9 Best Eco-Tours in Iceland: Sustainable Adventures in the Land of Ice and Fire

Iceland, known for its dramatic landscapes of glaciers, volcanoes, and geothermal springs, offers countless opportunities for eco-conscious travelers seeking adventures that harmonize with nature. The country’s commitment to sustainability makes it a prime destination for eco-tours that allow visitors to explore its natural wonders while minimizing their environmental footprint. Here are nine of the best eco-tours in Iceland, each offering a unique and sustainable way to experience the Land of Ice and Fire.

1. Eco-Friendly Whale Watching in Husavik

Husavik, often considered the whale watching capital of Iceland, provides eco-friendly tours that prioritize the well-being of marine life and the environment. These tours use specially designed boats that minimize noise and pollution, ensuring a respectful distance from the majestic creatures. Guides, well-versed in marine biology, offer insightful commentary on the behavior and conservation of whales, making the experience both educational and awe-inspiring. This approach not only enhances the enjoyment of witnessing these gentle giants in their natural habitat but also promotes a deeper understanding of the importance of ocean conservation. The town of Husavik itself is a pioneer in sustainable tourism within Iceland, offering visitors the chance to engage with local conservation efforts and learn about sustainable fishing practices. 

2. Renewable Energy Tour of Geothermal Power Plants

Iceland’s geothermal energy tours offer a fascinating insight into the country’s pioneering use of renewable resources. Visitors can explore geothermal power plants, such as Hellisheiði, one of the largest of its kind in the world, to understand how Iceland harnesses the power beneath its feet to supply clean energy. These tours are led by experts in the field who explain the science behind geothermal energy, the process of converting it into electricity, and its impact on reducing carbon emissions. The experience is both educational and inspiring, showcasing Iceland’s commitment to sustainability and its role as a global leader in renewable energy. Moreover, these tours often include visits to geothermal hot springs and spas, where visitors can enjoy the direct benefits of geothermal energy. 

3. Sustainable Horseback Riding Tours

Icelandic horseback riding tours offer an eco-friendly way to explore the country’s diverse landscapes, from lava fields to lush valleys. The Icelandic horse, a breed that has remained pure for centuries due to the country’s isolation, is known for its sure-footedness and friendly nature. These tours emphasize animal welfare and environmental preservation, with small group sizes to minimize impact and ensure a personal and respectful experience with these remarkable animals. Guides, passionate about both their country and its horses, share stories of Iceland’s history and folklore, making the ride a cultural journey as well as a nature excursion. Riding through Iceland’s landscapes on horseback allows visitors to access remote areas without the need for vehicles, reducing the carbon footprint of their exploration. It also provides a unique perspective on the country’s stunning natural beauty, from the moss-covered lava rocks of the highlands to the serene shores of its lakes.

4. Glacier Hiking and Ice Climbing on Sólheimajökull

A glacier tour in Iceland, particularly one that is focusing on glacier hiking and ice climbing on Sólheimajökull, offers an adventurous yet eco-conscious way to explore these frozen giants. Sólheimajökull, an outlet glacier of the larger Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, provides a dramatic landscape of crevasses, ridges, and ice formations. These tours are led by certified guides who emphasize safety and environmental preservation, teaching participants how to responsibly explore glaciers while minimizing their impact. The experience of hiking or climbing on a glacier is not only thrilling but also educational, as guides discuss the effects of climate change on Iceland’s glaciers, offering a poignant reminder of the importance of sustainable living. The use of eco-friendly equipment and practices ensures that these glacier tours leave as little trace as possible on the fragile environment. Participants learn about the geology of glaciers, the ecosystem they support, and the vital role they play in global climate regulation. This immersive experience highlights the beauty and significance of these natural wonders, fostering a deeper appreciation for the need to protect them.

5. Eco-Cave Explorations in Lava Tubes

Cave tours in Iceland offer a unique opportunity to explore the underground landscapes formed by volcanic activity. These eco-cave explorations focus on sustainable tourism practices, ensuring that the delicate ecosystems within the lava tubes are preserved. Guides, equipped with knowledge of geology and environmental science, lead visitors through caves such as Víðgelmir or Leiðarendi, highlighting the fascinating formations and the unique microhabitats they support. The emphasis on small group sizes and the use of eco-friendly lighting systems minimize the tours’ impact on these ancient environments. Incorporating a Langjökull glacier tour with a visit to nearby lava tubes offers a comprehensive understanding of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. The contrast between the icy exterior of Langjökull and the fiery origins of the lava tubes provides a vivid illustration of the natural forces that shape Iceland. 

