Published January 12, 2009
One thing that hits you once you get acquainted with Reykjavík’s cityscape is the abundance of big-wheeled, so-called called “Super Jeeps”. You ponder their usefulness and purpose in an urban environment. Locals will tell you about the gravel mountain roads that still constitute the majority of roads in Iceland’s wide rural regions, roads where you need huge tyres and navigation systems to tread. Super Jeeps have become very popular in Iceland, and so have tours where tourists can go on off-road as passengers in one of these tuned-up monsters.
Lately, there has been a new trend in the tourist business: you can drive the Super Jeep yourself with guidance from touring company Arctic Adventures experienced guides. The concept works out quite well as the demand for the ‘U-drive’-tours has been constantly increasing since they were introduced, according to Torfi Ingvason, owner of Arctic Adventures.
As you can imagine, driving around with a car that almost packs the horsepower of an industrial crane is not very eco-friendly. The company is aware of this, and tries to balance the negative effects. They are donating to the environmental organisations Icelandic New Energy and the Icelandic Carbon Fund for every kilometre driven.
The trips include more adventure than just the experience of driving and navigating a monstrous vehicle. There are activities like caving, river-rafting or glacier-hiking, depending on the tour you pick. For example, the Golden Circle one includes a fascinating passing of Gjábakkahelirinn, a 350m long lava cave under Þingvellir, before you drive the big-wheeled car on the bumpy mountain road to Geysir and Gulfoss.
Unfortunately the venture is all in all very dependent on the road conditions. As safety is always first, you cannot go into the highlands all year round. “We went into a mountain river yesterday, and nearly got stuck in it”, says Torfi about the dangers of mountain rides in winter conditions. Therefore it is up to the weather how much “off-road” you will go. However, in a package with the other activities and seeing some of Iceland’s most beautiful spots, these tours are an exciting alternative to the conventional bus trips.