Four-day Highland Hiking Tour | Volcanic Trail Part 1
Immerse yourself in Iceland’s raw and untouched nature on this four-day hiking tour. This tour is the first of three related trips, that can be combined for the ultimate hiking adventure.
You will start this tour from the BSI Bus Terminal, where you will meet your group and your guide. You will spend the morning driving to the beautiful southern highlands, to the roots of Mt. Sveinstindur.
Your first adventure will be scaling this peak, and you will instantly be rewarded. From the top, you will be granted magnificent views of the surrounding Highlands, particularly to the south where you will see the serene lake Langisjór.
You will descend part of this mountain once you have digested the beauty from the peak to the first of three mountain huts you and your companions will be staying in.
The second day will start with a trip along the banks of Skaftá, a river formed by meltwater from the vast Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest ice cap. You will reach the canyon Hvanngil, which, while stunning, provides just a small taste of what is ahead. By the time you reach the Uxatindar peaks, you will have seen much larger canyons and ravines, plunging dramatically into the earth.
While, for the first part of this day, you will be surrounded by stretches of volcanic sands and fields of old, twisted lava, the landscape will become more verdant throughout the afternoon, until it is covered in a bright green moss. This area is called Skælingar, and it is here that you will retire for the night.
For your third day, you will hike to Eldgjá, otherwise known as the ‘Canyon of Fire’. You begin by reaching and ascending the mountain Gjátindur, which overlooks this immense ravine; it stretches as far as the eye can see, past Mýrdalsjökull glacier. You will descend into the canyon, and spend several hours enjoying the stark, dramatic geology and natural beauty. Following this, you will hike to the nearby huts at Hólaskjól, where you can expect comfortable lodgings for your final night.
Your fourth day, you will be picked up and head back to Reykjavík via the incredible Landmannalaugar Highland region. At Landmannalaugar, you will have two hours to explore the yellow rhyolite mountains and many trails, or else to bask in a natural hot-spring, surrounded by extraordinary beauty.
This tour shows you parts of the Highlands most people never get to see. If you are an avid hiker, do not miss this incredible opportunity. Book now to reserve your place. Check availability by choosing a date.
Search for the 'Five-Day Highland Hiking Tour | Volcano Trail Part 2' and 'Four-Day Hike to Landmannalaugar | Volcano Trail Part 3' for the itineraries of the tours you can combine with this one.
- Available: Jun. - Sep.
- Duration: 4 days
- Activities: Hiking, Hot Spring Bathing
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum age: 16 years old
- Languages: English
Langisjor is among the clearest highland lakes in the country. Its altitude is 670 meters and at its deepest it’s 75 meters.
The lake lies southwest of Vatnajokull, between the mountains Tungnarfjoll and Fogrufjoll. The beautiful Fogrufjoll mountains (literally 'The Beautiful Mountains'), to the east of the lake, are a popular hiking place and the waters allow for trout fishing.
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Eldgja is the largest volcanic canyon in the world, 270m deep, 600m at its widest and around 40 km long.
The canyon lies paralel with the Lakagigar craters. The first documented eruption of Eldgja, in 934, was the largest flood basalt in historic time.
A beautiful watefall, Ofaerufoss in the river Ofaerua falls into in the Eldgja canyon. This is a two-spilt waterfall and the lower part used to have a natural bridge, but the bridge collapsed in the early nineties.
Landmannalaugar ("The people's pools") is a vast area of stunning and unique beauty, the true heart of Iceland's southern Highlands.
Landmannalaugar is a truly rare area, both geologically and aesthetically. The area can be found nestled beside the raven-black Laugahraun lava field, a sweeping expanse of dried magma which originally formed in 1477. Landmannalaugar itself is made up of windswept rhyolite mountains, a rock type that creates a full spectrum of dazzling colour on the mountainside. Shades of red, pink, green and golden yellow all change their tone, keeping in movement with the sun rays and creating an area of wilderness that resembles no place else on earth.
Landmannalaugar is primarily known for its natural geothermal baths, hence its name "The People's Pools". For centuries, Landmannalaugar has served as an area of shelter and respite for weary travellers who use these soothing springs as a means to relax after tiring excursions. Today, visitors to the highlands should always bring a swimsuit and towel, just in case one of these naturally occurring hot pools should crop up along the hiking trail.
