- What To Pack for Hiking in Iceland
- Technicalities of the Hike
- Gear You'll Need on the Hike
- Have a First Aid Kit on You
- Inform Someone About Your Hiking Plans
- Hazards on Iceland's Hiking Trails
- Unpredictable Weather
- Dehydration and Exhaustion
- Best Time to Hike in Iceland
- Iceland Hiking Trails Map
- The Best Hiking Trails in Iceland
- Hiking in Landmannalaugar
- Laugahraun Lava Field to Brennisteinsalda Mountain Hike
- Mount Blahnjukur Hike
- Ljotipollur Crater Lake Hike
- The Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals Hiking Trails
- Iceland Laugavegur Trail
- Fimmvorduhals Trail
- Hiking the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords
- Viknaslodir Hiking Trails in the Eastfjords
- Borgarfjordur Eystri to Seydisfjordur Hike
- Best Day Hikes in Iceland
- Oxararfoss Waterfall Hike in the Thingvellir National Park
- Arnarstapi to Hellnar Hike in the Snaefellsjokull National Park
- Svartifoss Waterfall Hike in Vatnajokull National Park
- Skogafoss Waterfall Hike
- Dettifoss Waterfall to Selfoss Waterfalls Hike
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall to Gljufrafoss Waterfalls Hike
- Gullfoss Waterfall Hike
- Hikes Around Reykjavik Area
- Hiking in the Reykjanes Peninsula
- Keilir Mountain Hike
- Hafnir to Hafnaberg Hike
- Hiking to Reykjadalur Hot River Valley
- Hiking to Esjan Mountain
- Hiking to Helgafell Mountain
- Hiking to Glymur Waterfall
- Best Glacier Hikes in Iceland
- Hvannadalshnukur Hike in Vatnajokull National Park
- Svinafellsjoukull Glacier Hike
- Falljokull Glacier Hike
- Solheimajokull Glacier Hike
- Additional Hiking Locations in Iceland
Discover the best hiking in Iceland. In our complete guide, you'll learn what to pack, where to find the best hikes in Iceland, and which are the most beautiful and challenging. Find out whether there are any easy Iceland treks near Reykjavik and if Iceland's hiking trails are open throughout the year. We'll answer all your questions and more in this Iceland hiking guide.
Iceland seems sculpted with hikers in mind, a wildland with roaring rivers, mountainous canyons, and mystical valleys. Every region of the country offers fantastic trails. From day hikes suitable for beginners to technical glacier hikes, there's a trek for everyone in Iceland.
- See also: Camping in Iceland | All You Need to Know
- Read about The Weather in Iceland & Best Time to Visit
The variety is what makes hiking in Iceland so exciting—visitors often return, year after year, to tick off the next trail on their checklist. After all, if hiking in Iceland proves one thing, it's that no experience on the trail is quite the same as another.
- See also: Tips for Backpacking in Iceland
Thankfully, Iceland is well aware of this blessing. The country boasts three sprawling National Parks and countless nature reserves. Each year, the government and the population make further efforts to preserve the island's unique flora and fauna.
Even the city folk understand this. Five minutes in downtown Reykjavik will quickly enlighten doubters to the sheer devotion Icelanders hold for the great outdoors. Icewear, 66°North, and Cintamani are all staple retail shops in the city center, capable of providing everything a prospective hiker could need, from windproof raincoats to three-person tents.
The city's art galleries display photographs, paintings, and sculptures in tribute to the island's astounding nature, from its cragged mountain peaks to its creeping glaciers. Even its most famous landmarks—Hallgrimskirkja church, for instance, or the National Theatre, Thjodleikhusio—are deeply inspired by Iceland's dazzling natural aesthetic.
But we're looking to trek in Iceland. So, before we start exploring all of the best Iceland hikes, let's prepare.
What To Pack for Hiking in Iceland
Hiking in Iceland, as with anywhere, requires forethought, preparation, and a little courage before setting out. How long is the hike? Is anyone aware of your plans, and what's your estimated return time? Do you know the Icelandic emergency services' phone number, and have you packed a means to call them?
