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When WOW Air began non-stop flights from San Francisco to Reykjavik, we knew we had to make going to Iceland a priority! We decided to visit Iceland in October since we’d have a chance at seeing the northern lights and we’d hopefully be able to do glacier hiking and/or ice caving!
Later we learned that mid-October was still too early to visit the ice caves because it wasn’t cold enough to safely enter, darn! I guess we’ll have to save it for next time.
Since we booked the flights for a 7 day trip, we decided to do 5 days on our own and then find 2 day trip that worked with our schedule and allowed for activities that are more difficult or impossible to do on our own, namely glacier hiking and hunting for the northern lights or “aurora borealis.”
Though glacier hiking usually add a couple to a few hundred dollars to the tab, per person, we got to do an activity we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Plus, in Iceland, it isn’t recommended to go glacier hiking on your own due to safety reasons.
Fun Fact: (This fact also happens to be super morbid, but you’ve been warned.) In the past, many people who went glacier hiking on their own went missing and were never to be found. Recently, with global warming and melting glaciers some of those bodies have been recovered and found in the ice.
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I did a ton of research on various tour companies that offered options for guided glacier hikes, including some renowned tour operators, such as Viator, Guide to Iceland, Iceland on the Web, and Goecco, which was highly recommended by a friend.
Plus we wanted to do a 2 day tour where we’d save some money on a car rental, get in some zZz’s on the tour bus, AND see more of Iceland.
In the end, we ended up going with Extreme Iceland because their tour schedule worked well for us and they had many glowing reviews on Tripadvisor. Also, their prices were more reasonable, and not overly expensive.
Our Experience with Extreme Iceland
Reservation & Booking Process
This was as easy as it gets! The tour page was super thorough and had most of the information we needed to book our tour.
We were also able to add any extras we needed, such as Jimmy’s hiking boots, to our booking directly from the tour page. See full list of extras below.
We liked that we could choose to pay in Icelandic Krona (ISK), Euro, or U.S. Dollars. This made things super easy because you don’t have to deal with foreign transaction fees if you don’t have to. We have credit cards without FTEs so we just opted to pay in ISK since it was also a little bit cheaper at the time.
We also emailed any questions we had directly to Extreme Iceland and they replied promptly within 24 hours. We definitely appreciated how responsive they were via email.
Pick up took a little while, but on the tour information they had stated that it could take up to 30 minutes to get picked up since they had to go around all of the hotels in Reykjavik to get everyone.
This was a fairly accurate estimate and was fine with us since we were informed and expected it. It also went super smoothly as guides will run out of the mini-bus at each pick-up spot to ask which tour you’re going on (there are usually quite a few people waiting) and double check to see if you’re on their list. Also other Extreme Iceland tours that stop by to pick up others will reassure you that your bus is coming, this was very comforting.
After we were picked up, we learned that we were lucky enough to get 2 guides! Both were great, one was the main tour guide who told us information about various sights throughout the tour as well as drove us around the country. The other guide was a trainee so he helped the main guide wrangle everyone up and double check numbers before we left each spot. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember their names because they were quite Icelandic and I had no idea how to spell it.
Traveling in the mini-bus was great, the ride was smooth and it was definitely easier than driving ourselves. Wifi was free and available on the bus so we were never bored when we weren’t out seeing a sight or sleeping. The tours are intentionally kept as smaller groups maxing out at 18 people.
Day 1 – See Iceland’s Gorgeous Waterfalls in the Southern Coast
First off, we loved that our guide told us a lot about the gorgeous Icelandic landscapes we passed them by on our drive, from the moss covered lava rocks to the amazing ice-capped view of Eyjafjallajökull, and the cutesy town of Vik. We definitely learned tons of fun facts throughout our tour!
Fun Fact: Back in 2010, when Eyjafjallajökull exploded and grounded over 5 million travelers stranded around the world. News and media outlets across the world struggled to pronounce the name of the volcano as they reported on the European airspace closures.
We loved seeing so many of Iceland’s beautiful waterfalls on the tour!
Our first stop was Seljandafoss which also happens to have another beautiful set of falls, Gljúfrabúi, easily accessible from the same parking lot! We loved climbing the hill and seeing Seljandafoss from behind as well as from the front. It was amazing! Keep in mind that the hill can be quite steep and slippery so be careful going up.
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We made a brief stop at a small local waterfall, I’m not sure if there’s a name for it. Surely there is, but there are also a TON of waterfalls in Iceland so we may have just forgotten it. It was cute, but also nothing compared to a lot of the waterfalls we’d seen in Iceland already at this point.
Afterwards we headed over to Skógafoss which was one of our favorites. The falls are so large and amazing in real life, they are a sight to be seen! We also loved how the waterfall created a nearly constant rainbow in the sky.
