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This is a wonderfully executed three day trip. It was well guided by Hawk, who did a fantastic job! We felt very well taken care of and learned a great deal along the way. We lucked out and had three days of sunshine and our adventures were all that much better due to great weather. My only negative comment is that you really don't have any choice for dinner, and you have to eat at the hotels while on the road. Both of the meals were very expensive. One of the hotels did not have any non-vegetarian choices under 35 a meal. The food was simple and fine but not worth the money. SInce there are no options and you must eat at the hotel if you want to eat dinner, I think dinner, like breakfast should be included in the price. All in all though...it was a great experience!!
TL;DR: STAY AWAY FROM THIS COMPANY! THEY WILL LIE WHEN THEY CANCEL TOURS AND REFUSE TO REFUND.
Tourism to Iceland has exploded with tourists out numbering Icelanders 6:1 each year. In response, prices have risen and Arctic Adventures went on a spending spree in 2017 gobbling up many of the smaller operators to form one big corporate conglomerate. An investment company also purchased a large stake (15%) in December 2017 hoping to take the company public in a few years. The result is not better service for lower prices. It is now a company so big and so slow it cannot (or chooses not to) properly train its staff, keep its equipment running properly, or react suitably to expected changes in Iceland weather. You may read this and think (as I did) that all these positive reviews can't be wrong, I must be a rare case. Reviews before 2017 do NOT apply to this new mega corporation. Keep reading.
I chose to come to Iceland in winter to see an ice cave. I spent dozens of hours researching tours and operators. I read the TripAdvisor forums and they all said the itineraries are the same: Choose the cheapest. Do NOT make my same mistake by heeding this take this terrible advice. They might all mostly be the same or maybe they were all the same before corporate greed sprouted. But there's no doubt that now Arctic Adventures is far, far worse.
On the second day on my three day south coast tour we were scheduled to visit an ice cave. It had been raining for 16+ hours and the temperatures had risen to above freezing. I am from California, but even I know this means lots of extra water from the sky and melted ice.
Our 18 person group was split into two smaller groups to fit into the vans delivered to the shopping plaza parking lot. My van was lifted above the ground on big tires attached to tubes connected to an air tank. The second group was loaded into a normal van on snow tires. They sat maybe a foot below us. The guide was surprised, but thought "they do this every day, they must know."
Fifteen minutes later, our van pulled off the road. No explanation. We later found out neither driver spoke Icelandic and very little English. We watched as he fiddled with the air in the tires and the compressor tank. 10-15 minutes later he got back in and we turned off road. Another 15 minutes and the van behind us with our group was stuck in a river slowly sinking into the mud after it unsuccessfully attempted a crossing. The drivers stood outside talking and were on the phone for 20 minutes without communicating to us. Our driver then said we would attempt a rescue. It didn't work, drove them deeper into the mud, and we spent another hour waiting for professional help. We were later told by our driver that the driver of the now sinking van had made the mistake that got him stuck deeper.
After two hours, we turned back being told the tour was canceled. It was a lie. While stranded in the river, we were passed by other tour companies headed to the glacier driving vehicles equipped for the weather. In the total 2.5 hours we were on the road, we were not passed by others who failed and had to turn back as we were.
Once freed, our van again had to pull to the side of the road as our tires kept losing air. Fifteen minutes and he got back in and we set off. I was not meant to hear, but he told our guide that Arctic Adventures had lost 2-3 vehicles over the past few days and the van we were not in was not OK to drive. When we parked back at the shopping center, it was obvious that the van had four nearly flat tires. We would not have made it to the glacier and certainly not back with those tires.
As a group, we headed on to the glacial lagoon (passing successful tours who were returning from their visit to the ice cave including the earlier Arctic Adventures group). At the end of the day, we were told to make up for the ice cave, we would get to do an ice cave the next morning in addition to the glacial walk via Into the Glacier. We checked into our hotel signed up for the phone alerts for the Northern Lights.
The next morning, none of us had received a call yet many in the hotel and in the group had spent 30+ minutes marveling at the lights visible just outside our rooms. Another missed opportunity.
We piled into the van and were taken to a rest stop to meet our glacier guides. We park and our guide tells us it is all canceled, but we will wait for 30 minutes for Operations in Reykjavik to advise on what to do next. 90 minutes pass and we sit watching other tour companies equipping their guests with crampons and loading into vans. They are going; why are we not? Our guide said those companies visit another glacier where the wind is not so bad, but the glacier Arctic Adventures visits it is too windy. We ask to see another glacier. We are told to wait. Guides will go test conditions. They do not. We wait more.