These are only a handful of the questions that should be circulating in your mind before lacing up your hiking boots. Try to ask yourself silly questions to envision every possible scenario that might occur and consider whether you're equipped to deal with it.
- See also: What To Pack for Travel in Iceland
Technicalities of the Hike
Consider the distance of the Iceland trek of your choice, evaluate your physical fitness, and estimate how long you think the hike will take you. An easy method of doing this is to do some basic research, either online or through specific books relating to Iceland's hikes. Many are on the market, easily purchased at numerous tourist information centers across the country.
The critical information to note are:
- The expected elevation
- Terrain type, e.g., paved trail, dirt trail, on a lava field
- The duration of the hike
This should give you an idea of what the hike would be like. However, some of the trails are nothing more than a walk. If you happen to be a photographer, you'll also need to consider what specific equipment to take, which kit best suits your trek, and what you can physically carry with you.
Gear You'll Need on the Hike
Once you have the information above, you should know the rest of the equipment you'll need for the hike itself. For example, if you're only planning on hiking a couple of miles, there's little need for anything more than your camera, some warm clothing layers, a sturdy pair of boots, and a bottle of water.
Note that most hikes in Iceland will have access to drinking water along the route (although not all of them), and it's safe to drink spring water in Iceland, so you can almost always refill your bottle along the way. Alternatively, you might be planning on hiking around Iceland and making overnight stops. In that case, you'll need far more, including a large backpack capable of storing all of your necessities.
Here is an essential list:
- Water - it's recommended to bring 0.26 gallons (one liter) for a two-hour hike. More is needed for strenuous hikes, while less is generally required during colder weather. While water sources might be available, you'll still need enough to reach them.
- Bring snacks for energy - energy gel for more challenging hikes and granola bars for lighter hikes. If you're going on a long trek, bring more food.
- Sturdy hiking boots - unless you're taking a walk around town, Iceland's terrain demands good shoes.
- Warm clothes - it's best to wear layers when hiking so you can adjust according to the weather.
- Wear a waterproof and windproof jacket (and pants) - especially during the winter in Iceland.
- See also: Iceland's Seasonal Contrasts
Carry a Hiking Map of Iceland (Physical or Digitally)
Even in our modern era, maps are handy and should be an essential component of your backpack. Though it may not seem like it, it's easy to get lost and confused in the rugged, open expanse of the Icelandic wilderness, especially if the weather changes for the worse mid-hike.
You'll need an Iceland hiking map to provide security for navigating any unpredictable terrain. It's also useful for orientation, planning the hike's following stages, and deciphering exactly where certain attractions can be found.
There are many offline maps available on the internet that you can download and use. Make sure to study it before you leave on your trip.
Have a First Aid Kit on You
Any hiker worth their salt will know that a first aid kit is one of the most important things to bring on a hike. This precaution is essential in Iceland, where the stretches of wilderness are vast and often difficult to navigate for rescue crews. If one suffers an injury, hikers should immediately call the Icelandic emergency telephone number, 112.
There's also a downloadable app (Google Play/App Store) that allows the emergency services to track your location via GPS, making it easier for them to find you should a rescue be necessary. This app is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows and should be considered essential for hiking.
Inform Someone About Your Hiking Plans
And while we're on the subject of self-preservation, you must let somebody know of your plans before setting out on your hike. You can leave your travel plan here with the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue so that Iceland's search and rescue teams can quickly react if something happens.
- See also: Search and Rescue Teams in Iceland
Hazards on Iceland's Hiking Trails
Hiking in Iceland is as safe as anywhere else on the planet. However, that doesn't diminish how necessary it's to be aware of potential dangers while exploring the wilderness.
A lot can be done to mitigate this potential, like ensuring that you've packed everything you'll need on the trail (i.e., medical kit, maps, clothing, etc.) A prepared hiker is far safer from harm than one who is not.
