There is no shortage of adventure activities to do in Iceland: sea kayaking, glacier hiking, ice cave spelunking, and scuba diving are only a few. I definitely recommend trying at least one activity you've never done before. You'll be surprised how Iceland brings out the adventurous side of you. We chose to spend a day horseback riding and river rafting. I grew up riding horses and rafting rivers but never like this.
Icelandic horses are a special breed. They are shorter and stockier than most horses and are super furry to stay warm in the Icelandic winters. They're basically fluffy ponies and it's great. They even have 2 special gaits that are unique to Icelandic horses: tölt, a very even trot, and skeið, a fast and smooth gallop. You'll love getting to know one of these guys after driving by so many on Iceland's Ring Road.
After doing extensive research on the best companies for horseback riding, we chose to go with Hestasport. They offer long and short riding adventures and their staff is friendly and accommodating. You can book a riding trip al la carte or as part of a nights stay in one of their cozy cottages. They are located near Akureyri so they are a great option for anyone making the ring road trip. If you are only in Iceland for a stop-over, there are also many options for horseback riding near Reykjavik. We only had time to participate in a short trip but I would definitely recommend one of the more interesting tours like River Delta as there will be more to see while on horseback.
We also booked our river rafting through Hestasport but they contract the rafting out to Viking Rafting. Viking Rafting is a great company that employs guides from all over Iceland and the rest of the world. They have a great raft lodge complete with foosball, couches, hot cocoa, free wifi, and Kóla the dog. They have all the gear on hand that you'll need to face the glacial waters. It takes about 30 minutes to get all your protective gear on but this is an important step as just 15 minutes in this water unprotected is a death sentence. Be sure to wear plenty of layers but only wool! I can't stress this enough, DO NOT wear anything cotton under your drysuit. If you happen to get a little wet, the cotton will stay wet the entire ride and you will be freezing the whole time. Invest in some wool leggings and pick up a wool sweater in Iceland before you go rafting.
The best time to go rafting is in June and July when the water levels are at their highest. We went in May so the rapids were a little calm for my taste but the Viking guides kept it interesting with several stops along the way. Our first stop consisted of us finding a geothermal spring near the bank of the river and making hot cocoa out of the water from the ground! I thought it would taste like sulfur but it was a welcome treat in midst of such a chilly activity. Our second stop was a big surprise. Our guide, Chris, had us pull out onto a pebble shore and climb up a mossy rock ledge. At the top he kindly informed us that we were to jump off the 20ft cliff in front of us and into the frigid waters. Russell and I looked at each other and simply said, "YOLO." I turned on my GoPro helmet cam and took the leap! The water was very very cold but my dry suit did it's job and I was warm again in just a few minutes.
We enjoyed our adventures so much. They were definitely a highlight of our trip to Iceland. Next time: ice caves and sea kayaking! Which Icelandic adventure sports are you most excited to try?
Go confidently travelers!