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6: Tours and attractions to add to your self-drive journey
Although Iceland is full of easily accessible natural wonders and you could spend a whole month just driving between them, doing nothing but admire them in awe, it can really take a trip from great to an amazing life-affirming experience to descend 120 meters into a dormant volcano or witness the wonders of our rapidly receding glaciers from inside a blue ice cave. If Iceland is a really delicious and juicy cake, a good tour is the cherry on top. Or if you’re Icelandic, the raisin at the end of the hot dog.
Because everyone who visits Iceland is so different, it’s impossible for me to say which tour is the best. It really just depends on your interests and what excites you the most. I can tell you, though, that my favorites have been Snorkeling in Silfra, Ice Cave adventure from Jökulsárlón and the Puffin Tour in Ingólfshöfði but all of the tours I’ve done have been great in their own way.
Fun all year
There are actually surprisingly many tours that are available all year, especially if you take into account the notorious reputation the Icelandic winter has. Out of the tours that are available all year the glacier hikes, both in Sólheimajökull and Skaftafell, are among the most popular. Another popular all year activity is the snowmobile tours in Langjökull and Mýrdalsjökull. If you like that sort of thing, you might also enjoy the ATV tour in Sólheimasandur.
Although the summer is better for whale watching, you can see whales in Iceland all year round. Here in Reykjavík, you will mostly see minke whales and a few humpbacks but if you’re lucky you might spot an orca or two. Outside of Reykjavík, you can see whales all year round in Dalvík and from Akureyri
Horse riding tours can be enjoyed in any season and although snorkeling in water that is consistently around 2°C in the middle of winter may not seem appealing to all – it’s actually amazing in winter too. Caving tours like the Lava Tunnel and Vatnshellir cave are also operated all year.
Although the ice caves in the Vatnajökull region are only accessible in winter, you can visit the Ice cave by Katla Volcano all year. The same goes for the Inside the glacier or the ice tunnel in Langjökull although that’s quite a different experience and cannot be compared to the natural ice caves. It’s a very kid-friendly tour though and after I did it myself I’ve been recommending it more and more to families traveling around Iceland.
Finally, you can (and should) visit the many pools and hot springs no matter the weather. The Mývatn Nature Baths are a lovely smaller alternative to the Blue Lagoon and Krauma is a great spot to enjoy with your significant other.
By far, the most popular tours in winter are ice cave tours and anything to do with the northern lights. Last winter I put a special emphasis on trying a lot of different ice cave tours and out of all of the tours I tried, this ice cave tour from Jökulsárlón was the best one. The natural ice caves are normally only available from November to March with the exception of the Katla ice cave.
For northern lights tours, I wrote this comprehensive guide for all the different northern lights tours you can do in Iceland to help you choose the best one for you.
In the summer, you will see more whales than in winter and the whale watching capital of Iceland, Húsavík, opens up for business. In the spring and early summer, they sometimes see blue whales up there which I’m sure is a sight one never forgets seeing that it’s the biggest mammal on planet earth and all. But there are more sightings all over the country so you can just pick the one that suits your schedule best.
The summer is also when you can see puffins in Iceland but a lot of travelers don’t know that they spend the winter chilling out at sea. You can see puffins around Vík and in the Westman Islands but a puffin tour like the one in Ingólfshöfði takes you really close to them. If seeing them from afar is enough, you can do a short and kid-friendly puffin tour from the old harbor in Reykjavík.
Another popular summer activity is all kinds of hiking tours, organized or not, but a lot of the most beautiful hiking areas are mostly closed off in the winter. The most popular hiking route in Iceland is probably the Laugavegur trail between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk but if you want something shorter and sweeter this Landmannalaugar Hiking Tour or a hike to Glymur Waterfall might do the trick. Or if you want to combine hiking and going inside a volcano, there’s also a tour for that that is only available in summer.
A little visual aid to help you map out your tours
When you’re planning your trip around Iceland (or just anywhere) it often helps to use maps to see where things are in relations to other points of interest. Which is why I decided to take all these tours I’ve been talking about and put them on a map so you can see more easily how they might fit into your schedule.
If you click on the little sign in the top left corner of the map you will see a list of all the tours where they’re filtered based on activity. If you’re not into whale watching, for example, you can simply click the checkmark next to the whale watching tours and filter them out. Each point on the map contains information about the tour and a link to more information and bookings. If you like this guide, you may want to consider booking your tours through us since that’s how we make the money that makes this blog and consequently this guide a possibility.