The first hazard to mention is the weather. Iceland's weather patterns are infamously unpredictable. One moment, you're basking under the glorious rays of the sunshine; the next, you're running into the nearest shelter as hailstones plummet to the ground like tiny white meteorites.
Within the comfortable, sheltered confines of the city, weather like this is not such a big deal, but out and about on Iceland's hiking trails, the weather can cause serious concern and even prove fatal.
Whether it's rainfall making the trail unmanageable, the fog concealing the world around you, or an incoming blizzard, the weather in Iceland is a force to be respected. Do not attempt to go hiking in undesirable conditions; doing so will put you at serious risk, potentially forcing emergency services into a rescue that could have been avoided.
Dehydration and Exhaustion
For longer hikes, dehydration can be an issue. While it's true that many of Iceland's rivers are glacial and therefore drinkable, it's still advised that you carry water bottles with you. Read up on your desired hike before you go to know how many water sources are along the route. Fatigue can also be a factor, so bring energy bars to ensure you have the stamina to complete the hike.
When it comes to your level of physical fitness, give yourself some leeway as to how capable a hiker you are. Don't overestimate your abilities and set out on a 7.5-mile (12-kilometer) hike, only to get stuck halfway. One of the great pleasures of hiking in Iceland is that the activity itself comes secondary to the great swathes of beautiful scenery. Take your time, enjoy the walk, and make sure you get yourself back home.
Best Time to Hike in Iceland
Iceland's beautiful landscape looks excellent in all seasons, but the best time to hike in Iceland is in the summer. June, July, and August are ideal, and hiking in July in Iceland under the midnight sun is a beautiful experience.
It's also best to avoid the winter because of the short daylight hours and cold weather. You should look at glacier hikes and northern lights tours during that period instead.
Iceland Hiking Trails Map
We have compiled a map of the best hikes in Iceland and grouped them into different colors:
- Green is for Iceland walking trails
- Yellow is for day hikes
- Red is for multi-day treks
Remember to assess your abilities and be prepared when trekking in Iceland.
Note: we can only highlight the starting point of the trek or the region as Google Maps doesn't have the trails marked.
The Best Hiking Trails in Iceland
Now that you're fully packed for your adventure and aware of potential hazards along the trails, you'll have to decide which hiking trails in Iceland to tackle. As previously mentioned, there are walks and treks in each of Iceland's regions, and this variety can make deciding where to hike in Iceland challenging in itself.
Some people even decide to hike across Iceland. A hike from the north coast of Iceland to the south coast of Iceland takes approximately 18 to 20 days and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. Remember, you'll need to carry all of your gear.
Shorter multi-day hikes (one to six days) are more popular; they're demanding for the average hiker but manageable. The Laugavegurinn trail and Fimmvorduhals trail are the country's most popular treks.
Other great hiking trails in Iceland to consider are found in Hornstrandir, Westfjords, Viknaslodir, and Eastfjords. Shorter half-day hikes are possible all over the country, with several options around Reykjavik.
Each national park, and most campsites, will have suggested hiking trails in the area of varying difficulty. Often you can find the best and the most up-to-date information there, so be sure to ask the campsite staff for tips and explore the maps at the national parks.
Below, we here at Guide to Iceland have compiled a list of the most popular hikes in the country. Of course, where you choose to explore is entirely up to you.
Hiking in Landmannalaugar
The Landmannalaugar highland route ("The Pools of the People") is widely regarded as one of the best treks in Iceland. The area's geothermal activity means Landmannalaugar highland's rivers and streams are warm and perfect for bathing, the optimum way to relax after a day of trekking.
On top of that, the rhyolite mountains are a kaleidoscope of oranges, greens, purples, and reds. The mountains slope elegantly like waves on a multicolored ocean. These colors have long made Landmannalaugar highland a must-see for the world's photographers. The central highlands, where Landmannalaugar rests, is only accessible in the summer months in Iceland, from late June or early July until the end of September (weather permitting).
Three major hikes can be undertaken at Landmannalaugar highland.
