As the winter season is approaching and COVID-19 doesn’t seem to go away, it’s best to postpone some major travel plans for 2021. Hiking in Iceland is wonderful, as there are trails everywhere. You can get a lot out of Iceland just by driving around and sightseeing the most popular landmarks as they’re famous for a reason, but there’s nothing else like getting slightly more remote. There’s something magical about making a physical effort to take yourself to beautiful spaces. Here you can find a few stunning day hikes in Iceland that are the cherry on top of your Iceland experience If you’re up to any hike, you’re welcome to check out our hiking offers – you’ll definitely find something for yourself!
TIP: Get a free AllTrails app available both on Android an iOS to get very precise information about hiking trails, maps, stats, opinions and tips. It saves a lot of time and allows you to research hikes without biased opinions 🙂
Elevation gain: 407m
Route type: loop/out and back
Located in gorgeous Hvalfjörður only an hour drive from Reykjavik, it’s the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. It’s only accessible by hiking that can be quite challenging for some. It requires two river crossings. The first one is equipped with a log and a rope but the log is there only for a fraction of time – from June through September. It’s done for safety reasons as the hike gets very difficult during colder months and more severe weather. The other crossing is located above the waterfall so the current is usually slower-paced and the river is not that deep. It’s highly recommended to bring water shoes or at least some rubber sandals or slips that can prevent cutting your feet on the sharp stones’ edges. Keep in mind that if it has been a very rainy weather, the current is much stronger and the river can get even impassable!
There are actually a few ways that the waterfall can be reached. The main trail directs you through the river onto the right side of it. Then you hike all the way up to the waterfall. You can go back (although now recommended) or cross the river once again. After the crossing you’ve got two choices: going down to the parking lot following the trail located right near to the left side of the river OR going down through the mountains. The second option is way safer and definitely not so steep. It’s great to have choices as you can choose whatever fits your fitness level! It’s also possible to reach the waterfall only with the trail that leads through the hills but it won’t allow you to see it in its full glory – the full view is only visible from the right side of the river. It’s still a stunning hike whichever route you’ll choose 🙂 Bringing hiking poles is a fab idea!
Difficulty: moderate to hard
Elevation gain: 745m
Route type: loop
Esja is the mountain range almost always visible from Reykjavik, right across the bay. It’s a popular weekend destination for the locals, not so known for tourists. It’s not technically difficult, anyone with a decent fitness level should make their way to the (almost) top. The tricky part begins after reaching Steinn, one of the points. 95% of people hiking this range stops there, as the last part of the trail leading straight to the top is hard, rocky and unstable. There are a few chains that help you to get to the top and then down. It’s not recommended trying to reach the summit if you’re an inexperienced hiker.
The hike itself provides a wonderful view on Reykjavik city along with other towns. If the visibility is good, it’s also possible to see Reykjanes and Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It’s a great hike if you have an extra day around the capital. It’s only 30min drive from the city centre and it takes you to a place that’s so raw and beautiful. If you’re not planning on doing some more challenging hiking, the area still offers a bunch of family trails that run across the woods. It’s definitely recommended to do this hike during summer months and during the week, possibly in the early hours as it can get slightly crowded on the weekends. Again – hiking poles can be useful!
REYKJADALUR HOT SPRING RIVER
Elevation gain: 299m
Route type: out and back
One of the most famous trails in Iceland and it’s definitely famous for a reason. You don’t get to bathe in a hot spring river every day! It’s located just outside Hveragerði, a town in South Iceland. It’s a relatively easy hike, the trail is very wide as the number of visitors is immense. Therefore it’s advised to get to the trailhead as early as you can, it really gets crowded no matter the season. If you visit the place during wintertime, it’s wise to wear spikes – the steeper sections covered in ice are no friend.
Once you get to the river, you can easily change to your swimsuit in outside changing facilities – just keep in mind that there are no closed ones, every single of them is separated only with two walls. If you’re slightly shy, you have to know that nudity is completely normal in Iceland and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You can easily adjust the warmth of the water just by going higher up the stream or lower. It’s a stunning geothermal area surrounded by mountains which combined give you an unforgettable experience.
