Perfect South Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary

The South of Iceland is the most diverse in Iceland in terms of variety of landscapes.  More importantly too, that they are closer together allowing you to explore more in one day.  However, in order to fully explore truly the “best” of you need to have 7 days.  So today I would love to walk you through an exciting South Iceland self-drive itinerary that will leave you utterly inspired!

Where is South Iceland?

From the moment you step off the airplane upon landing at KEF (Keflavík International Airport) you’re in the South of Iceland!  As a matter of fact, you are technically within the Reykjanes Peninsula, but it is still considered a part of Southern Iceland.  Further, the area of the South spans as far east as Hofn and up into the Icelandic Highlands.

Come along with us as we share the very best South Iceland self-drive itinerary that you can do in an economy car!

Day 1: Driving the Reykjanes Peninsula

You begin the morning by arriving into the KEF airport.  Usually North American flights arrive in somewhere between 5-9am.  Therefore, get through customs, jump into Duty Free, grab your bags, rental car, and begin your adventure!  Your choice of sites follow depending on your desire of exploring:

  • Garður Old Lighthouse
  • Bridge Between Continents
  • Gunnuhver Geothermal Area
  • Reykjanesviti
  • Seltún Geothermal Area
  • Lake Kleifarvatn

Best Places to Stay in the Reykjanes Peninsula:

Here is a South Iceland self-drive itinerary for the Reykjanes Peninsula Goggle Map Link.

Day 2: South Central Iceland Self Drive

To maximize your day, it’s good to get on the road no later than 8-8:30am.  Day 2 brings half the day of offbeat adventures that less tourists find their way to and typically not many bus tours.  Opt in for all of the locations below or choose your favorites!

  • Kerid Crater (Tourist location which charges admission).
  • Faxafoss Waterfall (Note: The land owner is now charging admission / parking).
  • Secret Lagoon Hot Spring– Is a fabulous place to relax in natural hot springs!
  • Friðheimar– Is an ideal lunch stop if you love tomatoes! But make sure you make in advance reservations so you are not disappointed!
  • Hjalparfoss Waterfall
  • Haifoss Waterfall offers a 30ish minute hike down into the canyon too!
  • Gjáin Waterfalls and Valley (Please be aware, if in an economy car, take it slow the road can be deeply rutted with potholes).
  • Hafið Bláa Restaurant (Note- Have a sunset dinner here overlooking a black beach!)

Where to stay after your South Iceland self-drive itinerary Day 2: Hotel Stracta in Hella Iceland.  Checkout the Google Maps Link for the full rundown.

Day 3: Heart of South Iceland

Today you will rise with the sun so you can get to see and do all these amazing places!  To illustrate, you will discover the heart of Southern Iceland today as explore.  Which is compiled of some “best of tourist spots” combined with some slightly offbeat to get away from the crowds.

  • Keldur Turf House (Be aware they land owners charge admission during summer).
  • Gluggafoss (also called Merkjárfoss): Iceland Travel Tip- Hike into the canyon on the left and also the right side path which takes you to the top!
  • Thorsteins Grove
  • Nauthúsagil Waterfall- Is at the start of entering into a highland area called Thorsmork.
  • Gljufrabui Waterfall- Happens to also be a campground area too if you need!
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall- The famous waterfall in South Iceland you can walk behind!
  • Skógafoss & Skogar Museum
  • Kvernufoss Waterfall is a 15 minute hike to a hidden waterfall!

Furthermore, where should you stay during your South Iceland self-drive itinerary?

Don’t forget to save the Google Map Link for Day 3 too!

Day 4: Vik Iceland Self Drive Adventure

Welcome to our home town!  Personally, this area is worth spending 3 nights discovering, but we will allow you to decide how many nights you wish.  Although, I would love to elevate your adventure if you run on the side of more extreme adventuring.

  • Solheimajokull Glacier (You can easily take a look at the lagoon and the glacier, but if you wish to climb on to the glacier, please look to hiring an experienced guide).
  • Dyrhólaey Lighthouse (During nesting season the road leading up to the lighthouse is closed but it’s a nice uphill walk!)
  • Loftsalahellir Cave
  • Reynisfjara Black Beach and Basalt Stacks
  • Take Your Pick our Guide to the Best of Vik blog post!  Our Vik Expeditions Guide to Vik gives you all the details on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do…

Day 4, South Iceland self-drive itinerary Google Map Link.

Day 5: Heading Southeast

Glaciers are constantly in front of you during this stretch (from the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur).  Likely, you’re going to need to fight the urge to pull over every 30 seconds for a photo.  Day 5 is going to be a big day of driving in Iceland, sightseeing, and hiking so make sure you get an early start!  Today’s South Iceland self-drive schedule is going to take you to some gorgeous areas…

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
  • Foss a Sidu Waterfall
  • Dverghamrar Cliffs
  • Svartifoss (Inside Skaftafell National Park and about a 45 minute hike one way)
  • Fjallsárlón (offbeat glacier lagoon)
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
  • Diamond Beach (across the street from Jökulsárlón)

Best place to stay near to the above Southern Iceland self-drive itinerary Day 5 is Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon.  Review the Google Map Link for more information.

Day 6: Magical Mountains of South Iceland

Southern Iceland is filled with countless magical mountains that leave you in awe.  For example, we suggest you spend several hours exploring the areas below as they are truly unique.  Also be aware there is an admission fee to the main area of Stokksnes and you pay inside of the café or the machine outside (if it’s working).

  • Viking Café
  • Stokksnes (Vestrahorn Mountain)
  • Viking Village (It is not real, it’s a movie set that is aging until the director is available)
  • Skútafoss Waterfall
  • If you’re coming during November-March we suggest you book a blue ice cave tour with our friends at Local Guide.

South Iceland Travel Tip: Stay 2 nights at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon.  Feel free to checkout the Google Maps driving link.

Day 7: Leave with no Regrets!

Lastly, day 7 is devoted to leaving South Iceland with no regrets… For instance, as you drive back west towards the airport or downtown Reykjavík, the South Iceland self-drive itinerary objective is to do anything you didn’t on the way!

