By Paul Johnson on Oct 04, 2022 in Adventure Travel, Attractions, Cruises & Boat Trips, Europe, Family Travel, Going Out, Iceland, Pleasure Travel, Regions, Specialty Travel, Western Europe
Have you ever wanted to experience the thrill and beauty of rafting in the heart of Iceland’s Golden Circle? Since 1985 arctic rafting have done just that, allowing you to enjoy a perfectly balanced mix of serene canyons and adrenaline-pumping waves and rapids. Read on to learn more about their most popular excursion – River Fun Rafting.
What to expect
You’ll raft down 7 kilometers of the Langjökull glacier-fed Hvítá River, enjoying the views as you float downstream in an inflatable raft, with a few surprises along the way.
Who is it for ?
The rapids are described as “easy to moderate”; this stretch of the river is rated 2+, with 1 being the mildest and 6 being the most extreme, meaning it’s accessible to most people. No previous rafting experience is required and children from 11 years old are welcome. Be prepared to get a little wet and a little cold…but it’s worth it!
Drumboddsstaðir – aka Drumbó River Base – is where all Arctic Rafting rafting trips start and the home of their raft guides. It is 98 kilometers from Reykjavik and it takes about 1h30 by car to get there from the capital. Drumbó is conveniently located on the Golden Circle route. The rafting takes place on the Hvítá River which comes from the Langjökull Glacier – Iceland’s second largest glacier – and creates Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls.
The tour includes a river rafting experience with an expert guide, in rafts that can accommodate 8-10 people. All necessary rafting equipment is provided, and this includes wetsuit pants and a splash-proof top, life jacket, neoprene shoes, helmet and paddle.
A visit to the famous Brúarhlöð Canyon via the river is also included, as well as a hot shower and sauna after the cold river trip. If you wish, you can rent a GoPro with an Arctic Rafting memory card already loaded, which you can keep after the visit. Some helmets come with helmet mounts; alternatively, you can mount the GoPro on the front of the boat (and choose to have it facing forward or aft).
What to bring
All you need is a swimsuit (to use under your wetsuit), a towel (for shower and sauna after rafting), a warm top layer to wear under the splash top… and a sense of adventure !
Our experience began with a briefing from Julia at the Drumbó River Base. We were told we could leave things like iPhones in the locker room because… well, they already had theirs. Everything was delivered in a fun and cheerful manner, while passing on important safety information to us.
Once changed and grabbed a paddle, it was time to get on a bus. Two buses headed for the shore from the base, each pulling 4 rafts behind them – a journey of around 10 minutes.
We then had a second riverside briefing as the guides carried the rafts to the waters edge. We were told about some basic security measures, again all done in a fun but professional manner. The paddle had to be held with your hand on the T-bar at the end, otherwise we would end up with faces like the guides. And we were told that the rope that runs around the outside of the raft is called the “oh, shit!” line because, if you ever find yourself falling off the raft, you have to grab it and will most likely scream “oh shit!” In the process!
Once the briefing was over, everyone was put into groups and a guide was assigned to them. We shared a raft with another family with two girls, and our guide was Anshul. At first it was a very calm body of water, and we just got used to paddling on Anshul’s command.
But, before long, we had to tackle tougher conditions – rapids where we were thrown around a bit more and splashed with icy melt water!
It was good fun, though…and, after a series of rapids, we looked back, only to find that our guide was no longer sitting in the back of the boat!
Anshul was in the water and caught the “oh shit!” line!!! At first we thought he was just messing around…but he wasn’t. It had never happened to him before, he said, once he managed to get back on board.
Our journey continued down the river, navigating rapids of varying gravity but never too drastic, until we stopped on the river bank at Brúarhlöð Canyon. It was a time when people could stretch their legs, enjoy the view and, if they wanted to, take a cliff jump into the icy river!
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And, of course, we were stupid enough to give it a shot. There was a mini briefing for that – we were just told to queue if we wanted to and when the time came we weren’t to procrastinate…it said “3…2…1…jump” and you gotta go go and then. It was actually a good idea because it kept people from thinking about it too much. The only other two tips were to jump as far as possible so you aren’t near rocks and to land like a pencil for a more comfortable landing.
As we neared our turn to jump, one of the guides checked our life jackets to make sure they were tight and secure, so they wouldn’t ‘ride up’ when they hit the water .
Another stood ready to say “3…2…1…jump”…
…and then there were guides, making sure you swim to the edge after jumping.
With everyone who wanted to jump having jumped, it was back to the rafts for more fun. There weren’t many rapids, but plenty of fun.
There was a lot of splashing around, guides pulling people through the water, balancing games on the inflatable sides of the raft, etc.
Other guides were shouting “Where’s your guide?” and we looked back in alarm, only to see that he was still there. We were especially gullible for this one, given that our guide had already fallen off once!
Back at the base of the river we had access to hot showers and a sauna. Our next stop after this adventure was Friðheimar Tomato Restaurant but Arctic Rafting also has its own restaurant and bar on site.
The whole tour was great fun and the guides really entertaining and engaging. It’s a very efficient operation from start to finish and an experience we highly recommend.
Are you planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video of our trip to Iceland here. Footage from our adventure with Arctic Rafting can be seen between 2m 22s and 3m 30s.