Driving by the village of Vik to the unique Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach was next. You can also see the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks from the beach. The dark sand made the beach feel warmer than a lot of other areas in Iceland, but the high winds we experienced there basically cancelled that out. We almost got blown away!
Fun Fact: According to an Icelandic legend, two trolls had attempted to drag a three-masted ship to land. Unfortunately they were not successful and when the sun rose, they were forever frozen into the Reynisfjara Sea Stacks.
Make sure you heed the warnings and don’t get too close to the ocean on this beach, people have gotten swept away in the past.
We had a longer break at this spot so we also took a lunch break and got to try some delicious Icelandic food.
Afterwards we still had quite a ways to drive to get to our accommodation for the night, but our guide was kind enough to ask if we’d all like to visit a more local, but still beautiful, waterfall. Of course we all said, “yes!” So we took a little stop before the sun set to see Foss á Siðu.
Our Bed & Breakfast
For our accommodations we stayed at the Country Hotel Smyrlabjörg in Hornafjördur, a town near Höfn, which was still approximately 40min or 47km (~29mi) away.
Our entire tour group stayed in the main guesthouse/hotel area, but we noticed that they also had smaller units available on the property.
The room was simple and basic. They provided a double bed with clean linens and a bath towel. There was no TV in the room, but we were super tired anyways so we didn’t mind.
We had the option of eating dinner in the dining room with everyone at our own expense or just eating whatever snacks or food we’d brought. We hadn’t prepared to bring any food in advance so we opted for homestyle cooking they served at our accommodation. All entrees came with a tomato based soup, I ordered salmon and Bear got the lamb. It was simple, no-frills, but yummy!
Since we visited Iceland in October, after dinner our guide offered up a mini-aurora hunt right outside of the hotel. We basically just stood in an empty field away from the lights of our bed & breakfast. It was an interesting experience but unfortunately we didn’t get to see much since there was a lot of cloud cover. Oh well, it happens!
The next morning, breakfast was provided in the dining area and oh my goodness it was a great spread! I wish I’d taken a photo of the table full of food. We munched on muesli, cold cuts, cod roe sauce, and pickled herring. This is when I learned that I LOVED pickled herring. They also had fresh fruit juices and coffee. It was the best hotel breakfast we had in Iceland, by far, but this may have also been because we chose budget-friendly options, heh.
Book your stay at Country Hotel Smyrlabjörg now!
Day 2 – Iceland’s Beautiful Glaciers Galore
This was a glacier-filled day! Our guide also let us know that bad weather was coming so he tried to push us along and get as much done as we could earlier on in the day.
The first stop was the Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. We spent a good amount of time here and had the option to take the amphibian boat tour. This wasn’t charged on the tour page because it’s not always available in the fall and winter months and is completely weather dependent.
Fun Fact: Glacier tongues are glacial outlets where a glacier moves out from a valley into an ocean or lake. Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is prime example of a glacier tongue.
Since one of our friends had mentioned it was an amazing boat tour, we jumped at the opportunity to take it even though it was an additional cost, ISK 5,700/US $53.78 per person for adults.
It was SO worth it! We’d highly recommend this experience as an add-on if your budget permits. Not too many people from our tour actually took it, but it was great.
We got to learn more about the lagoon, how it was created, and even got to taste some fresh glacier water from one of the pieces of ice a guide grabbed from the lagoon.
Afterwards, we headed over to the Diamond Black Sand Beach with glimmering pieces of melted glacier spread all along the beach. It was super cool to see the contrast between the dark, black sand and the crystal clear, and sometimes even light blue pieces of glacier on the sand.
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We got some amazing photos of this area and it was super beautiful to see. The definite plus about this tour was we were easily able to get some of our buddies on the tour to help us snap some pix!
We also grabbed a quick lunch from the cafe since we were getting a bit peckish.
With full stomachs we were now ready to go glacier hiking! This was pretty much the reason we booked this tour so we were super excited.
Fun Fact: Approximately 11% of Iceland is covered in glaciers. Though this is gradually decreasing due to global warming.
Our guides took us to Skaftafell Nature Reserve, where we went glacier hiking on Svínafellsjökull. Svínafellsjökull is a glacier tongue of the Vatnajökull ice cap, the largest glacier in Europe.
They took us to get suited up and ready for glacier hiking. By “suited up,” I mean that our guides help strap on our crampons and gave us pickaxes, lol, because that’s all the additional “clothing” we needed, haha. They also taught us how to walk on our crampons and use our pickaxes. And then we headed up to the glacier!
As we were beginning our ascent up the glacier, our main guide, who was also the driver, came down with a stomach ache. For our safety, as well as his own, he left our group with the trainee guide to grab another guide as two were necessary for this hike.
Important Note: For safety, don’t stray away from the tour group and only step in the areas where the guides tell you to; otherwise to put it bluntly, you could easily slip in a crack and die.
