Planning a trip to Iceland? If you’re anything like me, you like to plan your itinerary before the start of the trip, and that typically includes booking a few activities and tours ahead of time. Let me tell you about five incredible Iceland tours to book in 2023 – all of these I did myself and highly recommend!
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If you don’t already have your trip booked, I’m sure I’m convincing you to visit. Check out these resources and tools to help book and plan your trip!
- Booking.com – offers accommodation and unique places
- Vrbo – world’s leading marketplace for vacation rentals
- Hostelworld – global hostel-focused online booking platform
- Wayaway – flight aggregator to find the best rates on airline tickets
- Rentalcars.com – the world’s largest car rental service
- GetYourGuide – find top-rated tours and activities in your destination
WHERE TO STAY IN ICELAND?
Where to stay during your trip to Iceland depends on a lot of factors, such as your budget and how often you’ll be on the road. It’s common in Iceland for travelers to rent vans with beds and sleep in campsites. Personally, we stayed in hotels, guesthouses, and Airbnbs during our trip.
If you’re planning a road trip but don’t want to sleep in a van, I definitely recommend staying in guest houses along the way. In fact, in many places this will be your only option since the country is quite remote outside of the main cities. Here are the guesthouses we stayed in during:
ICELAND TOURS TO BOOK IN 2023
Alright, let’s talk tours! Since Iceland is a country heavily visited by tourists (especially in the summer), I highly recommend planning out your route and booking activities you want to do along the way ASAP. This is what I did and it allowed me to do everything I wanted to during my trip! As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the tours below are all Iceland tours to book that I actually did during my trip this year.
ICELAND: NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR FROM REYKJAVIK
It’s everyone’s dream to see the Northern Lights, right!? We had this tour booked for the very first night we arrived in Iceland near the end of April. This is because the tour only runs until the end of April, as it’s unlikely to see the Northern Lights from May to July. While seeing the Northern Lights on any day is never guaranteed, we chose to book a tour to increase our chances as we didn’t trust ourselves to hunt for them successfully.
On the night of the tour we were picked up from a nearby bus stop where probably around 100 other tourists were waiting. There were a bunch of tourist buses coming and going so it was a little confusing, but a few minutes after 10 PM a bus arrived and called out our names! We drove for about 45 minutes all the while receiving a historic, cultural, and scientific explanation about the Northern Lights from a local guide. During this time she was also communicating with other guides and using online technology to “track” the lights.
We arrived at an open field area with a small cabin with heating and bathrooms. There were about 3-4 other tourist buses there as well. Our local guide served us hot chocolate which was very pleasant and we stood around for a little while looking up at the sky trying to spot any blue or green. After about 20 minutes we all saw the Northern Lights dancing across the sky!!
This is one of the very best Iceland tours to book! It was truly a magical experience and we ended up spotting the Northern Lights three times in total before we headed back on the bus at around 12 AM. I feel so incredibly lucky that we had the opportunity to see the Northern Lights during our time in Iceland and I don’t think we would have if we hadn’t done this tour.
From Reykjavík: Volcanoes and Blue Lagoon Day Trip
Did you know Iceland is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world? This tour is an all day experience to and from Reykjavík that takes you to see the Kleifarvatn Lake and the Krÿsuvik Hot Springs, hike up a volcano, and relax at the famous Blue Lagoon. I highly recommend this tour especially if you are only visiting Iceland for a short time and not renting a car.
This tour has changed a bit since we did it back in April since this summer there was a recent volcanic eruption in the Geldingadalur Valley, which only ended on August 9th. Now, lava is no longer flowing for the time being but the area is still smoldering. When we visited there hadn’t been an eruption since 2022 so we just saw the hardened lava fields (which was still very awesome).
Our guide ended up cutting the hike a bit short because the weather was really bad and there was hardly any visibility as we climbed up the volcano. However I was completely fine with this as the hike was much more tiring than I was expecting! We lunch at a local restaurant to get lunch (I got Icelandic fish and chips).
After lunch, we got dropped off at the Blue Lagoon, where we spent about 2 hours (this could have been a little longer in my opinion). The Blue Lagoon is an absolute must visit in Iceland, and if you don’t have a car doing it as part of a tour is a great option. You can read all about the Blue Lagoon in my other blog post, LET’S TALK ABOUT “BLUE LAGOON HAIR”.