The area marks the northern end of the Laugavegur, one of Iceland's most popular hiking trails. It is also home to many other notable trails, however, including the path onto the mighty Mt. Brennisteinsalda ("Sulphur Wave"). Visitors can also traverse the trail up the Bláhnjúkur ("Blue Peak") volcano, whose summit allows for a sweeping view of up to five glaciers on clear days.
Multiple operators run daily tours to Landmannalaugar from mid-June to mid-September, during which time The Icelandic Touring Association operates a small shop, three camp sites and a mountain hut equipped with sleeping bags and accommodation for up to 80 visitors.
- Find Highland Tours here
Myrdalsjokull is a glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands. It is the country's fourth largest glacier, covering nearly 600 km2. It's highest peak reaches around 1500 meters. Under the icecap is the volcano Katla.
Katla is active and has had at least 16 eruptions since the year 936, usually erupting every 40-80 years. It's latest eruption was in 1918. Myrdalsjokull is to the north of the village Vik and east of the famous Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano. The popular Fimmvorduhals trail lies between the two glaciers. Due to Eyjafjallajokull's eruption in 2010 the area is closely monitored.
Starting time : 06:50
Guide during the trek (until morning day 4)
Food for 4 days (from lunch day 1 to lunch day 4)
Accommodation in mountain huts for 3 nights
Bus from Reykjavík to Sveinstindur and from Hólaskjól to Reykjavík via Landmannalaugar
Transfer of luggage.
Sleeping bag (can be added for 6850 ISK)
What to bring:
Sturdy Hiking Boots – waterproof with good ankle support.
Thermal underwear, light fleece/wool layers
Soft-shell trousers or similar
Waterproof jacket and trousers
Gloves, hats, warm socks
A duffel bag for the transport of your overnight gear between huts.
Backpack for extra clothes and food during the day
Sturdy shoes for crossing rivers (sandals or old trainers, not flip-flops)
Light Sleeping bag
Sunglasses & sun protection.
Water container – thermos flask or water bottle 0,5 – 1L.
Personal first aid kit
Walking pole, camera, dry bag (optional)
Good to know:
You may add a pick-up from your hotel to the BSI Bus Terminal for an additional 5000 ISK. Be sure to specify when booking.
Day 1 - Reykjavík to Mt. Sveinstindur
Your first day will begin at the BSI Bus Terminal; you can arrange a transfer there for an extra fee while booking. Once your group is gathered, you will board a bus that will whisk you to the Highlands.
Your destination is at the foot of the mountain Sveinstindur; this beautiful peak takes its name from one of Iceland's most esteemed explorers, Sveinn Pálsson. You will scale this mountain, for a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding highlands, the massif of Fögrufjöll, and the lake Langisjór.
On the mountainside is a rustic hut where you will be spending your first night.
Day 2 - Sveinstindur to Skælingar
On day two, you will follow the river Skaftá, which comes from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier. Your hike will take you to the canyon of Hvanngil, then up to the Uxatindar peaks.
The landscape here shows the raw volcanism of Iceland's nature; you will be surrounded by black sands and lava fields. After passing the Uxatindar mountains, however, the area will become much more verdant. Finally, you will reach the lava forest of Skælingar, your final destination for today.
Your mountain hut sits on the banks of the Skaftá river.
Day 3 - Skælingar to Hólaskjól
You leave Skælingar on your third day, heading towards Eldgjá, the 'Canyon of Fire'. You will approach from the east, climbing the gentle hills to the peak of Gjátindur, where you will be rewarded with magnificent views.
You will descend into the canyon, and have several hours to explore its many beautiful features. You then continue on your hike to Hólaskjól, where your hut is waiting. Unlike the lodgings for the past two nights, this cabin is equipped with showers.
Day 4 - Hólaskjól to Landmannalaugar, Landmannalaugar to Reykjavík
On your fourth day, a bus will meet you at Hólaskjól to return you to Reykjavík, with a two-hour stop at Landmannalaugar en route. Of course, if you are taking the second 'Volcano trail', you will remain with your guide.
Landmannalaugar is one of Iceland's most famed Highland regions, known for its geothermal areas and colourful rhyolite mountains. You can spend your time here taking one of the many hiking trails, or else basking in the hot springs.
You will leave Landmannalaugar in the afternoon, to arrive back at the BSI Bus Terminal at approximately 19:30.