The Ultimate Guide to Snowmobiling in Iceland

travel guide , discover iceland
A solo snowmobiler racing at sunset with a dramatic sky backdrop.

Table of Contents

Iceland is a natural haven for those who seek adventure and have a deep appreciation for the great outdoors. Its dramatic landscapes draw in adventurers from every corner of the world, each eager to embrace the unique experiences this country offers. With a winter season that stretches over 7 to 8 months and boasts some of Europe's most expansive ice caps, it's no wonder that snowmobiling has become a favoured activity here. This exhilarating sport captivates not just the locals, who have long embraced the icy thrill of their homeland, but also visitors, who come seeking the rush of gliding across Iceland's vast, snow-covered terrains. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the heart of snowmobiling in Iceland.

We’ll cover everything you need to know, from the options available for snowmobile tours to the vital gear that ensures a safe and enjoyable ride. We also delve into the cultural fabric of snowmobiling in Iceland, where this activity is not just a sport but a part of the nation's identity. And, of course, we prioritize safety, offering essential tips to ensure your Icelandic snowmobiling adventure is thrilling, responsible and respectful of the stunning environment around you.

A convoy of snowmobiles riding through the snow at dusk.

The Essence of Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling, at its core, is about freedom and adventure. It's the thrill of zipping across snowy landscapes, feeling the crisp air rush past, and experiencing the wilderness in a way few other activities allow. But how did snowmobiling become the exhilarating sport we know today?

The story of the snowmobile is one of innovation and adaptation. Initially, these vehicles were designed as practical solutions for travel in snowy regions where traditional vehicles faltered. Think of them as the winter answer to off-road vehicles made to navigate through deep snow and icy terrain. The first snowmobiles emerged in the early 20th century, crafted by inventive minds like Joseph-Armand Bombardier from Canada. These early models were bulky, resembling more of a small locomotive than the sleek machines we see today.

Over time, snowmobiles evolved from these utilitarian behemoths to the agile and powerful recreational vehicles we know now. This transformation was driven by technological advancements and a growing appetite for outdoor winter sports. Modern snowmobiles are engineering marvels, blending power, speed, and agility. Gone are the days of the cumbersome, slow-moving machines. Today's snowmobiles boast lightweight frames, advanced suspension systems, and powerful engines that can easily reach speeds thrillingly fast yet manageable for the rider.

These machines are designed to tackle a variety of terrains, from groomed trails to untouched backcountry snow. With features like Kevlar composite tracks and efficient four-stroke (and even turbocharged) engines, they offer a blend of speed and stability that makes snowmobiling accessible to both novices and experienced riders alike.

Two people on a snowmobile riding on a vast snowy terrain with an ice-capped mountain looming in the beackground

Mýrdalsjökull Adventures

Mýrdalsjökull Glacier is easily accessible from the ring road and is an ideal location for exciting adventures. Snowmobile, ATV, Quad bike and Buggy tours are available from its Base Camp. 

Arrow See the selection here

The Snowmobiling Culture in Iceland

In Iceland, snowmobiling goes beyond just being an activity. With the country's long winters and abundant snow, it's no surprise that this has become a popular way to get around and have fun. Snowmobiling here is more than just a hobby; it's a way for locals to connect with their rugged and icy environment.

Snowmobiling is enjoyed by a diverse group of people in Iceland. From those looking for a calm ride across the snow, to thrill-seekers after high-speed excitement, it brings together all sorts of people. There's a real community feeling among those who snowmobile in Iceland. They share a common enthusiasm for heading out into the snow, an experience that often leads to friendships and stories shared over a warm drink after a day on the glaciers.

This community has its own language and traditions, too. Snowmobilers have nicknames for their vehicles and for each other, reflecting the playful and adventurous spirit of the activity. It’s common to hear them refer to their snowmobiles as ‘snow scooters’ and to each other as ‘sledheads’.

But snowmobiles aren’t just for fun in Iceland – they play a serious role too. They are essential for search and rescue efforts across the country’s challenging terrains. When the weather gets rough or there's an emergency in a hard-to-reach place, snowmobiles often become lifesavers, getting rescuers where they need to go. This has given snowmobiles a respected place in Icelandic society.

What's really special about snowmobiling in Iceland is the balance between fun and responsibility. People here love the thrill of zipping across the snow, but they also know how important it is to look after the environment they're exploring. This responsible attitude is a big part of what makes snowmobiling in Iceland unique. It's not just about the excitement; it's about enjoying and caring for the incredible Icelandic landscape.

People in orange gear with snowmobiles taking a break on a snowy hillside.
Björgvin Hilmarsson

Why Iceland is a Premier Destination for Snowmobiling

What makes Iceland a standout destination for snowmobiling? It's a combination of its geographic and climatic features. With long winters that transform the landscape into a snowy paradise and an abundance of glaciers, Iceland provides the perfect backdrop for this exhilarating activity. The country's rugged terrain, blanketed in snow, offers varied experiences – from gentle slopes for beginners to challenging trails for the more experienced.

