The best extreme excursions in Iceland

An insider’s guide to extreme excursions in Iceland

They call Iceland the ‘land of ice and fire’ for a simple reason – because these landscapes wear their intensity on their sleeve. When we plan luxury vacations and tours to Iceland, we know it’s the perfect place to let you unleash your wild side – from daring hikes across icy glaciers to buggy drives along dramatic black beaches.

Alongside our finely curated experiences (of which we have plenty to choose from), we’ve spent years handpicking the best Iceland hotels to retreat back to after a day spent navigating the icy slopes. We’ve also spent years developing strong bonds with our guides on the ground to ensure you’re safely led through the ice caves and taken to the best possible spots for glacier hiking. It’s expert guides like Sven, Omar and Tristan who make these trips unforgettable.

Whether you’re seeking the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights or the endless daylight of the Midnight Sun, we’ll show you the best time to visit for your bespoke, extreme adventure in Iceland. And even if you’ve visited this alluringly mystical island before (and feel like you’ve seen it all), we’ll show you fresh, adrenaline-fueled ways to experience it anew.

What follows is our guide to the best in luxury extreme adventure vacations in this rugged, captivating country. Let’s begin.

Helicopter tour in Iceland
Iceland family vacations

Iceland helicopter tour over Eyjafjallajokull Volcano

There are few better ways to see this magisterial land than up above. So, on this extreme Iceland adventure, that’s exactly what you’ll do. Taking a helicopter tour of Iceland, you’ll get an unrivalled sense of the immense scale and raw, brute physicality of a landscape that has literally been formed by the shoving and ploughing of million-tonne glaciers and the fiery bursts of bubbling volcanoes.

From the skies, you’ll pass over the silky dark folds of black sand beaches and the deep blue waters that crash and batter against them in powerful waves. Flying from sea to snow, daringly approach the glacier-capped behemoth of Eyjafjallajokull – perhaps the most famous volcano in all of Iceland.

Erupting back in April 2010 (and rising 5,417 feet from sea level), it truly is a phenomenal physical formation. Just picture this. A great frozen mass extends beneath you, riddled with the swirling flows of countless outlet glaciers and towering mounds of black, hardened lava. But your extreme Iceland tour doesn’t end there. Touching down just behind this mighty giant, you’ll step into the Thorsmork glacier valley. Here, rivers of snow carve their way through luscious greenery and ripe, fresh moss litters the crater’s crumbling debris and ash-coated terrain. It’s certainly a sight to behold. And a spectacular place to explore.

Read more: Next on our five-night helicopter tour through Iceland, watch humpbacks breaching from above.

Luxury holidays to Iceland

Snowmobile tour across the icy expanse of Langjökull glacier

Famously called the “long glacier”, snowmobiling across this glittering ice formation is the perfect way to take in the beauty and vastness of your surroundings. Dashing through the snow, uncovering a frozen world. As you course along at an exhilarating pace, breathe in the splendour of this natural wonder – and let the bizarre feeling of driving on a glacier sink in.

There is something undeniably James Bond about this experience. Minus the danger. Minus the spying. What’s more, Iceland – being slathered in great whips and slopes of snow – is the ideal place to dart around on a snowmobile. The epic, pulverizing expanse of the Langjökull glacier will be your roadway to further adventure.

But that’s not all. Langjökull is also home to the world’s biggest man-made ice cave, stretching an incredible 2,645 feet. Sculpted and carved into the glacier’s interior, a series of glistening ice tunnels await your discovery. So, whether you wish to speed across its pristine length or delve beneath the surface, we’ll curate your extreme Iceland tour just as you dreamed it.

Read more: On our epic Golden Circle jeep tour weave past exploding geysers at Thingvellir National Park.

When to see the northern lights in Iceland

Ice climbing adventure at Sólheimajökull glacier

Majestic, ancient, dramatic. Iceland’s glaciers are as breath-taking as they are unique. Marked with deep veins of volcanic ash, tinted with teal blue hues – there’s nothing quite like seeing one for the first time. Except, perhaps, climbing one.

Tackling these most ancient of natural wonders makes for the perfect extreme Iceland experience. This is a chance to try something different, something exhilarating. And to embrace your inner explorer. One of our favourite glaciers? Sólheimajökull. A wealth of striking ice formations, here you’ll overcome rugged ridges and crevices that snake across the surface before looking out at dazzling views of these frozen wilds. An ideal spot for that on-top-of-the-world feeling.

Whether you’re a seasoned climber or a first-timer, the raw desire to climb in Iceland is unavoidable. Our long-time friend and expert guide, Sven will whisk you off to Sólheimajökull glacier where you’ll throw your crampons on and begin the ascent. This cragged, marbled beast is – visually – a genuine marvel. But its surface complexity also makes for ideal and varied climbing conditions.

Once you’ve scaled and climbed to your heart’s content, prepare to gaze up at the Icelandic skies as they burst with dancing arcs of colour. Or the aurora borealis, as they’re otherwise known.

Stay here: Retreat back to one of our favourite hotels in Iceland for a night under the glowing Northern Lights.

Glacier hiking in Iceland’s Valley of Thor

Having seen Iceland’s great glaciers from up high (and even then they don’t look small), the next thing to do is descend. Hiking tours of Iceland’s glaciers are remarkable not only for the wild views, but for the way in which they’ll turn you into something of a latter-day explorer. You truly feel like you’re venturing on an alien world as you step onto these (surprisingly) blue-black-white formations. Named after the Norse god Thor, Þórsmörk (home to the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano that erupted in 2010, drawing the world’s attention to the island) remains another feverish option for hiking tours.

Read more: Þórsmörk and these 9 other Iceland locations made it onto our top 10 photo-worthy landscapes list.

Snorkel between North America and Eurasia

By which we mean, dive into the eye-shatteringly clear waters of the Silfra Fissure. A crack in the world between the two tectonic plates, taking the plunge between these two, thuggish blocks of landscape is an immeasurably calming experience. As you descend (wet-suited, in all of that brilliant cold), the most surprising thing is that your visibility is far greater than you’d assume. The crashing of rocks and boulders (long ago, don’t worry) into the fissure has also created an extremely varied dive experience, adding mini-fissures and grottos within this awe-inspiring trench.

Read more: One more adventure? Dive into the magma chamber of one of Iceland’s most iconic volcanoes.

Ready for your own extreme trip to Iceland?

Like what you see? Our Travel Experts have scoured the frosty corners for years, perfecting both extreme–and chilled– Iceland itineraries for families, couples and solo travellers. Head to our Iceland page to pick the perfect one for you.