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How To Best Explore Iceland in a Wheelchair

How To Best Explore Iceland in a Wheelchair
© Joshuadavisphotography / Flickr
Iceland, with its lava landscapes and isolated locale, may seem like an inhospitable place for those in wheelchairs, but in actuality, there are more options and resources for travelers in a wheelchair than ever before both within the capital of Reykjavik and in the countryside.

Icelandic tour companies now offer accessible tours while local regulations have made updates to equipment and access, making Iceland more accessible than ever. While international travel can already be daunting, planning with a wheelchair can be even more so, but should definitely not be a deterrent, especially not in Iceland.

Thingvellir Paths © Rudi Riet / Flickr

In 2012, the Icelandic parliament passed a new document that outlined how building codes should be inclusive of access for those in wheelchairs. While the new building codes did not stipulate the retroactive renovation of buildings, the National Association of People with Disabilities in Iceland has made many improvements on public places. The app TravAble is a free and interactive app designed by Icelanders to help navigate Reykjavik in a wheelchair and is operated by reviews that contribute to the overall knowledge of the sites. Wheel Map is another resource that relies on user input to collect a database of wheelchair accessibility.

Reykjavik is fairly easy to traverse in a wheelchair, especially with the help of these apps. Reykjavik sidewalks are very well maintained in and around the city, including the suburban areas. This is a different story in the wintertime, however, when the snow can pile up and, despite being moved daily, can become a real hazard even for walking. The only exception is in the center of Reykjavik where the sidewalks are heated all year round by geothermal heat. The coastline of Reykjavik is lined by a smooth, wheelchair-accessible pathway that is popular for joggers and cyclists and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding ocean and a new perspective of the cityscape as well.

Path to Thingvellir © Paul Saunders / Flickr

When it comes to traveling outside of Reykjavik, it is best to speak directly with your tour guide companies, who are flexible but unfortunately usually only accommodate foldable and manual wheelchairs. It is also possible to rent a manual wheelchair from Stóð. The Golden Circle tour, which includes the geothermal area, Geysir, the majestic waterfall, Gullfoss and Þingvellir National Park all have reasonable accessibility and are definitely the most popular sites in South Iceland. Helicopter tours are also an option.