25 Short Day Hikes in Iceland

Hiking in Iceland is just one of many ways to explore the stunning landscape and some of the long distance trails are known around the world.

This guide provides 25 summer hikes that are short enough to complete in a few hours to one day while completing a road trip in Iceland.

Not everyone has the time, energy or fitness to complete a long distance trek and the smaller hikes are often forgotten in favour of the headline trails.

From coastal walks along bird cliffs to mountain hikes in the remote Highlands of Iceland there is something for every level of fitness and time window available.

You do need to make your own personal decision on your ability to complete the trail however.

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Planning a Hike or Walk in Iceland

As with any hike planning is needed and this is probably even more important in Iceland. The terrain is far more unforgiving than in other places around the world and the weather can change in an instant.

The hikes below are all fairly easy, but you should always consider your own personal fitness and how long you think it will take to complete the hike. We have calculated times based on about 5km in an hour plus a bit of time for photographs and refreshment breaks. However, steep paths and river crossings will add time to your hike and needs to be planned in. Always walk to your ability and take your time. Build up to the longer more strenuous hikes and enjoy what is comfortable for you.
If you are a photographer then consider how much weight you will be carrying and how much a bulky tripod and camera bag will slow you down. In the summer, time isn’t much of an issue but in the winter when daylight is limited you really do need to calculate your walking time carefully.

All of the hikes suggested can be completed within a day, most within a few hours, but you still need to take water and food. There is nothing worse than the munchies on a trail with no provisions. Water is readily available in Iceland and you can refill your bottle easily, but always make sure you have high energy food as well.

Even if you are walking somewhere with clear paths make sure you plan your route before setting off and have a map with you. In the more popular places it is still easy to lose the trail or get confused at a junction. The sudden weather changes can also change the appearance of the landscape and make it confusing so having a clear route plan and map with you can help orientate yourself should things change.

If you do not have the relevant maps, photograph the information boards that include maps that are usually found at the start of the trail. This means you can adjust your route without having to do it from memory if you have more time than planned or somewhere is busy and you want to find an alternative. While thinking about information boards, always make sure you take note of the warning signs and boards. They are there for a reason!

Always make sure that you have a first aid kit with you. If help can get to you easily it may still be a while before emergency services can reach your location. The Icelandic emergency number is 112. There is also a downloadable app from SafeTravel.is that will allow the emergency services to track your location should something happen. This app will also track your progress before anything happens to assist in finding you. Whether you have the app or not make sure someone knows where you are, what your route plan is and when you will return. If we are going on a remote, extended hike we will leave our route plan and contact numbers in the car ensuring it is somewhere discreet to passersby but obvious if someone is really looking for details.

Finally look at the weather before setting off and do not hesitate to change your plans and return early if the weather changes. There is always another day and another hike. You also need to consider the clothing you have with you. If the temperature drops or rain comes in and you are not prepared you really do need to abandon your plans. Exposure to the elements will not have a happy ending and there is nothing to be gained slogging on in a T-shirt and sandals when you really need waterproofs and boots. Having suitable clothing for a hike in Iceland is essential. As a baseline good walking boots, layers that can be added to and removed as the weather changes, hats, gloves and a water/windproof outer layer are all basic essentials for enjoying even the easiest of hikes in Iceland.

Map of Hikes in Iceland

This map provides a rough guide to the location of all the hikes in this guide. There are off course thousands of other options, you just need to take the time to find them and explore. The majority are family friendly and don’t require too many skills or high fitness levels. Either click on the link below or the map to be taken to the full Google map.

See the full map HERE

Hikes Close to Reykjavík

Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland but is very small and compact. Escaping the bustle of the city is easy and within a short drive you can be experiencing some of the most beautiful short hikes Iceland has to offer. Even close to Reykjavík it is possible to experience everything Iceland has to offer.

Reykjanesviti and Gunnuhver

Hiking in the Reykjanes Peninsula is not well documented although there are a number of long distance trails that cover everything from sea cliffs to geothermal areas giving a taste of everything Iceland has to offer in one small place. This hike takes you from the most south westerly lighthouse in Iceland at Valahnúkamöl in a loop through the geothermal area at Gunnuhver.

This hike starts at the Valahnúkamöl parking area below Reykjanesviti. The cliffs here show a number of different types of lava which have eroded at different speeds to give an amazing selection of sea stacks and rocks. There is also a bronze statue raising awareness of the last Great Auks that made this area their home.

From the car park it is an easy walk to the lighthouse with views across the geothermal area and the massive power plant before picking up the roadside footpath to Gunnuhver. This follows the road but is not an issue as the road only goes to Gunnuhver and the lighthouse. The whole landscape is steaming and you will be able to see the geothermal area from a distance.

The geothermal area, Gunnuhver covers a large area and there are marked paths. Do not leave the boardwalk paths as the ground is covered in steam vents and hot pools. Within the geothermal area there is a path to the right that loops back towards the coast passing the small crater and the rift of the tectonic plates. This will bring you back to the road by the lighthouse.

Whilst this hike is on marked trails you do need to be aware of dangers in the geothermal area and be aware of warning signs.