Maybe that is one of the countless landscape stops, a hike, or a more extreme Iceland expedition with me?  Feel free to contact us for more information on how we can elevate your adventure in Vik Iceland!

© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Guide to Discovering the Icelandic Highlands

So much mystery and excitement surround the Icelandic Highlands.  For example, for those of you that love feeling like you’re discovering something new for the first time, every second will be MAGICAL. From jumping into your 4×4 or super jeep to turning onto the that “F-Road” you’ll feel like a kid a candy store.  Many incredibly unique places, textures, and tones await you for discovery!

The Highlands of Iceland have always been difficult to traverse.  As a matter of fact, the locals have been navigating through them on foot and horseback since Iceland was settled in 874 AD.  However, it was not until the second half of 20th century that locals begin heading into them recreationally.

Where are the Icelandic Highlands?

When you hear about the Icelandic Highlands, you may be confused as to what specific areas are considered within that territory.  To illustrate, if you have a look at the map below from our friends at Wikipedia.  Then you’ll see the “brown” sections approximately represent where the highlands span across every area of Iceland.  Therefore, it basically it boils down to the uninhabited interior.

Landscape Types in the Highlands

Every type of landscape tone and texture can be found in the Icelandic Highlands.  I’d even dare to say the best landscapes of Iceland reside within.  For instance, depending on the area you are exploring you may experience the following types:

  • Glaciers
  • Raging Rivers (bridged and unbridged)
  • Hidden Waterfalls
  • Crazy shaped mountains
  • Black Deserts
  • Vivid Valleys
  • Canyons
  • Cliffs
  • Hot Springs
  • Mountains Huts
  • Ice Caves
  • Basalt Sea Stacks and Arches
  • Glacier Waterfalls
  • Spring Fed Waterfalls (all sizes)
  • Caves
  • Rock Formations
  • Geothermal Mud Pots
  • Never ending super jeep trails and hiking trails to explore.
  • Winding F-Roads
  • Minerals like Obsidian, Basalt, Palagonite Tuff, etc.

Icelandic Folklore Stories

One of my favorite things about Icelandic culture are the endless amount of folklore stories.  You can easily see how that would come about throughout old traditions too.  For example, countless tales of bandits living in caves to escape the law are known throughout multiple areas of the Icelandic highlands.  Further, there are even tales of ghosts, trolls, elves, and monsters haunting these places.

My wife and I have even heard stories of local sheep farmers encountering strange occurrences when herding the sheep.  Some even have their own superstitions they do when they are up there.  To illustrate, a local guy told me once he always brings a bottle of Brennivín to leave behind at a farmhouse ruins to keep the peace between elves and man!

How to Drive in Iceland’s Highlands

If wanting to plan a trip into the Icelandic Highlands on your own, it is best to do so only in the summer months (June, July, and August).  Please hire a local guide to take you into these areas outside of this time frame and if you do not have any 4×4 or super jeep driving experience.  Also, it important to ensure you take the following steps ahead of time as you plan your trip…

Icelandic Highland Travel Information:

  1. Check the Iceland Road Authority website to see if the F-Road you want to explore is open.
  2. Head to the Iceland Safe Travel to see if there are any warnings out (like extreme wind, rivers swelling, etc).
  3. Review the weather on Belgingur or Vedur before you leave.
  4. Make sure someone knows the specific area when you are adventuring to and the expected time back in case something happens. Note- You can also leave your trip details on Safe Travel (link above).  This is especially important if you do not have a satellite phone or radio to communicate to 112 if you get into trouble.

The actual road conditions will vary.  Plan to not go faster than 40km/h, and be prepared for the roads to be pitted with potholes so a higher clearance vehicle can be beneficial.

Furthermore, unbridged river crossings are a necessary thing when crossing through the countless Iceland F-Roads.  Firstly, ensuring you have the correct vehicle to do these crossings in is important.  For instance, there are significant differences between a 4×4 (like Dacia Duster with very low clearance), a true 4×4 (Pajero, Land Rover, etc) and a Super Jeep (a significantly modified truck on 38” – 46” tires).

Secondly, understanding how to cross rivers is critical as well.  For example, reading how the river is flowing, the depth, and conditions are important elements as you determine.  If you are an unexperienced river crosser, it’s best to begin by checking the depth (in knee high boots, or waders if unsure).

Next, you will put your 4×4 or super jeep in a low gear and enter in slowly (less than 5km/h) going down stream (not against).  Why?  Because it is easy for your vehicle to get turned around, you lose control, and get into a worse situation.

Risks in Driving Through in the Icelandic Highlands:

  • No insurance company will cover damage done by river crossings.
  • Weather plays a huge role in how high or low the rivers run and they change constantly.
  • Unsure?  Don’t cross it, turn around immediately.
  • Never enter the river where it is calm, can be a sign of depth or quick sand (yes that’s a real thing).
  • Failing to cross the river correctly, also endangers the folks who need to come out and now rescue you.

 

Highland Mountain Huts

When traveling through the Icelandic Highlands, staying at one of the many mountain huts can be a necessary part of your trip.  Some mountain huts offer bunk style or communal lodging and also a campground area.  Here is a list by region where mountain huts in Iceland are available.

Some require in advance reservations (especially during summer) and others are privately owned to 4×4 groups but may be available if you check ahead.  Either way it is important to bring your own personal items (IE, sleeping bag, pillow, food, etc) as many do not provide facilities.

