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East Glacial River Rafting Expedition

White water rafting down the powerful East Glacial River in Skagafjordur!

Type of tour:Escorted Tours
Season:11 July - 08 August
Duration:3 Days/2 Nights

Embark upon a three day highlight reel of desert moonscapes, sprawling glaciers, hot springs, world-class whitewater, remote mountain cabins, and gourmet riverside cuisine, all from the heart of north Iceland's most pristine and otherwise inaccessible wilderness.

Set sail where few expeditions have been before, in a committing self-support conquest of Iceland's most challenging rafting river! This adventure begins with a rugged drive into the Sprengisandur desert towards the source of the legendary East Glacial River (Jökulsá-Austari) river at the foot of the mighty Hofsjökull glacier. Somewhere in the vast expanses of this arctic desert, a cluster of secluded cabins around a thermal oasis provides us shelter on our first night, and it is from here that we plunge into our committing 2-day descent of Iceland's best rafting river. In these two days, we navigate the full 55km of the East Glacial River through its twisting valleys and canyons, facing an ever-evolving blend of heart-pumping whitewater, breathtaking scenery, and wilderness solitude. The trip wraps up on the third evening at our rafting base at Hafgrimsstadir with a celebration of our achievements, barbecue feast, and a farewell fiesta with your guides and fellow rafters!

Bring with you:

  • A set of river clothing (warm, lightweight, layered clothing of fleece, wool, or synthetic materials– NO COTTON. We recommend a set of thermal underwear/base layers, warm fleece top & pants, and thick wool/hiking socks.)
  • One set of hut clothing: Warm and comfortable, waterproof/windproof jacket, footwear for walking around camp.
  • Three pairs of extra socks
  • Sleeping bag


East Glacial River is a grade 4+ rafting experience.


  • All rafting equipment: dry suit, PFD, helmet, booties, gloves
  • Qualified, professional raft guides and safety kayakers
  • Transportation into the highlands & to and from the river
  • 2 nights accommodation in backcountry lodges
  • All meals/snacks from lunch on Day 1 to dinner on Day 3
  • Iceland's ultimate rafting adventure!



Day 1: Begin your adventure

Drive through the Sprengisandur desert with views over Hofsjokull glacier. Night at Laugarfell in remote highland cabins with a soak in some natural hot pools.

Upon arrival at our Hafgrimsstadir Rafting Base, you will meet your guides and fellow rafters and go over the general plan for the trip. Here we fit you with a dry suit and supply you with all necessary rafting equipment and a dry bag for your personal gear. Once fully packed and prepared, we load up and begin our adventure! We spend the next 4 hours traveling remote roads out of the Skagafjordur valley and into the sprawling expanses of the Sprengisandur desert. With views of the nearby Hofsjokull glacier spanning the horizon, we negotiate rivers and streams as we traverse the rugged highlands, arriving at Laugarfell in time for a hearty meal and a relaxing soak in the thermal pools under the late evening sun. A restful night in the mountain cabins will be our final preparation for the adventure that lies in the days ahead.


DAY 2: Upper section of the East Glacial River (Grade 3-4)

World class rafting and night in the secluded riverside hut at Hildarsell in the upper Austardalur valley.

Wake up to the smell of freshly made coffee and energize yourself with a hot breakfast feast. A 20-minute off-road excursion takes us to our put-in on the shores of East Glacial River's uppermost reaches. While the guides load the equipment and rig the rafts, your trip leader will give you a full safety briefing and necessary rafting instruction. As we hit the water, we commit ourselves to the adventure ahead– there's no turning back! Our first hour is a gentle float through the milky waters of the desert moonscape, a time each raft will use to practice the teamwork and technical skills they will need to successfully run the rapids that lie ahead. As we round the last bend, the river dramatically disappears around a corner and plunges into the first of many steep-walled valleys it follows on its course to the ocean far below. We find ourselves committed to relentless, fast, and technical "boulder garden" rapids that will challenge your nerves as much as your stamina! After about 3 hours, the river's gradient eases up and provides us with a beautiful lunch spot where we can rest and refuel! Another stretch of rapids greets us immediately as we set off again, and then an hour-long cool-down float takes us to the doorstep of our riverside cabin at Hildarsell. Here we share a relaxing evening in good company with a well-earned dinner and warm drinks, and a peaceful night's sleep before our second round of whitewater action tomorrow!


DAY 3: Famous lower gorge of the East Glacial River (Grade 4+)

Deep canyons and world-class whitewater followed by BBQ dinner and farewell fiesta!

Today's rafting begins with an easy float along the braided floor of the lush and majestic Austurdalur valley. After about an hour, the valley walls begin to steepen dramatically as we approach the renowned lower gorge of the East Glacial River. As we commit ourselves to the depth of this magnificent canyon, the river narrows and steepens, and its character changes strikingly from what we faced on the previous day. This 100m deep volcanic gorge is not only a geological marvel in itself, but is also home to some of Iceland's most spectacular whitewater. We face a nonstop rush of crashing overhead waves and steep "pool-drop" rapids that will be sure to get your adrenaline surging! After making it through the last of the major rapids, we pull over for a riverside lunch in the canyon and an optional cliff jumping session. The remaining few kilometers of the river offer the perfect opportunity to unwind amongst beautiful surroundings and digest the experiences of the last few days, or to take one last invigorating dip in the cleansing glacial waters! As we complete the river's course and emerge from the last of its canyons, we culminate our trip with a soak in the local hot pots and a mouth-watering barbecue feast back at our rafting base– the perfect end to this adventure of a lifetime!


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