With a passion for the great outdoors as big as the wheels on his fleet of Superjeeps, Kristján Kristjánsson likes nothing better than to guide customers around his native Iceland. Managing Director of one of Reyjaviks’s most popular excursion companies, Iceland Mountain Taxis, we caught up with Kristján to talk about rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, his love of his country and the job, which makes exploring it possible. The 53-year-old lives in Reykjavik with his wife and business partner. They have four children and four grandchildren.
How would you describe your job?
I am the Managing Director of Iceland Mountain Taxis and the lead guide.
What does your job entail?
Essentially I take care of everything that needs to be done, from planning tours, guiding, fleet maintenance to marketing and the hiring of drivers.
Why did you set up Iceland Mountain Taxis?
I love the great outdoors and big 4×4 trucks. I also enjoy meeting people from different parts of the world. In addition to Icelandic, I speak English Danish and German so it seemed a great opportunity to venture into the tourism market.
What is the best bit about your job?
Taking people across a glacier on a fantastically sunny day.
And the worst?
Dealing with Mother Nature on a bad day!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Hmm.. Well there is no typical day in the office. I could be answering emails the entire time or working on a Superjeep that may have encountered a problem on one of the tours. And if I am doing a day tour from Reykjavik then I wake around 6.45am, pick up the Superjeep from the garage and pick up my guests for the 8-10 hour tour. That day could involve driving 350-450km, going snowmobiling, horseback riding or hiking up to a volcano during the trip.
What can you tell me about your tours?
We offer a variety of tours from one to 14 days. They are suitable for more or less everyone and we have taken people in wheelchairs, as well as the fit and healthy. Most are aged between 40 and 60 but the oldest guest I remember was 89!
What tours do you prefer?
The six-eight day tours are most fun because there are lots of different activities included in the itinerary, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, helicopter trips, fishing, boat trips and bird watching. I also do a lot of photo safaris, especially in winter, where I take lots of guests chasing the Northern Lights.
Which are your most popular?
Definitely the Golden Circle tour, Landmannalaugar and Iceland in a Nutshell. The Golden Circle tour is the most popular in the whole of Iceland, Landmannalaugar is a really special place and Iceland in a Nutshell offers so many things to see and experience.
Why is travel by Superjeep the best way to see Iceland?
You travel with very few people so you get a much better interaction with the guide than in a bus. The jeeps can also access areas which are off limits to normal cars and buses, particularly in winter where they can get up to snow covered highland and across the glaciers. Sitting high up gives guests the best views too.
Have you taken anyone famous on your tours?
Yes, quite a lot. Just to name-drop a few: Emma Thompson, Claudia Schiffer, Justin Timberlake, members of the rock band Muse, the King and Queen of Sweden and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of Iceland.
What makes your job so special?
No two days are ever the same. There are different guests, different weather conditions to consider and different tasks to be done.
What do you do as a company to minimise your impact on the environment and encourage sustainable tourism?
We have been buying new jeeps, which use less fuel and we encourage our drivers to save on fuel wherever possible.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Most likely working on cars like I did before I started the company back in 1995.
You can join Kristján on one of his tours in Iceland here.