  • Start point:  Valahnúkamöl parking area
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 63.81273°N, 22.71639°W 
  • Nearest town or road: Road 425 west of Grindavik
  • Distance: 8km
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Elevation: 94m
  • Guided Hike: This private tour around the Reykjanes Peninsula will allow you to hike as much or as little as you want.



Image and Text from Stunning Outdoors

Glymur, the second highest waterfall in Iceland, is conveniently located at the far end of Hvalfjordur, near the Ring Road and it can be visited as a day trip from Reykjavik.

Initially you will walk through lush Lupine meadows, cotton grass patches before descending to the river (through a short steep cave) and crossing the river over a long wooden log. Having crossed the river, follow the rough path along the canyon edge to 4 viewpoints to Glymur waterfall. The 4th viewpoint is located a bit further from the rest. You can carefully follow the canyon and climb as high as the cascade level, but the best view of Glymur is from the viewpoints lower down.

The most adventurous parts of hiking to Glymur are descending through the short cave and crossing the river. Both can be tricky in wet conditions or if wearing inappropriate footwear! A torch is useful for this mini-cave, but it’s not essential. Mind your step as the ground is eroded and can be slippery.

Although you can make the hike to Glymur a circular route, we recommend walking to the viewpoints and retracing your steps back to the car park.

  • Start point:  Car park at Botnsdalur
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.23066°N, 21.17368°W
  • Nearest town or road: Road 47 halfway between Reykjavík and Borgarnes
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time needed: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation: 380metres
  • Guided Hike: Take the walking out and fly over Glymur with this tour!

Thingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is located in the south-west of Iceland, 50 kilometers east of Reykjavík. It became the first national park in Iceland in 1930 and was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Thingvellir National Park lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the enormous fissure between the plates is clearly visible across the landscape. While the hike isn’t massive it is a unique experience.

The hike at Thingvellir starts at the visitors centre with views across the tectonic plates to the lake beyond. Paths lead along the top of the valley towards Öxaráfoss waterfall. Once you have explored along the top, take the main path from the visitors centre down into the valley.

This path runs along the ever increasing rift between the two tectonic plates and will take you past the site of the first ever parliament in Iceland to the base of Öxaráfoss. This is a mix of boardwalks and gravel tracks but is all clearly marked. It is easy walking but can be snow covered and icy in the winter months.

From here it is possible to walk to Silfra to watch the divers and explore the small church on the shores of Lake Þingvallavatn. Trails lead off in all directions so you can walk as far as time and energy allows.

  • Start point:  Thingvellir Visitors Centre
  • Parking Area: The main parking is at the visitors centre and there is a meter for payment. The ticket is valid in other car parks in the National Park
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.25645°N, 21.12918°W
  • Nearest town or road: Road 36 east of Reykjavík
  • Distance: 3km
  • Time needed: 2hours
  • Elevation: +/-10m
  • Guided Hike: There are no guided hikes in the area but all of the Golden Circle Tours visit the area.


Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, Hveragerdi

Image and Text from Is This Even a Road

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River hike is easily one of the most rewarding hikes in Iceland. At the end of the trail is a geothermal river where hikers can enjoy a free hot soak surrounded by nature.

The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River hike is rated as moderate level difficulty and is a relatively new hike. An earthquake in 2008 changed the landscape and new hot springs appeared. The path is primarily dirt and loose gravel and easy to follow when there is no snow but is well marked. It is the same route out and back.

There is a steady incline for the entire hike to the river. Along the way, the views of the Reykjadalur valley are stunning. Hikers will pass waterfalls and a handful of curious sheep along the way. Hot puffs of steam can be seen rising from small geothermal pools of turquoise and several bubbling mud pots.

At the hot river there is a wooden boardwalk and not so private changing areas. Many opt for swimsuits under clothes instead making life easier on arrival. The river is quite hot upstream and flows into cooler waters below with comfortable soaking spots in between. Large boulders within the river create natural dividers and sitting areas.

There are no facilities so make sure you bring towels and water. The river can get busy so come early to avoid the crowds. Within the town of Hveragerði is Hveragerði Geothermal Park which is good stop for a smaller geysir and smaller steaming river.

  • Start point:  Dalakaffi Hot River Cafe
  • Co-ordinates of parking area:  64.02241°N, 21.21156°W
  • Nearest town or road: Hveragerði 40 minutes southeast of Reykjavik on ring Road 1
  • Distance: 7km
  • Time needed: 1hour 30 minutes plus soaking time
  • Elevation: 250m
  • Guided Hike: Pick up this guided hike of the valley in Reykjavík


Short Hikes in the South of Iceland

The south coast of Iceland is part of the Golden Circle but also starts to become more wild and remote. Glaciers become a part of the landscape and exploring these icy wilderness areas is an alternative to ‘normal’ hiking. The south of Iceland sees the start of the longer distance trails that climb into the Highlands.

Eldfell Volcano Hike, Westman Islands

Image and Text from The Orange Backpack

One of the best short hikes to do in Iceland is at the main island of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands in the south of Iceland. The hike up Eldfell volcano offers amazing views of the islands as well as across towards the mainland close to Skógafoss.

