Iceland is a land of breathtaking natural beauty, from cascading waterfalls to volcanic landscapes. One of the best ways to explore this stunning country is by hitting the hiking trails. However, before you embark on your adventure, it’s essential to be well-prepared for the unpredictable Icelandic weather. In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the top hiking places in Iceland and provide you with valuable information to make your journey unforgettable.
- Distance from Reykjavik: Approximately 180 kilometers (112 miles)
- Average Hike Duration: 3 to 4 hours (varies based on the trail)
- What to Expect: Landmannalaugar is known for its colorful rhyolite mountains, hot springs, and diverse hiking trails. The scenery is surreal, with geothermal pools contrasting against the stark landscapes. Hikes here range from short and easy to more challenging, like the Laugavegur Trail, which can take 3-4 days. Be prepared for sudden weather changes and bring warm clothing even in summer.
Landmannalaugar is also a popular starting point for the Laugavegur Trek, which is considered one of the most scenic long-distance hikes in the world. This multi-day adventure covers approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles) and takes you through a remarkable variety of landscapes, from colorful mountains to black deserts, and finally to lush green valleys. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stay in huts or camp in the wild, immersing yourself in Iceland’s untamed beauty.
2. Þórsmörk (Thorsmork)
- Distance from Reykjavik: Approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles)
- Average Hike Duration: 1 to 5 hours (depending on the trail)
- What to Expect: Þórsmörk is a lush valley nestled between glaciers and is a hiker’s paradise. The trails vary in difficulty, making it suitable for all levels of hikers. You’ll encounter roaring rivers, verdant hillsides, and stunning views of glaciers. Be sure to check weather conditions before embarking on longer hikes, as river crossings can be challenging.
One of the must-do hikes in Þórsmörk is the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which connects Þórsmörk to Skógar. This challenging but rewarding trek takes you through a dramatic landscape of craters, lava fields, and waterfalls. It’s a full-day adventure that offers an incredible sense of accomplishment when you reach Skógar. Along the way, you can explore the rugged beauty of Þórsmörk, which is home to diverse flora and fauna, including Arctic birch forests.
- Distance from Reykjavik: Approximately 330 kilometers (205 miles)
- Average Hike Duration: 2 to 6 hours (varies by trail)
- What to Expect: Skaftafell, part of Vatnajökull National Park, boasts dramatic landscapes, including glaciers and waterfalls. The most popular hike is to Svartifoss, a waterfall framed by basalt columns. For more experienced hikers, the trail to Kristínartindar offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area. Weather can change rapidly, so carry appropriate gear.
Skaftafell is a paradise for glacier enthusiasts. Guided glacier hikes are available, allowing you to explore the icy wonders of the Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue. These tours provide a unique opportunity to witness the ever-changing world of glaciers, with their intricate ice formations and azure blue crevasses. The juxtaposition of lush greenery and icy landscapes in Skaftafell creates a surreal and captivating experience for hikers.
4. Snæfellsjökull National Park
- Distance from Reykjavik: Approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles)
- Average Hike Duration: 2 to 4 hours (depending on the trail)
- What to Expect: The Snæfellsjökull National Park is famous for its mystical landscapes and the imposing Snæfellsjökull volcano. The hiking trails here lead to sea cliffs, lava fields, and even the glacier-covered summit of Snæfellsjökull. Weather on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula can be unpredictable, so pack accordingly.
The Snæfellsjökull volcano, often called the “gateway to the center of the Earth,” is a popular destination. The hike to the summit offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the North Atlantic Ocean. On clear days, you can see all the way to the Westfjords and the Reykjanes Peninsula. Snæfellsjökull has long been associated with supernatural phenomena and is the setting for Jules Verne’s classic novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
5. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
- Distance from Reykjavik: Approximately 350 kilometers (217 miles)
- Average Hike Duration: Varies (1 day to multi-day hikes available)
- What to Expect: If you’re seeking solitude and untouched wilderness, Hornstrandir is the place to be. It’s a remote and rugged region in the Westfjords, known for its dramatic cliffs, seabird colonies, and Arctic foxes. Hikes range from easy day trips to challenging multi-day treks. Keep in mind that services are limited in this area, so be well-prepared.
Hornstrandir is a true wilderness adventure. The lack of roads and infrastructure means that visitors must rely on their own skills and preparedness. Multi-day treks in Hornstrandir can take you to the most remote corners of Iceland, where you can immerse yourself in pristine nature and experience a sense of isolation that’s hard to find elsewhere. Along the way, you’ll likely encounter Arctic foxes, seals, and a wide variety of bird species, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.
Preparing for Icelandic Weather
Iceland’s weather is notoriously fickle. Even in summer, you can experience rain, wind, and even snow. Here are some additional tips for preparing:
- Food and Water: Carry enough food and water, as there may be limited access to supplies on some trails.
- Camping: If you plan to camp, be aware of camping regulations and always camp in designated areas.
- Wildlife: Respect Iceland’s fragile ecosystem and the wildlife you may encounter on your hikes.
- Permits: Some areas, like Hornstrandir, may require permits. Research and obtain any necessary permits in advance.
Iceland’s hiking trails offer an unforgettable journey through some of the most stunning landscapes on Earth. Whether you’re an experienced trekker or a novice explorer, there’s a trail for you. Just remember to prepare for the ever-changing Icelandic weather, and you’ll have an incredible adventure. Each of these hiking destinations offers a unique experience, from geothermal wonders to glacial vistas and remote wilderness. So, which Icelandic hiking trail will you conquer first?
As you plan your hiking adventure in Iceland, take the time to research each trail. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable hiking adventure in Iceland! Contact us today to get started on planning your Iceland trip.