What are small group tours in Iceland?

|July 7, 2020
François is originally from Belgium but now calls Iceland home. Before joining the tourism industry as a guide, he was involved in Iceland’s volunteering sector, promoting cultural exchanges and working on nature conservation projects. Nature and people are his impetus for travel, adventure, and discoveries.

Congratulations, you’ve decided that Iceland will be your next adventure! Perhaps you are traveling with friends, or you’re alone and want to meet other travelers and have fun. There’s no doubt that you’d also like to learn more about Iceland and be guided by locals.


A family of like-minded travellers

It’s finally happening. You wake up in Reykjavik and get ready for your first day trip in Iceland. You make a checklist. Breakfast, outfit, camera, check! You then make your way to your pick-up point, either in downtown Reykjavik or in the hotel lobby.

In the meantime, I arrive at our office in Reykjavik to prepare for the adventure of the day. Weather forecast, minibus and equipment, careful overview of the client list, check! I then make my way to the pick-up points to greet our travelers.

I arrive and we finally meet! I introduce myself and the rest of the day’s family to you.

The fun is about to start! But first things first, I ensure that everyone is comfortable as I brief you about the day ahead. The first few minutes may seem a bit awkward. You may wonder where everyone is from and how they’ll be as travel buddies. 

But as I start to tell stories, tell you about Iceland, play some music, and joke with you all, things start to lighten up and we all start talking with each other.

At the end of the day we drive back to Reykjavik with memories to last a lifetime. The day was filled with adventures, stories, stunning landscapes, and laughs. But what you didn’t expect is the connections we made today with one another. Maybe some of you will remain in touch, share a drink or dinner tonight, book another group tour together, or simply bump into each other again in our small capital and share your experience in Iceland. It goes without saying that the more time and days we spend together, like on a multi-day tour, the more connections we will make. I have to admit one of the best parts of every tour is the people we meet!

But what about the number of participants?

I’ve been guiding tours for Arctic Adventures for more than 5 years now. One of the first questions customers usually ask me while boarding the minibus or checking in for the activity is “how many other people are with us today?” So how small exactly is a small group tour?

It all depends. I usually use the metaphor of a big family trip or gathering. We start as  a family of strangers but, as the day goes by, everyone opens up to each other and shares a beautiful adventure. In my opinion, a small group tour means that the group is small enough for everyone to have the opportunity to talk and get to know each other during the activities.

Furthermore, the number of travelers on a small group tour or the ratio of guide-to-participants depends on different factors such as the logistic of the tours, the level of difficulty, safety standards, etc.

That being said, let’s break down the numbers for popular activities and small group tours.

Arctic Adventures is the largest adventure company in Iceland and offers a wide range of activities for day tours, combo tours and multi day tours. Strictly looking at the maximum numbers of participants per category of tours we can see the following ratio:

  • Sightseeing tours, such as the popular Golden Circle tours, South Coast tours, etc. The number of participants is up to 19. Arctic Adventures uses a quality fleet of minibus that provides the best settings for every tour. Your safety and comfort are our top priorities.

From here, the numbers per tour grow smaller.

  • Sign up for a rafting tour* with Arctic Adventures for a group of up to 12 adventurous travelers like yourself. The group will be divided into different rafts on the river Hvitá.
  • Try an amazing Snowmobiling adventure* on Langjökull glacier with one guide per 6 snowmobiles (1 or 2 participants per sled).
  • Snorkel in between continents in the Silfra fissure* with a maximum of 6 participants per guide in the water. The ratio goes down to 3 clients per instructor if you choose the Scuba diving experience in Silfra.

In other words, every tour you join guarantees the best possible experience, led by passionate, professional, and certified guides in accordance with the most up to date safety standards.

*Note that some of those tours may include  transfer to and from Reykjavik. The number of clients in the transfer may vary from the one on your booked activity.

Is there a high and low season in Iceland?

As summer begins, you may be wondering whether this is the best season to come visit Iceland, or if you should hold off on your travels until the winter. Is there a high and low season in Iceland, and which period of travel will guarantee the most space from other visitors?

Some seasons are busier than others for trips to Iceland. Also read: Best Time to visit Iceland - Let's talk about Summer.

Did you know that Iceland only has 2 official seasons, summer and winter? The first day of summer in Iceland is a public holiday that occurs on the first Thursday after April 18. However, it can often still snow on that day. The first day of winter in Iceland happens on the first Saturday after 26 weeks of summer, in late October.

High season

The main part of the summer season happens between June to September. This is the time of the Midnight Sun and when nature blooms in Iceland. Wildlife returns to the island and many birds migrate and nest here. The highlands, the mountainous interior part of the country, open up to adventurous hikers and riders. As the days are longer, you’ll have the chance to see and do more every day.

When temperatures drop and Iceland takes up its winter dress, nature changes and the pace of life slows down on the island. The main winter season to travel in Iceland usually starts in November until late April. Days are shorter and you have the chance to spot the Northern Lights. This is also the time to enjoy specific winter natural wonders such as visiting an ice cave on one of the many majestic glaciers in Iceland.

Low season

In between those busier times of the year, it seems that fewer people visit Iceland. But our island still has a lot to offer. April-May is usually marked by the migration to Iceland of thousands of birds, like puffins, and the return of our “spring birg” Lóa, the golden plover, announcing the arrival of spring in Iceland. September-October is marked by beautiful changing colors in nature. As the nights slowly get longer, you already have the chance to see Northern Lights from the later part of the summer onward.

Iceland is a unique place and every season has a lot to offer to every traveler. You might even consider visiting Iceland several times to discover its different facets.

The current Covid-19 situation

At the time I write this article the world is still facing the coronavirus crisis and tourism has completely stopped worldwide. This will undoubtedly reshape the travel industry in the near future. New hygiene concerns and safety standards will apply in our business and we are now preparing for the future.

Iceland nonetheless is extremely well-positioned to be able to attract and welcome travelers again as of this summer. The number of new COVID-19 cases has significantly dropped since April and seems now well under control, with no new cases for days or weeks, which makes Iceland one of the safest places to travel at the moment. The Icelandic government has gradually lifted gathering and travel restrictions and we are now getting ready to welcome international travelers and even offer tests on arrival.

Arctic Adventures is also already applying new hygiene rules and following the guidelines of local authorities to provide the best and safest possible services. Read more about traveling to Iceland now in 2020 at our blog post.

Recommended tours

Related blog posts