Westfjord Mountain Hut (Owned by Icelandic Touring Association):
  • ITA Hornbjarg Hut, Hornstrandir
  • ITA Nordurfjordur hut – Valgeirsstadir
North Iceland Mountain Huts:
  • TCS Mountain hut Trolli, Gonguskord
  • ATA Mountain hut Lambi, Glerardalur
  • TCS Mountain hut Thufnavellir, Vididalur
  • ATA Mountain hut Botni
  • TCS Mountain Hut Hildarsel
East Iceland Mountain Huts:
  • FTC Hut Breidavik, Breidavik Austfjords
  • FTC Husavikurskali, Austfjordum
  • FTC Snaefellskali Hut, Snaefell
  • IGS Godahnjukar hut
  • FTC Egilssel hut, Lonsoraefi
  • Mulaskali, Lonsoraefi
  • FTC Hut Geldingarfell

Interior Iceland Highland Mountain Huts:

  • Afangagil Mountain Hut
  • Afangi Mountain Hut
  • Alftavatn Huts
  • Arbudir hut, Kjolur
  • ITA Mountain Hut – Baldvinsskali
  • Blagil – Skaftarhreppur
  • ATA Mountain Hut Braedrafell
  • Utivist Mountain Hut – Dalakofinn
  • ATA Mountain huts Dreki, Dyngjufjoll
  • ATA Mountain hut Dyngjufell
  • IGS Mountain Hut Esjufjallaskali hut
  • IGS Fjallkirkja hut Langjokull
  • Fremstaver Hut
  • Gislaskali in Svartarbotnar, Kjolur
  • IGS Grimsvotn Mountain Huts
  • ITA Hagavatn hut, Jarlhettur Langjokull
  • Helgaskali Mountain hut
  • Hiking Trails Kverkfjoll and Hvannalindir
  • ITA Mounatin Hut Hloduvellir
  • Holaskjol Mountain Hut
  • Holaskogur Mountain Hut
  • Hottur Mountain Hut Drekafjoll, Dyngjufjoll
  • Hut Breida, Jokulsarlon
  • IGS Hut Esjufjoll, Breidamerkurjokull
  • FTC Hut Geldingarfell
  • Mountain Hut Sigurdarskali Kverkfjoll
  • ITA Hvanngil Hut
  • Hveravellir Huts
  • ITA Hvitarnes hut, Kjolur
  • TCS Mountain hut Ingolfskali, Lambahrauni
  • ITA Mountain Huts Botnar in Emstrur
  • ITA Mountain Huts in Landmannalaugar
  • ITA Mountain Huts Nyidalur / Jokuldalur
  • ITA Mountain Huts at Lake Alftavatn
  • IGS Kverkfjoll Mountain Hut
  • Langisjor Hut
  • ATA huts Laugarfell, Eyjafjardardalur
  • Leppistungur Hut, Hruna
  • Utivist Mountain Hut Skaelingar
  • FTC Snaefellskali Hut, Snaefell
  • Utivist Mountain Hut Strutur
  • Utivist Mountain Hut Sveinstindur
  • Svinarnes hut, Hruna
  • ITA Thjofadalir hut, Kjolur
  • ATA Mountan hut Thorsteinsskali
  • ITA Thverbrekknamuli hut, Kjolur
  • Utivist Mountain Hut – Fimmvorduhals
  • Veidivotn Huts

South Iceland Mountain Huts:

  • ITA Mountain Hut Skagafjordsskali Langidalur Thorsmork
  • Utivist Mountain Hut – Fimmvorduhals
  • ITA Mountain Hut – Baldvinsskali
  • Utivist Basar Mountain Huts in Thorsmork
  • Volcano Huts – Husadalur Thorsmork
  • ITA Mountain Huts Botnar in Emstrur

Icelandic Highland Expeditions

In conclusion, no matter if you intend on adventuring through the Icelandic Highlands on foot, horseback, or via a 4×4 or super jeep, you will not be disappointed.  Lastly, if interested in getting hiking advice, taking an expedition through, or want an experienced guide leading the way, feel free to contact us!  Vik Expeditions would love to show your our local highland hidden gems and elevate your experience!!

© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Old Icelandic Traditions

Believe it or not settlements in Iceland date back to 874.  Historical evidence also shows Gaelic monks may have settles long before that date.  So to say the country has a long history of old Icelandic traditions would be an understatement!  Today I would love to share with you some of the oldest and most interesting…

Rímur (old Icelandic rhymes)

This is my favorite of all of the Icelandic traditions and surely one of the oldest.  Rímur (also referred to as rímnahættir) are unforgettable (some say EPIC) poems which rhyme.  Back in the day folks that wrote these rhymes would be looked at like lyrical masters!  Further, most of these old rhymes were created between 1400-2000.  Truly it’s inspiring to listen to the artistry and genius that is involved in crafting these masterpieces!

Living in Turf Houses

It may come as a surprise to you but for centuries Icelanders lived in old turf houses (aka grass covered).  Up until the early-20th century life was way harder than it is now.  Although the roofs were grass covered, the floors were of dirt and more often than not, many folks shared the home and people slept in bunkbeds. 

Interested in seeing one and understanding what it was like?  To illustrate, you can head to the Skogar Museum or Keldur to experience the out and inside for yourself!

 

Icelandic Traditions for Christmas

Christmas is one of the most important and most celebrated holidays in Iceland.  Firstly, Christmas lights begin to be put up in November and stay up until February to brighten up the dark days.  Secondly, family and friends gather one of the weekends in December to partake in a tradition called Laufabrauð (leaf bread).  Which basically entails cutting designs into bread that is then fried and then eaten for the next month.

Thirdly, another huge piece of the Icelandic traditions for Christmas is the 13 Yule Lads, Grýla (their troll mother), and the Christmas Cat.  The lads are trouble makers with quirky names and each one has their own day they “come down from the mountain” to spin their tricks on children. 

If the children have been good they are left a small present in their shoes and if not, they are left a rotten potato.  And if the child does not receive a clothing item before Christmas Day, the black cat will snatch them up and bring them up the mountain for Grýla to eat!  For real, can you believe that Hollywood hasn’t made a movie of this tradition yet?

Lastly, many still decorate the Christmas tree on the 23rd of December too, but I enjoy doing it much sooner.  Dinner with your family and presents happen the night of December 24th, Christmas Eve.  Additionally, Christmas Day is spent relaxing, reading, playing games with whomever you choose.

 

Skata (rotten skate)

In short, this is my least favorite of the Icelandic traditions.  However, it is another one of the oldest that is still currently embraced yearly.  On December 23rd, the streets fill with the smell of a fermented fish called, Skate.  Be aware if you partake, do not wear clothes you care about because the stink will forever penetrate it.  Dare you to partake!

 

New Years Eve in Iceland

Fireworks are limited to be used only between Christmas and New Years Eve.  Needless to say New Years Eve is HUGE!  Usually there are no “planned” fireworks within the city or countryside towns because all of the locals just buy and set off their own shows.  Truly, it’s marvelous and an incredible show no matter where you are staying that night! 

