To climb mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, and glaciers through uncharted trails that lead to the highlands colored in flora and fauna, untouched hot springs, and tallest summits is an experience worth living. And the variety of hiking and trekking activities during summers and winters that includes being in the wild for weeks and climbing to the summits of some of the tallest waterfalls and mountains makes Iceland the ultimate destination for fearless hikers.
Some of the wildest and the most famous trails that are open during the summers are not that crowded. It can be challenging for non-trekkers or hikers to climb in winters but summer can be a great time for these adventures.
For those of you who want to watch the changing landscapes of Iceland, make hiking one of the top activities you want to do in Iceland. Here is the list of five trails you should definitely consider hiking on your trip.
1. The Laugavegur Trail
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The 34.2-mile trail starts from Landmannalaugar geothermal area and ends in Thórsmörk valley (also called Þórsmörk) in remote southern Iceland. Be prepared to camp in the wild, walk through black deserts formed from volcanic lava and valleys covered in sheets of bright green fauna, bathe in hot springs, watch tall waterfall, steaming geysers and beautiful craters during this multi-day hike. In addition to these activities, the scenic landscape makes Laugavegur the most famous trail in Iceland.
Accessibility: The trail opens in summer (mid-June through mid-September) and it is recommended to take a guided tour and carry GPS and maps. It is not a children-friendly trail and minimum age requirement to go on the trek is 15 years. Some tours include food, lodging (including huts and tents), and shower facilities. It is also recommended to wear proper hiking gear and rain jackets, carry food and sleeping bags.
2. Fimmvörðuháls Trail/Mountain Pass
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It is the another most famous 15.5-mile trail that starts from Skógafoss waterfall and ends in Thórsmörk valley. This trek can be combined with Laugavegur or can be done as a daylong tour, which takes about 13 to 14 hours. It is open in the summer between mid-June/July and mid-September. The trail goes through the beautiful Skógá river, Álftavatn lake, Eyjafjallajokull glacier, Magni and Móði craters, snowfields, green mountains, volcanic plateaus and more than 20 big and small waterfalls.
Accessibility: Since the weather conditions in Iceland can be unpredictable and sometimes extreme, it is recommended to carry food, wear comfortable hiking shoes, extra layers of clothes (including windcheaters, gloves, and woolen scarves) even during summer hikes. Some areas on the trail can be really foggy and it is recommended to be careful. Also, carry first-aid and GPS, know emergency numbers, and hike in groups. There are a few lodging facilities in the trail.
Want to hike in winter? Want to trek during the day and watch northern lights in the night? Or thinking of a day hike (that can be converted to a 4 to 5-day trek) to the top of the glacier? Sólheimajökull is one of the best glaciers to hike during winters in Iceland. It located in southern part of Iceland and has views of Þórsmörk (Thorsmork Valley), Fimmvörðuháls pass, Eyjafjallajökull glacier, Gullfoss waterfall, Thingvellir national park, Valahnukur mountain and beautiful ice caves. The best part of hiking Sólheimajökull in winter is the chance of watching Aurora Borealis. People go to Iceland just to see the northern lights and watching it from Sólheimajökull can be a treat. Taking a guided day tour to the glacier will include the history about the melting of this giant glacier due to global warming.
Accessibility: The ice on the glacier can be slippery. Hence, it is recommended to wear crampons. It also recommended carrying rain jackets, some extra pair of socks, warm gloves, first-aid, water, and waterproof hiking shoes. It can be a moderately difficult hike and is not recommended for children below 15 years of age.
4. Glymur Waterfall
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Glymur is the second highest waterfall (newly discovered Vatnajökull is a few meters taller) located at the end of Hvalfjörður (also called The Whale fjord) in the western part of Iceland. It is an easy hike that can be done in 4 to 6 hours with children. The hike includes the views of Botnsdalur Valley, Þvottahellir lava cave, and beautiful lava fields, majestic canyons, blue rivers and lush green forests.
Accessibility: Children above the age of 10 years can do this hike. It is recommended to carry rain coats, waterproof hiking shoes (paths can be rocky), water bottles, and extra clothing as it can rain anytime in Iceland. The rain can also cause fog in some parts of the trail. Hence, it is recommended to be careful and carry GPS.
5. Mt. Esja
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Mt. Esja, also called Esjan is a mountain that can be seen from the city of Reykjavik. Hence, it does not take too long to reach to the 1.7-mile trail that starts at Mógilsá, which is about 10 miles from downtown Reykjavik, and ends at Steinn, also called The Stone (some experienced hikers go further to the top). There are more than one trails (includes easy, moderate and hard trails to climb) to the Steinn. The trail includes the views of Reykjavik and Mosfellsbaer town.
Accessibility: Wear crampons to climb this trail in winter, wear extra layers, carry water bottles, GPS, and first-aid. The trail is well-maintained in summer, but it can be tricky to hike in winter. There are a parking lot and a café located near the trailhead.