What exactly is Canyoning?

Canyoning isn’t a well known sport in Iceland yet. It’s essentially using a variety of techniques (some, with technical ropework) to descend a canyon. Canyons don’t have to be wet, they too can be dry, but in general the wet ones are more fun. We’ve broken down what defines a canyon and other essentials for getting into the sport. Also for those new to it, what you can expect on a canyoning adventure with us at Ice Guardians Iceland.

Iceland is dotted with canyons (in Icelandic ‘gil’ or ‘gljúfur’) all over. This is mostly due to the fact that it has seen, and still has massive glaciers and rivers. Known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ due to more than 11% of the land is covered in ice. Then of course there are over 30 active volcanic systems as well. Inevitably, the landscape is sure to produce huge floods which rip through the relatively young and brittle basaltic landscape. Relentless erosion by rivers and waterfalls over millennia create steep walled cuts in mountains and hills. Finally there’s the Ice Age glaciers, these would’ve ploughed through the landscape and polished the bedrock. These mostly retreated c.~12,000 years ago leaving behind small and large canyons.

Is Canyoning a new sport?

Canyoning is certainly a new-ish sport to Iceland, we are the one and only commercial canyoning operators in Iceland. It’s popular sport in the European Alps, as well as the UK, USA, South Africa, Oceania and more. It is quite established the world over, and adventurers have been to Iceland before to descend canyons.

Maybe you’ve heard of the sport by a different name, such as canyoneering, torrentismo, kloofing, river running and gorge walking. Most of the techniques in use have come from more traditional pursuits such as mountaineering and caving.

What do you actually have to do to descend a canyon?

As a well-developed outdoor pursuit, the techniques are pretty much similar worldwide. They firstly allow a team to follow the path water takes, some of which involve using ropes. One minute you could be paddling in a blue pool, and the next you could be rappelling down a waterfall. Other techniques involve scrambling, jumping, sliding and down-climbing.

What is the equipment for Canyoning?

When exploring new canyons (aka ‘first descents’) there is a quite a bit of technical equipment to carry. We at Ice Guardians have done the hard preparatory work to minimise the gear that you need to carry. Much of the equipment comes from caving and climbing, some have been adapted for working in wet environments.

What do I wear & carry?


  • Shoes- where we operate in particular, neoprene boots with a grippy sole, and closed toe protection are useful. At other times well-draining walking shoes and amphibious water sandals work too. We provide footwear so you can keep yours dry for after the trip. Let us deal with the wet gear.
  • Socks- Neoprene socks will keep your feet toasty, they are thicker than normal socks. Since we use boots, you just need to bring a thick comfortable pair of wool/synthetic hiking socks.
  • Wetsuit- The name of the country gives it away, canyoning in Iceland without the correct clothing will be chilly. Even in the summer! During your check-in we will fit you with a neoprene wetsuit plenty thick enough to keep you nice and warm.
  • Gloves- We provide neoprene gloves freely for the trip, this keeps your hands toasty even when playing in chilly waters.

Safety Equipment

  • Harness*- We provide harnesses fitted with seat protection to protect your wetsuit and backside when rubbing on rock and debris.
  • Descender*-It does what it say’s on the tin’. A device that allows you to safely descend a rope with good technique. Before we use these for real, your guide/s will instruct you on how to use these safely. You’ll also have a chance to practice beforehand.
  • Cows tail (Safety Line) *- A personal safety line attached to your harness. It allows you to clip into an anchor (with attached carabiners) in order to move safely around exposed areas.
  • Rope*- Not something you as a client will have to carry or handle. The only time is when you’ll be descending a section. They’re essential for the team to move safely down the canyon.
  • Helmet*- Another essential piece of safety equipment, especially in the dynamic environment we operate in. Helmets will protect you from falling debris and when tripping over.

Don’t forget…

  • Snack- It can get exhausting having fun! Producing and using adrenaline when you’re jumping into pristine pools, along with walking in and out of rivers. So we always bring a sweet treat to keep your energy levels up.
  • Waterproof Camera/ Phone/ GoPro- capture the wonderful memories you will make. We only operate in wet canyons, it is a good idea to have a waterproof case for peace of mind. Don’t forget to tag @iceguardians_iceland in your photos on social media, we love to see the trip through your eyes.

What can I expect on an Ice Guardians canyoning trip?

We have put in a lot of work into making the site as safe as possible beforehand. This allows us to focus on taking you safely down an aquatic canyon. We operate in our backyard surrounded by glaciers and mountains of Vatnajökull National Park, south-eastern Iceland.

On arrival, we’ll suit and boot you first. Then have a pre-departure briefing, before setting off on an easy hike through an old farmstead. Now abandoned and forested by pines and larch. This might be a unique moment on your Icelandic holiday. Forests are not abundant anymore in Iceland, something you can learn about from your guide/s.

We operate under the highest standards of safety and so we use at minimum 2 guides to every 8 guests. This means we can be efficient and spend more time being active. Before we begin our descent, we will go over rappelling techniques and practice in a safe area. We begin in the shallows with some jumps and slides into crystal clear water. After which, we progress towards more thrilling rappels and jumps as we get into the depths of the canyon.

To book a trip with us at Ice Guardians Iceland, just head on over to ice-guardians.com. Or send us an email at info@ice-guardians.com where we can answer any of your questions.

We hope we’ve given you an insight into our adventure trips, and look forward to showing you, our backyard.

IGI Team

*All equipment is inspected and logged regularly as per IGI Safety Management Plan