- This is a review of Sea Kayaking in North Iceland | 4-Day Course with Full Board
Sóti Lodge is a charming country hotel in the Fljót Valley in North Iceland, on the famed Tröllaskagi or Troll Peninsula. On this stretch of land, the towns are few and far between, providing visitors with a true off-the-beaten-path feeling.
Driving from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík to the Troll Peninsula, takes approximately four and a half hours. The drive is an adventure in itself, and you will appreciate how Iceland’s countryside transforms as you progress; green farmlands become sweeping lava fields, forests merge with canyons and cliffsides.
If you’ve got enough time, make sure to stop off at some of the most interesting sites and viewpoints en route, including Hvítserkur, an enormous basalt rock stack and the delightful waterfall, Glanni.
Arriving at Sóti Lodge
Sóti Summits operate their own country hotel; Sóti Lodge. With six rooms at their disposal, each was clean, well-kept and far more comfortable than the accommodation you might typically find on an adventure tour such as this. Sheep and lambs roamed the property freely, instantly adding a rustic charm to our stay.
Upon arriving at Sóti Lodge, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the phenomenal surrounding scenery; snow-capped, table-top mountains, quaint rural meadows and winding coastlines.
As it was early summer during our visit, this landscape was bathed golden beneath the Midnight Sun each night, making for unforgettable sunsets and fantastic photography opportunities.
Our first lessons in kayaking
On the afternoon of our arrival, we met our kayaking guide, Veiga. Veiga holds the esteemed title of being the first woman to have ever kayaked around Iceland and the first person to do so counter clockwise; a considerable feat that has garnered much praise and attention since completing the journey in 2019.
Among our first tasks was getting to grips with the array of gear required to kayak safely.
First, we were fitted with drysuits and neoprene boots, then learnt how to correctly adorn the life jacket, worn at all times. Moving outside, Veiga demonstrated on land how to correctly use the double-bladed oars provided, encouraging us to spin our arms in a windmill motion and remain aware of its positioning.
Our first introduction to the watercraft itself was in Sóti’s very own pool, an amenity that sets it apart from many other kayaking operators in the country. Veiga taught us very techniques to help us move effortlessly on the water, as well as a handful of safety protocols that, hopefully, there would be no need to use.
It was only at the moment Veiga informed us we would be deliberately capsizing that I realised kayaking is not for the faint of heart. Twisting oneself into the water is simple enough, but having the wherewithal to keep calm and push oneself out of the boat takes a moment to prepare for.
Thankfully, it went by without a hitch, but I can’t say I wanted the chance to experience it tomorrow, when we would take to the ocean for the first time. After unwinding in the hot tub (something we ended up doing at the end of each day), we went inside the lodge for dinner.
Meals were included throughout our stay; fine-dining cuisine cooked up by Sóti Lodge’s very own French chef. Each meal was three courses, meaning there was a wide selection of dishes throughout our visit.
On the first night, for instance, we ate a fantastic starter of grilled aubergine, topped with chopped tomatoes and feta, served with a side of peppery scrambled egg. This was soon followed by a main of chicken with truffle sauce, carrots in beetroot juice and potatoes. Whilst sophisticated, the meal was also surprisingly fitting; the perfect cuisine for when you’re fresh from the ocean.
Meals that followed included a delicious seafood pasta topped with roasted white fish, lamb skewer with couscous, and too many tasty desserts to describe fittingly. It should come as no surprise that Sóti also runs a popular food tour, so if you travel in the direction of your stomach, make sure to keep them in mind!
Day 1 of Ocean Kayaking
We enjoyed a restful night’s sleep, though did feel some nerves for the day ahead. Over breakfast—a selection of fruits, muesli, meat slices, toast and jams—Veiga was incredibly supportive, laying out the plan for the day and promising not to over exert us our first time out. We drank our coffees over conversation, and gradually, nerves transformed to excitement. Now, it was on!
We drove down to Hofsós’ harbour where we unloaded the equipment and geared up. After carrying our boats down to the water’s edge, we had a quick rundown over what we’d learnt the day previously, then set out towards the horizon. Veiga led us along the cliffs and bays that surround the town, pointing out interesting basalt formations and taking pictures.
At the halfway point, we took a break, pulling up at a hidden stretch of shore. There, Veiga made pancakes on a portable stove, and we ate them gratefully with slices of banana and hot chocolate. We were equally thankful for the breather; kayaking, whilst incredibly fun, is hard work and does require a level of physical strength I might have underestimated before.
On our return journey to Hofsós, we spotted a harbour purpose, or perhaps dolphin, breaching the water around two-hundred metres away. We stopped to enjoy this special sighting, appreciating an environment shared with the likes of whales, seals and countless seabirds.
Against the Current
In the evening, Veiga showed us the documentary, ‘Against the Current’ made about her kayaking trip around Iceland. Not only did the camera act as a diary of sorts through Veiga’s journey, but also delved into the personal challenges she has overcome as a transwoman.
The documentary mirrored these obstacles respectfully, as well as showcased Iceland’s nature with cinematic flair. After watching the film, I felt I had a much better understanding of why kayaking captures and compels people in the way it does; it is nothing short of a route to freedom, a personal activity that puts you up against the beauty, and danger, of Mother Nature herself.
Day 2 of Ocean Kayaking
More ocean kayaking followed the next day. This time, our departure point was just off-road, a meagre strip of shoreline that boasted staggering views of the islands and peninsulas that lie just off Hofsós village. It was here that we realised just how dramatic, how ethereal and otherworldly North Iceland is. This is true fjords country, and just existing there, soaking it up, feels like a strange sort of gift.
We won’t lie. Our second trip was more challenging than the first. As we paddled-off towards a distant landmass, the wind turned against us, meaning our physical strength was now put to the test. These conditions added their own challenges; higher waves, less-control, more focus required.
Despite our earlier trepidations, these challenges proved to be brilliant fun, a test of the skills we had learnt so far. On top of that, Veiga remained close to us at all times, making sure we were safe and having a good time. Once again on our return to shore, we spotted wildlife; this time seals! They bobbed around playfully in the water, and we had ample time to enjoy this natural display.
Day 3 of Ocean Kayaking
On our third and final day with Sóti, we took the ocean one more time to practise our skills and experience the majestic nature of North Iceland one more time.
We felt far more confident throughout the trip, and we could really appreciate the wonderful setting in which we found ourselves. That was until a thick fog rolled in, spoiling the view somewhat. But by that time, we had learnt to put our full trust in Veiga, equipped with all manner of GPS trackers and location devices.
There was no trouble getting back to shore, and we were oddly appreciative of the moody weather conditions on our last day. This was a true Icelandic adventure; one that is equal parts beautiful scenery and unpredictable weather. Finally, it was time to say our fond farewells. After packing, writing a quick thank you in the guest book, we set out on the way back towards Reykjavík.
Sóti Summits & Lodge
It would be remiss of us not to thank the owners of Sóti Lodge for our visit. Married couple, Arnar Þór Árnason and Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, take great pride in making sure their guests are comfortable, cosy and entertained, and we could not have asked anything more of our hosts.
We should also mention that ocean kayaking is just one of the many tours Sóti Summits offers, providing even more reason to stay for anyone looking to get the most out of their time in North Iceland. For example, guests could book sailing, hiking and cycling excursions, or even a mix of all three. Make sure to check out Sóti Summit’s selection of tours here!