Are you on vacation in Iceland and are you looking for ways to stay active? No problem! There are a couple of great winter sports you can practice, like skiing and ice-skating. Other sports, like running, hiking, and swimming, you can do all year round. Since Icelandic weather is fickle, you should always check the weather forecast and dress appropriately before heading out. If you’re heading out of the city, check the safety warnings on safetravel.is and leave your travel itinerary with them. Take the necessary safety precautions, and enjoy!
Even though Iceland doesn’t have high mountains like Switzerland, it is a ski paradise – if you know where to go. Bláfjöll is a popular ski area, conveniently situated just half an hour outside of Reykjavík. It’s the largest ski resort in Iceland, with runs of varying difficulty levels covering a total of 15km. In North Iceland lies Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri’s top-notch ski resort. Floodlit slopes guarantee skiing in the dark winter months, and ski and snowboard lessons are offered on-site. It has 30 slopes in total, and elevation levels differ between 500m and 1,000m above sea level. Iceland also has a lot to offer for cross-country skiing and heli-skiing enthusiasts.
Ice-skating is a fun winter activity and Reykjavík offers a couple good options for those looking to show off their skills. Ice-skating is a fun activity for visitors and locals of all ages. You can go to the large ice-skating rink in Laugardalur, a recreational area where you will also find Reykjavík’s botanical garden, a zoo, and a large pool. Tjörnin is a big lake in downtown Reykjavík. In wintertime, the lake can freeze over, and the ice can get thick enough to walk, ice skate, or even play football on. The City of Reykjavík sometimes clears off snow on part of the lake when it’s sub-zero but sunny out, creating a natural public ice rink. Rauðavatn, a lake on the outskirts of Reykjavík, is also cleared off snow whenever possible to create a natural ice rink.
Hiking and running
Running and hiking are possible in Iceland in winter and tracks can be beautiful, but please keep in mind it does get cold, snowy, and icy, so dress appropriately and consider wearing spikes or other strap-on traction options. That being said, Iceland is beautiful for running and hiking. Not only is the scenery breathtaking, tracks are usually pretty much empty, and the air is very clean. Run along the coast, through downtown Reykjavík, or along mountain tracks (if you have the proper gear and after you check their safety!).
Swimming is a very popular sport in Iceland, and one that you can practice all year round. You will find pools all around Iceland, as during the 20th century, most towns in Iceland with access to geothermal water built their own swimming pools. Today, all children in Iceland take swimming lessons during their elementary school years. If you want to go for a workout, go to the pool Laugardalslaug in Reykjavík, an Olympic-size pool with swimming lanes of 50m long. The outdoor pool is used by many people for recreational swimming, exercise and competitions. The big indoor pool is also used for training and competitions. A fitness centre and spa are located next to the pool.
Hockey has been practiced in Iceland since 1950. The tradition started on frozen ponds and rivers. Icelandic weather made it hard to play outside which kept the sport only available for a select group for a long time. The first outdoor artificial rinks were built in 1990, improving the conditions somewhat. Around the 2000s, the artificial rinks in both Akureyri and Reykjavík were covered. The ice hockey league was formed in 1991, and the season runs from October to March/April. These days, three teams are competing in the league. Of course, you can try to play ice hockey yourself if you have the equipment, but otherwise it might be fun to go watch a game or two.