Iceland Travel Tip: Heading down to Hallgrimskirkja in downtown Reykjavik is a really stunning place to watch or any spot with elevation too.

 

Þrettándinn (Thirteenth Night)

Þrettándinn is the thirteenth night, which is January 6th is a crazy fun night in Iceland!  For instance, it’s the day when each town “burns off” Christmas.  Marking the end of the holiday it’s celebrated by festive dinners, bonfires, dancing, people dressing up as elves, trolls, and of course fireworks!!

 

Þorrablót

One of the more interesting old Icelandic traditions is named Þorrablót (translation: sacrifice).  It’s a mid-winter festive weekend where Icelanders dine in all of the old traditional foods, recite poems, and gossip.  You could expect to dine on the following items:

  • Súrsaðir Hrútspungar (Sour Rams Testicle) 
  • Kæstur Hákarl (Rotten Shark)
  • Lifrarpylsa (Liver Sausage)
  • Blóðmör (Blood Pudding / slaughter blood)
  • Svið (Boiled sheep’s head)
  • Sviðasulta (Head Cheese)
  • Harðfiskur (Dried Fish)
  • Hangikjöt (Boiled or Smoked Lamb Meat)
  • Rúgbrauð (Rye Bread)
  • Lundabaggi (Sheep’s Loins)
  • Súr Hvalur (Pickled Whale Blubber)
  • Selshreifar (Seal Flippers)
  • Rófustappa (Mashed Turnips)

 

Naming Ceremonies

Icelanders take choosing a name very seriously.  First, did you know that each person has the name of their father as part of their last name.  For example, if a person has a father named Jónas then his son will have Jónasson (Jónas’ son) as the last name.  Next, if a female the daughter will be Jónasdóttir (Jonas’ daughter).

Overall, when someone has a child they have 6 months to name the child.  So many times when the mother leaves the hospital the child may not have a name until the actual “naming ceremony” at the church or family gather.  Why? 

This dates back to very early days of Icelandic traditions being that a child may not survive and they did not want to name it to soon in fear of getting attached.  Furthermore, if the mother / parents do not choose a name within the “National Register of Persons” then they must submit the name for special approval.

 

Bjordagur – Beer Day

March 1st each year is a celebrated day which honors the elimination of the 74 year prohibition of beer (1915-1989).  How is this tradition in Iceland now celebrated?  Typically the local breweries launch their newest collections too for folks to try too!

 

Bolludagur – Bun Day

Just as in North America and many other parts of the world, the day before Lent begins is called “Fat Tuesday.”  Whereas in Iceland it is called Bolludagur (aka, Bun Day).  Same concept, just different donut type!  Think: Sweet bun with cream inside.  This specific Icelandic tradition dates back to the early 1900’s.

 

Réttir

Traditions run deep in the Icelandic countryside.  When summer transitions to fall, it’s time to herd the sheep back down from the mountains.  They spend the summer up there grazing in the highlands. 

However, during the month of September (usually the 2nd weekend) family and friends gather for “Réttir,” to bring the sheep and lambs back down to the farms.  Typically this is done via hiking, horseback, ATV, super jeeps, and by sheep dogs.  Once the sheep make it back down to the farm area they are put into a sorting ring (see the photo below) so that each farm gets the right tagged sheep back.

Old-Icelandic-Traditions-in-Vik-1

Sumardagurinn Fyrsti (the first day of summer)

Somewhere between April 19-25th falls Iceland’s first day of summer which is named Sumardagurinn Fyrsti.  It’s a big deal because it is long awaited from the winter days.  Although Iceland now experiences more of 4 seasons, back in the day when these old Icelandic traditions began, there were only 2 seasons being winter and summer.  Mainly the day is celebrated because of the amount of daylight that comes each day bringing us closer to 24 hours of daylight and the sun never setting.

 

Verslunarmannahelgi (Merchant’s Weekend)

Outside of mainstream holidays, the other big weekend around the entire country is Verslunarmannahelgi (also called “shop keepers weekend”).  As a matter of fact, it is also paired with the island’s largest music festival weekend too in the Westman Islands.  The weekend falls the first weekend of August each year, and can be a very crazy time to visit Iceland.  Why?  All Icelanders are out and about traveling too so usually campgrounds are packed along with hotels.  So make your reservations early if you intend on visiting during that time of the year!

 

Konudagur – Wife’s Day  //  Bóndadagur – Husband’s Day

Two traditions that began in the 1800’s is Konudagur (Wife’s Day) and Bóndadagur (Husband’s Day).  How fun is it to have a special day to celebrate your significant other?!  Within the old Icelandic traditions, it basically meant honoring the master of the farm and the master of the household.  Note: This is in addition to the holidays honoring fathers and mothers.

Best-Guide-to-Vik-26

© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Ice Climbing in Iceland Year Round

No matter the time of year you visit Iceland, did you know you can ice climb?  So if you are an extreme sports enthusiast or someone who loves trying new things, this may be a wonderful journey to embark on.  Ice climbing in Iceland is an activity that can really challenge you on all levels.  Today we walk you through the best things to know about ice climbing throughout Iceland’s 13 glaciers!

Ice Climbing in Iceland Year Round-42

Iceland has 13 Glaciers

Believe it or not only 11% of Iceland is covered in ice!  Additionally within that percentage there are 13 main glaciers that are speckled throughout the tiny island in the North Atlantic.  For example here are the names of the glaciers and the region of Iceland they can be found in.

  1. Vatnajökull is the largest glacier and can be found in South to East Iceland.
  2. Langjökull can be found West Central Iceland and is the second largest glacier in Iceland.
  3. Hofsjökull is within the middle of the country.
  4. Mýrdalsjökull can be found in Southern Iceland and our personal favorite glacier!
  5. Drangajökull is found in the Westfjords region of Iceland.
  6. Eyjafjallajökull is not only famous for the 2010 eruption that held airline travel hostage but it’s Iceland’s 6th largest.  Find it in South Iceland.
  7. Tungnafellsjökull is a highland glacier in Southern Iceland.
  8. Þórisjökull is the closest glacier to Reykjavik.
  9. Eiríksjökull is a small glacier outside of Reykjavik and near to Langjökull.
  10. Þrándarjökull is the furthest East glacier in Iceland.
  11. Tindfjallajökull is magical and can be spotted on a clear day while driving through Southern Iceland.
  12. Torfajökull can be found north of Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
  13. Snæfellsjökull is by far Iceland’s smallest glacier which can be found in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Which glacier intrigues you to do ice climbing in Iceland?