The main Vestmannaeyjar island is Heimaey. Next to the town with the same name are two volcanoes, Eldfell and Helgafell. Hiking to the top of the Eldfell is one of the best ways to see the island group. It is the largest volcano of the two and it erupted most recently in 1973 when part of the town was destroyed by the creeping lava.

The hike follows a well marked trail across the slopes of the volcano. Look out for the large lumps of lava that were thrown out during the eruption and the beautiful colours that the sulphur and other elements have left on the landscape as well as the vegetation that is slowly reclaiming the barren landscape. There are also wooden sign along the track that mark the position of the roads that were buried during the eruption.

Walk from the small town to the base of the volcano, head for the stairs at Kirjuvegur street to go up to the start of the trail to the top. It’s only a short walk from town to the steps and it takes about an hour to get up to the top following the trail through the lava fields. Spend some time up soaking in the views and make your way back to the town. You don’t need to be in excellent shape for this hike, though the hike from the base to the top is steep all the way.

  • Start Point: Town of Heimaey
  • Parking Area: Anywhere in Heimaey
  • Co-ordinates of Parking Area: 63.43230°N, 20.25664°W
  • Nearest Town: Heimaey
  • Distance:5.3km
  • Time Needed: about 2 hours
  • Elevation: 429m
  • Guided Hike: View and book this tour of the Westman Islands which includes a visit to Eldfell


Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike

Text and Image from This Rare Earth

Sólheimajökull glacier offers an incredible hiking experience over icy terrain, during any time of the year.  Located just over two hours southeast of the capital city, Sólheimajökull glacier is an easy day trip from Reykjavik that is well worth the trip. 

This towering glacier stands at an impressive 1300 meter height and is 11 kilometers wide (though this is said to be shrinking due to climate change).  Sólheimajökull glacier is an offshoot of the large Mýrdalsjökull glacier and stands surrounded between two volcanoes – Katla and Eyjafjallajökull.  In front of Sólheimajökull, and visible at the beginning of the hike, is a glacial lagoon that reflects the snowy peaks above. 

Hikers should allow approximately three hours to climb up and down the glacier.  This hike should be completed with guides in order to learn about the mighty glacier as well as to explore in and around the icy tunnels and caverns in safety.  Though the hike begins on a designated trail, hikers lose some visibility of a specified trail at certain points on the ice.     

Exploring the rugged and surreal terrain is manageable for most in good health, but special equipment is recommended.  Crampons, helmets, and an ice axe are ideal due to the slippery conditions. 

  • Start point:  Sólheimajökull Glacier Parking Area
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 63.5569°N, 19.3028°W 
  • Nearest town or road: Road 221 off Ring Road 1 west of Vík
  • Distance: Distance will depend on conditions of the glacier and hiker fitness and skills
  • Time needed: 3 hours
  • Elevation: 1300m
  • Guided Hike: Book this private guided hike on the glacier and go at your own pace

Skógafoss Trail, Skógar

A long trail that leaves the tourist madness of the Skógafoss behind and heads into the mountains. This is the start of a much longer trail to Fimmvörðuháls Pass and the Þórsmörk mountain ridge

This hike is an out and back route so you can make it as long or as short as you want. The furthest point for a safe day of trekking is the mountain hut between two glaciers one of which is Eyjafjallajökull.

The hike starts at Skógafoss where there is a large parking area and lots of tourists. From the pebble beach by the base of the waterfall take the track to the right of the waterfall and follow this up to the viewing platform at the top of the falls. At the viewing platform you will see a gate and this is where you escape the madness and start the real hike.

The track follows the Skóga River upstream. There are numerous smaller waterfalls and rapids which are stunning as well as a number of larger falls. Walk as far as time and energy allows before returning along the same path back to the main waterfall. 14km will take you to a small mountain hut, but even a few kilometres along the trail will provide stunning landscapes.

This route is only really possible in the summer months. During the winter the trail is snow covered and ice can be an issue so it is best hiked with crampons if you have the experience.

  • Start point:  Skógafoss Waterfall Parking
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 63.52952°N, 19.5122773°W 
  • Nearest town or road: Skógar
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time needed: 2 hours to full day
  • Elevation: 100m
  • Guided Hike: Hike this stunning route all the way along the Fimmvörðuháls Pass

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash Site, Vík

Image and Text from Moyer Memoirs

This is an easy walk across a black ash sand beach to the body of a US Navy plane crash-landed in 1973. While it is not the most picturesque landscape it is unique in its barren and exposed appearance.

This walk resembles a lunar landing and exploration of the barren surface.  The featureless walk is 2 miles to get to the Sólheimasandur Plane Crash Site and it is long and repetitive. There are no trees and no signs of nature, only miles black sand.  Upon arrival at the crash site, the reward is immediate with the US Navy Plane perched in the middle of the desert-like scene for all to enjoy.  This area was created by floods and glacial bursts caused by geothermal heating over thousands of years, carving a black sand desert out of Iceland’s southern coast.

