Whether you’re looking for a short day-hike or a multiple-day hiking adventure, Iceland offers a wide variety of established hikes that all offer something unique and memorable. The majority of visitors to Iceland keep to the well-trodden tourist routes. Following trails into the wilderness, you’ll be privileged to see amazing landscapes few people ever witness.
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The Glymur Waterfall Hike
This is a relatively short and easy hike that will help you escape the tourist crowds. Glymur is the 2nd-highest waterfall in Iceland with a drop of 650 feet. It is less visited than other famous waterfalls because it is only accessible on foot.
The 3.8-mile path is well-trodden and clearly signposted. The ascent is 1,180 feet, so there are some steep portions. It should take you around 6 hours. The route takes you through a small cave on the riverbank and across a river twice on foot over logs. You’ll benefit from fantastic views of a lush canyon and several smaller but pretty waterfalls along the way. The Glymur Waterfall Hike is found at the end of Hvalfjörður.
The Fimmvörduháls Volcano Hike
This challenging 10-mile hike takes you through Fimmvörduháls Pass in Thórsmörk, one of the most popular hiking areas in Iceland. You’ll visit 2 volcanic craters formed during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. Remember when all the airplanes stopped flying?
You’ll climb 2,625 feet along a well-trodden trail and the return journey should take around 12 hours. Along the way, you’ll pass through a lush birch forest and experience breathtaking views of the surrounding snow-topped highlands. At the end of this trek, you’ll reach Modi and Magni, the 2 new volcanic craters. Most of the hike is moderately difficult, but there are some steep climbs that increase the overall difficulty level.
If you think this volcano trail sounds like your kind of thing, consider opting for the 2-day Fimmvörduháls Trek found in the Multiple-Day Hikes section below. Staying out in the wilderness overnight gives you a better chance to see the Northern Lights. However, the best way to view the Aurora Borealis is on a specialized Northern Lights tour.
The Snæfellsjökull Summit Hike
If you want to get away from the tourist crowds, this is a great hike. Jules Verne fans may recognize the name of Snæfellsjökull Volcano because it appears in his novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. The summit provides breathtaking views across the whole Snæfellsnes Peninsula and getting there gives you an amazing sense of achievement.
This is a difficult trail that should only be attempted in good weather during the summer. Hikers who do not have extensive mountain climbing and glacier hiking experience should only attempt this with a guide. The path is unmarked and crosses glacier terrain with steep sections and crevices. Although the trail is only 4 ½ miles long, it ascends 2,500 feet and will take around 12 hours.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is the most northerly peninsula in Iceland and located to the north of the Westfjords. Inaccessible by road, it is known for its dramatic landscapes and remote setting. Because there are no roads leading to this area, it must be reached by ferry from the town of Isafjörður.
There are multiple hiking trails around the nature reserve varying in length from 6.2 miles to 9.3 miles. Some of them are challenging and none are considered easy. The trails are poorly signed, so a GPS unit is advised.
The Honrstrandir Panorama Trail is the most challenging with an ascent of 1,640 feet. The view of Jökulfirdir Bay from the highest point is spectacular. The Green Cliffs Trail follows the top of the cliffs and is great for birdwatching and the possibility of encountering Arctic foxes and, on very rare occasions, polar bears who occasionally enter the park on drift ice. There is also a chance you might see whales out in the bay during the summer. However, the best way to see whales in Iceland is on a whale-watching cruise.
What to Pack?
To reach the most remote areas of Iceland, you should go on a multiple-day hike.
The Fimmvörduháls Trek
This popular 14-mile trail is a longer route to the Fimmvörduháls volcano than the day hike above. The trail starts above the famous Skógafoss Waterfall in Skógar. You follow the river into the mountains along a scenic canyon passing several more picturesque waterfalls. The trail then ascends to a mountain top where you can stay overnight in a hut.
At dawn, you can visit the new Magni and Modi volcanic craters. The route down from the craters passes between 3 glaciers and enters the beautiful Thórsmörk Valley. The Fimmvörduháls Trek takes 2 days and involves 3,300 feet of climbing. Some people combine this trail with the following Laugavegur Trek for an amazing 6-day hiking adventure.
The Laugavegur Trek
If you want to enjoy a truly epic, 4-day hiking adventure, the Laugavegur Trek is perfect. The total distance is 34 miles, but the journey is not too arduous. In fact, this is Iceland’s most popular hiking trail.
The trail begins in the Laudmannalaugar Valley, which is known for its natural hot springs. The route continues through black lava fields and is surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain scenery. Following a climb across a snowy peak, the trail enters a valley of green meadows. There is also a canyon to traverse and several rivers to cross on foot.
The final portion of the route passes through a birch forest and enters Thórsmörk Valley, where you can pick up the Fimmvörduháls Trek for a longer adventure.