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a person in a wheelchair on a flat wood path

Wheelchair Accessible Iceland: Exploring Iceland’s Southwestern Coast

My name is Adele, I am Italian and live in Naples, Italy, with my husband Angelo. I am a disabled person who uses a wheelchair to move around. My husband and I love traveling very much, and in 39 years of marriage, we have taken many journeys in Italy, Europe and North America. We are used to facing problems concerning traveling with a wheelchair, finding hotels with accessible rooms, accessible restaurants with toilets equipped for disabled persons, and so on.

In August 2015 we decided to take a weeklong vacation to explore wheelchair accessible Iceland, because we were fascinated with the idea of a country completely different from those we had already visited. In fact, we visited an incredible world made mostly of nature: sea, ice, waterfalls, geysers, rivers, with small villages and one city, Reykjavik, the capital, which has about 300,000 inhabitants.

Our Wheelchair Accessible Iceland Trip

Our group was composed of seven people: the two of us with our son, and four friends of ours, two of them in wheelchairs. The flight from Italy to Reykjavik was 4 hours long, comfortable enough, and with no problems for our wheelchairs. Our hotel was Fosshotel in Reykjavik; the accessible rooms were very wide and located on the upper floors (9 – 11), so we enjoyed a wonderful view of the city and its seafront.

We chose to plan our week this way: the hotel was our base. Every morning we left for a one-day trip to visit the single locations in Southwestern Coast, and at the end of the day we were back in the hotel. The tour operator also organized a journey with stages in different locations but accessible hotels were already fully booked when we decided to plan our trip.

We enjoyed our week very much. The places we visited were really beautiful, the climate was mild – although sometimes the wind was very strong. Luckily, the weather was good enough, with little rain. 

Excursions were made by van, which had room for three wheelchairs and four people in vehicle seats. The driver was also our guide – a very competent one.

an overhead view of the city by the water
Where we stayed in Reykjavik

A Wheelchair Accessible Waterfall

The first place we stopped is probably the most famous, the Gullfoss waterfall. We found it extremely impressive and very well equipped for wheelchairs.

 Thingvellir National Park

Iceland has always been a land of earthquakes and deep changes in the earth. The main cause of these movements is the fault between the European continental plate and the American one. The National Park of Thingvellir is where one can see the effect of these upheavals.

The place where the fault between the European and North American plates can be better observed is called the Bridge Between Continents.

The Geysir

Geysir: this word is maybe the most famous of the Icelandic language (and also one of the most easy for foreigners, believe me!). As you can see in the photo, this is one of the most popular tourist locations. People  gather around the area and wait for the geyser to produce the column of water which makes this place famous. Only a few minutes are necessary for the repetition of the event, so  the audience doesn’t need much patience. 

Visitors surround the geyser to watch it explode.
Visitors surround the geyser as it explodes

Another Wheelchair Accessible Waterfall

The waterfalls on the Southwestern Coast are a world to be explored as much as possible, because each one of these natural beauties has peculiar characteristics that make it unbelievable and unforgettable. Seljalandfoss can be reached easily in a wheelchair, up to the point where you can be splashed by the water. Those in our group who weren’t using a wheelchair could also go around the waterfall, with some caution. They had to walk on a path that allowed them to see the waterfall from the back.

Dyrholaey Penninsula

Iceland is a land full of surprises and beautiful places; our guide was very skilled, and showed us something new every day. Look at the peninsula of Dyrholaey, where a river mixes its waters with the sea and a volcanic beach. The photo was shot from a panoramic area which can be easily reached with a car.

A river runs through black volcanic sand to meet the ocean. A large rock formation stands alone in the sand.
The volcanic beach at Dyrholaey

One More Wheelchair Accessible Waterfall

Another waterfall? Yes, sure, because this is the most impressive and beautiful one that we visited on our vacation. Rather than a single waterfall, Hraunfossar – Barnafoss is a system of waterfalls that can be observed from many panoramic points. We were very happy to find many walkways that allowed people in wheelchairs to pass from one bank to the other of the river and to see most of what deserves to be seen.

Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring

It is well known that Iceland has widespread volcanic activity all over the country. This activity provides hot water to the island. We visited Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring and had the sensation of being in a somewhat hellish place. The thermal spring produces 180 liters of water per second at 212 °F. Since 1925 this water has been utilized for central heating around Iceland.

Stykkisholmur

One of the typical villages that can be found on Southwestern Coast is  Stykkisholmur, on the peninsula of Snaefellsnes. It has small harbor, few inhabitants, fishing boats, and an excellent restaurant completely accessible and equipped for disabled persons.

A large ship and smaller boats in a small harbor.
The port in the fishing village of Stykkisholmur

The Blue Lagoon

At the end of our week we decided to visit one of the most famous tourist locations of Iceland, the Blue Lagoon. This is the name of a big open air hot spring. The water is always blue, due to the presence of a typical algae, and its temperature is constantly 98° F. The plant is very well equipped to allow wheelchair users to have a comfortable bath in the pool, and a wide locker room is available. Learn more about the Blue Lagoon’s accessibility here.

Reykjavik

After so many natural beauties, I want to speak about the capital of this wonderful country. Reykjavik is a beautiful young city. The streets are easy for wheelchair users to move around, there are many monuments, museums, restaurants, shops, and a beautiful seafront. Wandering the streets of Reykjavik, you have the sensation of being in an international location, and a place where traditions are alive and well-present in today’s life. Let’s start with the seafront.

A paved, flat wheelchair accessible  pathway runs alongside the sea, toward a city skyline.
Reykjavik’s seafront and skyline

Walking on the seafront we found this wonderful sculpture representing a Viking ship and the building named Harpa, a cultural center where concerts and theatrical works are held.

At the end of the seafront you can find the Old Harbor, which is now a touristic port with nice restaurants, like Kopar, which we found completely accessible.

Whales of Iceland is the name of a permanent exhibit about various kinds of cetaceans in the region.

Moving to the center of the city, visiting the Catholic Cathedral is a must. It’s a modern neo-Gothic church built between 1927 and 1929. Near the cathedral one can visit a garden with the sculptures of Einar Jonsson.

Another place that cannot be missed is the National Museum of Iceland, where many objects and artifacts are collected, starting from the year 800, when the history of Iceland began with the arrival of Norwegian Vikings.

To close this post in a pleasant way I would like to give a suggestion about another accessible restaurant, in the center of Reykjavik. It is an Italian – Icelandic restaurant named Primo, and we loved the wonderful risotto.

Iceland met all of our expectations, and then some. If you are looking for an accessible trip that lets you comfortably marvel at the wonders of nature, I recommend a visit to this beautiful island. You can find options to explore wheelchair accessible Iceland with Wheel the World here.


Adele and her husband Angelo are travelers who blog about their adventures traveling the world. You can read more of their blog here.

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