Kayaking in Iceland: All You Need to Know

02. Sep 2019 |7 min read

There are many different ways of experiencing the beautiful landscapes Iceland has to offer. Kayaking is definitely up there for one of the most unique and fun ways of doing so.

Instead of observing the scenery from a distance, you get to go up close and personal on a kayak. Whether you’re gently paddling through icy glacier lagoon waters or making your way down one of Iceland’s many fjords, on a Kayak you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience.

If you’re wondering when the best season is to go kayaking or what the top spots to visit are then you’re in the right place. Follow along on this guide to Kayaking in Iceland, and we will answer all of your questions. 

Glacier Lagoon vs Sea Kayaking in Iceland

There are countless places to go kayaking in Iceland. When looking for a tour you will often find glacier lagoon kayaking and sea kayaking on offer. A glacier lagoon is a body of glacial water that’s separate from the ocean by either a reef or other barriers.

The water in a glacier lagoon is often much calmer than the ocean, with fewer waves. Sea kayaking, on the other hand, is on open waters, in Iceland, this is usually by the coast or in a fjord. 

Glacier Lagoon Kayaking

Iceland is home to some of the most spectacular glacier lagoons in the world. These lagoons form as the water on glaciers melt and chunks of ice break off. An example of one of these lagoons is the Sólheimajökull glacier lagoon, located in the south of Iceland.

Joining a kayaking tour is a magnificent experience as you paddle through the iceberg filled waters whilst being surrounded by stunning landscapes.  

Another beautiful lagoon is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon is found in southeastern Iceland and borders the beautiful Vatnajökull National Park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon contains a mesmerizing blue color. 

Sea Kayaking 

Sea kayaking is another great activity to do whilst in Iceland. One of the most popular destinations for sea kayaking are the Westfjords. Not only are the Westfjords the oldest part of Iceland, but they’re also home to some spectacular wildlife.

The calm water kayaking takes you to the edge of the fjords by Ísafjörður, where you may see Arctic Terns, Oystercatchers, and sometimes even puffins. 

If you’re up for the adventure of a lifetime then we also offer a multi-day kayaking tour, also based in the Westfjords. This wild camp discovery tour will be an opportunity to fully immerse yourself into the wilderness of Iceland for three days. Learn more about the history of the area, as well as the fauna and flora of this region. In the evenings you’ll have dinner on a remote beach and enjoy the stunning Icelandic sunsets. Does this sound like something you’d enjoy? Then head over here, to book your unique tour

Best places to go Kayaking in Iceland

Sólheimajökull Glacier Lagoon

One of Iceland’s most magnificent glacier lagoons is at the foot of Sólheimajökull, located on the southern coast of Iceland. This lagoon is like no other location for kayaking, as you make your way through freezing cold waters filled with icebergs. The surrounding glacier landscape is stunning, making the Sólheimajökull Glacier Lagoon a must for anyone into kayaking.

Navigating the water here can be challenging so either go with a tour guide or make sure you’re comfortable enough on a kayak.

Reykjavík Sea Kayaking

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and it’s located right on a beautiful coastline. From May to September the waters here are usually very calm, depending on the weather. Please be aware that it’s only safe to sea kayak in Iceland when the waters are still.

Leave the bustle of the city behind and explore the natural side of Iceland’s capital. On the north bay of Reykjavik is the Geldinganes Peninsula, a beautiful location to explore with a kayak. Here you’ll find a mystic landscape made up of beautiful plants, large volcanic rocks as well as an abandoned fishing vessel.

Stokkseyri

Stokkseyri is a small village in the southwest of Iceland, only 55km from Reykjavik. The picturesque town with wooden houses is surrounded by several interesting water systems. To the west of the village is a series of unique lagoons along the coast. Here you can kayak through various ponds that are connected by canals.

As you kayak along the water systems you’ll notice a rich abundance of plants and birds around you, as this area is known to be quite biodiverse. It’s an ideal location for beginners or families, as the water is very calm and safe.

 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Kayaking in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is another must for any and all kayak-fanatics visiting Iceland. This glacier lagoon is one of Iceland’s most picturesque landscapes, with its serene waters and turquoise blue icebergs. It’s a paradise for photographers and adventure seekers alike as you paddle your way through.

Jökulsárlón is located in the southeastern part of Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. The calm water makes this ideal for kayakers of all experience levels. 

Westfjords

The Westfjords are located in the northwestern part of Iceland and are some of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of the country. This remoteness makes the Westfjords ideal for anyone looking to leave the bustle of civilization behind them for a few days. Ísafjörður, the capital city of the Westfjords, is a popular destination for kayaking activities.

If you're looking for a calm water kayaking tour starting in Ísafjörður, take a look here.

The Westfjords are home to various birds, such as puffins, and other wildlife that can be observed from the kayak. 

Heinabergslón Glacier Lagoon

Heinabergslón is another glacier lagoon on the edge of the Vatnajökull. This lagoon is still a well-kept secret, as it’s not as well known as Jökulsárlón. You’ll have your peace and quiet to enjoy the majestic glacial landscapes around you.

As you kayak through Heinabergslón you’ll be surrounded by towering mountains with large icebergs floating in the water. Heinabergslón is different from Jökulsárlón, in that there are fewer but bigger icebergs here. 

Do You Need to be Experienced to go on a Kayaking Tour?

The majority of kayaking tours in Iceland are available to people of all skill ranges. Don’t worry if you’ve never been in a kayak before! Every tour starts with an introduction to various kayaking techniques and safety rules to bring everyone up to speed.

For tours that last several days, we recommend having some previous kayaking experience as well as having good physical fitness; as days of kayaking can get tiring. If you’re ever unsure about whether a tour is for you or not, then make sure to get in touch with the tour operator and they will answer any and all questions.

What to Wear & Bring on a Kayaking Trip

The great thing about Kayaking tours is that almost everything is provided, leaving you with only a few things to bring yourself. If you’re joining a tour then they’ll give you a kayak, a double-sided paddle, a life-vest, and a waterproof suit to keep you dry. Underneath the waterproof suit, you’ll want to wear something comfortable and warm.

We recommend wearing a warm fleece jumper, bottoms and socks. Please avoid cotton clothing, as this will keep you cold when it gets wet and can take a long time to dry. You’ll be sitting for quite long, so avoid jeans or any other material that gets uncomfortable when wet. Make sure to bring an extra pair of clothes as well, as there are always the chances that your kayak might capsize, plunging you into the cold waters of Iceland.

Also, wear sturdy shoes, no sandals or flipflops.

Being out on the water exposes you to a lot of UV-radiation that reflects off the water surface, so it’s generally a good idea to bring sunscreen, as well as a sunhat and sunglasses. Bring a water bottle as well, as Kayaking can be tiring. Lastly, bring a camera!

Wherever you decide to go kayaking in Iceland, you’re bound to be surrounded by mesmerizing scenery. We recommend either bringing a water protected camera, or a GoPro, or to bring a waterproof pouch for your camera to keep it safe. 

When is the Best Time of Year to go Kayaking in Iceland?

Most kayaking tours run between April and October due to the longer days and more suitable weather conditions. During the winter months, the weather can be extremely uncomfortable and often dangerous to be out kayaking, especially in open waters.

That being said, some areas are still popular throughout the winter. The Westfjords are more sheltered from the rough oceans and cold winds than other parts, so if you're visiting in winter and want to go kayaking then we suggest you head up to the northwest!

Want a FREE Iceland 101 E-book?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get our Iceland 101 E-book with 50+ Iceland travel tips!

Author

A little bit about the author

Comments

We'd love to hear what you have to say