Ice Climbing in Iceland Year Round-53

Glacier Outlets in South Iceland

Over 250 named glacier outlets are apart of the 13 larger glaciers.  Don’t worry we won’t bore you with naming them all but we will give you a fantastic example of how that idea works!

To illustrate, Sólheimajökull is the primary and most easily accessed glacier outlet of Mýrdalsjökull.  Then there are the lesser known ones Katlajökull, Sandfellsjökull, Oldufellsjökull and a few unnamed others.  However, those are only accessed via an super jeep or hiking.  Furthermore, you cannot do ice climbing in Iceland on all of them so it’s important to hire a local who knows the area well.

In short, Mýrdalsjökull is a really incredible glacier in Iceland.  Why?  Because there is a sub-glacier volcano lurking underneath it.  Meanwhile another reason is that the glacier is dynamic and often referred to as a “black glacier” because of the black sands that surround it and pummel it.

Ice Climbing in Iceland Year Round-4

Types of Iceland Ice Climbing

Meanwhile, when you think about ice climbing what do you think it entails?  Likely, you know you’ll be harnessed in, have crampons on your feet, ice axes in your hands, and someone experienced belaying you.  On the other hand, what type of ice climbing in Iceland will you embark on?

  • Ice Climbing Waterfalls can be an option if the wintertime is cold enough but it can be rare.
  • Glacier Ice Climbing in Vik is the most common throughout all of the glaciers in Iceland.  Typically you hike for anywhere between 15 minutes to 2+ hours to find the right kind of wall to climb.
  • Cavern Ice Climbing is an interesting one.  In fact, it is where you repel down into a hole in the glacier and you ice climb out.  Can you get more #badass than that?  Fun Fact: Most times there isn’t a bottom to the cavern if the temperatures are above freezing.
  • Ice Cave Climbing could mean you are climbing the walls inside of an ice cave.

Which type of Iceland ice climbing excites you most?  Vik Expeditions would love to help you elevate your adventure!

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Gear You Need for Ice Climbing in Vik

Preparing to do ice climbing in Iceland is easy if you have hired a local guide.  For example, Vik Expeditions takes time and great care in preparing for your adventure.  Hence the wonderful lists below…

What gear Vik Expeditions brings:

  • Climbing harness
  • Ice Climbing crampons to fit your boots
  • Helmet graded for climbing
  • Ice Climbing Axes (there is a difference!)
  • Rope
  • Ice screws
  • Belay devices
  • Carabiners
  • Quick-draws
  • Experienced local Vik ice climbing guide, Davíð Geir Jonasson.  He’ll even bring jokes 😉

What Gear You Bring for Ice Climbing in Vik:

  • Insulated stiff hiking or ice climbing / mountaineering boots (ideally).
  • Gore-Tex Gloves
  • Backpack (optional)
  • Eye protection (optional)
  • A “can do” positive attitude!

Year Round Ice Climbing in Vik

A common question we get asked often is. if ice climbing in Iceland is year round.  The answer a bit fat YES!  Although you may not be able to climb all 13 glaciers, or the countless outlets, you can give it your best try.

In Vik, our favorite glacier, Mýrdalsjökull actually has options for year round ice climbing that is 100% safe.  The only difference between seasons is in winter, you may hike in snow and / or need a 4×4 as transport.

Truly, there is no better feeling than digging your toes into the side of a glacier and working your way up to the top!  At the top you enjoy the view and the feeling of being oh-so accomplished!  Bravo!  Once you’ve conquered that wall a few times and it’s pitches, are you ready to try another?

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How to Book Ice Climbing in Iceland

Often people are intimated or scared when they think about booking an ice climbing experience in Iceland.  And you know what?  That’s okay!  Hiring a local guide in Vik for ice climbing will help take all of your worries and anxieties away.

Davíð, the owner of Vik Expeditions makes you feel not only comfortable but empowered as you learn how to ice climb in Iceland.  He will take the time to patiently teach you techniques and encourage you as you scale up!  Feel free to get in touch for more information on booking your private ice climbing in Iceland and specifically in Vik!

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© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

The Best Guide to Vik Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal is a small town within the heart of Southern Iceland’s coastline. Typically has around 300-600 people (depending on the time of the year) who call it home. You may think it is small in population size compared to the rest of Iceland. But it truly boasts some of the most dynamic unforgettable landscape features! Also extremely rich in geology and local folklore!! Come along with me today as I share with you the very best guide to Vik Iceland!

Best Vik Guide - Reynisdranger Formations from above

History of our Connection with the town of Vík

Fun Fact: The direct translation of “Vík” actually means, bay. So as you travel around Iceland when you see places that end with “vik” then you’ll know it’s likely near water. Another fun tidbit is that this town has always been on my top places to explore in the world, not just Iceland. It all begins in 1994 when I’m 7 years old and I spend several weeks there with my mother wrangling horses for the Scandinavian television show, The Black Rider.

Next time turns into me scaling Mýrdalsjökull (Iceland’s 4th largest glacier) with ice climbing gear. Then finding myself on countless film sets creating special effects. For example, did you know Hollywood movies like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Noah, and Beowulf & Grendel, were all filmed around gorgeous town and glacier area that sits above it?

Come to Vik to Fall in Love

Furthermore, while actually on a film project… I met my wife just outside of the town of Vik. I was on the 2015 Bollywood film Dilwale. On the backside of the mountain named Hjörleifshöfði we met while she was photographing an Iceland wedding ceremony. Turns out our film team were the party crashes as my wife’s team had permission to be there and we didn’t. Later, we met formally back at Hotel Vik later that night and had a good laugh about her kicking us out!