Laugahraun Lava Field to Brennisteinsalda Mountain Hike
This hike takes you from the edge of the raven-black Laugahraun lava field to Brennisteinsalda volcano ("Sulphur Wave") and back. Brennisteinsalda volcano is 0.5-miles (0.8-kilometers) tall, and its name derives from the large sulfur spots that dot the mountain's side. Due to the red of the iron, the dark blues of the volcanic ash, and the green of the moss, Brennisteinsalda volcano is considered the most colorful mountain in Iceland.
Distance: Four miles (6.5 kilometers)
Duration: Two to three hours
Mount Blahnjukur Hike
The second hike is to the 3,051-foot (940-meter) high summit of Mount Blahnjukur ("Blue Peak"). Throughout the hike, you'll be in awe at the dark blacks and blues of the surrounding lava flows and settled ash. The mountain sits beside Brennisteinsalda mountain, and on a clear day, one can look out at five different glaciers from its peak. This is one of the best hikes in Iceland for avid landscape photographers.
Distance: 4.1 miles (6.6 kilometers)
Duration: One to two hours
Ljotipollur Crater Lake Hike
Finally, hikers have the option of trekking to the Ljotipollur crater lake, known in English as "Ugly Puddle." Don't let the name put you off, as this hike comprehensively demonstrates the staggering diversity of the Landmannalaugar highland's landscape. The name is a disservice to the "puddle" itself. The lake is deep, beautiful, and filled with trout, surrounded by sloping red embankments and a stark contrast to the dark gravel that surrounds it.
Distance: 8.19 miles (13 kilometers)
Duration: Four hours
The Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals Hiking Trails
These two hikes are considered the best trek in Iceland and can be done together or separately. Between Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork is the Laugavegur Trail or Laugavegurinn, named after Reykjavik's main street. The trek between Thorsmork and Skogar is called Fimmvorduhals, or the Five Cairn Neck.
Iceland Laugavegur Trail
On the Laugavegurinn trail, you won't find souvenir stores, bars, cafes, clothing outlets, or galleries - only spectacular scenery. This name can confuse guests to the island, as Reykjavik's Laugavegur shopping street carries the same name as this hike in the Central Highlands.
But if it's the hike you're after, then decide which way you want to go and travel by bus to either Landmannalaugar or Thorsmork to start your long hike. Most people opt to start from Landmannalaugar as this way you ascend less in altitude.
Traditionally, the route takes two to four days with overnight stays at the mountain huts of Hrafntinnusker, Hvanngil, Emstrur, and Alftavatn. There are also mountain huts at the start and end of the hike, in Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork. If you have not booked a hut in advance, then it's also possible to camp by the huts (but you'll need to bring your tent with you).
Distance: 34 miles (55 kilometers)
Duration: Four days
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
If 34 miles (55 kilometers) isn't long enough for you, then you can extend the hike one more day by adding the Fimmvorduhals trail. It's an incredibly picturesque area between the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and Myrdalsjokull glaciers. The route begins from Thorsmork and continues for 14 miles (22 kilometers) past countless waterfalls, ice sheets, and volcanic fissures to Skogar.
If you're only planning to hike the Fimmvorduhals trail, but not the Laugavegurinn trail, it's more common to start at Skogar and end in Thorsmork. The entire hike takes around 10-12 hours, and some people decide to do it over two days, spending one night in a cabin along the way.
Hikers through the Fimmvorduhals trail will climb up to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) to navigate their way to the trail's end.
Or if you're driving yourself, you can leave your car at Hvolsvollur and hop on a day tour to Thorsmork in a Super Jeep because you'll need to cross some serious, unbridged rivers to get there. Then enjoy spending the day doing short hikes within Thorsmork.
Distance: 16 miles (25.7 kilometers)
Duration: One to two days
- See also: Hiking in Thorsmork Valley | Super Jeep Tour.
Hiking the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, photo by Mickaël Delcey. No edits made
- See also: The Westfjords of Iceland
The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, in the Westfjords, is one of the most isolated regions in the country, famous for its towering bird cliffs, complete lack of development, and the curious population of arctic foxes.
