traditional foods that will test your palette. The fermented shark is probably the most popular challenge. Other unique options include raw puffin, boiled sheep head, boiled skate, whale, and Hrutspungar (ram’s testicles).
So after a long day of exploring the natural landscape of Iceland, head back to Reykjavik and test your stomach’s ability to eat traditional Icelandic foods. If all else fails, wash it down with a shot of Brennivin.
There aren’t many countries like Iceland in the world. It might be an expensive country, but it offers so much beauty and incredibly unique Iceland activities that you can only do in Iceland. It’s time to book a trip now!