Both of us having decades of admiration for the town of Vik and surrounding highland areas, we decided to purchase a summer house just outside of the town. As our love for glacier hiking, climbing, and extreme sports runs deep in us both so we needed to be closer to it! Currently, we are also venturing down the path of building our year round home at the top of the town (near to the hillside church). And of course getting the word out over this passion project of Vik Expeditions too! So let us begin with this inclusive guide to Vik…

Mountain on the way into Vik Iceland town

How to Get to Vik Iceland

Getting to the town of Vik is easy if you rent your own car. From the KEF International Airport you can expect a travel time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. Furthermore, if coming from downtown Reykjavik you should plan for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Your guide to Vik will lead you to be driving on Route 1 (also called Þjóðvegur).

As soon as you pass Skogafoss Waterfall, you’re heading into the area of Vík í Mýrdal (or some refer to it has Mýrdalshreppur). Which is the entire area and not just the specific town. Certainly there is such a sense of mystery about journey there, the town itself, mountains, and coastline so savor it!

The best time to visit Vik Iceland would be year round. Additionally, it’s best to have a more flexible schedule during the winter months because of road closures (for extreme wind / snow). Summer months between June-August are very popular so it is best to have things booked at least 6 months in advance to ensure first choices.

Sign and entrance into the town of Vik Iceland

Where to Stay in Vik

Once you have found your way to Vik, you’ll need somewhere to stay. I suggest you base yourself for 2-4 nights of your stay and longer if you want to elevate your adventure with Vik Expeditions! Likely, you will book this before you arrive but here is a short list of the best places to stay in and near to the town of Vik:

  1. Hotel Vík í Mýrdal (formally known as Icelandair Vik or Edda Vik).
    • Scandinavian-chic hotel offers an American standard in service and amenities.
    • Room Types: Deluxe, Family, Triple, Superior, and Standard.
    • Their staff are also offer a very good guide to Vik too!
  2. Hotel Katla by Keahotels
    • Charming countryside hotel with basic amenities and a hot tub!
    • Room Types: Junior Suite, Deluxe, Superior in a beautiful new building And Triple / Double Rooms in the older more rustic side of the hotel.
  3. Glamping Tents in Vik by Farmhouse.
    • A unique experience with nature and near to Dyrhólaey sea arch and lighthouse.
  4. Black Beach Suites is luxury accommodation outside of Vik and super close to Reynisfjara Black Beach.
    • All accommodations are studio apartments that have a kitchenette and private bathroom. Ideally you are 1-4 people staying.
  5. Vik Apartments can be found within the town limits.
    • Many travelers may be more comfortable with having a full kitchen ready for them to cook and space to relax. Vik Apartments allows you to do just those things!
    • Apartment Types: Standard and Superior.
  6. Vik Camping and Cottages
    • If you love camping, I’m not sure you could find a nicer town to do it in! Pricing begins at 1,500 ISK per person.
  7. Hotel Kria
    • Is the newest hotel in Vik’s town limits and there are often horses grazing outside of the mountain view rooms!
    • Room Types: Suite; Standard with Mountain View; and Standard.
  8. Vik Cottages
    • Have more a more basic cozy vibe.
    • All cottages come with twin beds, desk and small bathroom.
Icelandic Horses in Vik Iceland

Vik Iceland Restaurants

Where to eat in Vik may be your next question! Especially if you are a token “foodie” and want to explore the local food in Iceland. Allow this best guide to Vik to educate you! Special Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic occurring when this post was written, please be aware locations may have limited menus, hours, or days for opening. Therefore, it is best to contact the locations in advance to ensure no disappointments!

Fine Dining:

Interested in a 5 senses foodie experience for your dinner after trekking around all day? Iceland is a bit new to fine dining especially in the countryside. But you’re in luck! One of our favorite restaurants in Southern Iceland, just so happens to be in Vik…

The Berg

Inside of Hotel Vík í Mýrdal, you’ll find a beautiful Scandinavian chic restaurant that is light and airy. From serving delicious things like locally caught Arctic Char, Pasta, local lamb and vegetarian dishes, you’ll find something for everyone here. Although it is a 4-5 star type dining experience in Vik, you can get away with wearing jeans and a sweater for attire. And if you’re tired after a long day of discovering, they can bring it to your room if staying in the hotel! Guide to Vik Tip: They are only open for dinner (and breakfast for guests).

Traditional Lamb Dinner at The Berg in Vik

Casual Dining:

Maybe instead of changing out of your hiking clothes you want to head to dinner right from your adventure… Casual dining options in Vik could be any of the following:

Sudur Vik sits up on the hill near to the church. They offer 2-3 levels of dining (including a bottom bar where they often show sporting events). In my personal opinion this is the best place in town to eat wood fired pizzas or a casual home cooked traditional meal. For example, they have all the favorites like Lamb, Arctic Char, Ribeye, Chicken, and even some Asian fusion dishes. Guide to Vik Tip: Highly suggest an in advance reservation before arriving.


Smiðjan Brugghús is relatively new establishment to the town. For you beer lovers, make sure this is a stop on your visit to Vik. They offer 10 beers on tap, a selection of 30 craft beers, burgers, ribs, and hot wings. Most days you can walk in, but if coming in as a group you need to have in advance reservations.

Strondin Pub is behind the N1 fuel station in the heart of the town. Offering true to form, “pub” food you’ll have a stellar view as you delight!

Drangar Restaurant can be found within Hotel Kria. Expect the unexpected with their menu. If you’re a picky eater, we do not recommend.

Halldórskaffi has simple tasty options such as a lamb sandwich, pasta, local fish and lamb. Know, it’s a super small old Icelandic house so space is very limited.

Traditional Arctic Char Diner in Vik Iceland

Fast Dining:

In hurry to get on to your next adventure or head to bed early? The best fast food options in Vik follow below. However, do not think just because they are “fast” doesn’t mean they lack quality or taste!

