Paragliding in Iceland with Anita Hafdís Björnsdóttir

Caedmon Mullin | 22nd August 2016

Anita Hafdís Björnsdóttir

I learned Paragliding in 2007 on a whim, in Iceland, and have not looked back since. In 2009 I sold all my belongings other than my glider and became a travelling paragliding bum. In 2013 I finished my tandem training in South Africa, returned to Iceland, co-founded the first Paragliding company here, and am now a full time Tandem pilot and Paragliding instructor in Iceland.

Iceland

Iceland is basically a volcanic rock way out in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Population 330,000 and a land area of 103,000 km2 (a similar size to Portugal) makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

There are roughly 130 volcanoes on the island and numerous hot springs and geysers.

Oh and we recently beat England at soccer, sorry, had to get it in there ;-)

The Flying

Many different sites, known and unknown, both sea breeze soaring and thermal flying as well as dune flying. Stunning coastal sites, cliffs into the ocean, waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches and black sand dunes, lava spreads, geothermal areas, glacial rivers, vibrant green moss spreads, craters, volcanoes… Beautiful for hike and fly, except the weather can change pretty fast here.

Our season is May - Sept.

We can fly nearly every day in season, it’s normally not a long drive to find different weather.

Weather changes fast here, it’s best to keep mobile and flexible when visiting the country.

Favourite Sites

What I love most is that it’s such a quick drive between different sites. If the winds are not right at one site, you drive half an hour to a different one. Sometimes we fly several different sites in one day; over a waterfall here, a black beach there and a quick glide over some lava fields on the way home. The 24 hour daylight makes it easy to fly for hours! On Summer Solstice each year the Reykjavík Free Flying club (Fisfélag Reykjavíkur) organises a midnight flight.

If I had to pick one it would be Seljalandsfoss, waterfall on the South Coast, 120 km out of Reykjavik. It's absolutely stunning and we don't get to fly there too often. Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. The fall is a 60 meter drop and you can walk behind it into a small cave. But, some 300 meters or so down the ridge there is another lesser known waterfall, Gljúfrabúi. This one is my personal favourite. It falls 40 meters into the canyon, it's name translates to: Canyon Dweller. You can walk along the fresh water stream into the canyon, or climb the hill to have a look at it. But the best view is obviously from a Paraglider!

Between the waterfalls you will find a short hiking path up the cliff. It's not a tall ridge so you need good wind, but a little too much wind and you have show stopping rotors on take off. In that case, you can climb a few meters up the steep slope on the south side of Seljalandsfoss to swiftly climb up over the ridge. It's a West facing side and the area can be very thermic. My best flight there was when I caught a big, smooth thermal right in front of the big waterfall and flew almost into Thórsmörk (in the highlands) and back. 

In the air you are surrounded by jaw dropping views over the highlands, glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, Westman Islands (the volcanic rock archipelago just outside the coast) and the 100 km long Markarfljót river starting from Eyjafjallajökull volcano (that air traffic stopping one from 2010) branching out through the black sands below you to reach the Atlantic ocean. The colours, the contrast and textures are breathtaking.

No permission needed to access any sites.

More info for visitors

When it’s not flyable the possibilites are endless; hiking, rafting, snorkling/diving, climbing, caving, snow mobiling, buggy/quad bike tours, horse back riding, whale watching, go into a volcano, visit glaciers, hot springs (wild and local swimming pools), local pools are like spa’s here, sea swimming (they pour hot water into the shallow end, seriously), elf spotting tours, the penis museum, lots of music festivals, various sightseeing tours, Gliding and Ultralight flying, snow kiting/kite surfing, surfing, heli skiing... to name a few activities.

We’ve got plenty of campsites, hostels, hotels, Airbnb’s, mountain huts

Useful Links

More information for visiting pilots from paragliding.is
Local weather
Guiding and other airborne adventures

Photography

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