iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Five Off-the-Beaten Path Icelandic Adventures 

Words: Michelle Hurni
Photography: Chris Burkard

Iceland is now a popular tourist destination – and rightly so, thanks to its mesmerizing natural wonders. But if you’re not one for the tour bus scene, here are five tips for dodging the tourist trail in the Land Of The Midnight Sun

Iceland’s natural wonders range from waterfalls with cascading ice and fjords to calving glaciers and rugged volcanoes, so it’s little wonder that the sleepy little island just below the Arctic Circle is now a fashionable travel destination. Yet during the so-called Summer Of Light, the island becomes well-trampled with tour buses clogging the one-lane bridges, disgorging their masses at every layby to snap pics of each dramatic landscape. 

But get away from the masses and Iceland boasts plenty of adventurous options. Spread out the hand-drawn Island Nature Map, plug in the GPS and embrace the journey that awaits in the Land of the Midnight Sun. 

Become one with the vibrant scenery

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

With your colourful KuKu Camper, finding new adventures should be pretty easy. Camping has become so popular that Iceland put restrictions on where you can pitch a tent in 2017. But it still remains rugged as well as civilised. Even in the busy summer season, you can pull into a empty farmer’s field or find a prime spot alongside the North Atlantic’s waters. Pop open the doors of your caravan or flip back the tent canvas and you’ll wake up to stunning vistas no matter where you are on the island.

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Cruising the countryside in your own transport means ditching the well-travelled Ring Road and exploring off-the-beaten path, where reindeer and Icelandic horses roam. Just be sure to watch out for the Kamikaze sheep. Aside from producing wool sweaters for 66˚ North, they’ll look you right in the eye as they jump in front of your camper.

Play in the chilly North Atlantic

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Not up for a whale-watching tour crammed with tourists? Feel the maritime spray on your face a little closer to the source. Iceland’s wild forces of nature are perfect for the diehard adventurer. Surf a blustery swell or SUP underneath a waterfall or in a fjord with Arctic Surfers.

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Embrace the land of fire and ice

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path
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About 25 percent of Iceland is powered by geothermal energy, so submerge your bones in its natural heat. The Blue Lagoon hot spring is iconic and frequented by nearly 80 percent of visitors. What the pictures don’t show are the chaos of its human crock pot. The alternative is a short walk across a lava field, through the moors to a secluded hot spring. Let the sulphuric stench guide you there.

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Fancy a dip under a geothermal waterfall instead? In the middle of the East Icelandic highlands sits the Laugardalur Valley. There you’ll find the ruins of an old farmhouse and a majestic rock pool at the base of a warm waterfall.

Birdwatch while hiking under the midnight sun

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Who knew the westernmost point in Europe was down a bumpy dirt road? Nestled at the end of the island is a beach with a sign for puffin, Iceland’s ‘sea parrots’, as they’re known. With no predators, puffin flourish along the cliffs at Latrabjarg.

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Set up camp and head out on foot around 9pm for a hike in full sunlight. The rutted trail has no boundaries marking the fragile and crumbling edges. There’s just a dirt path along the clifftops. The moss-covered tundra will put a spring in your step as basalt slabs shift under this natural trampoline of sorts.

Refuel at the island’s best bakeries

iceland, adventure, chris burkard, off the beaten path

Icelanders have perfected their baked treats over long dark winters and days can be wasted waiting out the morning chill or an afternoon drizzle, so there’s no better place to renew your eternal optimism than a local bakery. At the edge of the West Fjords, indulge in Simbahollin’s legendary Belgian waffle, a crisp delight topped with homemade rhubarb jam and cream. 

And when that weather clears, get back in your camper, tune in some Björk and go enjoy yet another waterfall. No directions necessary.

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