Home to towering waterfalls, sprawling volcanic fields and bubbling hot springs, Iceland is swiftly becoming one of the world’s most popular wilderness destinations. For those wanting to experience its natural wonders up close, there are countless hiking trails dotted across the country – ranging from a half hour stroll to a multi-day trek. Here are a handful of our favourite hiking trails, suiting a range of abilities, which showcase the highlights of the Land of Ice and Fire.
A short bus ride from Reykjavik, the small town of Hveragerdi is home to hot springs, hiking trails and warm hospitality. The main trail is an ideal route for hikers of all levels. Apart from occasional inclines, it is not particularly strenuous and is also dotted with plenty of viewpoints for you to enjoy on route.
From the trailhead, a 3km path winds across the landscape to a set of geothermal pools, entirely overlooked by mountain peaks. For those wanting a slightly longer route, it is possible to scale one of the small mountains surrounding the pools and enjoy the view from the summit.
Alternatively, simply take some time to relax in the geothermal waters before making a short descent back to the main car park.
2. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Famous for its isolation, Hornstrandir was once home to farming communities but hardship and famine saw its villages abandoned in the mid 20th Century. It is now known as one of the most pristine and untouched areas of natural beauty in Iceland. Tucked away in the north west of the country, its wildflower strewn meadows are only accessible by ferry during the summer months.
There are multi-day hiking trails available but for a day hike, the best route to take is from Adalvik to Heysteri. The ferries arrive at Adalvik in the morning and a 5-6 hour trail will take you to Heysteri, another port which offers afternoon pick ups.
Having crossed the abandoned settlement of Adalvik and passed the town’s ruined church, you’ll ascend mist clad hills alongside a large alpine lake. From the top, you will enjoy spectacular views over the bays and fjords below. Descend down to black pebble beaches and follow their paths to Heysteri, a second abandoned village.
In the summer months, local families open small cafes here – offering the perfect place to rest your legs before returning to the mainland.
3. The Fimmvorduhals Pass
Stretching over 25km, Fimmvorduhals Pass is one of Iceland’s most scenic and diverse day hikes. The trail is split into three distinct sections, the first of which follows the Skoga River – widely known as Waterfall Way.
26 cascading waterfalls dot the trail, each as spectacular as the last, as it winds its way towards a narrow bridge across the river. This first part of the hike is fairly easy going with even terrain and can be turned into a loop back to the trailhead for those who don’t wish to tackle the whole trail.
Upon crossing the bridge, the second section of the route begins – the Volcanic Plateau. The lush greenery of the river canyon swiftly turns to rocky volcanic outcrops as the path bends between two formidable glaciers.
In this area, there are guesthouse options for those who wish to split the hike across two days. Ahead, you will see two mountains: Magni and Móði. At only six years old, they are the two youngest mountains in the world and, if you dig below the rocky surface, you can still feel heat radiating from the magma far below.
From here you enter the third section, the descent to Thórsmörk. A short descent will bring you to a wide plateau which drops down to the Krossá river. Once you are alongside it, simply follow its path for 4.5km until you reach the end of the trail.
4. The Latrabjarg Cliff
Known for its nesting puffin populations, the Latrabjarg Cliffs are a must-see destination for avian enthusiasts. One of the biggest bird cliffs in the world, it is also home to razorbills, guillemots, white-tailed eagles and ringed plovers and there are no restrictions on hiking even in nesting season.
They build their nests in crags of the sheer rock face which overlook the ocean below and gather in large numbers between June and August.
Because the cliffs are so steep, they are best accessed from the Bjargtangar car park. This is located at the western side of the cliffs and has a footpath which runs all the way east to Heiðnakinn, the cliff’s highest peak. The whole loop is around 13 kilometres but it is easy to turn back before the summit if you choose to.
5. Glymur Waterfall
Towering at 198 metres, Glymur is Iceland’s highest waterfall and, many claim, one of its most picturesque. The trailhead can be easily accessed from Reykjavik and most hikers allow 2.5 hours for the whole loop.
The first half of the journey is relatively flat and well sign posted, the path winds between imposing mountains and through wide caves until it reaches the Glymur River. There are stepping stones leading across and a rope to hold onto but watch your step as it can become slippery.
On the other side, the path bends steeply upwards until you reach a rocky plateau overlooking the waterfall. From here, you can enjoy an incredible view of the cascading waters before making your way back down to the start point.
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