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Iceland is home to some of the world’s most fascinating and strikingly beautiful places. Its largest city, Reykjavik, is a charming, colorful, eclectic city with a huge variety of architecture and vibrant arts and music scenes. But any visit to Iceland should also get away from the cities a bit to explore the incredible landscapes that the small island nation has to offer: volcanos, thermal springs, glaciers, fjords, and the famous Northern Lights and midnight sun. A tour is a great way to get out of town with a local guide to show you the really good stuff (and often without having to drive yourself — bonus!) and travelers of all ages and with all interests should consider booking these excellent ones.
Best Comprehensive Tour: Six-Day Small-Group Adventure Tour Around Iceland
Circling the entire island with stops along the way, this small-group tour (capped at 15) offers a look at every corner of beautiful Iceland. Thingvellir National Park (where Iceland’s parliament was founded over a thousand years ago), Seljalandsfoss and Skogarfoss waterfalls, the glaciers at Skaftafell and Vatnajokull National Park, the Myvatn Nature Baths, a whale-watching cruise in Eyjafjordur, and the historic site of Reykholt are just some of the places you’ll visit, see and explore on foot. Each night, you’ll stay in a cozy country hotel or small-village inn and enjoy a hearty Icelandic breakfast. There’s a moderate bit of walking involved, and a good pair of boots or hiking shoes (and rain gear) is recommended. The tour begins and finishes in Reykjavik.
Best Adventure Tour: Three-Day Golden Circle, Glacier, Rafting & Blue Lagoon
If you’re an outdoorsy type, well, first-off: Good choice, picking Iceland. It’s an outdoor sport enthusiast’s dream! And this tour, in particular, lets you climb, hike, raft and, yes, relax a bit. You’ll hike up Solheimajokull glacier, where you’ll also get to try your hand at ice climbing (with a guide and lots of safety equipment), explore the Golden Circle area on foot, take a whitewater rafting trip down Hvita River and take a whale watch out of Reykjavik Harbor. After those three adventure-packed days, the final stop — a dip in the hot-pots at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa — will feel like heaven. All activities depart from Reykjavik daily and accommodations are not included in the price.
Best South Coast 3-Day Tour: Golden Circle, Blue Ice Cave, Jokulsarlon & More
The southern coast of Iceland is home to most of its more famous natural attractions, and this guided mini-tour gives you a chance to visit the very best of them at a nice, slow pace that lets you really take time to appreciate the awe-striking surroundings. You’ll visit the site where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, see the geysers in the Haukadalur valley, view Gullfoss, known as the “golden waterfall,” as well as several other stunning waterfalls, see the volcanic crater at Kerið, the volcanic black sand beach at Reynisfjara, visit a natural blue ice cave which can only be reached by private Jeep and more. Accommodation is in a country guest house near the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and daily breakfast is included.
Best Private Tour: Eyjafjallajökull and Thorsmork Private Super Jeep Tour
If you’re staying in Reykjavik and looking for just a short jaunt out of town, consider this luxury option, which takes you well off the beaten path to some of the most fascinating locations in the Thorsmork Valley. Your guide will pick you up from your lodging in an off-road-ready Super Jeep and your first stop will be the Gigjökull glacier, which broke off of Eyjafjallajökull, a glacier-covered volcano which erupted in 2010. Other stops include the Stakkholtsgja canyon, where you can take a short hike, weather permitting, and Basar, a green valley which is also an option for hiking. The final stop of the day is Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can hike around behind. Your guide is a well-trained local expert with extensive knowledge of the geology, history, and flora and fauna of Iceland, and as the only one (or ones) on the tour, you’ll be able to ask all the questions you can think of, and even personalize things a bit to your liking. At the end of the day, you’ll be returned to your lodgings in Reykjavik.
Best Wildlife Tour: Puffin Cruise plus Whale Watching Tour from Reykjavik
This combo tour offers a discounted price on two favorite Reykjavik-based activities, both involving adorable animals, some little, some… less little. First up, depart Reykjavik’s Old Harbor for a one-hour cruise just off the coast to the puffin-packed island of Akurey. Bring your binoculars and you’ll spot hundreds of these big-nosed little cuties, plus other seabirds such as Arctic terns and black guillemots, before returning back to harbor. Your second tour is a bit longer (3.5 hours), and also runs out of the Old Harbor. Humpback and minke whales are near-constant visitors to these waters, as are varieties of dolphin and porpoise, and your guide will help you spot them as you sip hot chocolate and enjoy the view. You can take these two tours on the same day or spread them out, should you so choose.
Best Hiking Tour: Thorsmork Volcano Hiking Adventure from Reykjavik
This day trip zips you out of Reykjavik by Jeep for a 16km (10mi) hike from Basar to the Fimmvorduhals Volcano in Thorsmork Valley, with a stop at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. This is a serious hiker’s tour which involves several steep climbs, so you’ll want to bring good boots (and if you’re not fairly fit, you might consider a tour that takes some more gentle walks). If you’re a serious hiker, though, you won’t find anything better, between the vistas, the knowledgeable guides and the sheer novelty of the terrain.
Best Snowmobile Tour: Snowmobiling Experience on Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
This is a mini-trip, just two hours long, but it’s a wholly unique experience that you won’t soon forget. You’ll snuggle into several comfy layers of clothing, hop aboard your snowmobile and head out on safari across a gorgeous, desolate, snow-covered landscape, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Photo ops are plentiful (your guide will help make sure you get some with you in the picture) and you’ll love the feeling of sailing across this barren, beautiful place. The tour leaves from a base camp outside of Vik, so you’ll need to get yourself there, likely by rental car.
Best Snorkeling Tour: Small Group Golden Circle and Silfra Snorkeling Adventure
Snorkeling… in Iceland? Yes, and it’s spectacular! Your day tour will begin with a hotel pick-up in Reykjavik, from where you’ll head straight to the Thingvellir National Park. After a short stroll, you’ll head to Lake Thingvallavatn, a lake that sits on the edge of two tectonic plates. You’ll suit up in a thick, cozy dry suit, take a quick safety lesson, and then dive in. The water is just a degree or two above freezing, but with your dry suit, you’ll be plenty warm as you float above the tectonic rift at the bottom of the crystal-clear waters. After your snorkeling adventure, you’ll visit Haukadalur and its famous geyser (and the one which gave us the English word for the geological feature), Geysir, and then a final stop at the Gullfoss waterfall before being returned to your hotel in Reykjavik.
Best Game of Thrones Tour: Game of Thrones Filming Locations Tour from Reykjavik
The hit television series Game of Thrones is known for seeking out the world’s most bizarre and impressive places to use as filming locations, so naturally, their location scouts have brought them to astonishing Iceland more than once. This day tour out of Reykjavik, designed for GoT fans but likely quite enjoyable by anyone who wants to see some of the region’s more interesting scenery, takes you to some of these places, guided by an actor who was an extra in the show. Much of Iceland’s contribution to Westeros’s scenery has been as the fabled Beyond The Wall, where the white walkers and wildlings live (in real life, this is largely in Thingvellir National Park). You’ll see the Thorufoss waterfall, Almannagjá gorge and the Thjorsárdalur valley, as well as the tectonic rift in Thingvellir and the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station, neither of which featured in the show but both of which are extraordinary sights. It’s a fun day with a fun theme that also lets you see some fascinating scenery.