Exploring the Off-Road Landscape of Iceland: ATV and Buggy Tour Guide

Off Road ATV Vehicle

Exploring Iceland’s unique and beautiful nature is truly special, with its lava fields, black sand beaches and geothermal areas. Many areas are rugged and often can only be experienced on vehicles designed to handle such landscapes, which is where the ATV and Buggy tours come in.  

Taking an ATV or a Buggy Tour in Iceland lets participants experience beautiful panoramic views and explore areas often inaccessible otherwise. It also gets the heart pumping and adrenaline flowing on an adventurous excursion. 

Below, you will see more details about the many ATV and Buggy tours in Iceland.

 

ATV Tours in Iceland 

The rugged lava fields, lush valleys and sandy beaches make Iceland the perfect destination for ATV adventures. The tours take participants on a journey exploring what feels like a no-man’s land with open areas and panoramic views, in addition to scouting some of the country’s must-visit attractions. 

Person Drifting on an ATV
Photo: Pixabay

 

Reykjavík Peak ATV Tour

The Reykjavík peak tour takes participants on an excursion, viewing some of Iceland’s most beautiful mountain ranges and mountain tops. The tour begins at the base camp, where you get suited and geared up for the adventure. Everything needed is provided, such as overalls, helmets, balaclavas and gloves, but participants need to make sure they are wearing weather-appropriate shoes. The ATVs are all simple to use, and the tour is beginner-friendly. 

The journey starts with a tour along Hafravatn, a beautiful secluded lake which is popular for fishing and surrounded by picturesque landscapes. The journey then heads upwards until you reach the top of Hafrafell mountain. From the mountain top, you will get to admire the views over the Hengill mountain range, Bláfjöll mountain range, and Esja mountain. 

The tour’s base is located only 15 minutes from Reykjavík’s centre. 

Duration: 1.5 hours

For more information and booking of the Reykjavík Peak ATV Tour, click here

 

Black Beach ATV Safari and Plane Wreck Exploring

The tour starts at the base in Vík í Mýrdal village on Iceland’s south coast. There, participants are geared up before starting the drive. Insulated overalls, helmets and balaclavas are provided, but it is recommended to bring a warm first layer, such as a warm sweater and weather-appropriate shoes. 

Participants will drive through small rivers and streams before arriving at the black sand beach, naturally created with sand deriving from the nearby Katla volcano. There is no need to fear Katla, as the volcano has been dormant since its last eruption in 1918. 

After riding through the beautiful black sand beach, the journey is headed to the famous DC3 plane wreck, a US Navy aircraft that crashed into Sólheimasandur beach in 1973. After taking in the unique sight, the journey leads back towards Jökulsá river and back along the mountains towards the base. 

Duration: 2 hours

For more information and to book the Black Beach and Plane Wreck ATV Tour, click here

 

Midnight Sun ATV Tour 

Many visitors come to Iceland to experience the breathtaking midnight sun. The longest days in Iceland are during the summer, from May to August, and in June, they are exceptionally bright, and the sun is visible almost 24 hours a day. The phenomenon of the special midnight sun is due to Iceland’s high latitude, where Iceland gets to bathe in the golden glow.  

Taking an ATV tour is a unique and adrenaline-filled way of enjoying the midnight sun. The Midnight Sun ATV Tour takes participants to Reykjavík’s highest mountain peaks to see the show from the best possible viewing point. The mountains that participants cruise up are Hafrafell and Úlfarsfell, both offering incredible views over the capital area and, of course, the glorious midnight sun. 

The tour includes all gear: overalls, helmets, balaclavas, and gloves. Pick-up and drop-off can be added for an extra fee. 

Duration: 2.5 hours

For more information and to book the Midnight Sun ATV Tour, click here

 

Volcano ATV Tour 

For a truly one-of-a-kind experience in Iceland, the volcano ATV tour on Heimaey islands, part of Vestmannaeyjar islands, is indispensable. The island is off Iceland’s south coast, where the ferry Herjólfur leaves from Landeyjahöfn harbour. 

The tour takes participants around the volcanic area. The journey leads to Eldfell volcano, which became well-known around the globe after its eruption in 1973. The tour will, amongst others, take participants to the scene where Guðlaugur Friðþórsson climbed up rugged cliffs after battling the cold Atlantic Ocean following the Hellisey ship sinking in May 1984. 

Therefore, the volcano ATV tour is not only adrenaline-fueled but also informative and interesting. 

Duration: 1 hours

For more information and to book the Volcano ATV Tour, click here

 

More ATV Tours in Iceland 

A number of interesting, fun and scenic ATV tours are offered in Iceland, and participants can also choose to combine them with other excursions. Combined tours include, for instance, the ATV and Golden Circle Tour, the ATV and Whale Watching Tour and the ATV and Blue Lagoon Tour. So, if pressed with time, there is no need to worry as you can mix the adrenaline ATV adventures with some of the Icelandic classics. 