Hiking through the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve will present Icelandic nature like never before. The authenticity of such a natural environment is truly breathtaking and provides an experience unlike that found elsewhere in Iceland.
The region has no shops, no roads, and no permanent inhabitants. In essence, this is one of the ultimate Iceland backpacking trails into the wild. Hiking in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve requires one overnight stay, at the very least, so you'll have to bring everything with you from the mainland.
Photo by Jonatan Pie
Arriving at the small harbor of Hesteyri, most hikers will choose to embark on a nine-mile (15-kilometer) hike toward the picturesque bay of Hloduvik. Depending on your pace, this will usually take four to six hours. Several cabins at the bay make it an ideal place to set up camp for the night.
On your second day, you'll climb the steep slopes of Skalarkambur, a coastal mountain where you'll gain incredible panoramic views of the surrounding fjords. After reaching the other side of the mountain, you'll hike a couple of miles down into a bay called Rekavik (not to be confused with Reykjavik!).
From here, you'll continue your way to Hornvik, where you can set up camp for the night. If you have the energy to spare, it's possible to hike a further couple of hours to the farmstead at Horn, where you can also set up camp. By walking to the farmstead on your second day, you'll position yourself closer to the incredible bird cliffs (and the jewel of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve), Hornbjarg.
The Hornbjarg cliff is immediately enchanting; the scenery is a lush green field often decorated with ethereal cloud cover. Crawling (very carefully) to the cliff's edge, one will gain the perspective of a 1,640-foot (500-meter) vertical drop into the ocean, made all the more surreal by the hundreds of thousands of seabirds flying and nesting around the rock face.
Of course, use common sense while navigating your way around Hornbjarg cliff. After all, it's a very, very long way to fall. The cliff face seen in the pictures is known as Kalfatindar.
Your final day at the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve will see you hike up over a mountain pass from Hornvik bay into the fjord, Veidileysufjordur. From here, you'll take a boat back to the mainland, where we recommend a fish dinner at the famous Tjoruhusid Restaurant in Isafjordur.
Viknaslodir Hiking Trails in the Eastfjords
The Viknaslodir area in East Iceland has many hiking trails and is often called "The Trails of the Inlets." It's recommended to spend from five to 10 days hiking here. The area is split into the North and South, but it's also possible to do a highlight trek in five days. The trail is around 93.2-miles (150-kilometers) long, which is considered one of the best hikes in Iceland.
Expect dramatic mountains, spectacular seafront views, stunning beaches, beautiful fjords, colorful mountains, green valleys, and azure blue waters.
Note that hiking in this area should only be attempted in the summer season, as the roads leading to Borgarfjordur Eystri (or the East of Iceland in general) may be closed off in winter due to heavy snow. So you wouldn't even be able to reach the start of your destination, and the huts along the way are not open in the winter to keep you warm.
Borgarfjordur Eystri to Seydisfjordur Hike
Between the towns of Borgarfjordur Eystri and Seydisfjordur is a spectacular hike of 34.1 miles (55 kilometers), the same length as Laugavegurinn. The trek takes you along the coast of Eastfjords past the town of Husavik and often takes three to four days to hike.
It's most notable for the stunning view of the North Atlantic Ocean passing little farmstead and dramatic mountains.
Distance: 34.1 miles (55 kilometers)
Duration: Three to four days
Best Day Hikes in Iceland
There are plenty of shorter hikes to be found in Iceland's countryside. Many start at campsites in Iceland, and it's wise to ask the locals about the best hikes. But Iceland's three national parks also boast some beautiful and accessible hikes. Here are the best day hikes in Iceland.
Oxararfoss Waterfall Hike in the Thingvellir National Park
In the Thingvellir National Park, almost every visitor hikes through the massive gorge Almannagja. The word "hike" may not even be appropriate, as it's more of a walk. There are wide paths, many of which have wooden slats and are wheelchair-accessible.