  • Víkurskáli is a cafeteria dining (inside of the N1 Fuel Station). Contrarily though, don’t let that discourage you! My wife and I eat weekly there often getting the Magistrate Burger, Marinated Lamb, Chicken Curry and Meat Soup! Super nice view of the Reynisdranger formations in the see too!
  • Ice Cave Bistro is another cafeteria style where you can order up wraps, salads, and other quickly made dishes.
  • N1 Gas Station for a traditional Icelandic Hot Dog! Iceland Travel Tip: If you want to go all in traditional, also grab a can of Coke and a Prince Polo Bar. This is the “road trip” food of Icelanders!
Burger in Vik Iceland

Top Nature Sights in Vik to See on Your Own

Nature is likely what will call you to this guide to Vik in the first place! In fact, countless editorials have boasted about the beaches here being the most dynamic and picturesque in the world! Allow me to share with you some of our favorite nature sights in Vik (and near to) that are a must see…

  • Dyrhólaey Sea Arch and Lighthouse (Guide to Vik Tip: The road leading up is often closed while birds are nesting between mid-May to mid-June).
  • Reynisfjara Black Beach (Note: Do not go near the water, they are riptide waves and are very dangerous!)
  • Trek to the Viking tomb in Vik.
  • Visit Vik Black Beach (more offbeat than the touristy Reynisfjara).
  • See the “Voyages” Friendship Statue.
  • Loftsalahellir Cave: Hike up to one of the coolest caves with a stunning view!
  • Spend time hiking to the famous abandoned airplane (Note: Be very aware of the weather conditions before embarking). Also know there is a shuttle you can pay to forgo the hike.
  • See the town of Vik from atop the Víkurkirkja (aka Vik i Myrdal Church). Incredible view! Additionally there are some hiking trails you can give a go if you’re so inclined too.

Activities in Vik:

Mountain outside of Vik Iceland

Best Things to Do in Vik Iceland with a Guide

Hiring a local guide, tour, or embarking on an expedition is a fantastic way to elevate your experience in Vik. To illustrate, we will share with all of the local experts of their trade. Guide to Vik Tip: Always try to book directly with company versus one of the big box tour operators who just “sell” the tour. That way, the local guide doesn’t pay commission and you get a direct no-middle-man experience from start to finish!

Adventure Tours in Vik

  • The original ice cave tour company in Vik are our friends at Katlatrack. They offer an abundance of tour types to discover ice caves year round. We suggest booking the full “Katla Ice Cave Tour” for the best experience of Mýrdalsjökull.
  • Ready to challenge yourself to a day of ice climbing around Vik? I’m ready to craft a custom adventure to your skill level.
  • Zip-lining in Vik can be done with the locals at: https://www.zipline.is/
  • Want to try your hand at horseback riding on a black beach? The folks at Vik Horse Adventure cannot wait to help you!
  • Are you a shutterbug professional or amateur? Booking a Vik Photography Expedition with me might be totally up your alley!
  • Want to see the “best of Vik” in 1 hour? Katlatrack has just the tour for you!
  • Did you know snowmobiling in Vik can be done? Local company Arcanum would love to help you.
  • A bit more of a thrill seeker? Parasailing with the True Adventure team may be ideal for you!
  • Ready for one of the most extreme things you can do in Vik Iceland? Book a Winter Camping Expedition with me!
  • Still find yourself obsessed with Game of Thrones (GOT)? Vik was actually a film site and the team at Katlatrack are happy to share where they were on the GOT Hidden Mountains Tour!
  • Love cross country skiing? I’d be happy to show you our favorite routes around Vik during the snowy winter months!

Vik Guide

Find yourself more in love with the idea of planning a trip here after this complete Vik Iceland Guide? You will not be disappointed if you take our advice. The town is also an awesome “base camp” for all of your Southern Iceland adventures.

For example, it makes seeing all of the large waterfalls in the south easy, Vatnajökull National Park, and the famed Glacier Lagoon area within a nice daily driving distance. Lastly, are you looking to elevate your adventure? We’ve love to hear from you if so! Contact us for more information!

Above the Church in Vik Iceland

© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Tours versus Expeditions in Iceland

Planning a trip to Iceland is often an adventure many look forward to for months or even years! So when you head down the road yourself, it’s important to understand the difference between choosing tours versus expeditions in Iceland. If you’re a more adventurous person or group the latter is likely going to be way more fun for you!

Tours versus Expeditions in Iceland

Are you a person who just loves to see highlights of a place and then move on to something else?  Or are you a person who thrives on exploring, discovering, being in the moment, and witnessing things few have?  Likely, if the last, choosing to embark on an expedition in Iceland will be way more beneficial to you.  Either way it’s good to be aware of your limits both physically and mentally.  Today we would love to educate you on the difference between tours and expeditions.

Tours in Iceland:

  • 1 Day and typically between 1-6 hours.
  • Visit tourist locations or popular locations.
  • If booking a seat on an “open tour” then you are with who knows how many other folks.  Most times tour company’s book slots for 6-35 people at one time.  Maybe more too, especially if you choose to book a big box tour company (and not a local).
  • Rigid schedule, likely because they have another tour booked before or after yours.
  • Guides who may not care about your experience or enhancing it.
  • Not flexible to any personal requests.
  • Lunch nor any additional amenities are included.
  • No inclement weather reschedules.
  • You’ll feel rushed when you’re trying to explore.
  • Likely the van, bus, or super jeep you’ll be transported in will be packed with people you don’t know.

 

Expeditions in Iceland:

  • One to multi-day, typically between 6-12 hour days.
  • Local guide that 100% knows the area and how it changes to ensure they are prepared no matter what happens.
  • Mode of transport could be via super jeep, 4×4, or by power of your own two feet!!
  • Likely discovering more offbeat areas of Iceland where usual tourists do not venture.  For example, the highlands or private property locations.
  • Expeditions are tiny and between 1-6 people maximum. 
  • If booking with Vik Expeditions, you are guaranteed an private journey with your group by the owner!
  • Iceland expeditions into the highlands can involve other exciting adventures such as the following: Cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice climbing, glacier walking, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, zip lining and crossing rivers in a 4×4 or super jeep!
  • Personalized thoughtful service from start to finish.
  • Flexible schedule to ensure plan b, c, or d happens in case of weather challenges.
  • Intimate education of local geology and folklore from your driver-guide or hiking leader.
  • You’ll feel at ease when you explore the areas, not rushed!  Plenty of time for photos, drone, and being 100% in the moment!!  Possibly the biggest difference in tours versus expeditions.
  • Packing list included!
  • Unique amenities included!