We waited for a bit and a new guide was able to join us on the excursion, he took us up the glacier and pointed out the giant cracks and crevasses. It was both creepily haunting and amazing at the same time. We were so glad we were able to do this activity, especially since the weather was starting to get worse.
Just as we had gotten up the glacier, the sky got pretty dark and it began sprinkling a bit. But we trusted our guide that the weather was still good enough to explore the glacier.
The glacier hiking experience was super cool and I’m so glad we got to do it!
After our hike, we took got some snacks at the local gas station and souvenir shop.
Our guide had fortunately recovered enough by this time to take us back to Reykjavik. I was glad he took the break he needed since the drive back was pretty rough. A storm had rolled in and it was raining a lot nearly the entire 4 hour drive back to Reykjavik. We were also glad that we had a local driving us, instead of our newbie selves, and we arrived safely back at our hotel in Reykjavik!
Would We Take Another Extreme Iceland Tour?
DEFINITELY. It was SO much fun! Yes, it was more hand-holding than we needed in Iceland but we found that it provided us with a more relaxing and enjoyable experience since we had driven through the country at a very fast pace the first 5 days of our trip.
We paid for this tour on our own and we still thought it was worth it! We’ll admit it was a bit pricey and was more than we typically pay in order to sightsee, we’re glad that we got a guided glacier hike out of it. Plus, you have to keep in mind things in Iceland are expensive, period, and that helps put things in perspective.
The tours are smaller groups with a maximum of 18 people. This probably makes it easier to keep track of us, especially for potentially dangerous activities like glacier hiking. It also makes the tour more intimate and you can easily ask questions about any sight or activity.
If you prefer a more self-guided experience, they have some tours where you drive out to a meeting spot and glacier hike from there. But keep in mind that depending on weather conditions and where you’re from (if you’re used to driving in the snow), it may be more difficult for you to get to the tour meeting place.
We would definitely consider some of their other tours in the future, for some spots that aren’t as easily accessible for us. Maybe the highlands of Landmannalaugar and ice caving in the future? 😉
Extreme Iceland 2-Day Guided Tour Information
See the map below of exact locations of the stops.
DAY 1 – South Coast
- Reykjavik hotel pick-up
We were picked up at our hotel, Hotel Fron
- ^ Gljúfrabúi
- ^ Small local waterfall
- * View of Eyjafjallajökull
- * Vik Village
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- * Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
- Foss á Siðu
- Country Hotel Smyrlabjörg
- Aurora Hunt
DAY 2 – Glaciers
- Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon (optional boat tour)
- Diamond Black Sand Beach
- Svinafellsjökull Glacier Hike at Skaftafell
- Reykjavik hotel drop-off
We were dropped off at our hotel, Hotel Fron
^ These spots technically weren’t listed on the itinerary but our guide was kind enough to include them. They may or may not be featured on YOUR itinerary.
* The above places were mainly drive-bys and we didn’t necessarily stop to take photos, or if we did, we only stopped to take photos and we didn’t go up close to them.
Pricing & Cost
49,900 ISK/US$470/€405 per adult; aside from the sights & activities listed above, this also includes:
- Pick-up and drop-off at a hotel in Reykjavik
- 1 night in accomodation with a private bathroom and breakfast on Day 2
- Transportation to all of the sights on the tour with wi-fi available on the mini-bus
- English-speaking tour guide
- Crampons for glacier hiking
- Aurora hunt (weather-permitting on the winter version of the tour, Sept-Apr)
- Single traveler accommodation fee (required for solo travelers) – €49
- Amphibian boat tour at Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon – €45
- Hiking boots – €13
- Waterproof parka – €13
- Waterproof pants – €13
- Luggage storage – €13
- Seasonal availability can differ.
Sometimes the schedule may change depending on weather and availability of the activity which can vary seasonally. For example, during the summer, seeing the aurora is unlikely because the sky may not get dark enough. Friendly reminder, just because you visit in the winter doesn’t mean you’ll see the aurora. Whether you’ll get to see it is all dependent upon the weather.
- Book the correct tour!
There are winter (Sept-Apr) vs. summer (Apr-Sept) versions of the tour that vary slightly, double check the dates and seasons to make sure you’re getting the correct one!
- Dress appropriately!
Warm clothes and layers are definitely a must! It can get super windy by the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks and a bit chilly on the glacier.
- Glacier hiking requirements.
You will need high-topped hiking boots that go over your ankles so the crampons have something (not your leg) to latch onto. If you need better-fitting hiking boots I’d recommend renting them as an extra item, this is what Bear did. Also, if you rent hiking boots, they’ll provide them to you at the beginning of the tour so you’ll be able to wear them for both days.
- Some level of physical activity is required for this tour.
You must be in reasonable physical shape as well as require all participants to be over 10 years of age.
- Pack your own food & snackums.
To save money and keep yourself from getting too hungry, I’d recommend bringing some snacks. They’re great for when you’re bored on the bus but also to curb the hunger!