Take notice of the signs about climbing on the wreckage (don’t do it!) and do keep an eye on the weather conditions as they can change rapidly out here. The walk is easy going over black volcanic sand and there are markers along the track between the plane and the main road.

  • Start Point:  Hike begins immediately adjacent to the parking area
  • Co-ordinates of parking area:  63.29284°N, 19.21482°W
  • Nearest town or road: Skógar or Vík, adjacent to Iceland’s Ring Road, Route 1
  • Distance: 7km
  • Time needed:  3 hours
  • Elevation:  relatively flat at sea level
  • Guided Hike: The hike to the site is easy so guides aren’t needed but if you are feeling lazy the you can book the SHUTTLE BUS!!!

Hjörleifshöfði near Mýrdalshreppur

Hjörleifshöfði is a rocky outcrop surrounded by a black sand beach. It is steeped in history and is named after Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson who was a Viking settler to Iceland in the 8th Century.

The hike starts from a small car park that is about 1km from Ring Road 1. The road to the parking area is rough black sand but is possible in a 2WD vehicle with care. From the parking area the trail is clearly visible and marked. This is known as Bæjarstaður and is where the old farmhouse used to be.

The start is incredibly steep but once the initial push has been achieved it is a gentle walk around the headland. Approaching the ascent from Bæjarstaður is the easiest option although it is possible from a little further along at Klif, close to the cave known as ‘Yoda’s Cave‘. From Bæjarstaður the trail goes up Bæjarstaðagil canyon and on to Hurðarbök and Dalabotn with Sauðafell on the left-hand side. It is not too far to the highest point of Hjörleifshöfði.

At the summit there is a burial mound for Hjörleifur, a burial plot for the family and a cairn with a guestbook. There are stunning views across the black sand beach all the way to Vík as well across towards Mýrdalsjökull glacier with Katlas volcano below.

The path circles back around the headland to meet back with the marked track back to Bæjarstaður. if you have time then it is possible to hike or drive the short distance round to Yoda’s Cave.

  • Start point:  Small marked car park at Hjörleifshöfði
  • Co-ordinates of parking area:  63.42368°N, 18.76491°W
  • Nearest town or road: Ring Road 1 close to Mýrdalshreppur
  • Distance: 3.4km
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Elevation: 218m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike


Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon near Skaftárhreppur

This a deep canyon that has a hike along the cliffs. The surrounding meadows are coated in wildflowers and the canyon walls are coated in a vibrant green moss. This canyon became better known after its appearance in Game of Thrones.

The start for this hike and the parking area is close to the Fjaðrá River. The trail heads up to the east side of the river, but a short walk to the bridge will show you the canyon walk ahead. The land is privately owned so do not be tempted to walk through the canyon along the river bed. The path is clearly marked and fenced above the canyon. Stick to the path to protect the flowers growing in the meadows.

The path is steep but there are lots of viewing platforms for stops as you head up the trail. The trail is rough gravel and some of the little side trails to the viewpoints are just grassy tracks. All are safe with barriers which really should be recognised and used. After about 2km the head of the canyon will come into view with a small waterfall and a viewing platform that reaches out over the 100m drop.

From here you can continue across the moorland following the numerous trails or return back down to the parking area.

While this is an easy hike, in wet weather the path can become slippery and in the winter months it can be treacherous.

  • Start point:  Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon parking area
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 63.77180°N, 18.17155°W
  • Nearest town or road: Road 206, west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur off Ring Road 1
  • Distance: 4km
  • Time needed: 1 hour
  • Elevation: 85m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike

Hikes in South East Iceland and the East Fjords of Iceland

Once past Vík the frenetic madness of Iceland eases and the landscape softens. This is a beautiful part of the country for hiking with high mountains and deep fjords to explore. The weather in the summer months can be better in the east than other parts of the country especially when compared to the north west. Driving distances in the east of Iceland increase dramatically with long drives between towns and villages. It may be possible to see a town on the other side of the fjord but there is no way of crossing before the head of the fjord making drives seem endless at times.

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier Hike, Skaftafell National Park

Image and Text from Paula Pins the Planet

Hiking the Skaftafellsjökull glacier is among many amazing hiking in Iceland. It is considered one of the most beautiful Icelandic glaciers, providing you with the experience of scaling up and down naturally formed ice walls.  

Skaftafell is inside Vatnajokull National Park, between an array of spectacular mountains and the ice of the glaciers confront you with their size and unusual formations. It is very important to have qualified glacial guides and to wear proper gear for this type of activity, as it can be dangerous because of the crevasses. 

During the hiking, blue ice and black volcanic rock appeared like a painting of colors upon the glacier and the terrain transforms from a layer of volcanic sediment into a gleaming surface, and as you walk more onto the glacier, it starts to transform into blue ice. It depends on the time of the year; you may also see and explore some ice tunnels.  

The hiking is considered moderate level and the guides will assist you from gearing up to be safe during the hiking. As far as the route for this hiking, it will depend on weather conditions, and occasionally the glaciers may be temporarily closed. 