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Choosing the right Company

The differences in tours versus expeditions in adventure companies in Iceland can be huge so selecting the right one is important!  To illustrate, the following topics will help you in choosing a company that would be a good fit:

  1. The company having experience specifically in the area of the Icelandic highlands you want to discover.
  2. Keeps the groups small (especially in the age of Covid-19).
  3. Guides who are prepared to handle any truck problems, ensure your safety, and react carefully with weather changes.
  4. Well maintained and prepared trucks.  For instance, not leaking oil, falling a part, GPS, radio, shovel, winch / tow rope, tire repair kit, etc.
  5. Intact gear (IE, helmets, headlamps, crampons, hiking poles, and ice axes are safe and cleaned).
  6. Flexible schedules or re-booking if extreme weather (or road closures) challenge the days plan.
  7. First aid trained drivers / guides.
  8. Reviews, speak for themselves so read them!

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What Kind of Adventure in Iceland Will You Have?

Endless adventures await you in Iceland.  In comparing boring tours versus expeditions… What gets you excited?  Here are few things that makes us smile at Vik Expeditions…

  • Ice climbing to remote ice caves or tunnels.
  • Walking on Iceland’s 4th largest glacier.
  • Taking a super jeep into the highlands of Iceland and cross county skiing out.
  • Hiking and then wild camping.
  • Abseiling down into a cavern in the glacier and ice climbing out.
  • Trekking to remote waterfalls or non-touristy hot springs.
  • Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) in a glacier lagoon exploring glacier edges and then embarking on a hike to a canyon very few have ever explored!
  • Having a BBQ at a glacier, highland waterfall or beside a roaring river.
  • Witnessing the illusive Northern lights or wildlife in Iceland (think arctic fox and countless bird species. 
  • Waterfall hunting in the highlands.
  • Taking a zip-line over a fiercely powerful glacier river!
  • Having a helicopter take you to the top of a mountain in Iceland that takes 10 hours to hike up, seeing the view, and hiking back down!
  • The possibilities for expeditions in Iceland are endless and we would love to craft an unforgettable custom adventure for you!!

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Booking Vik Expeditions

Being based and local to Southern Iceland, means that Davíð Geir at Vik Expeditions knows how the glacier areas ebb and flow.  Furthermore, with his 14+ years of service to the SAR team and being an avid mountaineer he can skillfully get you in and out of areas flawlessly!  Not only all that, but he thrives on discovering and exploring, which in turn then sets the stage for you to have the best experience driven adventure day!  Feel free to contact us for more information!

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© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Who is Vik Expeditions?

Searching for a trusted fun local guide in Iceland can be tough to fine among all of the big box tour operators.  Some of those may even lead you to believe they offer “personalized” service and tours but when you show up it’s just another random guide and cookie cutter tour.  < Insert sad face >  But don’t fret, allow Vik Expeditions to come to the rescue!

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Who is Vik Expeditions?

Vik Expeditions is the passion project of Davíð Geir Jonasson, turned business.  Best way businesses are born, eh?  Need to niche!  It was his belief that Iceland lacked a local adventure company which focuses on crafting UNIQUE experience driven tours.  Not offering cookie cutter “open tours” which fall short in time and flexibility. 

Rather, it’s the mission to provide a list of ideas / options and he further creates your own unique EXPERIENCE within! After all, you’ve come all this way to Iceland to do something super memorable and DIFFERENT than the rest of your friends and family may have done. Why not book an adventurous day with a local to the area who will offer a very different kind of adventurous day for you!

Davíð’s love for mountaineering and sharing moments with people runs deep…  To say you’re in good hands would be an understatement!  To illustrate, he has been a part of the Icelandic SAR team (search and rescue) for 14+ years.  During those years he participated in countless training’s, specific educational courses, and been a part of some of the most challenging rescue missions in Iceland’s history.  Feel free to read more on our about page to understand  further why Vik Expeditions is so different!

Fun Facts About Your Expedition Leader Davíð:

  • Born in Reykjavik but always drawn to the mountains in the South of Iceland (hence being based in Vik)!
  • He has hiked 100’s of mountain ranges across 6 continents (still needs Australia under his belt)!
  • Spent over 10 years in the film industry creating special effects for Hollywood films such as the following: Walter Mitty; Prometheus; Interstellar; Thor; Aqua-man; Noah; Star Wars, etc!
  • Some people refer to him as a “Human Dictionary.”
  • Had legally performed a wedding ceremony in Antarctica!
  • Ice Climbed on more glaciers than he can count!
  • Loves reading.
  • His jokes and sarcasm will keep you laughing!!
  • Has mad awesome super jeep driving skills!
  • Can problem solve his way out of any situation.
  • Also has an entrepreneur wife and 2 bengal cats! 

Why We are Here for You:

Vik Expeditions mission is to share with you a side of Iceland that will give you goosebumps and leave you inspired on all fronts.  Providing you a true unique experience you cannot buy with any other big box tour company.  It only comes from a local guide who is your everything on a tour and understands the reasons as to why people choose adventure.

Offering you unique private bespoke expeditions in Iceland.  Experiences like…

  • Multi-day hiking journey’s
  • Ice Climbing in Vik
  • Vik Glacier Walking
  • Iceland Cross Country Skiing Adventures
  • Winter Camping Experiences
  • SUP glacier lagoon and hiking combos
  • Hiking in offbeat highland areas
  • Icelandic highland photography adventures
  • Or what about creating your own Iceland custom private tour?!

Every Experience with Vik Expeditions Offers:

  • Adventures led by owner, Davíð to ensure the same, high quality guiding he is known for.
  • Everything will be straightforward and personal.
  • Davíð believes in being a sustainable company that gives back, also environmentally aware, and promoting responsible tourism.

Sound like music to your ears?  Confidently know who is Vik Expeditions now?

If so… We would love to connect with you and help you plan your biggest adventure yet!  Feel free to contact us for more information.  

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© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.