Snowmobiling in Iceland – a snowmobile adventure on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier

One of the highlights of our trip to Iceland was a snowmobile adventure on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, the fourth largest glacier in Iceland, with Icelandic mountain guides. If a snowmobile tour in Iceland interests you, read on to find out more about what you can expect.

The main base of the Icelandic mountain guides is at Ytri-Sólheimar 1 in Mýrdalur, about 25 km west of Vík and about 11 km east of Skógar. If you are traveling from Reykjavik, the distance is around 160 km and the driving time is around 2 hours. From Iceland’s main ring road to the base there is 1.2 km of driving on route 222.

You’ll probably need to book in advance, but once you’re at base and your reservation has been checked, the first thing you’ll do is gear up. Icelandic mountain guides provide you with a suit that covers the clothes you are already wearing, boots, balaclava, helmet and gloves… and you are good to go!

A big truck is waiting to take you and your fellow snowmobilers up to the glacier.

It’s about a 30 minute drive over rough terrain and then onto the glacier itself.

Several snowmobiles await us at the end of the truck ride and we are accompanied by two instructors who give us an introduction to the machines and a safety briefing.

First, we are shown how to turn on the snowmobile. We turn the ignition halfway to turn on the electricity, wait a bit and then turn it all the way to start it. Likewise, the key is used to turn it off or, in an emergency, a big red button that kills the machine. Once on the sled, we don’t need to engage the gear – we just press a button to apply steady, even pressure – that way you have a nice, smooth ride. The easiest way to stop is to let off the gas, but there is a brake that can be used in an emergency. There are also hand warmers – put them on the right and they get very warm, put them on the left and they get a little warm, in the middle they are off

With the basics covered, we move on to the topic of security. The only really important safety aspect to cover is what happens if you fall on the machine. It can and apparently does happen quite frequently (although there were no such incidents from anyone on our trip). But you still need to remember a few really basic things, and if you’re prepared, falling will be more of a laughing matter than a serious thing.

The most important thing to remember is that if the machine falls, you don’t reach out with your arm or leg to catch it. If you do that, the machine weighs about 350 kg (about 600 lbs) and all that weight goes on your arm or leg, which, as you can imagine, is no fun.

So what are you doing? As the rider, you hold on to the handlebars – you just grab them really hard and keep your legs in the center of the machine, you hook and fall while holding on to the machine. For the passenger, you have handholds near your hips that you cling to in the same way (rather than clinging to the driver in front). As long as you do this, you will be perfectly safe. Snowmobiles are built like crash boxes and are designed to protect you. Don’t stick your limbs outside the machine and you’ll be safe. Your instinct will be to reach out your hand or leg, so it’s important to be very aware so you don’t let that happen.

That explained, we are told how not to fall in the first place. We learn that every time you drive, you have to thwart the force trying to tear you away from the machine. If you turn to the left, the force will pull you to the right, so you will lean to the left with your body. The reverse, of course, is true if you turn right. Likewise, if you’re going up a hill, gravity will try to pull you back, so you’ll lean towards the hill to counter that force. And even if you fall, the staff are there to help you if that happens.

With all that explained, we ride in single file, with one instructor in front and one in back. We follow the trails in the snow maintaining a safe distance of at least 5 meters between us.

There is no overtaking as it can be quite dangerous. And, if we should ever have a problem, we’re just told to stop and raise our hand, and they’ll be with us shortly.


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The whole operation is very smooth with at least one stop in the trip where we can change drivers.

The weather had changed a bit from what it was earlier in the day and the visibility was quite poor. However, this did not spoil our pleasure!

We follow an “out and back” route – climbing from a height of 915 meters to just over 1,290 meters, before changing drivers and descending back onto the glacier. It’s an exhilarating ride and ou can see the exact route we took here:

No prior snowmobiling experience is required, but all riders must be 17 years of age or older and hold a full and valid driver’s license. A learner’s permit, tractor or motorcycle license is not sufficient according to Icelandic law. Fortunately for our eldest son, he passed his driving license shortly before our trip to Iceland, so it was a great experience for him!

Normally on this tour you can enjoy the glacial landscapes and landscapes of southern Iceland, but unfortunately the weather was not in our favor for this.

Aside from the lack of viewpoints, it was still a really fun excursion and, for us, a whole new family experience. We would jump at the chance to do it again one day, as the place is apparently very picturesque, with absolutely fantastic views on a sunny day!

Are you planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video of our trip to Iceland here:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Icelandic mountain guides. Our trip to Iceland was also sponsored by Helly Hansen.

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