At the top of the Almannagja gorge, you'll have a view over Iceland's largest lake, Thingvallavatn, and the Oxararfoss waterfall is just a short walk away.
Distance: 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers)
Duration: One to two hours
Arnarstapi to Hellnar Hike in the Snaefellsjokull National Park
In the Snaefellsjokull National Park, there's a popular but straightforward hike between the tiny hamlets of Arnarstapi and Hellnar on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
It takes you along the beautiful coastline, with several arched rocks, pillars, basalt columns, and a view towards the Snaefellsjokull glacier throughout the route. This walk is mostly on flat land, with minimal ups and downs on a narrow path.
Distance: 1.9 miles (3.1 kilometers)
Duration: One hour
Svartifoss Waterfall Hike in Vatnajokull National Park
In Vatnajokull National Park, there's a beautiful waterfall called Svartifoss, or the Black Falls. From the visitor center at Skaftafell Nature Reserve, it's a moderately easy hike uphill to the waterfall and downhill, returning the same way.
A few other hikes continue around, but this is the easiest one, also called the Waterfalls Trail.
Distance: Two miles (3.2 kilometers)
Duration: One hour
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Skogafoss Waterfall Hike
Skogafoss waterfall is part of the Fimmvorduhals Trails, but since it's one of the first waterfalls you encounter, you can hike there and back out. It's the most popular attraction on the south coast, dropping over 197 feet (60 meters) with a width of 82 feet (25 meters).
Distance: 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometers)
Duration: 45 minutes
Dettifoss Waterfall to Selfoss Waterfalls Hike
Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls are located in the Vatnajokull National Park near Husavik in Northeast Iceland. Selfoss waterfall is upstream from Dettifoss waterfall, and they have an east and west side. The east side is better for seeing Selfoss waterfall in all its glory, while the trek on the west side is shorter.
You can hike both trails if you're driving as both start by a car park and make for a fun project.
Distance: 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers)
Duration: One to two hours
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall to Gljufrafoss Waterfalls Hike
There's an easy hike between the Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrafoss waterfalls in South Iceland near the town of Thorsmerkurvegur. The water comes from the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, and there's a small cave behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. With a drop of 200 feet (60 meters), be prepared to get wet by the spray if you want to enter the cave.
Distance: 1.9 kilometers
Duration: 30 minutes to one hour
Gullfoss Waterfall Hike
One of the top attractions in Iceland, the Gullfoss waterfall is a wide waterfall that is part of the Golden Circle route, so it's best to visit early. Even in the winter, 358 cubic feet (109 cubic meters) of water cascade down the fall per second, making for a dramatic sight.
Distance: 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers)
Duration: 30 minutes to one hour
Hikes Around Reykjavik Area
If you're looking for the best day hikes from Reykjavik, then you have plenty of options. The following are just a few examples, and we urge you to research more options.
Hiking in the Reykjanes Peninsula
Almost all those arriving in Iceland will visit the Reykjanes peninsula at one point or another during their trip. After all, this is the home of Keflavik International Airport, the world-famous Blue Lagoon Spa, "The Bridge Between The Continents" in Sandvik, the Krysuvik geothermal area, and numerous other cultural attractions and towns.
The Reykjanes Peninsula is better for those looking to hike close to Reykjavik. The peninsula landscape is dark, diverse, cragged, and full of opportunity, be it the great swathes of geothermal activity, the hidden cave networks, the towering mountains, or the scenic coastlines.
Keilir Mountain Hike
One of the most popular and accessible hikes on the Reykjanes Peninsula is climbing to the summit of the cone-shaped, hyaloclastite mountain, Keilir. The mountain peaks at 1,280 feet (390 meters), with steep, sweeping sides challenging unfit and underprepared hikers. Due to the steep elevation, many hikers choose to summit Keilir when there's still frost on the ground to avoid slipping on the mud and loose gravel.
