On our second day in Iceland we were ready to embrace our extreme side by spending some time with Mountaineers of Iceland. They specialise in snowmobiling, super trucks and jeeps and they kindly invited us along to try out their one day Pearl Tour.
A little bit about Mountaineers of Iceland
Founded by Herbert Hauksson in 1996, Mountaineers of Iceland is the oldest snowmobile tour operator in the country. With over one hundred snowmobiles in operation and capacity to welcome small or large groups on Langjökull glacier. Langjökull is Europe’s second largest glacier and is their main area of operation. The glacier is home to their base camps, both on the glacier’s east and west sides.
The Pearl Tour
The Pearl Tour is a fast paced 9-10 hour long tour. The pick up was at bus stop 8 at the Halgrims church (or Hallgrímskirkja). This bus stop is on the right hand side of the church if you are looking at the church from the front. Most other tour operators pick up from this location so you will have quite a lot of people all heading off on excursions. We didn’t expect to be picked up in such a cool looking super jeep, (photo below!) which gave that added extra wow to the tour and lets you know you’re on an extreme, fast paced and fun tour in Iceland.
Þingvellir National Park
First stop Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of Iceland’s first parliament and the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world. Founded in AD 930, it is Iceland’s most significant historical site. It is also home to two different tectonic plates and Iceland’s largest lake. We stopped off here for around 20 minutes as this was in the build up to sunrise. It was very cold here, and the wind was howling, so layer up as much as possible.
Second stop was Gulfoss, which is Iceland and Europe’s largest and most powerful waterfall. It is amazing to see such raw natural power. and makes you realise how powerful the elements can be. It’s a stunning place, but as you only get around 20 minutes here, you will need to have yourself prepared and camera gear at the ready so you can make the most of the incredible views. We could of spent ages here just taking in the atmosphere and watching the water tumble.
Snowmobiling on the Langjökull Glacier
It’s now onto the real fun – snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier. It felt very adventurous getting to the base camp on the glacier, being driven along the snowy tracks (no roads here!). We had to get some special and very warming overalls, gloves and helmets as well as have a brief on how to use the snowmobiles and safety. There were two people per snowmobile and we spent a good hour out on the glacier.
We followed a path carved out for both safety and to not disturb the rest of the glacier. It was great fun and the views were stunning. You truly feel in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a beautiful yet dangerous white landscape. It can be incredibly cold up there, -16° cold while we were there to be precise, and that’s without wind chill! So, we really recommend bringing extra layers, especially if you know you don’t handle extreme temperatures that well.
This brings us to the only downside. How cold it was. Sitting (reasonably) still at the back in the same position does begin to hurt after a while. The driver of the machine had heated handlebars but the passenger does not so that did make your hands feel very cold. But, you are on the edge of the Arctic circle, so what can you expect in mid November. Prepare for the worst, and you’ll have an incredible time.
A friendly warning
If you haven’t driven a snowmobile before, I can tell you that it’s not as easy as they make it look in the ski movies. You have to have good core control and shift your weight around quite a lot to keep the snowmobile really steady.
We’re not embarrassed to say that we fell off at one point, and we were trapped under the snowmobile (unharmed!) for a few moments until we were helped out by one of the guides. The snowmobiles weigh around 300lbs, so it’s pretty difficult to free yourself from underneath one. We weren’t the only ones to fall off, a number of others did in one particular area that got a little tricky to navigate. Thankfully, we learnt our lesson and didn’t fall off again on the return journey!
After an hour of snowmobiling we descended the glacier and went for a chilled out lunch in a local Icelandic cafe. This is included within the price of the tour. We were served fresh stoned baked pizza and spent some time chilling out as the sun began to set. It was really quite beautiful staring out the window.
The final part of our trip was to visit Iceland’s famous geysirs. This was a nice end to the tour as it was a very chilled out walk around the geysir location, which is on the route back from the glacier. The Geysirs are a marvel of the volcanic landscape, reminding you that you’re in a very active volcanic area.
Hot water pools steam and bubble in front of you and your nose is filled with the quite pungent smell of sulphur. The best part is watching the most active geysir in that area, named Strokkur, as it spouts water up to around 30 metres into the air. The anticipation is great as you stand there waiting, watching as it builds pressure. Make sure to have your camera ready!
This tour felt very adventurous. We do admit spending time in a tricked out super jeep was pretty cool and it did make for easier manoeuvres in the thick snow of the glacier. The highlight of this was of course the snowmobiling and if you haven’t tried it, it is definitely something to have a go at.
This tour like many others is very much a taster of Iceland, as most of the places you visit you could easily spend a lot more time in. It’s necessary to only spend a short time in each place as you are on a tight schedule to get to the snowmobiling before the daylight leaves. For this tour we suggest layering up as much as possible and bringing lots of food and water as Iceland can be very expensive, especially out in the ‘sticks’. Plus, it’s always good to stay fed and hydrated.
Iceland has such a beautiful charm to it and you can really see this in both the landscape and the people. The guide we had was full of character and very experienced, spending 35 years working on the glacier, so we felt in safe hands. It was great to have a local person as our tour guide, he made the tour more enjoyable and very informative.