Going hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in Iceland on nice days. The landscapes are, of course, stunning and the lack of trees makes for amazing views in all directions. You don’t have to go far outside the city for a great hike, and the mountains close to Reykjavík are some of the best hiking spots you’ll find.
Here is our guide to few local hiking trails near Reykjavík.
For most visitors to Iceland, one of the first Icelandic mountains they see is mt. Keilir, an almost perfectly cone-shaped mountain on the way from the keflavík airport to Reykjavík. Keilir’s perfect shape rising from the flat lava fields around it makes it almost look like a cartoon mountain and it’s certainly a striking one, rising from the blackness of the lava. The curiously flat landscape surrounding the conical mountain makes sure that it sticks out, so much so, in fact, that Keilir was for years used by sailors as a guide when sailing in the rocky waters around the Reykjanes peninsula.
Despite its looks, Keilir is not actually a volcano. Instead, it was formed during a volcanic eruption underneath a glacier, resulting in the unusual shape. Keilir is not particularly tall, a little under 400 m above sea level. The slopes aren’t steep either, so the hike is not particularly difficult, just enough to be challenging! The hike to the top is 7 km and takes about 2-3 hours.
If you want to add the hike or don’t feel like climbing the mountain, there are plenty of hiking trails surrounding the mountain as well.
How to get to Keilir
Take route 41 out of town like you were on your way to the airport, then turn on to road 420 which leads to the parking lot where the hike up to Keilir starts.
Mt. Akrafjall, a scenic mountain with two peaks, lies next to Akranes, a small port town north of Reykjavík with about 7 000 inhabitants. There is a hiking trail up Mt. Akrafjall that will take about 2 to 5 hours. The mountain has two main summits, with Berjadalur valley in between. The north summit Geirmundartindur (643m) is higher than the more popular south summit Háihnúkur (553m). There is a trail that connects the two summits along with other minor high points. This loop has an elevation of 600m and is about 10km long.
Hiking on Mt. Akrafjall offers one of the best views in western Iceland, over fjords, mountains and the ocean. You also have a nice view over Akranes, and in the distance, you can even see Reykjavík. There are many more local hiking trails in the area for hikers of different levels.
How to get to Akrafjall
Mt. Akrafjall lies 40km from downtown Reykjavík, and driving there will take about 40 minutes. First, you drive east on Vesturlandsvegur (Route 41). Follow this road for 13.5km to get onto Route 1. Continue north for 14.5km on Route 1 to the tunnel Hvalfjarðargöng. Turn left when you leave the tunnel, onto Kalmansbraut (Route 51) and continue for another 2km around the south side of Akrafjall.
Mt. Skálafell one of two ski slopes in the vicinity of Reykjavík. The other is the very popular Bláfjöll ski resort. Mt. Skálafell’s skiing season runs from January till April, and outside of the season, this is a very lovely hiking area. The view from the top of Mt. Skálafell is beautiful, as you can see Iceland´s largest lake, Þingvallavatn, and Þingvellir National Park. The highest peak is 774m high, and the mountain is quite easy to hike. A round-trip will take you about 3 to 4 hours.
How to get to Skálafell
From Reykjavík, follow Route 49 out of the city, and follow Route 1 north. As soon as you have passed Mosfellsbær, you’ll come across a roundabout where you take the second exit. Drive straight for about 20km and then turn to the left on Skálafellsvegur, which leads you straight to the mountain. Driving from downtown Reykjavík to Mt. Skálafell takes about 40 minutes.
The Mosfellsdalur valley is just a short drive away from the city and it also happens to be a lovely place to visit, a green valley, dotted with farms, and full of beautiful local hiking trails and other recreational options. One of these paths takes you along the picturesque river that runs through the valley, all the way up to a lovely waterfall. Start the hike at the Gljúfrasteinn – Laxness museum and walk along the River Kaldakvísl up to the Helgufoss waterfall.
Gljúfrasteinn was built by author and Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, one of Iceland’s most celebrated authors. He had grown up on a farm farther down the valley and lived at Gljúfrasteinn for the better part of his life. He loved this place very much and even set one of his novels there, basing it on the colourful characters he had known there as well as local legends.
Halldór loved to walk and often took his dog for a walk up along the river. Take a look around you when you walk, you just might feel a little bit of his inspiration on your way! When you get to the waterfall (which also happens to be a lovely spot for a picnic) you can turn back and take the same route back, or if you have a willing driver, get picked up by the waterfall. Afterwards, you can either head back to Reykjavík or drive a bit further to reach Þingvellir.
How to get to Mosfelldalur
Technically the city bus runs to Gljúfrasteinn in Mosfellsdalur but getting the bus is still a bit tricky. Since it’s not a popular route, a car has to be ordered in advance of the scheduled time of the bus. You also have to plan your day carefully since there are a few hours between each trip, so we recommend stopping in at the Gljúfrasteinn museum while you wait for your bus. For more info, check out www.straeto.is.
Another alternative is to get a rental car or take a taxi. To drive there, take route 1 north out of the city and through the town of Mosfellsbær. At the last roundabout on the way out of town, take the first exit into Mosfellsdalur, the same route you take when you’re going to Þingvellir.
Mt. Úlfarsfell is a small mountain located south of Mosfellsbær, one of Reykjavík’s neighbouring towns. The hike up Úlfarsfell is perfect for people who only have limited time but still want to spend time outdoors. There are different trails leading up to the top for hikers of different levels. The mountain is about 296m high, and most people take 1 to 1.5 hours for a round-trip. The view from the top over Mt. Esjan, Bláfjöll, Reykjanes, Reykjavík, Faxaflói bay and the glacier Snæfellsjökull is amazing!
How to get to Úlfarsfell
It’s easy to get to by car, located only 15km from downtown Reykjavík. Just follow Route 49 out of the city and follow it to get to road 1. Then turn onto Lambhagavegur and follow Route 430. You can also get there by bus. First you take bus 15 from Hlemmur to bus stop Ártún. Then you change to bus 57 at Ártún. Get off the bus at the Úlfarsá bus stop.
There are of course plenty more local hiking trails not too far from Reykjavík, here are some of the most popular ones.
If you’re interested in a longer hike or different routes, contact the What’s On Information Centre for more information.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Icelandic nature, consider taking a guided tour for your safety.