Reykjavik: Red Lava Horse Riding Tour
Let me tell you about Icelandic horses and why they are so special. Firstly, they are very small, about the size of a pony. In addition to the normal gaits of walk, trot, and gallop, Icelandic horses also do the tölt and flying pace. The tölt is a uniquely smooth gait because there is no suspension between strides. Supposedly smooth enough that the rider can drink a beer! The reason the Icelandic horses are able to do this is due to a gene mutation that allows them to synchronize their right and left dies.
We knew that we couldn’t leave Iceland without riding an Icelandic horse, so in our last few days we booked this tour for beginner riders. After being picked up from near our hotel and taken to a nearby horse farm, we were given waterproof pants and jackets to wear over our clothes. Then we hopped on our horses after a brief explanation of how to ride and the different gaits.
We rode for about an hour-and-a-half through Icelandic volcanic landscapes, all the while being guided by multiple experienced guides. We mostly rode in the walk gait, but a few times the guides had us encourage the horses to tröt which was honestly so fun. I had to hold on very tightly and was bouncing around a lot, but it was such a unique experience, especially as horses are not allowed to be imported into Iceland, and if an Icelandic horse is exported it is not allowed back! This means you really can only experience the tröt in Iceland.
SOUTH ICELAND: Vatnajökull Glacier Blue Ice Cave Tour
This tour made me feel like a true adventurer. Located in Southeast Iceland (a little over 100 miles past Vík), the Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest and most voluminous ice cap in Iceland and covers approximately 10% of the country! Ice caves are formed by water running underneath the glacier. Every fall, the tour guides hunt for the ice caves as their locations differ every year. Once the caves are formed, they are constantly changing and can even fall in on themselves.
After arriving at the meeting point we were directed into a huge 4×4 and driven out onto the glacier. The ride was about 20 minutes and super bumpy! After we got to the glacier we were given crampons, which are spikes you attach to the bottom of your shoes to give you more traction when you are walking on ice.
In total we explored three different ice caves which were all very fascinating in their own way. The reason glacial ice is so unique is because it barely has any air bubbles, which means it is super crystal clear. My favorite ice cave we explored is pictured on the right above – look how blue it appears! This is because glaciers have a hard time absorbing blue light so it makes its way through the light. Honestly, this tour is totally a must do if you’re in Iceland and have the time to make your way over to the Vatnajökull Glacier.
Húsavík: Big Whales and Puffin Island Speedboat Tour
Last but not least, my favorite of all Iceland tours to book. Before coming to Iceland I knew I just had to go on a whale watching tour. The reason I wanted to whale watch in Iceland compared to other places is because Iceland practices responsible whale watching. Responsible whale watching is a way to encounter and admire whales without disrupting their natural habitat. Whale watching companies in Iceland follow a lot of rules and regulations such as to not to approach whales head on, to avoid making sudden or excessive noises, and to ensure whales aren’t crowded by multiple boats.
This whale watching tour in particular is in Húsavík, which is located in the north of Iceland. If you aren’t planning to make it to Húsavík on your Iceland trip, there are also plenty of whale watching tours in Reykjavík. While whale watching in Reykjavík can still be a good experience, you have a better chance of seeing whales, especially blue whales and orcas, in Húsavík.
The reason you are more likely to see whales in Húsavík is because the Skjálfandi Bay is a thriving ecosystem with a diverse food supply. Not only are you more likely to see whales in general, but are also more likely to see multiple different species of whales. In fact, 24 different species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises can be found in Iceland’s northern waters near Húsavík.
Our tour was actually a whale watching and puffin tour, however we only saw a few puffins because it was a bit too cold for them still. We did our tour in April, the very start of whale watching season. It was still quite cold in Húsavík, so we showed up to the tour with jackets, hats, and gloves – I recommend doing this all year round because it gets VERY cold on the water! We were also given a big waterproof suit with a built-in life jacket to change into. We joined the rest of our crew on the RIB boat (10-12 other people) and set out for sea.
All-in-all, we spent about 2 hours on the water and saw three humpback whales, all varying in size. We were a little bit disappointed we didn’t see other types of whales, but we chalked this up to it being the very start of whale watching season. We still had a fantastic time and made long-lasting memories. I definitely recommend you visit Húsavík and book this once in a lifetime whale watching experience!
Now you know what Iceland tours to book in 2023 (and beyond)! Want more about Iceland? Check out my other blog posts!