Commonly known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”, Iceland features some of Europe’s most impressive glaciers as well as some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Iceland offers hiking aficionados some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. Indeed, there are gorgeous views of dark lava fields, sparkling blue waters, and lush green valleys. Below is a look at some of the top places for hiking in Iceland.
The Fimmvörðuháls Mountain Pass
If you are looking for a great way to become acclimated to Iceland’s weather and terrain, you may prefer to start your hiking expedition off with a simple day hike. Starting with a hike that you can comfortably complete in one day is a great option for overseas visitors. Indeed, they can work through any jet lag or fatigue as you adjust to Iceland’s air and time zone.
One of Iceland’s top day hikes is The Fimmvörðuháls Mountain Pass. Featuring two volcanic craters and over 20 waterfalls, The Fimmvörðuháls pass begins in Skógar and concludes at the Thorsmork Nature Park. Depending on your fitness level, you can complete this hike in about 8 to 14 hours. Instead, you cam also opt to break the trek up into two shorter excursions. If you would prefer to start slowly, you can participate in a guided tour. Regardless of whether you choose to explore the area in a group or on your own, you will marvel at the area’s lava formations.
“Begin the day at the black-sand beach of Reynisfjara, then hike up the Reynisfjall mountain and cross to the picturesque village of Vík. Drive to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, home to the Systrafoss waterfall and an unusual basalt rock formation known as the ‘church floor.” – National Geographic
Reynisfjall is one of the most popular mountains to explore on Iceland’s South Coast. Approximately three miles long, Reynisfjall is over 1,100 feet tall and towers over two of Iceland’s most popular vacation spots: Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar. Hikers can start their day on the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara and make their way up Reynisfjall across to Kirkjubæjarklaustur to view the gorgeous Systrafoss Waterfall.
The Askja Trek
If you now ready for a serious hiking challenge, then you need to head to the Askja Trek. Considered to be Iceland’s most impressive trek, Askja consists of about 60 miles of less-traveled paths that navigate through Iceland’s largest continuous lava field.
If you are planning to hike through Askja, be sure to plan ahead as facilities along the trail are sparse. For many seasoned hikers, the highlight of the Askja Trek is the moment you cast your eyes upon the stunning Askja caldera, which is a huge volcanic crater that features a deep geothermal lake filled with sapphire blue water. Askja might be one of Iceland’s most challenging treks, but the breathtaking view of the caldera is well worth the wait. You can even go for a swim in the water!
The Laugavegur Trek
“Iceland’s most famous hiking trail leads through thrilling landscapes of black lava fields, steaming hot springs, colorful rhyolite mountains, black deserts, and moss-painted oases. It’s been dubbed one of the most amazing adventures to be had in Iceland!” – Trek Iceland
Located in the southwest region of Iceland, the Laugavegur Trek has gained global notoriety for its breathtaking black lava fields, chocolate-covered mountains, glaciers, and lush valleys. However, hiking aficionados often gravitate to the Laugavegur Trek to see its world-famous hot springs (Laugavegur translates to “Hot Spring Route” in English). With a maximum ascent of 1607 feet, you can expect a lot of up and down climbing. But well-traveled paths help to make the 34-mile trek a great choice for most fairly seasoned hikers.
The Hornstrandir Trek
Northwest Iceland is also home to many hiking paths. Topping the list of most impressive hikes in the region is The Hornstrandir Trek. There are many reasons why Hornstrandir is famous within the global hiking community. First, Hornstrandir is in an extremely remote location within the Westfjords. You will need a boat to access the nature reserve and there is no cell phone reception. Hikers seeking exposure to an area that is virtually untouched will love exploring the less-traveled hiking paths of Hornstrandir. You need 6 days to complete this hike, during which you may encounter foxes, field mice, birds, and even seals.
If you plan to visit Hornstrandir, remember that you will need to devote extra time to prepare for your hike due to the area’s remote location. Be sure to bring extra food and water in addition to a durable tent. And with storms and snowfall often occurring with little advance notice, you should bring plenty of warm, waterproof clothing.
The Glymur Waterfall Hike
A great way to cap off your Iceland hiking expedition is to hike around the Glymur Waterfall. This hike is popular because the Glymur is Iceland’s second-highest waterfall. While a good pair of hiking boots is definitely a must, hiking paths are well-traveled. Thus, they are not very demanding for hikers without significant experience.
Water lovers often gravitate to the Glymur Waterfall Hike because it features two rivers that hikers need to cross by foot. You will also encounter a breathtaking cave named Þvottahellir that leads to a stellar view of the waterfall. The Glymur Waterfall Hike can be completed in one day, enabling hikers to comfortably finish their hike and enjoy a leisurely dinner afterward at nearby Hotel Glymur. The experts with Best Hiking offer some helpful logistical tips if you are planning to enjoy this hike:
“From the nearest parking place you will have an approximately 5 kilometers long hike going through a very alternating landscape. The bad news is that this parking place cannot be reached by public transport; you will have to rent a car… You could also try to book a tour with a tourist agency, but this will be almost as expensive as renting a car for a whole day.” – Best Hiking
How Should You Prepare to Go Hiking in Iceland?
Hiking is similar to other travel experiences because advance planning can make a good trip a GREAT one. Failure to plan in advance can be dangerous for hikers. Especially in Iceland where hikers are exposed to extreme contrasts in temperatures. Whether you are a native to Iceland or visiting, you should follow the tips below before hiking.
1) Pack Carefully
Iceland’s volatile weather shifts can make it difficult to know exactly what clothing to bring. The Iceland Travel team notes that “you may experience four seasons in one day,” highlighting the need to layer your clothing and protect yourself from the elements.
2) Bring Plenty of Water
The water running through Iceland’s rivers and streams is deemed to be some of the cleanest water in the world. However, some of the hikes above are prone to shortages in drinking water. Thus, it is a good idea to bring bottled water with you to remain hydrated.
3) Book Accommodations Early
Some of Iceland’s best treks have huts and other lodging accommodations scattered about. If you are interested in this type of lodging, it is a good idea to book your stay in advance.
4) Always Notify a Friend or Family Member of Your Plans
Even the most seasoned hikers are not fully immune to the problems that can unfold. Sudden temperature changes, crashing ocean waves, and volcanic eruptions are dangers that can derail your hike. Make sure you notify at least one friend or family member of your hiking plans.
5) Know the Phone Number for Icelandic Emergency Services
Iceland is proud so offer some of the best emergency services in the world. Some important phone numbers for hikers include Emergency Services (112), the Police Station (444-1000), and Search and Rescue (570-5900).
What Is the Key to Maximizing Hiking in Iceland?
Whether you are an independent explorer or a fun-seeking globetrotter, you likely want to gain the most out of your hiking experience. The best way to maximize your hiking expedition is to rent a car to travel from one hiking location to the next. An experienced car rental company can ensure that you are equipped with a dependable vehicle that will safely transport you from the woods of Kjarnaskógur in the North to the loose, rocky terrain of the southern region of Iceland. And as noted above, the cost of renting a car is often surprisingly affordable.We invite you to Find your rental car in Iceland here at Lagoon Car Rental. We look forward to making your hiking experience in Iceland unforgettable!Back