I see the large snow vehicle with Arctic Adventures pull around and park in front of a shop. With our guide nowhere in sight, I go to find out what us happening. I ask the driver who is wearing an Arctic Adventures parka. He tells me the same. Their glacier is too windy so they are renting the equipment to a private group who will visit another glacier. Our time, our trip has been sold to a higher bidder. I go find our guide and he says he is still waiting to hear from Ops. I insist he take us somewhere while we wait.
We load into the van and he drives us with no special equipment to the head of a glacier where we see 100+ tourists in groups setting off on tours. We entertain ourselves for 20 minutes while we wait for the call from the big office. It comes, there will be no tour. It's now been over two hours since we left the hotel, since the guide was first told the weather was too bad. More time we will never get back.
Arctic Adventures never had a plan B or C for bad weather which is outrageous in a country like Iceland. Tours should be agile and itineraries shuffled in response to weather reports. Instead, Arctic put us into unsafe equipment with untrained guides and drivers, then pointed fingers at the weather when after hours they failed to meet what was promised to us in the brochures and again each day by the guides. Our guide took no autonomy to save the experience making us wait for hours in gas stations and rest stops for phone calls that delivered no news. When we asked about refunds, we were told to each contact the office.
I am now on a five hour drive back to Reykjavik having driven the the south coast to see nothing. A member of our group shows us pictures from the glacier we didn't get to visit being posted in real time as we drive in the opposite direction. Arctic's idea of saving the experience? They will take us to the lava museum on the way back and pay our 3,200 ISK admission. The tours we missed, Arctic charges 40,000 ISK on their website. These three wasted days cost me $1,000 US.
Our guide says he is upset too; he will have a meeting when he get back. But this won't help us, and I don't think it'll help you. It is clear this huge company is disorganized, poorly communicates if at all (An email to them proves this - - each response takes an average of three days if you get one at all. Try it.), and prioritizes profits over guests experiences. Don't leave Iceland with the regrets I have; choose a different, smaller operator. You cannot get your time back. I lost my time in Iceland and I will like lose many more hours fighting this company for a refund. Wish me luck.
Edit: After hours, they have disputed the value of the two tours that we missed and that they sell on their website for 40,000 ISK saying they are only worth 2,691ISK.
Artic Adventures also operates under the names Extreme Iceland, Trek Iceland, Glacier Guides, Dive Silfra, Arctic Rafting, Viking Rafting, Scuba Iceland, Glacier Lagoon Iceland, Snowmobile.is and Arctic Sea Tours. They are partially owned by GAMMA Investments, a capital management investment firm.
Tour was amazing, guide was a local giving lots of information and very friendly - he often came out to talk to us each evening while sitting in the common room of the hotels.
hotels were nice and clean and would go back to each one, food was also good at each hotel breakfast and dinner
slight mix up with the tour company when we were picked up at the start of the tour - we wrote our hotel to be picked up, they assumed a bus stop near by - after an hour wait outside we called and were picked up 20 mins later - not a big deal but that is why this is review is missing a star but really that only deserves a half star deduction
glacier walk was a fav part - very easy but very enjoyable
we were not able to see the northern lights during the tour but the guide set up another tour for us to go out the last night to see them
am we saw them!
This was a great option for two Southerners from the United States exploring Iceland in January. In a matter of a few hours, the weather would go from snowy to sleet to rain to beautiful blue skies, and it was helpful to have a guide who knew the weather conditions and exactly where to go on the roads even with occasional poor visibility.
The tour itself was fantastic! We hit all the highlights of Iceland's southern coast in an extremely timely manner. Our guide was savvy enough to read when certain areas would be crowded or not particularly at the few and far between restaurants, so this helped us spend more time on the natural beauties of Iceland.
With Adventure in the title, I thought there might be more adventure/strenuous activity, but all activities are essentially walking or an occasional light hike. People of all ages can easily keep up with this tour.
This trip is great. Our guide was Ragnar and he was very enthusiastic, funny, informative and really cared about our group having a good time. We had a group of 12. The bus pick up was on time. Since we went in mid January, daylight was only from approx 10:30-4:30pm. He made sure that we saw as much as possible in the short amount of time. We spend about 20-35 minutes in each place before driving to the next location. It was plenty of time to explore a bit and snap a bunch of pictures. It may have been a tiny bit rushed for some people but I would rather see as much as possible during the day than get to the last couple of locations in the dark and not see anything. In the summertime, they spend more time in each location. The last day of our tour had to be cancelled due to bad weather. Ragnar did his best to make sure we had a good time on Day 2 since we were missing out on the glacier hike on Day 3. After the trip, Viator processed the refund within 24 hours.
This tour was great. We did a lot with the time we had. My only complaint was that the bus did not pick up at the hotel as promised. I was in an area where all buses are allowed but was called 10 minutes prior to the start of the tour that the pick up location was down the street instead. I waited out in the cold for a further 45 minutes which was not necessary.
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