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Guide to Hiking in Iceland & The Best Iceland Hiking Trails

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Iceland is a country notorious for its breathtaking views and majestic landscapes. It then comes as no surprise that the Iceland hiking trails are incredible experiences. Iceland offers more than just challenging and scenic hiking trails. It also boasts unique attractions like volcanoes and black sand beaches. Also, Puffin breeding grounds, and many others that will leave you in awe.

Iceland's trails have definitely raised the bar when it comes to hiking experiences. If you want to see what all the fuss is about and want to start planning your own hiking trip to the island – this article is for you.

Iceland Hiking

When is the Best Time to Take on the Iceland Trails?

When the best time for you to trek Iceland will be, will depend on a number of things, such as preferences and what you want to see and do. But, generally, Iceland trekking is an activity that is done during the summer months. Mainly because of the following:

The Iceland Weather

It's obvious that outdoor activities are more comfortable during summer than in winter. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out, right? But in Iceland, you don’t just need to contend with temperatures below the 0-degree mark.

You need to be ready to deal with things such as blizzards and our legendary Icelandic winds that will literally rip a car door off its hinges. Unless you’re Bear Grylls, these are not the types of conditions that constitute a “fun day out”.

hiking in Iceland, weather

Safety Concerns

Knowing what you now know about the weather, it’s easy to understand why hiking trails might not be safe during the colder months. But safety concerns on the island also impact your access here.

Certain roads and routes are closed during the colder months each year. This means that you will not be able to access the Laugavegur Trail in the Highlands of Iceland during the colder months of the year.

Iceland hiking safety

The Daylight Hours

If you're already confused by daylight savings time and adjusting your watch, get ready for Iceland because they take it to another level. The daylight hours between seasons differ dramatically. At the height of summer in Iceland, you can experience a Midnight Sun.

That’s when you have 22+ hours of daylight each day and the sun never actually sets. But mid-winter, you’re looking at a mere 4 hours of daylight each day. As you can expect, this has a massive impact on outings and outdoor activities.

The trail requires 5 hours, and it takes you 2 hours to reach it. How do you plan to safely complete the winter hike without getting lost or injured? Not even to mention the time crunch that would place on a multi-day hike.

Iceland trekking

What to Pack for Your Iceland Hiking Adventure

Packing for Iceland can be tricky and once you start adding specific activities into the mix, it can get even more confusing. So, to make packing for your trip a little easier, we created this handy packing list that you can use as a guide:

  • Raincoat (to counter sudden weather changes and mist and spray created by waterfalls)

  • Extra set of thermal underwear

  • Extra shirt

  • Waterproof hiking pants

  • Waterproof jacket

  • Warm hat (beanies work well)

  • Warm gloves

  • Extra pairs of socks (at least 2 depending on the trail and its river crossings)

  • Sleeping bag & travel pillow (generally, these are recommended for multi-day hikes, but many pack it in “just in case”)

  • Sunscreen

  • Sunglasses

  • Bathing suit (for trails that have hot springs, swimming pools, or streams where you can take a dip)

  • Quick-drying towel (the last thing you want to do is hike with a wet or damp towel in your bag)

  • Backpack of at least 25-40 liters (depending on the length of your planned Iceland hiking trails)

  • A pair of old shoes (for those muddy and wet situations where you feel sorry for your nice hiking boots)

  • Refillable Water bottle (with water obviously) & snacks

  • Toiletries & medication (especially important meds such as an EpiPen)

  • A first-aid kit

  • Power bank & chargers

  • Optional Extras:

  • Hiking poles

  • Gaiters

*For multi-day treks, the packing list remains the same. However, you need to adjust the number of clothes you bring (like shirts and pants). Do take into account the number of days you'll be out and the type of accommodation you'll have. For example, if you’ll be sleeping in overnight cabins, you won’t need to take a camping tent with you.

Packing for hiking in Iceland

Can I do a Solo Hike on One of the Iceland Hiking Trails?

Iceland is the safest country in the world for 15 years in a row. So safety concerns related to criminal activities are not an issue.

But no matter where you are in the world, it’s generally not recommended that you take on a solo hike. Simply because if things go wrong, help will not be close by, or it might take some time before anyone even realizes that you need help.

There are shorter hiking trails to and from some of the Iceland waterfalls that are more suitable for a solo hike. Both due to their length and amount of foot traffic, but our go-to advice will always be to take a buddy with you.

That being said, If you've decided to go on solo hikes despite the risks, here are some tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Don’t wander off the trail and only keep to well-marked paths. This is the easiest way for someone to get hurt or lost, and, even worse, not be found.

  • Start off slow if you’re a beginner. Taking on an advanced and challenging trail ALONE when you’re not fit or experienced enough is a recipe for disaster.

  • Don’t go traversing through the most remote parts of the island. Not only are you less likely to have any signal to make an emergency phone call, but it can take months for someone else to walk the same trail.

