Iceland’s Most Refreshing Wellness Activities
“Wellness” means different things to different people. Officially, it means good health and the pursuit of same. But standards vary and so does the pursuit itself: different cultures value different things.
If you’re going by happiness and health, two of the clearest barometers, Iceland is doing especially well.
What is Wellness Travel / Tourism?
For those wondering “what is wellness travel?”, it essentially means journeying the world in search of the best places to participate in activities that nourish the mind, body and the soul.
Indeed, wellness travel (or “wellness tourism,” as some describe it), means making the most of the world’s natural resources. Many of the most therapeutic activities involve making the most of the Earth’s springs, air, vistas and even animals to find inner peace and true happiness.
Iceland, as it so happens, has more natural wellness resources than most places, making it one of the world’s most popular destinations for those who want to unplug, unwind and feel better.
Iceland, Wellness and Happiness
Iceland was recently ranked as the fourth happiest nation in the world and is frequently near the top of such lists. The country’s life expectancy ranks highly too, with the Icelandic people among the longest living in Europe.
On a related note, Iceland is also a country that embraces nature, the outdoors and wholesome social activities. Indeed, people travel from all over the world to experience the glory of Icelandic nature and take our wellness tours, whether that means taking a dip in our hot springs, riding the native horses or hiking in our glorious outdoors.
The country takes mental health very seriously: it’s one of the few with its own Directorate of Health. The director of determinants of health and wellbeing, Dóra Guðmundsdóttir, has been interviewed on international media about wellness and happiness.
Here are some of Iceland’s best-known wellness activities and the benefits they bring…
The Health Benefits of Hot Springs
Iceland has over 100 hot springs and pools distributed throughout the country, a real national institution.
Natural hot springs have numerous health benefits that we’re only learning about in an official capacity now: an Israeli academic study published in Rheumatology International found that hot springs can aid in reducing pain and associated fatigue.
Hot baths can help boost circulation too; it’s time away from your phone and these outdoor experiences bring you close to nature (often with spectacular views).
On a more anecdotal level, some have found that bathing in Icelandic springs has helped alleviate skin problems.
Many have speculated that the social aspect is good for one’s mental health too. As reported in the New York Times: “the [Icelandic] people there are among the most contented in the world. The more local swimming pools I visited, the more convinced I became that Icelanders’ remarkable satisfaction is tied inextricably to the experience of escaping the fierce, freezing air and sinking into warm water among their countrymen.”
Hiking – Good for the Body & Soul
Iceland is extraordinarily well-suited to hiking, which might explain why so many of us do it.
Yes, we admit that it can get chilly, but it also never gets too hot to hike and we have zero mosquitos (which means less itching!). Plus, the glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, and range of fascinating, beautiful landscapes make every hike worthwhile.
The psychological and physical benefits of hiking are many: it’s a low-impact form of exercise, bringing all the pluses which that brings. Exercise lowers blood pressure, combats cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart disease.
A hike can be enjoyed at one’s own pace and in the majesty of Iceland’s great outdoors. Iceland’s unique ecosystem and natural history mean that its mountains and valleys are unlike anywhere else on Earth.
Hiking promotes weight loss too, with a good hike burning anywhere north of 370 calories per hour.
And it’s psychologically powerful too. Hiking outdoors can not only make you feel better, but a study from Stanford University found that walking helps you to build up your creativity too.
It’s little wonder so, that our hiking tours are always a hot ticket!
Kayaking – Let Your Troubles Drift Away…
Gentle kayaking (or river rafting, for the more adventurous!) has numerous health benefits, including moderate, low-impact cardiovascular exercise and a chance to enjoy the fresh air and the sun’s vitamin D.
Additionally, kayaking is one of the best ways to unplug: you won’t find a power outlet on these little boats! And the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon kayaking tour is wonderfully removed from twinkling lights and alerts from your devices.
This tour, in the Vatnajökull National Park, brings you paddling through the lagoon and up close to its stunning, often gigantic, icebergs. It’s a place of serenity and spellbinding beauty.
Horse Riding – Embrace Our Four-Legged Friends
Connecting with animals, especially horses, is terrific for your wellbeing (with a growing body of research providing evidence of this). Horse riding requires calm, attention and a good relationship (however brief) with your animal.
In Iceland, we’re especially fond of horse-riding expeditions. In fact, Icelandic horses are in a class of their own. Thanks to our strict import/export laws, these gorgeous creatures have not mixed with other breeds, so they are much the same as the horses who lived with Vikings all those centuries ago. In fact, research has shown that Icelandic horses are more intelligent and sociable than most other breeds, making them a perfect companion to those of us who lack horse-riding experience.
Our black beach horse riding tour is on the otherworldly and captivating Víkurfjara Beach. Covered in black sand and surrounded by strange volcanic rock formations, this (like much of Iceland!) is like nowhere else on Earth.
The fascinating and enthralling scenery, the fresh Icelandic sea air and the charming Icelandic horses combine to create an unforgettable, inspiring experience.
Remember the Golden Rule: Be Well
Iceland has been helping people feel better for centuries, with its combination of engaging outdoor activities and wealth of natural splendor.
Visitors tend to arrive feeling better than they did before. We hope you’ll find out more first-hand by joining us on one of our wellness activity tours.
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