The glaciers are a highlight for any snowmobiling enthusiast. Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier, and Langjökull, known for its expansive ice cap, are prime locations for snowmobiling. These glaciers present not just vast open spaces for riding but also scenic beauty that's almost surreal. Imagine gliding over ice that's been forming for centuries, surrounded by stunning vistas that include frozen waterfalls, deep crevasses, and snowfields that stretch to the horizon.

It's not just the glaciers that make snowmobiling in Iceland special. The country's unique weather patterns contribute as well. The Gulf Stream brings milder temperatures to Iceland compared to other regions at the same latitude, making snowmobiling a more comfortable experience. Moreover, the varying light conditions, from the winter's Northern Lights to the summer's midnight sun, add an otherworldly dimension to the snowmobiling adventures.

A single person snowmobiling on a vast snowy terrain.

The Ultimate Snowmobile Adventure

The Mýrdalsjökull glacier is Iceland's fourth largest glacier, covering the Katla volcano. This tour takes you right up to the ice cap where you can enjoy the glacier landscapes and scenery over south Iceland.

Arrow Read more about this tour

Practical Aspects of Snowmobiling Tours

Before you set off on a snowmobiling adventure in Iceland, there are some practicalities to consider. Understanding what to expect, how to prepare, and what a typical tour involves will help ensure your experience is as enjoyable and safe as possible.

First things first: dress warmly. Even though you'll be provided with special gear, it's essential to start with a good base. This means thermal layers, a warm hat, and waterproof outer layers. Despite the overalls provided, having your own layers will make a big difference in comfort. Don’t forget sturdy, waterproof boots and gloves. The weather in Iceland can change quickly, so being prepared for anything is key.

Safety is paramount on any snowmobiling tour. Upon arrival, you'll receive a comprehensive safety briefing. This will cover everything from how to operate the snowmobile to how to communicate with your guide and fellow riders. You’ll learn about the essential hand signals, what to do in case of an emergency, and how to navigate safely on the glacier.

You don’t need to be an expert – tours cater to all levels of experience. Your guide will run through the specifics of the snowmobile you'll be using, including starting and stopping the machine, controlling speed, and turning. It’s crucial to pay close attention during this briefing, as the conditions on the glaciers can be unpredictable.

A convoy of snowmobiles riding through the snow with blue ice walls in the background

Askur Ice Cave & Snowmobile Adventure

The thrilling combination of a snowmobiling adventure and a natural ice cave exploration on Myrdalsjökull glacier.

Arrow Read more about this tour

A Typical Snowmobile Tour Itinerary

A typical snowmobiling tour in Iceland includes several stages.

From Reykjavík: on some tours, transportation is provided from a meeting point in Reykjavik to the base camp near the glacier. If transportation is included, it is clearly stated in the tour title 'from Reykjavik'.

Meeting on the location: If you have your own rental car, you can select a tour that starts directly at a base camp near the glacier. The meeting locations are always clearly explained on the tour page and the booking confirmation email.

Once at the base camp, you'll get geared up. You'll be provided with a helmet, gloves, and a thermal overall, all available in various sizes. You can dress in a dressing room where you can also leave some of your belongings behind while you are on the tour.

Then comes the safety briefing and instructions. You'll follow the guides to the snowmobiles, where they will explain how the vehicle works, what to watch out for, and share all the safety information you need to know. It's extremely important to pay close attention and make sure you understand all the instructions.

The actual snowmobiling part of the tour can vary in length, but it typically lasts about one to two hours. During this time, you'll ride across the glacier, following your guide. Another guide will be with the group, closing the line of snowmobilers, ensuring that no one is left behind. There will be stops along the way to take in the breathtaking views and maybe snap some photos. The experience of being out on the ice, surrounded by Iceland’s natural beauty, is truly unmatched.

After the ride, you'll head back to the base camp. Here, you have a chance to warm up with some hot drinks and snacks before boarding the transport back to your original meeting point.

Throughout the tour, your guide will ensure you're safe and comfortable, and they'll be more than happy to share their knowledge of the area and its unique characteristics. With the right preparations and a sense of adventure, a snowmobiling tour in Iceland can be an unforgettable experience.

Three hikers are standing on a blue glacier in front of a thrilling icefall on Falljükull and waving happily

The Best Glacier Tours in Iceland

Snowmobiling is not the only way to get up close and personal with Icerland's glaciers. Hiking on these thrilling terrains is equally fun, but a very different experience. Find out what are the most popular glacier tours and why.

Arrow Read the blog

Safety First: Responsible Snowmobiling

When it comes to snowmobiling in Iceland, safety is paramount. This thrilling activity offers an exhilarating way to explore the country’s stunning landscapes, but it also requires a responsible approach to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.