  • Ensure that your phone is fully charged and that you have a GPS with you. But you’ll also need to be prepared for when technology fails, so keep a few hard-copy maps in your backpack and download a few offline maps.

  • Let people know where you’re going and what your schedule looks like. That way people will know when to start looking for you and where. When you’re solo traveling we recommend that you let one friend or family member back home in on your plans as well as the accommodation you’re staying at.

  • Keep within your limits. You haven’t turned into superman overnight, allowing you to jump over 6-meter crevices or cross raging rivers. And walking 20 kilometers in 30 minutes before the sun starts setting is not humanely possible. Pushing your limits and setting unrealistic goals is how you end up in trouble.

  • This is not the time to listen to your favorite album or podcast. Leave your headphones at home and stay in tune with your surroundings.

  • Do your homework. Know what to expect from the area and trail before you go hiking in Iceland to avoid dangerous situations like hot springs or Pufflings. An accident is not how you want to remember your Iceland hiking trails.

Iceland hiking tours

  • Pack extra snacks and water. We don’t mean pack a survivor food pack at an apocalyptic scale. Or to use as an excuse to munch more than usual. Just enough so that you won’t get really hangry before help arrives in the event that anything should go wrong.

  • Keep a close eye on the Icelandic weather forecast. There is a local saying here on the island; “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland”. This saying can’t prove more disastrous whilst in the middle of a hike. So, be prepared and avoid difficult weather-induced situations. Always check the weather, especially before heading out.

The Best Hikes in Iceland

A wide variety of Iceland hiking trails can be found here on the island. They vary in difficulty levels, and age appropriateness and can be a day outing or require multi-day trekking. But whatever your age, skills, or experience, you will find the Iceland hiking trail that works for you, and renting a 4x4 camper can help you reach them all. These are some of the most popular Iceland hiking trails:

The Best Day Hikes in Iceland

These hikes can be done in less than a day and do not require overnighting on the trail:

Mount Esja - 7km (a 2-3 hour hike)

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Where: Close to Mosfellsbær (about 50 minutes from Reykjavik)

Mount Esja

Glymur Waterfall - 7.1km (a 3-4 hour hike)

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Where: Hvalfjördur (about 1 hour north of Reykjavik)

Glymur Waterfall

Kirkjufell in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula - 4km (a 3-hour hike)

Difficulty Level: Extremely challenging (best to take this one on with a guide)

Where: Kirkjufell Mountain in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik)

Kirkjufell in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Blahnujur Brennisteinsalda Loop in Landmannalaugar - 9.7km (a 4-6 hour hike)

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Where: Landmannalaugar in the southern Highlands (about 4 hours from Reykjavik)

Brennisteinsalda hiking, Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall - 16km (a 4-6 hour hike)

Difficulty Level: Easy

Where: Skogafoss (just over 2 hours from Reykjavik)

iceland trails

The Best Multi-day Hiking Trails in Iceland

These hikes can only be done in multiple days and require overnighting on the trail:

The Hesteyri to Kögar Loop in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve - 67.6km (a 3-5 day hike)

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Where: Hornstrandir, Westfjords (43.2km from Isafjördur, but you will need to take the ferry)

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Laugavegur Trail in Fjallabak Nature Reserve - 55km (a 3-4 day hike)

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Where: Fjallabak Nature Reserve, South Iceland (just over 3 hours from Reykjavik)

Laugavegur Trail

Fimmvörduhals Trail - 30km (a 1-2 day hike)

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Where: Skogar, South Iceland (just over 2 hours from Reykjavik)

best day hikes in iceland

Nupstadskogar to Skaftafell Trail - 59.5km (a 5-day hike)

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Challenging

Where: Vatnajökull National Park, South Iceland (about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik)

Iceland hiking trails glaciers

Seydisfjördur to Borgarfjördur Trail - 74km (a 4-day hike)

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Where: The East Fjords (about 1 hour from Egilsstadir)

Seydisfjördur trek, Iceland

Can You Go on Guided Iceland Hiking Tours?

You bet! With certain hiking trails such as Kirkjufell, it is recommended that you only attempt to summit the mountain with the help of a guide. So, whether you just want that buddy or extra pair of helping hands as a solo traveler, or you just enjoy doing these activities as part of a group, you’ll find plenty of guided Iceland hiking tours here on the island. Some of the ones that are almost always fully booked (so book well in advance!) are:

Iceland Hiking; An Outdoor Activity for All

Iceland is full of amazing attractions and activities, many of which are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Sadly, not all of these are suitable or safe for everyone. Glacier hiking and exploring ice caves in Iceland are generally not allowed when you’re a child under the age of 12.

You can’t dive the Silfra Fissure unless you’re a qualified and experienced diver. And you should seriously reconsider visiting the waterfalls with their slippery steps if you’re a pensioner.

But when it comes to renting a campervan in Reykjavík and going on a road trip and taking on a few Iceland hiking trails along the way – that is one of the most family-friendly (and affordable!) things you can do on the island. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start planning your Iceland hiking adventure!



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