Hiking in Iceland: A Guide

Samuel Clennett
31.03.20
4 minute read

Hiking in Iceland is utterly thrilling. The country offers an extraordinarily diverse landscape, from national parks, lakes and hot springs to colourful mountains and lava fields.

Iceland is criss-crossed with hiking trails across its rugged, wild terrain, making it a popular choice for outdoor adventurers.

If you’re planning to hit Iceland’s hiking trails soon, get yourself a TransferWise MasterCard before you travel. It’s the ultimate travel money card, letting you spend in Icelandic króna (ISK) like a local. You won’t have to put up with poor deals at the foreign exchange bureau, as your MasterCard gives you the real exchange rate on every transaction.

Now, let’s talk hiking.

Hiking in Iceland

Iceland is a land of endless opportunity for hikers. Many of the most memorable experiences are challenging multi-day treks off the beaten path, where you can immerse yourself in the wild landscape.

The most popular of these is the 6-day Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls trek, named one of the world’s best hiking trails by the National Geographic. ¹

Needless to say, you’ll need stamina, a passion for nature and some pretty high-performance kit to survive and thrive on these multi-day hikes in Iceland.

But if you prefer a slower pace, don’t worry. You’ll also find easier trails in Iceland, offering the chance to visit majestic waterfalls and tranquil glacier lagoons. There are many hikes near Reykjavík too, so you can get your nature fix after just a short drive.

Best hiking trails in Iceland

Here’s our rundown of some of the top hiking trails in Iceland, so you can start planning the trip of a lifetime⁷,⁸,⁹,¹⁰,¹¹.

  1. Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls Combined Trek

One of the world’s top hiking trails, this very special expedition takes around 6 days and is best for experienced hikers. It combines two of the most famous trails in Iceland, but you can also tackle them separately if you prefer. You’ll hike through a geothermal oasis, vivid coloured mountains, steaming and bubbling hot springs and much more.

  1. Snæfellsjökull National Park

One of three national parks in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull offers a network of trails for hikers of all abilities. Camp overnight under the stars, or day trip to the park to tackle a fabulous one-hour hike along the Nedstavatn trail. This connects the coast to the edge of a glacier, and onto a breathtaking ravine.

  1. Skógafoss Waterfall

If you’re looking for an easy hike with a big payoff, drive a couple of hours from Reykjavík to the base of Skógafoss Waterfall. This is the perfect spot for a photo opportunity, but you can also enjoy a one-hour hike up to the top of the waterfall and along a plateau. Hike for as long as you like before heading home.

  1. Reykjadalur Hot Springs

Iceland is known for its volcanic landscape and hot springs, which is why hikes such as this trip to Reykjadalur are so popular with visitors. Just a 40-minute drive from Reykjavík, this trail offers a three-hour hike of waterfalls, steamy basalt landscapes and of course, geothermal springs. Don’t forget your bathers!

  1. Hornstrandir Nature Reserves

Head out to the Westfjords for a two-day hike along the bird cliffs of Hornstrandir. This remote region is both beautiful and barren, windswept and vibrant. You’ll see wildlife aplenty, but be ready for a challenging experience.

  1. Mount Esja Trail

This is one of the best hikes near Reykjavík, a strenuous climb up to the conical peak of the volcano. Taking around 4 hours, you’ll see forest, wildflowers and fantastic views down on Iceland’s capital.

  1. Glymur Waterfall

A relatively easy hike, this trail takes around 4-6 hours and takes you to the highest waterfall in Iceland. You’ll need to be brave enough to cross rivers and tackle steep climbs, but this quieter trail offers tempting rewards. You’ll enjoy thrilling viewpoints, enchanting caves and lush greenery, as well as the waterfall itself.

  1. Brennisteinsalda-Bláhnúkur Loop

This trail is in Landmannalaugar, a 5-6-hour circular walk taking in two of the region’s most incredible mountains. The route offers both highland hiking and hot spring bathing – the perfect way to soothe those aching muscles. Along the way, you’ll see black obsidian lava fields and climb steep inclines to the peaks of first a yellow and then a blue mountain. At the top, enjoy your reward – the views of the surrounding mountains and lava fields.

Guided tours

Iceland’s landscape is undoubtedly beautiful, but it can also be extremely hazardous for novice hikers. Many of the top hiking destinations are remote, and conditions can be tough. This is why if you’re planning a multi-day trek in Iceland, it’s best to join a guided hiking group.

You’ll also learn far more about the wildlife, biodiversity and culture of Iceland from a knowledgeable guide.

Guided hiking tours start from around $158 AUD² for a 6-hour hike to Glymur Waterfall³, while a 6-day Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls Combined Trek⁴ would set you back around $2059 AUD⁵.

Things to watch out for when hiking in Iceland

One of the biggest concerns for any hiker is always the weather. In Iceland, weather patterns are very unpredictable⁶ – so make sure you pack for snow, hailstones and bright sunshine all at the same time.

Trails can easily become impassable in Iceland’s wild landscapes, due to snow, ice, blizzards and even fog. Take local advice, understand the limits of your abilities and avoid hiking in poor conditions, as it could be dangerous. If unsure, stick to the safety of a guided hiking tour or group expedition.

Ready for your Icelandic hiking adventure? You can look forward to some of the most dramatic scenery on Earth, whether seen from a mountain peak or the comfort of a bubbling hot spring. You’ll need more than one visit this wonderful country to see and do it all.

Sources:

  1. Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork & Fimmvorduhals Volcano
  2. Conversion Rate
  3. Day Tours
  4. More Tours
  5. Eur To Aud
  6. Guide to Iceland
  7. Hiking Routes
  8. More Hiking Routes
  9. Even More Hiking Routes
  10. Best Hiking Routes
  11. Day Trips from Reykjavik

All sources accurate as of 11-March 2020.

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