Safety starts with the right gear. This includes a helmet, gloves, and appropriate winter clothing, all of which are essential regardless of your experience level. helmet, gloves, and winter overalls are included in our snowmobile tours, but what you have beneath the overalls is your responsibility. Please wear comfortable, breathable, warm layers on the tour.

It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of how to operate the snowmobile. Even if you're a seasoned rider, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific model you'll be using, as snowmobiles can vary.

Each tour begins with a comprehensive safety briefing, where you will receive instructions on communicating with other riders, what to do in an emergency, and how to handle the snowmobile in different weather conditions. It’s crucial to pay close attention to the guide during this briefing.  If you are not sufficiently proficient in English to understand these instructions, unfortunately, you will be unable to participate in the tour for safety reasons.

Your guide is not just a leader; they are also your primary safety resource. They know the terrain, understand the weather patterns, and are trained to handle emergencies. Following their instructions is crucial, not just for your safety but for the safety of the entire group. This includes riding in a line, maintaining a safe distance from other snowmobiles, and stopping when instructed.

Respecting nature is a fundamental part of responsible snowmobiling. This means staying on designated trails to protect the fragile ecosystems and avoiding any actions that could damage the environment. Remember, the beauty of Iceland's landscapes is a privilege to enjoy, and it’s our responsibility to keep it pristine for future generations.

A group of glacier hikers posing for a picture at the entrance of a small ice cave

How to Dress on a Glacier Tour

This blog will give you all the tips to prepare for any glacier tour in Iceland. Read about the science of dressing in layers for cold outdoor activities. 

Arrow Read more

Book Your Icelandic Snowmobiling Adventure Now

If the thought of gliding across Iceland's majestic glaciers, surrounded by some of the most breathtaking landscapes on Earth, excites you, then why not turn this dream into reality?

Booking a snowmobiling tour in Iceland is easy and accessible for everyone, whether you're a solo traveller, with family, or part of a larger group. Our expert guides are ready to lead you into this winter wonderland, ensuring a memorable and safe experience. Don't miss the chance to create unforgettable memories in Iceland’s winter paradise!

Two individuals on a snowmobile traversing a snowy landscape with sunlit hills in the background.

Snowmobiling in Iceland - Your Questions Answered

Where can I go on a snowmobile tour in Iceland?
You can go on snowmobile tours in various locations in Iceland, including popular spots like the Langjökull Glacier, Vatnajökull Glacier, and the Golden Circle area.

What can I expect to see on a snowmobile tour in Iceland?
During a snowmobile tour in Iceland, you can expect to see stunning glacier landscapes, ice formations, and breathtaking natural scenery, depending on the specific tour location.

Where can you go snowmobiling in Iceland?
You can go snowmobiling in Iceland at several glaciers, such as Langjökull, Vatnajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull, as well as on the Golden Circle route.

Is snowmobiling in Iceland worth it?
Yes, snowmobiling in Iceland is often considered worth it for the unique experience of exploring the country's pristine glaciers and enjoying its picturesque landscapes.

How long does a typical snowmobile tour in Iceland last?
A typical snowmobile tour in Iceland can last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on the specific tour package you choose.

Can I combine a snowmobile tour with other activities in Iceland?
Yes, many tour operators in Iceland offer combination packages that allow you to combine snowmobiling with activities like ice cave exploration, Northern Lights tours, or visits to geothermal areas.

When is the best time to go on a snowmobile tour in Iceland?
The best time for a snowmobile tour in Iceland is typically during the winter months, from October to April or May, when the snow and ice conditions are optimal. Some tours are, however, available all year round, thanks to the special characteristics of Icelnd's glaciers. 

Do I need previous snowmobiling experience to join a tour?
No, most snowmobile tours in Iceland are suitable for beginners, and no prior snowmobiling experience is required. Guides provide instructions and safety briefings.

Do you need a license to drive a snowmobile in Iceland?
You do not need a special license to drive a snowmobile in Iceland. However, you must have a valid regular driver's license if you plan to operate a snowmobile.

What is the weight limit for snowmobiles in Iceland?
The weight limit for snowmobiles in Iceland can vary depending on the tour operator and the specific snowmobile model, but it's typically around 250-300 kilograms (550-660 pounds) per snowmobile.

Are snowmobiles hard to ride?
Snowmobiles are relatively easy to ride, and most tour operators provide basic training and safety instructions to ensure a comfortable experience, even for beginners.

How do you snowmobile for beginners?
For beginners, snowmobiling involves learning how to control the vehicle, navigate icy terrain, and follow safety guidelines provided by experienced guides. It's essential to pay attention to instructions and start at a comfortable pace.

Is snowmobiling hard on your back?
Snowmobiling itself is not inherently hard on your back, but it's essential to maintain proper posture and follow ergonomic guidelines to avoid discomfort or strain during the ride.

About the Author

Viktória Komjáti

Reader’s Comments