Posted: 1/20/20 | January 20th, 2020
Iceland is an utterly unique country, with glaciers varying in color from white to blue to gray, waterfalls the size of skyscrapers plummeting down sheer rock cliffs, and bumpy lava fields covered in moss in every shade of green you can imagine. And you’ll hear fantastical tales from history and folklore from people who still believe that elves might exist.
It’s one of my favorite countries in the world, one I fell in love with the first time I visited. I’ve been back multiple times since then during various seasons.
But Iceland isn’t always easy to get around, especially in the off-season, when many bus routes shut down because of weather.
One of the ways to get around that problem is by joining an organized tour. You’ll get to experience places that can be inaccessible without a four-wheel drive, and you’ll have local knowledge to help make the most of your day, depending on the ever-changing and often extreme weather.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite tour companies in Iceland, from short city walking tours to multiday adventure hikes. A lot of tour companies aren’t cheap there, and you’ll definitely pay more than if you were to do the same route solo, but here are the seven that provide incredible experiences at the right price:
1. Follow Me – Free Walking Tour Reykjavik
A free walking tour is always a great way to introduce yourself to a new city, and the guides from Follow Me can give you a good overview of Iceland’s capital on this 90-minute stroll. It runs three city walking tours a day in peak season (June to September) and one a day the rest of the year; it also now offers an Old Harbour and Brewery tour every afternoon.
The Reykjavik walking tours have been running since 2012, and the guides are all local comedians and entertainers who love the city and want to make you laugh while you’re exploring it. They’ll show you some more overlooked parts of town and also give you some tips for saving money in this expensive country. Like many free walking tours, most guests tip the guide what they feel the tour was worth at the end.
2. Ride with Locals
Ride with Locals is a motorcycle tour company that will take you to the middle of nowhere on trails you wouldn’t access any other way, meaning you’ll see volcanoes, craters, and mountains that very few visitors to Iceland do, making your Iceland experience particularly unique. Its trips last between three days and a week and generally head inland, rather than hugging the coast like most tours.
The motorcycles are KTM 690R and Husqvarna 701 dual sport bikes, and all guides are really experienced with riding through Iceland’s highlands. Some trips use sleeping bags in mountain huts for accommodations (and include all the meals), while others include hotel stays with breakfast.
Costs range between about $2,800 and $5,000, including motorbike hire and fuel, depending on the length of the trip.
Intrepid’s tour offerings are always solid, using small groups and local guides, and they don’t rush you from sight to sight. It offers a number of options in Iceland, including the classic Ring Road trip, where you circumnavigate the island and get to visit some of the best-known sights, from the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón on the south coast to the volcanic lake at Mývatn in the north. There’s also a six-day camping trip along the southern coast.
Intrepid tours start at $1,000 and go up to $4,600 for the ten-day comfort tour.
4. Arctic Adventures/Trek Iceland/Extreme Iceland
Arctic Adventures is a big player in the Iceland tour market these days and offers a huge range of one-day and multiday tours, as well as helping you out with self-drive tour arrangements. It’s owned by the same people who run Trek Iceland and Extreme Iceland (two other tour companies that essentially run all the same tours as Arctic Adventures).
Its one-day tour options include all the main Icelandic sightseeing activities, like ice caves, snorkeling, glacier tours, and the popular Golden Circle route to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir hot springs, and Gullfoss Waterfall. They have mutli-day trips as well.
Arctic Adventures’ full-day trips range in price from around $100 to $160, depending on the need for equipment or smaller groups (for the more adventurous activities).
5. Icelandic Mountains Guides
For 25 years, Icelandic Mountain Guides has focused on true adventure travel with very small groups. Its multiday tours include more unique routes, like a five-day backpacking trek from Núpsstaðaskógur to Skaftafell, or a ten-day expedition across the Highlands starting from the northern town of Akureyri; these longer trips will set you back upwards of $4,000.
It also runs one-day tours to ice caves and glacier walk experiences, among others, leaving from Reykjavík, along with similar one-day adventures on the Sólheimajökull glacier on the south coast if you’re in the area and can meet them there. The half-day and one-day tours are generally pricier than other companies (from $100 and up for half-day excursions) but often include specialist equipment or ride on quad bikes or snowmobiles.
Icelandic Mountain Guides has a genuine conservation focus and holds a twice-yearly event where guides spend time planting trees. Its current aim is to increase its carbon-offset programs so that its multiday tours are also carbon neutral.
6. Iceland Horizon
Iceland Horizon offers a huge ariety of single-day tours all around the country. They’re a good choice for travelers who want to see the main sights and do fun activities but who don’t have access to their own vehicle. They run their small-group tours (always under 19 people) from a mini-bus (which has Wi-Fi), making it a comfortable way to see the sights without having to bother with renting your own car.
They also run multi-day trips ranging from 3-7 days that cover all the best highlights of the country, including Northern Lights tours and tours around the Snaefellsness peninsula. Expect to pay around 11,000 ISK per person for a day trip and upwards of 30,000 ISK per person for a three-day tour.
7. Midgard Adventures
Based in Southern Iceland, Midgard Adventures is a family-owned company that offers all sorts of fun and adventurous tours. Offroading with jeeps, fat bike tours, hiking, snowmobiling, and glacier walks are all on offer here with tours led by family friends and local guides.
Midgard also has its own hotel in Hvolsöllur that you can base yourself from, complete with restaurant, bar, hot tubs, and a sauna (Hvolsöllur is around 90 minutes southeast of Reykjavik). They have both single-day tours as well as multi-day tours that stretch from 2-8 days (including seasonally-exclusive tours such as offroading in the Highlands during winter).
Prices start around 30,000 ISK for a day tour and stretch upwards of 390,000 ISK for an 8-day tour. While not cheap, Midgard tours are high-quality and tons of fun. You won’t find the same cookie-cutter experiences here.
From challenging multiday hikes through some of the most scenic landscapes you’ll ever see, to gently exploring a glacier lagoon by boat or visiting puffin colonies, to wandering the streets of the quirky capital of Reykjavik, there’s an Icelandic tour company for you!
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Iceland!
Want to plan the perfect trip to Iceland? Check out my comprehensive guide to Iceland written for budget travelers like yourself! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money in one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations in the world. You’ll find suggested itineraries, tips, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, and my favorite non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and get started!
Book Your Trip to Iceland: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use these all the time. My favorite places to stay in Iceland are:
- Hlemmur Square (Reykjavik) – A posh hotel with a great bar and traditional Icelandic communal dinners several times a week
- Kex Hostel (Reykjavik) – Has a café and bar with an awesome happy hour, a comfy lounge, and a heated patio
- Akureyri Backpackers (Akureyri) – A laid-back hostel with hot showers, a cool bar, and helpful staff!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
Looking for more information on visiting Iceland?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Iceland with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!