You might know Joe Manganiello best for his dance moves in the Magic Mike films or as the husband of fellow actor Sofia Vergara. But the 40-year-old performer, in a lot of ways, most-closely resembles another one of his characters: Alcide Herveaux, the werewolf who vied for Sookie Stackhouse’s affection with vampire Bill on Trueblood. IRL, Manganiello also prefers roaming free in the great outdoors and traveling with a pack—which is what he did on a recent excursion trip to Iceland with Eddie Bauer and a group of travel buddies.
“A lot of times in my industry, my lifestyle, my work, whatever, you become an indoor cat,” says Manganiello, who grew up camping, hiking through nature preserves, and attending outdoorsmen meetings. So when the chance to go to Iceland for a week came his way, he says, “It was the call of the wild, man. We’re all domesticated dogs, but for one week I got to go run with the wolves, and it felt natural.”
To be clear: There aren’t *actually* wolves on the Nordic island—it was more a metaphor for the freedom the actor felt while having an off-the-beaten-path adventure that took him across the country’s varied terrain and left him feeling miles away from a sound stage.
Below, Manganiello shares highlights from his Icelandic adventure that were definitely worth writing home about.
1. Viking beaches, seal spotting, and exploring ice caves
One of the most memorable parts of the trip for Manganiello? “[Visiting] the black sand beach where the first Vikings landed,” he recalls. To get there, he says, “You have to drive 10 miles over 20 centimeters of water, which feels like driving over the ocean.” It doesn’t get much more remote than that—being able to unplug was a big perk of the trip.
The Icelandic solitude and quiet was meaningful for the actor, who maintains a Transcendental Meditation practice. At one point, underground in a lava cave, the travelers shut their headlamps off and sat in total darkness and silence.” During a 5-mile kayak trip across the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón, seals popped their heads up in greeting, which caused them to stop, sit, and watch. “It makes you look at being in a city very differently—all the people, the hustle and bustle, the noise,” Manganiello says.
The otherworldliness of his surroundings also had an impact. “We made our way inside these ice caves formed by a glacier,” Manganiello says. “I can’t even explain to you how vibrant and magical and alien the colors and shapes were.” After climbing the ice walls with crampons and ice picks, the team hiked three more miles to the truck. “And that was just the first day—it was just insane,” he says.
2. Climbing an ice mountain and descending into a volcano
While some people may feel nervous about taking on outdoor adventures, Manganiello says he doesn’t hesitate to jump right in—even if jumping in means going into a volcano. “Maybe it’s my age or experience or all the things I’ve been through, but I don’t really get afraid of things, I just do ’em,” he says.
As a fitness buff (he launches his own app, Evolution 359, in January) Manganiello admits the trip had some challenges, but nothing was unsurmountable. The altitude at the top of a mountain “was kicking my ass for sure,” he recalls, “but, actually, the run back down was really fun. There’s moments when I’m like, I’m fucking crazy, why did I say I’d do this? But you just suck it up and fuckin’ figure it out. The only person I need to impress is me—I came here to do this, I didn’t come here to sit on the sidelines. I wanted to go to Iceland and do something amazing, and I’m going to do it. I don’t care that I’ve never ice climbed in my life—let’s do it.”
3. Cycling over lava fields
That gung-ho, up-for-anything attitude served him well when he was biking on moss-covered lava fields. Manganiello says he came away feeling not only galvanized in how he sees himself, but also with a newfound respect for the Vikings and humanity in general.
“You come back to civilization and you realize that the things you thought were tough before aren’t tough at all,” he says of the perspective gained. “It gives you a sense of humility because of all the incredible resilience, toughness, and adaptability of human beings. We’re amazing creatures, and it was really cool to go out and get a taste of that for a week.”