To see all available ATV tours in Iceland, click here

 

Buggy Tours in Iceland 

The buggy adventures in Iceland offer a thrilling experience similar to that of the ATVs. However, the buggies are larger and more car-like, with two seats alongside each other. Therefore, two people can join the adventure side-by-side, but it is also possible to ride the buggy solo. 

 

Buggy Safari Tour

The buggy safari is a fun, thrilling ride exploring stunning landscapes and riding through rugged roads, only 15 minutes from Reykjavík’s centre. 

The tour begins with a journey alongside Hafravatn lake before heading up the mountain towering over the area, Hafrafell mountain. When reaching the peak of Hafrafell mountain, participants get to enjoy the incredible views. The views are over the nearby mountain ranges such as Bláfjöll and Esja mountain ranges. 

All gear, such as insulated overalls, helmets and balaclavas, are included.

Duration: 1 hours

For more information and to book the Buggy Safari, click here

Buggy Vechicle
Photo: Istock Photo

 

Family Buggy Glacier Experience 

The family buggy tour is meant for groups as the buggies are special six-seater ones, fitting the whole family. The adventure takes the group to Mýrdalsjökull Glacier in the southern part of the Icelandic highlands. The experience is unlike any other, where participants get to enjoy the view from the glacier’s edge, looking over the contrast of black sand deserts and the glacier’s radiant ice cap. 

Participants over the age of 5 can join the fun. All gear, such as insulated overalls, helmets and balaclavas, are included. 

Duration: 2 hours

For more information and to book the Family Buggy Glacier Experience, click here

 

Buggy Adventure from Geysir Geothermal Area

The tour’s base is located in the middle of the Golden Circle area, between Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal area. 

The tour begins with an excursion of Haukadalur valley and further towards the highlands of Iceland. The views over Langiökull glacier and Skjlandbreið volcano can be admired from there. Throughout the tour, participants drive through rugged landscapes, cross rivers and ride through rocky paths, so a Mario Kart practice might be a brilliant idea before entering the tour. 

Duration: 2 hours

For more information and to book the Buggy Adventure from Geysir Area, click here

 

More Buggy Tours in Iceland 

In addition to the buggy tours discussed above, many other options are available. Tours can be combined with other excursions such as the Buggy and Whale Watching Tour, Buggy and Natural Baths in Reykjadalur Tour and Buggy and Golden Circle Tour. 

To see all available buggy tours in Iceland, click here

 

Do You Need a Licence to Drive an ATV or Buggy in Iceland?

Yes, everyone driving an ATV or a Buggy in Iceland is required to show a valid driving licence before embarking on a tour. 

 

Can I drive an ATV or buggy in Iceland with a foreign licence?

In Iceland, foreign driving licences are accepted in English or if they are in Roman letters, such as Spanish, Italian, Polish and others. Driving licences written in a different alphabet, such as Arabic or Korean, are not accepted. 

 

What is Important to Keep in Mind Before Going on an ATV or Buggy Tour?

It is important to dress according to the weather. As the weather in Iceland can be quite unpredictable, make sure to wear warm layers and weather-appropriate shoes. All tours provide guests with insulated overalls, gloves and balaclavas, but it is good to wear warm layers underneath. 

It is also important to keep in mind that all tours are designed to be flexible in case unforeseeable events occur or weather conditions change. The tours can, therefore, be changed or cancelled, with participants’ safety as a priority. 

 

Is Pick-Up and Drop-Off Included in the ATV and Buggy Tours?

Most tours offer pick-up and drop-off services for an extra fee. However, it is rarely included in the original price. So make sure to carefully read what is included in each tour, as it might vary. 

If you could only visit one black sand beach which one would you choose?

djúpalónssandur black sand beach

The classic answer is certainly Reynisfjara, a black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. Its location off of Route 1 makes it ideal to visit on a drive along the coast, where you can also see some of Iceland’s other major attractions, such as the waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

The beach is also notable for the striking basalt formations that can be found there, in addition to its view of Dyrhólaey, an arched rock formation in the sea. Note that Reynisfjara can also be a very dangerous place to visit. In the past years, numerous visitors have been swept out to sea by so-called “sneaker” waves, which can reach much farther up the beach than expected. Visitors to Reynisfjara are advised to always keep an eye on the waves and to stay 30 m, or about 100 ft, from the waves.

Reynisfjara tourists
Golli. Tourists at Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara has become incredibly popular in recent years, but another option for the traveller looking to beat the crowds is Djúpalónssandur, a black sand beach on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Like Reynisfjara, Djúpalónssandur beach is a day trip away from the capital region and it is also located near other iconic sites. In addition to the dramatic, natural beauty there, Djúpalónssandur is also home to a wrecked fishing trawler. For the history buff and aspiring strongman, four lifting stones can also be found near the beach. The area was once a bustling fishing hub, and sailors would lift the stones to test their strength. In order to qualify for work on a fishing boat, a sailor would have to be able to lift a certain stone to prove his strength and ability to “pull his own weight.”

djúpalónssandur black sand beach iceland
Djúpalónssandur – Golli

 

 

 

Why is the sand black in Iceland?

why is the sand black in iceland

Black sand beaches have become one of the images most closely associated with Iceland, and for good reason.