  • Start Point: The start point of this hiking is at the Operators Office in Skaftafell National Park, across from the visitor’s center.  
  • Co-ordinates of Parking Area: 64.01459°N, 16.96799°W
  • Parking area: Skaftafell National Park Visitor Centre – you will need to pay 600ISK to park your car (for the day) and you can pay at a kiosk in the parking area. 
  • Nearest Town: Skaftafell – the tour operator also has pick up from Reykjavík.  
  • Distance: 10km
  • Elevation: 1000m
  • Time Needed: 5 hours
  • Guided Hike: Glacier hike booking details

Fláajökull from Haukafell, Höfn

Fláajökull or the ‘sloping glacier’ is another small glacier tongue on the east side of Breiðabunga volcano. It is an extension of the Vatnajökull Ice Cap. The hike from Haukafell campsite is easy in good weather although warning signs for quick sand need to be acknowledged.

The hike starts from a parking area at the Haukafell Camping Area. This is a basic campsite at the start of the trail which is open in the summer months. The trail starts at the base of the surrounding mountains through a small woodland before dropping down to a bridge that crosses the first river. Once the river has been crossed the trail is well marked along paths that cross meadows.

This can seem never ending with the glacier never getting any closer, but eventually the glacial lagoon will come into view with the glacier behind and final bridge will take you over the river to the lagoon. The sand beach of the lagoon can be dangerous with quicksand and freezing waters than can be covered in a thin layer of ice. It is best to stay on the trail rather than attempting a shortcut across the lava field. Until recently this would have been covered in the glacier, but in the last years it has retreated over 2km.

It is possible to walk to the edge of the glacier although the path is extremely narrow with rock fall warnings and a steep drop down into the glacial lagoon. The journey back follows the same path. there is a second parking area that brings you closer to the lagoon, but the combination of campsite and hike is perfect in the right weather conditions.

  • Start point:  Haukafell Campsite
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.34615°N, 15.50246°W
  • Nearest town or road: Road 986 30km west of Höfn on Ring Road 1
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Elevation: 113m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike


Djúpivogur to Úlfseyjarsandur

This gentle hike from the centre of Djúpivogur to the black sand beach of Úlfseyjarsandur follows a rough gravel track passing small lakes, a haven for birds and wildlife.

This hike starts in the small town of Djúpivogur. Take time to find the ‘Eggs of Merry Bay’ on the road out towards the lighthouse before picking up the trail which is clearly signposted to Hringsjá. The trail starts before the swimming pool and goes across low lying mossy land with two lakes, one either side of the path.

Just after the lakes the tracks joins the gravel road towards the beach. Follow this to the end where the beach with its coarse black sand will be found. There are alternative trails down to the beach and others along the coast which break off the main track if you prefer to navigate small paths and trails.

The return is following the main track which will loop around back to the town centre.

  • Start point:  Djúpivogur centre
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.65684°N, 14.28322°W 
  • Nearest town or road:  Djúpivogur, Ring Road 1
  • Distance: 8.5km
  • Time needed: 2-3hours
  • Elevation: 48m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike


Borgarfjörður Eystri to Brunavik

This small village is tucked away about an hour from the main Ring Road 1 and the large town of Egilsstaðir. There are lots of trails leading away from the village as well as exploring the Dyrfjoll Mountains as the road scales the stunning Vatnsskard pass on the way down to Borgarfjörður Eystri

This hike starts close to the village of Borgarfjörður Eystri with its small church and the unique Lindarbakki ‘hairy house’ that was built with stones and turf in 1899. Before starting the trail take time to visit the puffins on the small island at  Borgarfjarðhöfn between May and late July. The harbour is an ideal place to park and is just a short distance from the trail.

The trail is only passable between June and August and should not be attemptempted at other times.

The trail starts by the TV-transmitter on the cliff at Hamar, close to small cliff top chalet. It is steep at the start and is a mix of gravel and grass track that was once the only path to Brunavik. At the top of the Brunavik Pass there are amazing views in every direction. The path then drops down to the small black sand beach.

The trail returns via Hofstrandarskard pass and the colourful Helgargil canyon or a shorter 4km hike back along the trail over Brunavik Pass to Borgarfjarðhöfn.

  • Start point:  Borgarfjarðhöfn
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 65.52548°N, 13.68158°W  
  • Nearest town or road: Borgarfjörður Eystri on Road 94
  • Distance: 16km
  • Time needed: 6 hours
  • Elevation: 400m
  • Guided Hike: Five days of hiking around Borgarfjörður Eystri including a day hike to Brunavik


Stuðlagil Canyon

Stuðlagil Canyon is a beautiful canyon with black basalt columns along much of its length. It was not discovered until the hydroelectric plant Kárahnjúkavirkjun was built and the River Jökla was reduced to a gentle flowing river from a forceful glacial river that filled the canyon.

Stuðlagil Canyon is best visited in the morning when the sun lights up the dark basalt columns. The path from the parking at Grund can be slippery and is on the edge of a sheer drop but is the easiest way to see the canyon.

