Enjoying Iceland’s Impressive Landscapes in the Off-Season

Exploring the country’s waterfalls, glaciers, and more.

A trip to Iceland’s vast interior highlands can be an exciting adventure. The bumpy roads are winding and uneven, covering long distances to reach expansive valleys and black sand seas carved by rivers from volcanic mountain waterfalls and glaciers.

Visiting this impressive and invigorating landscape in the spring or fall off-season ensures adventure seekers can enjoy the popular southern coast in relative peace, mostly missing Iceland’s annual summer visitors, who don’t stray much beyond Reykjavik city limits and waterfall car parks.



Visit the Katla Ice Cave

Head out in a custom-built luxury Super Jeep on a guided to the Katla east of Vik. Crampons and a helmet are necessary to safely traverse the blue ice layered with black volcanic ash of the Kötlujökull glacier. The short 15-minute ice walk reveals a giant glacial moulin, ice tunnels, and open sections into which people, daylight, and small waterfalls stream. You can also choose to do some easy ice climbing on the ancient glacial ice, with ice axes and harnesses provided.

Another drive in the super Jeep, this time into Iceland’s remote highlands region reveals the colourful and dramatic landscape of the mountains, lakes, and meadows of Landmannalaugar. On a clear day, views from the top of the Hekla volcano stretch 100 kilometres in all directions, taking in a number of glaciers. The ultimate destination is the People’s Pool, a remote open-air geothermal hot spring. Temperatures are a toasty 36-40°C year-round, and in the off-season you’ll likely have this oasis to yourself.



Learn how to tölt

The iconic Icelandic horse was brought to Iceland by the Vikings and is unique for its diminutive stature and ability to perform five gaits, including the surprisingly smooth tölt. Saddle up at Icelandic Horse World Skeiðvellir and embark on a two-hour country ride and tölt experience with views of glaciers, mountains, and meadows.




Take an ATV buggy tour of the highlands

Those who are fearful of riding on horseback can ride a sort of “horse for the 21st century” by taking an all-day ATV tour to the Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon and waterfall. Don bright orange and blue insulated suits and helmets to ford scenic streams and bump along gravel roads with views of rounded hills and volcanos, including the infamous Eyjafjallajökull (a.k.a. E15), whose eruption in 2010 disrupted European air traffic for weeks. The stark beauty of the highlands and the Markarfljótsgljúfur waterfall and canyon leaves visitors speechless, if a little damp from the mist rising from its powerful spray.



Visit waterfalls

Iceland is riven with waterfalls, to photographers’ delight. The country’s young volcanic landscape is porous, allowing the frequent rain and snowmelt to permeate and escape, creating show-stopping displays of thundering water. Many waterfalls are just off the main roads, including well-known Skógafoss, its less visited neighbour Kvernufoss, and Gljúfrabúi, accessible by climbing through a narrow rock opening.




Where to stay

Hotel Rangá, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, provides award-winning service, excellent cuisine, a stuffed polar bear greeter named Hrammur, and guided dark sky viewing with its on-site astronomer, Saevar Helgi Bragason. Rangá was also the first hotel in Iceland to offer northern lights wake-up call service, which pings guests whenever the elusive aurora appears in the night sky. This is one wake-up call you’ll want to answer.