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Iceland guided nature tour: elves, waterfalls, horses! Custom 4×4 jeep adventure with Salty Tours.

iceland horse face, icelandic horse

Who ya calling horse-faced?” This fuzzy selfie pretty much sums up the incredible fun I had exploring Iceland, on a customized excursion with Salty Tours

Anyone who travels to Reykjavik should spend at least a day exploring the gorgeous, varied terrain outside the city — like geysirs, waterfalls, sulfuric hot pots, and black sand beaches. What’s the best way to visit all these places, if you don’t have a car?

salty tours iceland, 4x4 tour guide

Photographer Joey Wong and I highly recommend a private 4×4 Jeep journey, wih Salty Tours. We got to ride at our own pace, and get off-the-beaten-path with two experienced guides. A far better experience than getting on a big bus and seeing the typical Golden Circle attractions with 50 other tourists!

Aren’t our guides adorable? Salty Tours is an indie company run by two locals: Thorsteinn Gunnar Kristjansson (love that his name is Thor!) and his partner Anna Margrét. They picked us up at our Reykjavik hotel, and took us to insider spots all day long. Joey and I wanted to focus on dramatic, visually-interesting places…

iceland elf park, elves

.. so Thor and Anna took us to Hellisgedi, the Elf park in Hafnarfjordur! They told us stories of the elusive “Huldufólk” in Icelandic folklore, which many locals still believe in.

elf garden iceland

The elves supposedly live in the rocks and hills of this park. I didn’t see any little creatures that day, but can understand why the lore resonates among Icelanders.

elves park, Hellisgedi

There’s a palpable energy in Iceland’s natural surroundings. These moss-covered lava rocks, and desolate yet living landscapes, can be found nowhere else in the world.

iceland dried fish racks

Next, Salty Tours stopped by this… slightly pungent display. Can you tell what these are?

weird strange iceland food

The fish-face is a hint. I’m standing under an enormous rack of dried cod and other local fish!

outdoor dried fish heads

Also found in Hafnarfjordur, these rows of wooden racks are strung with fish heads and other parts. The perfect stop for someone who loves bizarre foods and spooky attractions.

iceland bizarre foods, fish

Anna did a fabulous rendition of Hamlet. with Yorick the fish-head. (You’ll see it in our upcoming video.)

All day, our Salty Tours guides were upbeat and fun. They shared stories of growing up in Iceland, and how Thor used to be a fisherman. The whole experience felt like going in a roadtrip with friends.

iceland horse riding tours

Since we were a small group in a 4×4 vehicle, we could go on side roads and visit special places… like this herd of Icelandic horses.

petting icelanndic horses

Fuzzy-wuzzies! These horses are a special breed that developed in isolation on this island, hence their unique look. Descended from Norse ponies, these animals are short, and the cold weather gives them a layer of fat for extra plushness.

iceland horse show, tour

Anna also leads horse-riding tours, an amazing way to get close to these horses and trek through the land.

private 4 x 4 jeep tour

I was stunned at how the landscape changed, only hours from Reykjavik. We drove past rocky hills, farms and snow-peaked mountains.

Iceland is known as photography heaven, due to the natural features and clear light. Joey says: “From a photographer’s perspective, doing a customized tour is the only way to go. Most people stick to the Golden Circle route, but that’s as generic as you can as you have limited amount of time at each spot, and the sites have been photographed ad nauseum.”

custom driving tour, iceland rental car

“Iceland is so vast with varied terrain, it’s all about quality over quantity. If you want the right shots, you have to know the right sites, hence why Thor was such a great guide. In our case, we had a vision for what we wanted our shots to look like (Game of Thrones, black sand beaches, etc), and Thor was able to bring us to exactly where we wanted.”

iceland ogre cave

For example, he showed us a secret ogre’s cave! The opening can barely be seen by the side of road, and this cave is so little-known that I didn’t even find any information about it online. Joey took this photo of the creepy creature that lives inside.

iceland game of thrones outfit

We wanted to do an epic, fashion photoshoot on the famous black sand beaches. Thor took us to the ideal spot, at Kleifarvatn.

(I’m dressed in a Game of Thrones inspired outfit, since the HBO show is partially filmed in Iceland. We’ll show you the resulting editorial photos once they are ready.)

black sand beaches, iceland

Our guides told us the story of this rock, which looks like an Indian man’s head in profile, complete with a mohawk.

black sand iceland Kleifarvatn

You can’t find a more Gothic beach than this. The black sand is the result of hot lava hitting the water.

salty tours, reykjavik best tour guides

Our Salty Tours guides are the sweetest. They even brought “Black Death” (Brennivin) vodka and fermented shark (a stinky traditional dish) for us to try. The shark wasn’t as bad as I expected, though I was grateful for the alcoholic shot to wash it down!