The longer hike from Klaustursel farm first crosses the river over a small bridge that is not suitable for vehicles. The trail follows the river along the top of the canyon. The main canyon is about 4km along the trail but it is worth stopping at the stunning basalt column waterfall Stuðlafoss before continuing to the canyon. It is quite difficult to get down to the river on this side, but there is one spot where it is possible with a scramble.

The whole trail can be muddy and you do need to shut farm gates to prevent sheep from escaping. The return is along the same path. As with the Grund side of the canyon there are sheer drops to the river and caution needs to be taken when walking near the edge.

  • Start point: Farm called Klaustursel or further along the road at Grund for the shorter walk
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: Hiking 65.18952°N, 15.25030°W  Short walk 65.16347°N, 15.30935°W 
  • Nearest town or road:  Road 923, north of Egilsstaðir off Ring Road 1
  • Distance: 8km (or easy 250m on the path from the farmhouse at Grund if you don’t feel like walking)
  • Time needed: 3hours (5 minutes)
  • Elevation: 171m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike

Hiking in the North of Iceland and the Highlands

The north of Iceland is wild and remote and walking trails away from the Diamond Circle are limited. The area is a haven for wildlife and many of the hikes will take you to nature reserves or places of geological interest. The most popular long distance trek in Iceland, the Laugavegur Trail runs from the Landmannalaugar geothermal springs to the Þórsmörk nature reserve through the Highlands of Iceland and is a must if you have the time and fitness.

Ásbyrgi Canyon

Ásbyrgi is a glacial canyon and forest in the north of Iceland. It is horseshoe-shaped depression and is part of the Vatnajökull National Park. The canyon measures approximately 3.5 km in length and over is 1 km wide making it perfect for exploring on foot.

This circular walk starts at the visitors centre just off Road 85. This large horseshoe shaped canyon is steeped in stories and legends which are brought to life with the information boards at various points along the trail. A rock outcrop called Eyjan halfway between the visitors centre and Botnstjörn pond fills the space that would be the ‘frog’ in a real horses foot and fuels the legend of Odin’s horse Sleipnir touching the ground and leaving his footprint.

The trail follows the eastern wall of Ásbyrgi through a dense woodland with birdlife and plants. Parts of the woodland are the older birch groves but more recently conifers have been planted. The last 1km of the trail is from a parking area that leads to Botnstjörn pond. This pond is in the furthest corner of the canyon and sits beneath the sheer cliffs of the canyon. Look carefully as the hidden people will be watching you from the cliff walls.

This is an out and back trail although the return route can be completed along the road to give a circular route.

  • Start point: Ásbyrgi Visitors Centre
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 66.02891°N, 16.48448°W 
  • Nearest town or road: Close to Norðurþing on Road 85, 38km east of Húsavík
  • Distance: 6.8km
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Elevation: 76m
  • Guided Hike: A tour that includes a short hike to Botnstjörn pond

Leirhnjúkur Lava Fields Near Krafla

Leirhnjúkur is a steaming lava field in the north of Iceland close to the massive Krafla volcano. There are a number of hikes in the area, but the short marked path from the parking area is the easiest.

The parking area for this hike is on the left shortly after passing under the pipes for the Power Station. The trail is clearly marked from the back of the car park. Initially the path heads towards the distinctive ‘Clay Hill’ and then picks up a series of boardwalks over the large lava fields that were formed after an eruption in 1984. The side of the mountain has steaming fumaroles which can be seen from the path.

The boardwalk is a circular route around the mud pools, the turquoise blue geothermal pools and steaming fumaroles up to Hófur Crater. Make sure you stay to the marked boardwalks as the lava field is still producing heat and is dangerously hot in places. The smell of sulphur hangs in the air reminding you of the volcanic activity rumbling just below the surface.

After completing the loop to the crater you can either return along the boardwalks back to the parking area or follow the longer trail around behind Clay Hill back to the parking area.

  • Start point:  Parking Area for Leirhnjúkur
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 65.71310°N, 16.77420°W
  • Nearest town or road: On road 863 close to Krafla Power Plant, east of Reykjahlíð
  • Distance: 4km
  • Time needed: 1 hour
  • Elevation: 89m
  • Guided Hike: A three day hike around the geothermal area and Askja


Hverfjäll Crater

Hverfjäll is a 2500 year old tephra crater that rises from the surrounding lava fields. It is a short but steep walk to the crater rim allowing stunning views across Lake Mývatn towards Dimmuborgir and back towards the Krafla region.

The hike up Hverfjäll starts at a small visitors centre with information about the volcano and the surrounding area. It is then a 25 minute slog up the side of the volcano on a rough ash track. There are only two routes up to the crater with the second being much steeper on the far side.

Once you reach the top there is a 3km path that takes you around the amazing rim of the crater before heading back down the same path to the parking area. The first sight of the peak within a peak will be something that stays with you.

For a longer hike it is possible to head down the steep path on the far side of the crater which is a 45 minute walk from Dimmuborgir with its amazing lava formations.

Once you reach the rim of the crater the walking is easy although it can be very windy and chilly even in good weather. in the winter months access to the parking area is limited and the path can be treacherous.