Distance: 4.4 miles (7.1 kilometers)
Duration: Two to three hours
Hafnir to Hafnaberg Hike
Another route available is hiking from the sleepy fishing settlement of Hafnir toward the low-lying cliffs, Hafnaberg. Hafnaberg is a local favorite amongst birdwatchers, and visitors can expect to see nesting razorbills, fulmars, guillemots, and kittiwakes, among other species.
The cliffs of Hafnaberg are also a well-known observation point for seeing whales, dolphins, and seals swimming off the Reykjanes coastline. Just make sure not to stand too close to the cliff's edge. The rocks are notoriously unstable, so best to keep a few meters back to prevent accidents.
Those partaking in the Hafnir-Hafnaberg hike will also have the opportunity to see two other significant attractions of the Reykjanes Peninsula. The first is the "Bridge Between the Continents," otherwise known as Midlina or "Leif The Lucky Bridge," a 49.2-feet (15-meter) walkway between the exposed North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. On one side of the bridge, a plaque reads "Welcome to America," on the other, "Welcome to Europe."
Distance: Driving distance is eight miles (12.8 kilometers)
Duration: 40 minutes
Hiking to Reykjadalur Hot River Valley
Photo from Hot Spring Hike of Reykjadalur Valley
Reykjadalur Valley ("Steam Valley") is another option for those looking to explore the region surrounding Reykjavik to its fullest. As the name implies, Reykjadalur is a geothermal area, as popular amongst hikers as those who enjoy relaxing in natural hot pools and rivers. Of course, there's no reason to choose one or another. Destressing your body in a hot pool is probably the best, most immediate means of relaxing your muscles post-hike.
Reykjadalur Valley is considered a semi-easy hike and encompasses a fantastic diversity of natural attractions, from steaming vents to dramatic mountainscapes to rumbling waterfalls.
Distance: 4.3 miles (seven kilometers)
Duration: Two hours each way
Hiking to Esjan Mountain
Esjan is the Reykjavik mountain, looking over the city on its outskirts. To reach the mountain's roots and the start of the hike, you can take a Straeto city bus (Nos 57 or 29). The bus stop is called "Esjuraetur - Hiking Center."
The mountain is not that tall, only 3,000 feet (914 meters), but don't let that deceive you. It's a rather demanding hike, especially near the top, where climbing is necessary. There are ropes and steps provided for the climb at the top.
It's also possible to hike only short sections of it, as the hike up is divided into six sections, with the top one being at Thverfellshorn, which is 2,560-feet (780-meters) high. This section is the most common hiking route to the top of Esjan, although other ways are also available.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Martin Putz. No edits made.
Climbing to the top is not recommended in winter except for experienced hikers. The conditions each day should always be considered, as there have been fatal incidents when an avalanche occurred during a time of year with heavy snow.
However, the views are great, and it's accessible all year round (weather depending), and the hike to the top is only around two hours and much quicker going down. If you stop at Steinn, the hike is much easier and suitable for families.
Distance: 8.7 miles (14 kilometers)
Duration: Three to four hours
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
- See also: Mount Esja Hiking and Outdoor Area
Hiking to Helgafell Mountain
About 11.7 miles (18.8 kilometers) south of Reykjavik is Helgafell mountain. It's very near to the town of Hafnarfjordur and a popular hiking destination for locals.
The mountain is only 1,152-feet (351-meters) tall, and it takes an hour and a half to hike it (so perfect for taking kids along with you). Then you're rewarded with an impressive view over Reykjavik and towards the Reykjanes peninsula.
Most people start the hike from Kaldarbotnar, where an obvious trail can be found. The first part of the path is along flat lava until you reach the northeast side of the mountain, and then you can hike up the side of the mountain, all the way to the top.
Distance: 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers)
Duration: Three to four hours
Hiking to Glymur Waterfall
Glymur waterfall is Iceland's second tallest waterfall after the Morsarfoss waterfall and is much more accessible. First, however, you must drive 31.6 miles (50.8 kilometers) from Reykjavik to the bottom of Hvalfjordur fjord.