You may already know that the answer has to do with volcanic activity. Iceland, after all, is not the only place in the world with such beaches. Hawaii has several notable black sand beaches, for instance, including Punalu’u and Kehena beaches.

The distinctive black sand shared by these volcanic islands comes from the basalt fragments that follow a volcanic eruption. Basalt is by far the most common volcanic rock, accounting for about 90% of all volcanic rocks on earth. Basalt tends to be dark grey or black in colour because of its mineral composition, which includes high levels of augite and pyroxene minerals, which tend to be darkly coloured.

When a lava flow reaches the ocean and comes into contact with water, it cools very quickly and shatters, just like how dishes sometimes shatter in the kitchen if run under cold water directly after heating.

This shattering creates a large amount of fine-grained debris, which is eroded into sand over time.

In many parts of the world, black sand beaches can be formed as a single event and then fade away after the lava flow. But because Iceland is still very volcanically active, the black sand is replenished often, and nearly all of Iceland’s beaches have this distinctive colour.

There are, however, a couple exceptions. Rauðisandur, for example, is a well-known beach in the Westfjords famous for its rusty-red colour.

Safety Signs, Cameras Installed at Reynisfjara Beach

Safety signs

Informatory signage has been installed at Reynisfjara beach to better ensure the safety of tourists. Cameras, mounted on masts on the beach ridge, will relay a live stream from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.

Creeping waves and a strong undertow

As noted in an article in Iceland Review from 2019, the tides that lap the beautiful black sand beaches of Reynisfjara beach – a popular travel destination near the town of Vík in South Iceland – possess “an immensely strong undertow,” with waves that “creep quickly upon travellers.” As of last summer, five travellers had died on Reynisfjara beach since 2013.

In response to these tragedies, a consultation team was established last summer in order to better ensure the safety of visitors. The consultation team recommended the installation of informatory signage on the beach, which has now been installed. In addition to the signs, a 300-metre-long chain has been strung along the parking lot, guiding visitors along a path and past the signs. Cameras, which have been installed on a mast on the beach ridge, will also stream live video from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.

“The signs emphasise information,” a press release from the Icelandic Tourist Board reads, “aiming to make the information accessible and interesting, explaining what can be done in the area – as opposed to simply highlighting what is prohibited. One illuminated sign, which relays information from the Icelandic Road Administration’s wave-prediction system; three big informatory signs, one of which highlights the dangers of the undertow; and six guiding signs have been installed.”

Beach divided into zones according to conditions

The press release also notes that the Reynisfjara beach will never be closed to the public. Instead, the beach will be divided into zones, which will serve to guide visitors based on conditions: a flashing yellow light indicates that visitors should not enter the yellow zone, and a flashing red light indicates that visitors should not enter the red zone (i.e. not past the illuminated sign). Visitors are encouraged to stay on the beach ridge, which affords a safe view of the beautiful scenery.

“The safety measures at Reynisfjara beach will only extend as far as signage, and no lifeguards will be employed at this time. Such a thing could, however, prove a logical next step – if only during those days when conditions are labelled ‘red.’ In order to finance such measures, landowners would need to collect fees from visitors.”

Lastly, the parties affiliated with the consultation team hope that the new safety measures will mean that visitors to the beach will become “more mindful of hazards” and comport themselves accordingly. “Signs, no matter how well designed, will not stop anyone from venturing near the tide; they are, however, useful in keeping most visitors within a safe zone, so as to enjoy the beach in all its majesty.”

The consultation team comprised representatives of landowners, the South Icelandic police, the Icelandic Tourist Board, ICE-SAR, the Icelandic Road Administration, and the Katla Geopark.

Video Shows Tourists Swept Off Their Feet at Reynisfjara Beach

No amount of signage or posted warnings seem to be able to convince tourists on Reynisfjara beach to stay well clear of its dangerous and powerful waves. An Instagram video posted five days ago by American photographer Erica Mengouchian shows dozens of tourists getting swept off their feet by a wave on the shore, while others – including the photographer herself – rush to get out of the reach of the surf.

“WAIT FOR IT…” reads the video caption. “[I]nsane waves/weather! This place is no joke and these people don’t pay attention to the warning signs…Thankfully everyone got back up safely and they are ok.”

Reynisfjara beach, notorious for its “sneaker waves,” has been the site of numerous accidents over the years – some of them even fatal. An American woman died in May 2007 when caught by a wave, and a Chinese man lost his life when he was swept out to sea in February 2016. There have been many close calls besides, as tourists often disbelieve or choose to ignore the posted signage which states, among other things, “Very Dangerous Sea Currents,” “Deadly Sneaker Waves,” and “Never Turn Your Back On the Ocean.”

See Erica’s video on Instagram.