  • Start point:  Hverfjäll Volcano Visitors Centre and Parking
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 65.61342°N, 16.87523°W
  • Nearest town or road: On Road 848 close to Reykjahlíð
  • Distance: 4.5km
  • Time needed: 1 hour
  • Elevation: 196m
  • Guided Hike: This 10 day self-drive tour will take you past Hverfjall


Askja Víti and Askja Caldera

Askja Víti is a small blast crater contained within the large Askja caldera in north east of the Icelandic Highlands. It is a flat walk across a wide expanse of red lava sand with the possibility of a swim in the warm sulphurous waters of the crater before your return walk.

Part of the adventure of this hike is getting to the starting point. It is reached by a 5 hour drive from Ring Road 1 on roads F905 and F910 across the ash fields towards Mount Askja. This road is mainly on ash sand and involves three river crossings. It must be done in a 4WD vehicle in good weather conditions. During the winter months the whole area is closed.

The hike starts from a small parking area and follows a well marked path over the edge of the lava field into the caldera. It is a flat walk across the ash covered caldera with clear markers along the path. Towards the Askja Viti crater there is small hill before the crater comes into view.

The highlight of this walk is a swim in the geothermally heated water in the small blast crater, but be prepared for the aroma from the sulphur. Getting down to the waters edge follows the river bed and can be slippery after rain. It is worth checking the water conditions with the rangers in Dreki before swimming. Surrounding the ‘beach’ are a number of steam vents which are clearly marked and need to be avoided.

Once you have swum, the scramble back onto the path is easier than the slide down. The return path is the same route as coming out, although a detour around the rim of the crater will allow great views across the much larger Öskjuvatn Lake.

While this is an easy walk you do need to be aware of the weather conditions, not only while walking but during the drive in and out of the area.

  • Start point:  Vikraborgir Car Park
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 65.06818°N, 16.72643°W
  • Nearest town or road:  5 hour drive from Egilsstaðir in the east of Iceland, F905, F910 and finally the F894
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time needed: 1 hour plus swimming time
  • Elevation: None
  • Guided Hike: A day trip to the Highlands including a hike to Askja Víti


Kerlingarfjöll to Hveradalir 

Image and Text from Anywhere We Roam

Kerlingarfjöll is a stunning mountain range in the Iceland highlands set between two glaciers and containing the geothermal area called Hveradalir. 

The hike from the Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort to Hveradalir crosses over a ridge with excellent views of the smooth snow-capped mountains before continuing along the top of a deep valley which provides the first glimpses of the geothermal area. Bubbling blue rivers carve their way around red rhyolite mountains; vibrant green moss clings to rusty rock; yellow scars in the earth pump steam into the air. The whole valley is filled with a beautiful mystic vibe, and you’ll want to allow at least 2 hours to wander around the geothermal area.  

The hike is not particularly difficult or long. The path is in good condition with no exposed sections. Even in summer there will be some snow that you’ll need to cross, so good waterproof hiking boots are required. In winter, special equipment is required to do this hike and the roads to Kerlingarfjöll can only be crossed on specially modified super-jeeps.  

The trail for Hveradalir leaves from the Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort at Ásgarður and heads south rising up a ridge to the west of the river. The trail is marked with wooden poles for the first section but they become less obvious as the hike continues, so follow the well-trodden path. The trail drops down a small valley and flattens before meeting a sign pointing to Hveradalir.  

  • Start point:  Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort at Ásgarður. 
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.68344°N, 19.29988°W
  • Nearest town or road: Kerlingarfjöll is accessed via the F35 Kjölur road and the F347
  • Distance: 7km
  • Time needed: 2 hours, 30 minutes – plus at least 2 hours to explore the geothermal area 
  • Elevation: + / – 250 metres 
  • Guided Hike: A day trip to Hveradalir from Akureyri to get a taste of the area


Hikes in the Westfjords, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and West Iceland

This corner of Iceland is much quieter than other areas and feels much more remote. The hikes here are shorter than in other areas, but the adventure is in getting to the start of the walk. A number of hikes are included here but for the real hiking adventure then the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is THE place to go for a multi-day away from it all hike.

Illugastaðir Seal Walk

This short, well marked path in the north of Iceland takes you past small ponds to a wildlife hide on the shoreline. From here it is possible to see seals hauled out on the small island across the channel of water. This small finger of land is the last part of the Arctic Coast Way across the far north of Iceland.

The path to the seals is obvious by the large signs from the parking area at Illugastaðir Camp Site. The grassy track hugs the shoreline along a number of small inlets and bays. There are birds all around as well as waders and ducks rooting through the seaweed along the shoreline. There is also a proliferation of wild flowers that make the entire coast a colourful patchwork.

After the second inlet the path divides. The right fork takes you down to a small wildlife hide. Binoculars are provided and looking out across the small channel between the mainland and the island will allow you to get a view of the resident seals. The will be blended into the seaweed and rocks of the island. You may also see some buzzing around in the water.

Once you have had your time with the seals, return to the main path and continue to the viewpoint on the headland before returning back to the parking area.