LANDMANNALUAGAR (Mount Bláhnúkur Loop)
Elevation gain: 383m
Route type: loop
Landmannalaugar is possibly the most popular hiking area in the whole of Iceland. With its rainbow-like coloured mountains, the views are simply mesmerizing. It’s an area that offers endless possibilities for hiking with different difficulties and lengths. The Mount Bláhnúkur loop is the perfect one for most people who don’t aim to spend more than one day in this area but it still gives you breathtaking experience. There’s also a possibility to cut the trail and hike only the small, short loop of it which takes about 2h and it’s 5km long. If you’d like to lengthen your hike, that’s absolutely no problem as well – the perfectly precise trails are all marked up on the AllTrails app. It’s a saviour!
Bláhnúkur mountain translates to Blue Peak mountain and it’s definitely one of the most known peaks in the area. It stands out with its colours against the other orange-like rhyolite hills. It’s definitely a challenging hike with the steep slopes but at the same time, it’s a rewarding one. It’s worth being prepared for any kind of weather as you’re not only in the mountain area but also in the island’s interior, which makes the weather highly unpredictable. Hiking poles come in handy!
Stórurð (Víknaslóðir Routes Borgarfjörður Eystri)
Elevation gain: 688m
Route type: loop
That’s definitely the longest hike amongst the others suggested here. It’s a part of an extremely extensive network of hiking paths located near Borgarfjörður Eystri in the Northern part of Eastfjords. It’s called Víknaslóðir Routes which translated to Trails of the Inlets, as most of the farms were abandoned in 1940s. It’s not a set route where you get from point A to point B. There’s such a vast variety of trails that you can create your very own itinerary. You can get the general idea of it from this map, although it’s available to purchase at all local tourist businesses in the area.
If you’re not able or don’t want to hike the area for a multiple days, the route to Stórurð and back is perfect to get the most of it in just one single day. It translates to The Giant Boulders, which are surrounded by vast meadows, little ponds of melted ice from nearby glacier and rugged tuff mountains. You definitely have to be fit and in general good health to get through this hike. It’s challenging and takes one full day, although it’s possible to shorten the distance by choosing different path. The area is basically untouched by humans and thanks to the remote location you barely meet anyone on the trail. The hike begins in Vatnskarð Service Centre. Make sure you pack everything necessary for a whole day hike and you’re prepared for any kind of weather.
Skógafoss Extended Hike
Elevation gain: 350m
Route type: out and back
This stunning hike is a part of the second most famous one in Iceland – the Fimmvörðuháls hike. The full hike takes a full day (25km) one way depending on your fitness level but if someone’s not in a rush, it’s recommended to split it to two days. Therefore the best option for most people if to take the Skógafoss extended hike to soak in Icelandic nature in its pure raw form.
The route begins at the Skógafoss waterfall near the Ring Road. Whilst most tourists spend their time admiring it from below, you can take the stairs up which get you to the starting point of the hike. The difficulty is moderate, it’s definitely not an easy stroll. Along the way you’re going to see multiple waterfalls on the Skóga river surrounded by lush greenery and glaciers on the horizon. The major advantage of this hike is that you can turn around whenever it’s suitable for you, although it’s highly recommended to walk up to the point where Skóga river meets with the Króksa river. You can walk as long as you like and breathe in the pure Icelandic air.
Sjónarnípa, Svartifoss, and Magnúsarfoss
Elevation gain: 265m
Route type: loop
A gorgeous hike placed in the neighbourhood of astonishing glacier view. With its moderate length and difficulty, it takes you on a 3h long journey through Skaftafell National Park. Located near Route 1, it’s easily accessible.
The hike gets slightly steep but it should be doable for any fitness levels. It’s advised to go counter-clockwise for better views and clockwise for the slightly easier trek. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to admire 2 stunning waterfalls and an incredible view over the Skaftafell glacier. The fact that you can walk along the glacier and admire the view is mind-blowing! Many claims that it’s their favourite hike in Iceland and it speaks for itself.