The hike goes through a natural cave and crosses a river on a big tree trunk before climbing a fairly steep mountainside. The scenery is stunning and varied, however, and if you find the climb too tiresome, you don't need to go all the way to the top of the waterfall, and you'll be able to get a good view of it after only an hour or so of hiking.
It's possible to hike up to the top of the waterfall on both sides of the river; then, you can cross the river itself at the top of the waterfall (depending on the conditions) - only a few feet from the actual drop!
To get to the starting point, you'll need to rent a car and drive to the parking lot nearby in Botnsdalur as no bus routes are going there.
Another much longer hike called Leggjabrjotur (Legbraker) starts from the same location and ends at Thingvellir. That hike is about 11.8 miles (19 kilometers) but only goes one way.
Distance: 4.3 miles (6.9 kilometers)
Duration: About three hours to complete the loop
Best Glacier Hikes in Iceland
Some of the best glacier hikes in Iceland are near the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and perhaps the most demanding trail in the area to Iceland's tallest mountain: Hvannadalshnukur. Many glacier hike tours are part of multi-day tours that visit the stunning Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
We're only talking about glacier hikes here. See our guide to glacier tours in Iceland for other glacier activities.
Hvannadalshnukur Hike in Vatnajokull National Park
For the hike to Hvannadalshnukur mountain, you'll need plenty of stamina and an experienced mountain guide. Hikers must hike in a harness and a line, so previous experience with trekking on ice is recommended.
The Hvannadalshnukur mountain stands at 6,923 feet (2,110 meters) with many crevasses and a staggering elevation gain. It's the highest peak of the Oraefajokull volcanic glacier in Vatnajokull National Park. So while it's a beautiful hike, you should assess your abilities and gears before attempting this one.
Distance: 18 miles (28.6 kilometers)
Duration: 10 to 15 hours
Svinafellsjoukull Glacier Hike
Given the Hvannadalshnukur mountain's high hiking threshold, the most popular glacier hike destination is the Svinafellsjoukill glacier. It's an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull with many sharp ridges that make for dramatic pictures. The higher elevation also means you can see all the other glaciers and mountains of Vatnajokull National Park and beyond.
Although it's less cold in the summer, winter is the best time to visit for vivid blue color and a chance to see the ice caves. It's perfect for adventurous travelers to Iceland and one of the top-rated glacier hikes on Vatnajokull.
Falljokull Glacier Hike
The Falljokull glacier is called the "Falling Glacier" because its massive ice falls make for a stunning sight. It's an outlet glacier of Oraefajokull glacier in South Iceland, which is an outlet glacier of the Vatnajokull glacier. There's a guided glacier hiking tour on Falljokull glacier with transfers from Skaftafell, with ice cave visits possible in the winter.
Distance: Varies by tour
Duration: Three to 5.5 hours
Solheimajokull Glacier Hike
The Solheimajokull glacier in South Iceland is a closer option for those coming from Reykjavik. It's near the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, and glacier hikers might sometimes glimpse the volcano.
It stands out with the lack of tall mountains around it, providing an incredible view, and the nature of the ice means ice climbing is possible. You can either opt for a glacier hiking tour to Solheimajokull glacier or combine it on a more extended day trip.
Additional Hiking Locations in Iceland
The regions mentioned above are only a selection of the best hiking in Iceland. For those arriving, be content in the knowledge that pretty much wherever you go in Iceland, there is an excellent place for hiking or a nice Icelandic walk.
Other notable regions include the area surrounding Lake Myvatn, such as Dimmuborgir lava field and Hverfjall volcano, various locations in South Iceland, the coastlines of the southern part of the Eastfjords, the Snaefellsnes peninsula, and more areas in the Icelandic Highlands, such as the Kerlingarfjoll mountain range or Hveravellir geothermal area.
So don't delay! Time to plan your trekking in Iceland and experience for yourself the majesty of "The Land of Fire and Ice!"
Did you enjoy our article about hiking in Iceland? What hiking routes would you pick or recommend? Please, feel free to leave your thoughts and queries in the comments box below.
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