At first thought, Iceland may not seem like an ideal place to go wandering off on a hike. The clue is in the name after all. But this is the thing with Iceland – the weather isn’t nearly as extreme as you’d think – especially so in summertime. Hiking in Iceland is something you can do almost all year round (winter is the main exception so it’s always best to check in advance in winter as some spots might be closed for safety) and some of the best hikes in Iceland are amazing ways to see so much more of this beautiful island!
I feel like most of us don’t need reasons to want to visit Iceland – we’ve all probably managed to think up several of those by ourselves. If you are struggling for reasons to visit Iceland – check out this post here… oh and this post here too… and in fact, all the many other posts from Iceland and you’ll see why we all keep going on and on about this amazing place.
If you’re game for a bit of an active fun time in the land of fire and ice, here are the 12 best hikes in Iceland absolutely worth doing! (It’s free, it’s great exercise and you’ll get to see things most other people wouldn’t get to!)
1.) The Mount Esja Trail
This is by far one of the most popular hiking destinations in Iceland. Nearly 7-km long, the trail leads to Mount Esja, which is, in reality, is more than just one mountain – it is a range of volcanic mountains properly referred to as the Esjan range.
Upon reaching the summit, you’ll be greeted with a spectacular view of Reykjavik, Iceland’s colourfully compact capital city. After completing the hike, a restaurant at the base offers a much welcome glass of Brennivin along with local lamb and fish dishes. (*Icelandic lamb is amazing! It’s absolutely one of my favourite things to have here – I think I had it for as many meals as I possibly could here).
Heads up though – in winter, if you’re not a really experienced hiker, you might not want to do this hike as you would need crampons and it becomes trickier to navigate, especially so if it starts snowing heavily.
Thanks to all the volcanic activity in Iceland, there are quite a few natural geothermal pools – meaning even when it’s freezing outside, you can be nice and toasty in an outdoor pool. 😁
Landmannalaugar is home to three separate trails, the most popular being a trek over the fields of volcanic rock to Brennisteinsalda. This volcano is a must-see, as its plethora of iron, sulphur and volcanic ash give it the claim to fame of being the most colourful peak in Iceland.
At the end of the hike, relax in one of those aforementioned geothermal pools and let your muscles relax and recover. If you’re lucky, this hike is also an amazing way to catch the other-worldly colours of the Northern lights.
(*Though to be honest, I’d much rather do this either from a hotel or at the very least, from a car – shielded from the elements while we wait – you never quite know when the Northern Lights will come out to play.)
3.) The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
If you are tired of exploring the same terrain as everyone else, this is the hike for you. The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is famous for is isolation so much so that this is still one of the most pristine, untouched areas remaining in this magnificent country.
The hike not only gives you access to some rather gorgeous views of the impressive fjords and colourful wildflowers, it also brings you face to face with some of Iceland’s most notorious critters – Arctic foxes, as they are particularly prevalent along this path.
There are a number of cliffs here which are also home to puffins (my absolute favourite), ravens, Arctic Terns and other seabirds.
In winter, this area is actually closed so do bear that in mind.
Begin this hike with a long soak in the Landmannalaugar hot springs, then embark upon a 55-km journey that will take you past some of the most spectacular sights Iceland has to offer. The grand finale here is the finish in Dorsmork – a village nestled between three impressive glacial peaks with absolutely stunning views.
This is an excellent day hike for those who wish to escape the capital city of Reykjavik (for a little while). A quick bus ride from the city lands you in Hvergerdi – a town that is home to a number of beautiful hot springs and walking trails.
The main trail boasts a number of impressive looking greenhouses (these are not your average back-garden greenhouses) along the way to admire. The hike is fairly moderate, with some steep areas, however, the promise of a soak in the perfectly warmed river at the end is enough motivation to overcome the tough sections!
6.) Glymur Waterfall
Hikes that end in majestic waterfalls are always popular, and this is no exception! This journey to Iceland’s second highest waterfall is full of breathtaking views all along the way – topped off with that amazing waterfall.
The walk around the lip of the deep canyon is truly one of the most fantastic views in all of Iceland (don’t forget your camera!). If you have the chance, make the Hotel Glymur your base camp for this visit for the sheer convenience and for a good chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern lights.
7.) The Fimmvorduhals Pass
Although this hike is quite challenging, taking approximately eight hours to complete, it is another of the best hikes in Iceland when it comes to the amazing scenery and virtually unparalleled when it comes to dramatic views.
The Fimmvorduhals Pass hike is an excellent way to soak up all of Iceland’s natural beauty, as you walk past everything from lava fields and volcanoes to glaciers and fjords! The hike normally takes eight to nine hours to complete, so it could be a day hike as long as you start fairly early.
Atop the Vatnajokull glacier sits Hvannadalshnukur – the highest peak in all of Iceland! Although the route is extremely challenging and takes over twelve hours to complete without camping, the unbelievable panoramic views of the volcanic landscape below makes this hike not just one of the best hikes in Iceland but one that’s worth completing – even if just for the bragging rights of being at the very top of Iceland!
9.) The Skaftafell and Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoons
This hike typically takes approximately 48 hours to complete and is probably best seen/done in the wintertime. The absolutely stunning ice lagoons along this path are unlike anything else in the world and the opportunity to explore the depths of a magnificent ice cave is certainly not one to pass up.
Suffice to say, this isn’t one of those hikes you can just ‘wing it’ for – it’s one that’s worth properly planning and seriously packing for (we’re talking insulated shoes with great grips, those hand warmer packs and pretty much all of your sturdy, warm winter gear.
10.) Snaefellsnes Penninsula
A two-day trek across Iceland’s Snaefellenes Penninsula is considered to be the ultimate hike for those in search of Iceland’s Northern lights set against an incredible backdrop. There are lots of camping sites along the way (if you’re that way inclined 😉) and the whole route here is home to some rather impressive views of glaciers and fjords.
11.) The Latrabjarg Cliff
This is a hike up a cliff, so it is definitely more on the strenuous side. For those who dare to scale its summit, the end destination is to perch atop one of the largest bird cliffs in the entire world.
If indeed, you are fascinated by bird watching, then this hike will pretty much be a dream come true and one of the best hikes in Iceland for you. We’re talking about everything from puffins to ravens as well as many other arctic seabirds – depending upon the season, of course.
12.) The Seljalandfoss Trail
This is commonly known as the most romantic hike in Iceland. Romantic or not, it’s definitely one of the best hikes in Iceland for the sheer scenery and relatively easy compared to some of the other hikes.
Suffice to say, one of the key stops here is the amazing Seljalandfoss – a waterfall that’s not only rather impressive to see but one you can actually walk behind. It’s such a unique experience to be able to see a waterfall from behind and this is why it’s always one of the top things you have to do when you’re in Iceland!