The Full Guide to Adrenalin-Charged Extreme Sports in Iceland

Exploring Iceland is all about being out and about in nature. After all, there are such a wealth of landscapes and natural wonders to experience in the Land of Fire and Ice. From active volcanoes and rushing rivers to glaciers and remote mountain ranges, adventurous opportunities really do lie around every corner.


Many people will be quite happy to sight-see at a more sedate walking pace, but the thrill-seekers out there will be looking for something a little more adrenaline-inducing. In this article, we will be delving into the adrenaline junkie’s choice of extreme sports in Iceland. So, if you're a daredevil traveler, listen up! We’ll be covering the following:


  • Glacier hiking and ice climbing

  • Ice caving

  • Snowmobile rides

  • Skiing and snowboarding

  • White water rafting

  • Surfing

  • Diving and snorkeling

  • Hiking

  • Buggy rides

  • 4 × 4 road trips

  • Skydiving and paragliding

  • Mountain biking

  • Helicopter rides


Rafting canoe heading to a glacier wall - extreme sports in Iceland


Glacier hiking and ice climbing


The snowy winter wonderland of Iceland is a joy to explore. While Iceland’s glaciers can be visited year-round, you can only walk on them in the colder months. During winter in Iceland, it is possible to actually hike your way across the creaking glacier surface. You’ll be peering into deep crevasses and up at incredible sheer ice walls.


However, it is only possible to see glaciers this way when accompanied by an experienced guide. They will know the safe route up and across and will be able to instruct you every step of the way. You will also be provided with all the necessary gear, such as crampons and ice poles. If you’re up for the challenge of ice climbing, they can guide you on this too.


Ice caving


Ice caving isn’t really classed as an extreme sport in Iceland, but it is certainly thrilling. This is another activity that can only be done in winter and with an experienced guide. At other times of year, the ice is too unstable for people to venture out onto it safely.


Snowmobile rides


Zipping across snowy landscapes on a snowmobile is yet another exciting Icelandic winter activity. Your tour guide will equip you with a full safety brief and kit you out with helmets and gloves. They will then lead the way, guiding everyone on a high-octane adventure across the ice and snow.


Two visitors enyoing a snowmobile ride with the Northern Lights as backdrop

Just remember: drivers need to be over 18 and be in possession of a valid license in order to operate a snowmobile. Fortunately, younger thrill-seekers can still join the group as passengers.


Skiing and snowboarding


Iceland is not well known for its ski resorts, but there are actually quite a few options for hitting the slopes in this picturesque island nation. During the winter months, skiing is one of the more popular Icelandic sports, so ski slopes open up within easy reach of the two main cities: the capital city of Reykjavik in the south and Akureyri in the north.


The season runs from around late November through to May. Often the slopes are illuminated to allow for more hours of skiing during the darker winter months. Snowboarders and skiers used to skiing in France or Austria will enjoy much quieter slopes for a more intimate experience. There’s a good mix of green, blue, red and black runs and some fun off-piste too.


For something a little more extreme, heli-skiing in Iceland is a great option for those with deep pockets and experience. The Troll Peninsula is a wild mountainous region in the far north and it’s a seriously epic heli-skiing destination. You can also join guided backcountry ski tours in this area.


Group of snowboarders and skiers on top of a snowed hill

White water rafting


When the winter snows melt Iceland’s rivers and waterfalls pick up the pace. So from around May or June they are in full flow. White water rafting tours operate from around this time right through to September. Rapids range from grade two to four, so there are runs to suit all levels of ability and experience.


Surfing


Surfing in Iceland really is an extreme sport and not for the fainthearted. For a start, the icy conditions of the North Atlantic Ocean demand a very good wetsuit. The waves here are also inconsistent, so you will need patience and stamina to boot. The best breaks are found in south Iceland, around the Reykjanes Peninsula.


Diving and snorkeling


You won’t find many tropical fish here, but there is one place that is great for diving in Iceland. This is the Silfra Fissure in Silfra Lake within the Thingvellir National Park. The Silfra Fissure is the underwater point at which the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. This means that if you choose to dive here, you’ll be diving between continents!


drivers swimming between two rocky walls in Silfra, an extreme sport in Iceland

The lake’s water is extremely clear, so visibility is excellent. The only downside is the temperature. Although it doesn’t freeze, the water stays pretty nippy year-round. For scuba diving trips, you will need to be a qualified diver. But anyone is welcome to take the plunge with a dry suit and snorkel.


Hiking


Iceland was made for hikers and there are innumerable paths to tread, whether you prefer hiking up volcanoes or exploring scenic national parks. The best hiking in Iceland is enjoyed in the summer months, when the Midnight Sun gives you plenty of daylight hours. The weather is also much more settled and mild at this time of year.


There are hikes to suit all levels of fitness and ability, with several established multi-day routes that are only open in summer. So, dedicated walkers can gear up and sleep in mountain huts along the way. Winter hiking is also very much possible, you’ll just need to choose your route accordingly.


Buggy rides


Motorized buggy tours are a great way to see Iceland’s many gorgeous landscapes in a new and exciting way. You’ll be kitted out with a helmet, gloves and overalls and shown the basics before hitting the trails. Off-road driving isn’t available in Iceland, but this is a thrilling close second.


Buggies parked in line and surrounded by snow

4 x 4 road trips


During the summer months, Iceland’s highland road network is opened up for access. These are rough unpaved routes known as F-Roads and they wind their way through some incredible natural scenes. Expect geothermal zones, lava fields and volcanic mountain views.


It is only possible to tackle these often-tricky roads in a 4 x 4 vehicle, as there are winding switchbacks, sheer drop offs and rivers to ford. This is an exciting opportunity that’s ideal for confident drivers who are ready for a challenge.


Skydiving and paragliding


Seeing the awe-inspiring landscapes of Iceland from on high is an experience you won’t soon forget. So, if you’ve ever fancied taking the leap, Iceland could be the place. Both skydiving and paragliding trips are available to book from around April to September, depending on the weather.


skydiver flying over the green hills of Iceland

Mountain biking


Road biking is another great way to see the Land of Fire and Ice in summer. With quiet roads and plenty of open country, it’s a well-loved Icelandic sports activity. For mountain bikers, there are also a few more adrenaline-charged options. Booking a tour is your best bet for finding the top trails.



Helicopter rides


In addition to heli-skiing adventures, there is another activity that calls for you to get airborne: live volcano spotting! If you happen to be in Iceland when one of its volcanoes erupts, then this is for you. Helicopter rides to see an erupting volcano don’t come cheap, but they are very likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!



Enjoying an Icelandic extreme adventure


We hope that the risk-takers among us will try out one or more of the amazing activities listed above. Remember that to reach the areas where these tours take place, you will undoubtedly need a rental car. Book your rental car in Iceland today and go that extra mile!

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