Six of Iceland’s Best Hiking Trails

Take a walk on the wild side with our favourite hiking trails in Iceland. Expect easy, scenic mountain strolls near Reykjavík, hot-spring baths in the Southern Highlands and routes that scale glaciers and volcanoes. Crampons required.

slopes. Jagged glaciers. Geothermal springs.
famous ring road may join the dots between the country’s
postcard-worthy attractions, but this land of extremes wasn’t made
to be experienced from behind a car window. Step off the beaten
track and onto a vast network of trails from which you’ll hear the
quiet rumble of a volcano, spot scampering Arctic foxes and feel
the spray of canyon waterfalls.

We’ve pulled together some of our favourite hikes, including
scenic mountain strolls near Reykjavík, hot-spring
in the Southern Highlands and an Ironman-esque endurance
test scaling the crevasses of
‘s biggest glacier. Outdoor enthusiast? You’ll want your
crampons for this one.

A walk on the wild side: six of Iceland’s most beautiful hiking


Best for: sky-scratching views and adrenaline

Duration: 10-15 hours

Standing at a knee-shaking 2,110m tall, Hvannadalshnúkur is
Iceland’s highest peak and the crown jewel of this fabled country’s
hiking trails. Although you won’t need any previous experience (all
hikes to the top must be guided), summiting the peak does require a
hearty amount of guts and stamina – the mountain is set across
Iceland’s largest glacier, which also happens to hide an active
volcano tucked under its ice sheet. Most of the climb is on
snow-covered trails scored with icy crevasses, so all hikers must
trek with a harness, crampons and an ice axe. Don’t let this put
you off – views from the top offer a mesmerising, whitewashed
glimpse across the Atlantic.


Best for: volcanic craters and scenic stays

Duration: 1-2 days

Starting at the top of Skógafoss waterfall, the Fimmvörduháls
trail combines the best of Iceland’s dramatic scenery in one trek –
wind-beaten canyon waterfalls, wild volcanic moonscapes and craggy
mountain passes that snake along the river and up to snow-brushed
peaks. Once at the top, either spend the night in a timber-clad
mountain hut or descend back down through Thórsmörk valley, passing
scenic gorges, glaciers and lava formations along the way.

Glymur Waterfall

Best for: hidden caves

Duration: 4-6 hours

This trek to Iceland’s second-tallest waterfall takes you far
away from the often overcrowded roads that lead to other popular
waterfalls, and instead winds through a steep gorge, over two river
crossings and up to a beautiful hidden cave. Known as the spot
where inhabitants of the fjord would traditionally hang their
laundry when it was raining, the cave’s name literally translates
as “Laundry Cave” and offers breathtaking views of the neighbouring
canyon and its surroundings. Don’t worry if you’re not feeling up
to the full trek to the top of the waterfall, there are still great
views after only an hour or so of hiking.


Best for: kaleidoscopic mountains and
hot-spring baths

Duration: various

Set across the Southern Highlands, Landmannalaugar woos
photography enthusiasts and nature lovers with its multicoloured
rhyolite mountains, geothermal hot springs and jet-black lava
fields. Offering three major hikes from its spiderweb of trails,
including a one-hour mountainous jaunt and a four-hour trek past a
cavernous crater lake, the area’s diverse terrain and panoramic
vistas are guaranteed to satisfy all hiking tastes and abilities.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Best for: edge-of-the-word seclusion (and
Arctic foxes)

Duration: 2-6 days

One of Europe’s last true wilderness areas, Hornstrandir Nature
Reserve is a vast expanse of Arctic tundra, chiselled mountains and
jagged bird cliffs found in the Westfjords of north-west Iceland.
The area is so remote that it can only be accessed by boat and
there’s no infrastructure in sight, so all travellers must be
completely self-reliant. Come here for isolation and you won’t be
disappointed – hikers often go for days without seeing anyone other
than the area’s bashful snow-white Arctic foxes, Iceland’s only
native land mammal.

Mount Esja

Best for: views over Reykjavík and beyond

Duration: 2-4 hours

Sitting within touching distance of Reykjavík, Mount Esja is a
honeypot for day-trippers looking to get the best views of Iceland
within easy reach of the capital. With a handful of different
trails catering to all hiking abilities, the mountain seems as
though it was sculpted with hikers in mind – either take the
easier, less steep trail through a clutch of small forests up to
Steinn viewpoint, or choose a shorter, more strenuous climb up.
Once at the top, views stretch far across this colourful
pocket-sized capital and out to the lattice of tiny islands beyond.

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City Guide: Reykjavík, Iceland