In the heart of the Icelandic Golden Circle, the thrill of adventure meets the beauty of nature. Founded in 1985, the rafting and kayaking company Arctic Rafting offers a gateway to the exhilarating world of river rafting in Iceland under the stewardship of Tinna Sigurðardóttir, a river enthusiast turned professional. Arctic Rafting offers thrill seekers of all ages the unique opportunity to experience thrills and spills in the Hvítá River. I have done some canoeing there and can attest to the beautiful landscape you can only witness and appreciate from the river. I also remember the thrill of jumping into the river. This wonderful day on the Hvítá River and another in the Austari Jökulsá kindled my passion for river rafting, which accumulated in an epic trip to the Sun Kosi River in Nepal.

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Tinna Sigurðardóttir, the owner of Arctic Rafting, has her game face onas she kayaks through the massive rapids of the Ganges River in India.
Tinna Sigurðardóttir, the owner of Arctic Rafting, has her game face onas she kayaks through the massive rapids of the Ganges River in India.

Tinna embodies the spirit of exploration and environmental stewardship with her deep-rooted passion for the Hvítá River and an extensive background in adventure tours. Her leadership has steered Arctic Rafting back to its original focus on specialized rafting operations, all while nurturing a profound connection with the local community and environment. As my latest partner, Arctic Rafting offers my readers an exclusive insight into Iceland’s natural wonders through their eyes, complemented by a special discount to enhance their Icelandic adventure. Join me as I dive into the currents of Tinna Sigurðardóttir’s story, from her early days as a teenage rafting enthusiast to her role in running a top-rated rafting tour company.

River rafting in the Hvítá river in Iceland from above.
River rafting in the Hvítá river in Iceland from above.

Can you share what initial challenges you faced when you took over at Arctic Rafting and how you overcame them?

The property, vehicles, equipment, and this needed some love. It was getting the name back, increasing the quality, and starting a new company. It’s been a lot of hard work the last three winters with renovations, but we’re finally almost done. It has also been quite the transition from being an adventure guide with knowledge in sales to being the sole owner of a business this size. But I did go for a three year business degree in Australia to prepare for this. It’s been a lot of hard work, that’s for sure. I could never do this alone, so it’s all about getting the right team together; it’s all onward and upward from there.

Video: River rafting in Iceland with Artic Rafting

Arctic Rafting - River Fun experience on The Golden Circle in Iceland

Arctic Rafting places a strong emphasis on environmental responsibility. What specific practices do you implement to minimize your impact on nature?

It’s all about the little things and the daily routine, living together for the summer and running a business like this. Pulling your weight as you would with a 10-person household and running a restaurant and a bar today. But of course, our ultimate favorite is that rafting is all about leaving no trace, not even footprints! Then, of course, to mingle with the locals, get the veggies from the nearby farms, and so on.

How do you balance the thrill of the adventure of river rafting in Iceland with safety measures, especially for beginners or families participating in rafting tours?

We have an epic team to run the trips, with a mix of local raft guides and guides from all over the world with extensive experience. Together, we make the perfect mix of fun and safety on and off the river. Annually, during spring and early summer, we have our training and courses for raft guiding and white water rescue training. Arctic Rafting is a licensed Rescue 3 International Training Provider, which is an international standard most raft companies worldwide use, as well as the local search and rescue teams, running training scenarios at the nearby Tungufljót River (between Gullfoss and Geysir).

See the beautiful basalt columns on the banks of the Hvítá river from the river.
See the beautiful basalt columns on the banks of the Hvítá river from the river.

Could you tell us about a memorable experience with your clients on the Hvítá River?

Oh, my goddess, there are so many! What always sticks to my memory for every trip is those smiles you see all around, including on my face. It’s just impossible not to smile at some point for this. Maybe one early May, at the start of the season when we had to break through the ice at the river takeout, can happen in Iceland.

Jumping from a cliff under a watchful eye of a safety kayaking. This is so much fun!
Jumping from a cliff under a watchful eye of a safety kayaking. This is so much fun!

With your background in various water sports and adventure tours, how do you ensure that Arctic Rafting’s offerings remain unique and engaging?

Being a part of the whitewater community for this long, the tourism industry, traveling the world, creating a network of connections, and getting a perspective as a fellow adventurer and traveler is still what I do with my free time. There’s always something we can do better; I try to focus on the always faster-pacing world to keep up, or as we say, go with the flow!

There are few things better then a burger and a cold one after a day on the river.
There are few things better then a burger and a cold one after a day on the river.

In what ways does Arctic Rafting contribute to the local community, and how do these efforts enhance the overall guest experience?

The fresh vegetables from the nearby Flúðir are something we all enjoy in our restaurant’s meals. Then, the roots of all of this, we support the kayak community by having our annual Turbo Kayak Festival in the middle of August at the nearby Tungufljót River, a tradition of the local kayak club since 2006. Without kayakers and a passion for the whitewater, we wouldn’t have all these fantastic raft guides working for us! One of the most common compliments we get is how happy they look at work 🙂

Epic fun on the Hvítá river.
Epic fun on the Hvítá river.

What advice would you give to someone hesitant to try rafting for the first time?

We often see people nervous about it, as it’s their first time and not sure what it’s all about, but we so commonly hear that it was more fun than scary and so worth it! Get out of your comfort zone, and don’t worry; this is why we have trained guides; trust the process, let us take care of you, and all you have to do is enjoy those water splashes on your face; river rafting in Iceland is fun!

The beauty of the Hvítá river.
The beauty of the Hvítá river.

Are any new experiences or expansions planned for Arctic Rafting that your guests can look forward to?

Just some more renovations to the property; if this season goes well, we will go for an extended outdoor patio for a better outdoor restaurant area, as the weather here tends to be superb compared to coming from the city or the south coast—oh, and heli rafting on the Markarfljót river in south Iceland for our increasingly busy high-end market. Arctic Rafting made trips there back in 2002-2008, not the heli version, but I was there since 2006, so I experienced that time. We run this trip with Asgard Beyond, one of their owners being Jón Heiðar Andrésson, my old boss, owner of Arctic Rafting 2005-2015. They have been running heli trips for years, and he has helped us set up our courses and training programs.

Apart from the adventures on the Hvítá River, what are your favorite activities and places in Iceland?

The most beautiful place in Iceland is the Öræfi region by the Vatnajökull glacier. I worked there for a few years. Living in a little cabin and enjoying the nature around me was super zen. Then, going north in the winter for some snowboarding is an excellent region for many adventures.

Car on a highway in Iceland. Vatnajökull glacier in the background.
Driving towards Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland.

What advice do you have for those visiting Iceland for the first time?

Whatever you do, remember that the most dangerous place is the road; stay safe driving around Iceland! And don’t forget to pack layers, remember that the weather is just a state of mind, it’s easy to enjoy with a proper outfit. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

I recommend enjoying the water, whether for rafting, the glacier, or the snow. It’s all simultaneously beautiful and so much fun, the ultimate adventure!

Lastly, how can my readers who want to try river rafting in Iceland best prepare for an adventure with Arctic Rafting?

Just remember to bring a bathing suit and a towel! We’ll take care of the rest.