iceland sulphur pools

We drove only minutes away, and the scenery morphed yet again. These are the sulphuric geothermal springs at Seltun.

sulfur spring, rocks iceland

So many fascinating details to photograph, like the boiling-hot sulfur bubbling between the rocks.

south iceland driving roads scenery

Iceland has experienced devastating volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Here, nature is unpredictable, powerful and always in flux. For example, in the summers, you’ll have 24 hours of daylight.

nature tours iceland, golden circle bus

With the island’s historic isolation and a strong sense of cultural preservation, Iceland can’t be compared to any other place on Earth.

iceland vacation house, landscape

Iceland is not as cold as you might imagine. In the summers, locals often spend time in vacation houses by the water.

winding roads iceland drive

We learned that there are winding roads because the locals don’t want to disturb the homes of the “hidden folk,” or elves!

While we drove, Thor played music from local indie rock bands. I’m sure you’ve heard of Iceland’s Bjork and Sigur Ros. The music scene is incredible here, partly because the artists have plenty of opportunity to stay indoors, practice, and experiment without outside influences.

Oxararfoss waterfall iceland

A lot of tourists go on the “Golden Circle”, or day-long loop through the most popular attractions. The downside is that many of these places are over-exposed and crowded with people, making quality photography difficult.

With this in mind, Thor took us to a less-known but equally dramatic waterfall, Öxarárfoss, instead of the big Gullfoss. We were able to get right up close, and take photos — will show you more from Oxararfoss soon.

golden circle geysir

Finally, we stopped by one of the Golden Circle attractions, Strokkur geyser in Haukadalur. Every 10 minutes or so, the hot water erupts high into the air.

iceland geysir, hot springs

To be honest, we weren’t so impressed by the tall geyser… and the area was not very photographically intriguing. We were grateful that we went on a custom journey with Salty Tours, instead of going to the usual tour stops.

famous waterfall iceland

Thor took us to another obscure waterfall, which can only be accessed by a car — so there were no buses or tourists around. Now that’s what we are talking about.

iceland private escorted tours

Huge thank you to Salty Tours for the personal, attentive day trip in Iceland. We loved becoming friends with this couple, and highly recommend their small-group 4×4 tours. They have a 5-star rating on Tripadvisor, and deserve it!

If you have a short layover in Iceland, Salty Tours can even take you on a guided jeep tour for a few hours. Find out more on their website, and tell Thor and Anna we sent you.

Iceland Excursions, day tours, activiites

Did you enjoy the photography by Joey Wong in this post? Are you as fascinated by Iceland as I am?

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Filed Under Fashion, Iceland
42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Ur amazing girl

  2. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    (((((sigh)))))

  3. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant

  4. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    come to chile ;)

  5. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Following your bliss inspo!

  6. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Well prtegida the cold , do not want to get sick

    • Posted May 28, 2015 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      It wasn’t too cold!

  7. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    cool. cool.

  8. Posted May 27, 2015 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow! This looks absolutely enchanting and magical!!! I love it! I need to book a ticket to Iceland for sure!

    • Posted May 28, 2015 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Iceland is so fabulous!

  9. Posted May 27, 2015 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    :D

  10. Posted May 28, 2015 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Lucky to travel to Iceland

    Chris

  11. Posted May 28, 2015 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Beautiful

  12. Posted May 28, 2015 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    More of this, please!

    • Posted May 28, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Wait til you see the black sand beach shoot!

  13. Posted May 28, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Great Travel Guide! So much cuteness

  14. Posted May 28, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I’m trying to fit in a trip to Iceland as soon as possible….probably won’t be till next year though ;_;
    Gotta get those horse selfies in when the opportunity presents!

    • Posted May 28, 2015 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      It’s a place well worth visiting! by the way, I’ve been perusing your guides to a certain Asian city, which Ill be in next… ;)

      • Posted May 30, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        Sweet, I’m excited to see where you go! I think I know where it is ;-)

  15. Posted May 28, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    wonderful trip wonderful shots :)

    • Posted May 28, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Grazie dear! I hope you are well :)

  16. Posted May 29, 2015 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Long time no see…lol
    Stay koo~!

  17. Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    You are so amazing La Carmina!

  18. Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    gorgeous!

  19. Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    flott umsögn

  20. Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Þið eruð aldeilis að standa ykkur Anna!

  21. Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    “Gratulera” !!

  22. Posted May 30, 2015 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Flott ummæli og hrós.

  23. Posted May 31, 2015 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    you are wonderful !♥

  24. Posted May 31, 2015 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I love your spot on Bizarre foods with Andrew Zimmern! <3

  25. Posted June 1, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Awesomeness

  26. Posted June 1, 2015 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    epicness has never been realer!

    • Posted June 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      ^__^ can’t wait to show you the full shoot! see you soon!

  27. Posted June 2, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Glad to have Black Death liquor to wash it down with. aha

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