Just arrived in Iceland? Like hiking? Not sure how to travel to the main hiking spots? Don’t worry, we can help you figure this out! There are endless possibilities for hiking in Iceland, with hikes of all kinds in this beautiful island.
Without a doubt the most popular thing to do is to go into the wilderness in the Fjallabak (the Mountain’s back) area. This is a place that has become very popular for hiking because it’s almost completely untouched by the human hand; rough roads run through un-bridged rivers into only a few places, and between them there are only hiking trails, campsites, mountain huts and the wild, wild nature.
The main stops to keep in mind are Landmannalaugar*, Þórsmörk and Skógar – these are milestones that you can drive to. You can either stay in these places and do day-hikes from there, or you can hike from one to another. The trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk is called Laugavegur, and the trail from Þórsmörk to Skógar is called Fimmvörðuháls.
To get to these places, you can either rent a car, go by bus, or take a private day tour, depending on your budget and preference.
Landmannalaugar© Omar Smith via Flickr
Landmannalaugar* is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Iceland. The reason is the magnificent landscape: surrounding mountains with beautiful colors caused by the soil being rich in sulfur and other minerals, as well as geothermal hot springs. In fact Landmannalaugar means “the People’s Pools” so if you’re a person, it’s for you.
Laugavegur© Graham van der Wielen via Flickr
The trail from Landmannalaugar south to Þórsmörk is called Laugavegur (The Hot Spring Route) and is 53 km, or roughly a 4 days walk. The starting point is Landmannalaugar (600 m altitude above sea level), and on the way there are huts to sleep in and campsites. For the huts it’s wise to book well ahead, as you then have priority over people who just show up. Plus, lately this route has become so popular that it gets fully booked ages in advance. Wild camping outside the camping areas is forbidden for the protection of the nature. Also a good reminder, as the nature is incredibly sensitive, especially the moss, it’s important to leave no garbage, to use the toilets in the huts as much as possible and not to leave the marked hiking trails.
Hrafntinnusker© Claire Cox via Flickr
In the first resting place along Laugavegur, Hrafntinnusker (Obsidian Reef), the elevation increases to 470m, and in Álftavatn (Swan Lake) the elevation decreases to 490m. The next huts are in Emstrur and then you get to Þórsmörk which is 300 metres above sea level.
It’s good to keep in mind that there four glacial rivers to be waded, up to a metre deep.
The rivers are usually deepest where they are narrow. They are all located in the last two days, or between Álftavatn and Þórsmörk; the last one Þröngá being the deepest. It´s a good technique to hold hands while wading the rivers.
Krossá© Helgi Erlingsson via Flickr
You can catch the bus out from Þórsmörk if you like, or you could continue down to Skógar if you want an even longer hike. The trail between Skógar and Þórsmörk is called Fimmvörðuháls and is slightly shorter than Laugavegur, or about 23-25 km. It can be added to Laugavegur, or done on its own.
For the more ambitious you can also hike from south to north, going from Skógar to Landmannalaugar, as it is more challenging to go uphill (many Icelanders do that actually).
If you’re looking for shorter hikes, it’s good to go into Þórsmörk as there are several options for short day hikes or longer ones.