6. Birdwatching Tours in the Westfjords

The Westfjords of Iceland are a haven for birdwatchers, offering a chance to observe a wide array of bird species in their natural habitats. Eco-friendly birdwatching tours in this region are designed with conservation in mind, providing opportunities to see puffins, Arctic terns, and sea eagles without disturbing their environments. Guides, often local experts with a deep understanding of avian behavior and ecosystem conservation, share insights into the lives of these birds and the importance of Iceland’s cliffs and wetlands to their survival. These tours not only contribute to the local economy but also raise awareness about the importance of preserving Iceland’s unique biodiversity. Participants are encouraged to follow ethical birdwatching practices, such as keeping a respectful distance and minimizing noise, ensuring that the bird populations remain undisturbed. The pristine and remote nature of the Westfjords makes it an ideal location for these eco-tours, offering a tranquil and immersive wildlife experience that underscores the value of sustainable tourism practices.

7. Eco-Friendly Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure

Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim between continents. Eco-friendly snorkeling tours in Silfra emphasize preservation of the unique underwater ecosystem, using equipment that minimizes environmental impact and guides who educate participants about the geological and ecological significance of the fissure. The crystal-clear glacial water provides unparalleled visibility, revealing a mesmerizing underwater world of rock formations and aquatic life. These tours operate under strict environmental guidelines to ensure that Silfra’s pristine conditions are maintained. Participants are briefed on how to avoid disturbing the delicate balance of the fissure’s ecosystem, making the experience not only exhilarating but also respectful of nature. Snorkeling in Silfra is a perfect example of how adventure tourism and ecological conservation can go hand in hand, offering a sustainable way to explore one of Iceland’s most unique natural wonders.

8. Sustainable Hiking in Þórsmörk Valley

Þórsmörk Valley, with its rugged mountains, glaciers, and lush vegetation, is a hiker’s paradise. Sustainable hiking tours in Þórsmörk are designed to minimize the impact on the environment while maximizing the visitor’s experience of Iceland’s wild beauty. Guides, knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, lead hikers on trails that offer breathtaking views while educating them on the importance of conservation and responsible travel practices. These tours often involve cooperation with conservation groups to maintain the trails and support reforestation efforts in the valley. Hiking in Þórsmörk offers a deep connection with nature, allowing participants to appreciate the tranquility and majesty of Iceland’s landscapes. The commitment to eco-friendly practices ensures that these natural treasures are preserved for future generations, making sustainable hiking tours a rewarding and responsible way to explore Þórsmörk Valley. 

9. Guided Eco-Tours to Renewable Energy Sites

Iceland’s leadership in renewable energy is showcased in guided eco-tours to the country’s geothermal and hydroelectric power plants. These tours provide insights into how Iceland harnesses its natural resources to produce clean energy, with a focus on sustainability and innovation. Visitors learn about the technology and processes behind geothermal energy production at sites like the Hellisheiði Power Station and the impact of these green energy solutions on reducing carbon emissions. The tours are educational, highlighting Iceland’s commitment to environmental sustainability and its role as a global leader in renewable energy. In addition to exploring geothermal facilities, these eco-tours often include visits to hydroelectric power plants and wind farms, offering a comprehensive overview of Iceland’s multifaceted approach to renewable energy. The emphasis on education and sustainability makes these tours an enlightening experience for anyone interested in environmental science, clean energy, and sustainable development.

Each of these eco-tours in Iceland offers a unique and sustainable way to explore the country’s stunning natural wonders, from its glaciers and geothermal springs to its rich biodiversity and innovative energy solutions. By participating in these eco-conscious adventures, travelers not only experience the beauty of Iceland but also contribute to the preservation of its environment for future generations.

ILR Author Bio
About the author

Jay Patton is a serial traveler and adventure seeker, based in Portland, Oregon. He enjoys hiking, running, and traveling the world, and is always on the lookout for the next big adventure.