To get the most out of this walk it is beast to visit two hours either side of low tide when the seals will be hauled out. Check the tide times HERE

  • Start point:  Illugastaðir Camp Site
  • Co-ordinates of parking area:  65.60690°N, 20.87635°W
  • Nearest town or road: Road 711, north of Hvammstangi
  • Distance: 2km
  • Time needed: 45minutes plus seal watching time
  • Elevation: +/- 5m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike


Old Óshlíð Road

The old Óshlíð Road used to link the main town of Ísafjörður with the fishing village of Bolungarvík. When the new tunnel was opened, the coast road was closed to traffic and is now a lovely coastal walk (or cycle ride). There are a large number of hikes in the area but this is the flattest and easiest.

This hike can be as long or as short as you want and can start from the Bolungarvík or the Ísafjörður end of the road. Whatever your choice of starting location, parking is close to the new tunnel entrance on either side. At the Bolungarvík end of the tunnel you can explore Bolungarvík Lighthouse and the small Ósvör Maritime Museum which is close to the start of the old road. On the Ísafjörður side of the tunnel there is a small village but nothing more.

The old road is closed to vehicles and is slowly being reclaimed by nature. It is flat and follows the cliffs along the shoreline. The mountains tower above you with just a short drop to the sea below. The road passes through old tunnels and waterfalls cross the road at various points. This hike is simple but the seascapes are stunning, especially when it is a clear sunny evening. The sun will set across the sea giving amazing views across to the wild and remote Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the distance.

Take care in bad weather as visibility can drop dramatically, landslides are possible and waves can be large.

  • Start point:  Bolungarvík Lighthouse (turn right almost as soon as you leave the tunnel on the Bolungarvík side of the mountain)
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 66.15236°N, 23.20912°W
  • Nearest town or road: Bolungarvik north of Ísafjörður and Road 61
  • Distance: 13km
  • Time needed: 3 hours
  • Elevation: 10m
  • Guided Hike: No guided hikes available but self drive around Iceland and include this hike


Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Látrabjarg Bird cliffs and Bjargtangar Lighthouse are located in the far west of Iceland. The road to the area is rough and narrow with a mountain pass and wild coastline drive to navigate. The journey however is worth it for the hike along the cliff tops with the puffins and kittiwakes nesting on every available ledge and crevice during May, June and July.

This hike in the Westfjords takes you to the most westerly point in Iceland and in Europe. It is windswept and wild even on a bright summer’s day. Take care how you park or you may just lose your car door to the wind.

The hike starts with a quick detour to the lighthouse before heading up the steep path to the bird cliffs. Given the exposed nature of the cliffs and the sheer drops it is essential that you are aware of your surroundings. Even from the start birds will be everywhere trying to distract you from the hike. The path follows the cliff edge up away from the parking area before dipping down slightly before heading up again.

After about 2km the area favoured by the puffins will come into view. They will be running around everywhere and flying in with sand eels before diving into their burrows. Find a spot that you like (away from the cliff edge) and take your time to sit and watch these comical birds before returning back down the path to the parking area. On the return you will see kittiwakes and gulls circling and guarding their nests and young.

The road to the lighthouse from the small village at Breiðavík is narrow and snakes along under the cliffs and while it is tempting to walk it is not safe with passing vehicles which includes buses.

  • Start point:  Bjargtangar Lighthouse Parking Area
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 65.50275°N, 24.52910°W
  • Nearest town or road: Road 612 near Breiðavík, south on Road 62 from Patreksfjörður
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time needed: 1 hour plus puffin watching time
  • Elevation: 142m
  • Guided Hike: Take a complete tour of the Westfjords and include a stop at the bird cliffs


Arnarstapi to Hellnar

Text and Image from Family Can Travel

Even the short hikes in Iceland can provide some of the most incredible scenery, like hiking from Arnarstapi to Hellnar on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. While this easy hike is only 6km, out and back, it’s packed with stunning views, a lava field, and even the statue of Bárður Snæfellsás, for which the peninsula is named. The trail from Arnarstapi to Hellnar is relatively flat and is easy to follow. 

This hike can be started from either Arnarstapi or Hellnar. From the parking area in Arnarstapi, viewing platforms nearby offer amazing views of the rugged coastline. From there a well-maintained trail follows the coastline, where there are towering cliffs and seabirds aplenty. There is little protection along the cliffs, so be sure to keep a safe distance. 

Along the trail, look for an offshoot to get up close to the statue of Bárður Snæfellsás and watch for the natural stone arch off the coastline. Past the gate, this hike makes a transformation as it meanders through a lava field. It makes a final transition to a wooden boardwalk as the trail nears Hellnar. There is no shortage of jaw-dropping views from start to finish, making it well worth the time, even if it is a short and easy hike.

  • Start point:  Parking area at the end of Arnarstapavegur, Arnarstapi
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.77027°N, 23.62123°W
  • Nearest town or road: Arnarstapi on Road 574 around the Snæsfellsnes Peninsula
  • Distance: 6km
  • Time needed: 2hours
  • Elevation: 44m
  • Guided Hike: A private jeep safari around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that will allow you to complete this walk in your own time

Grábrók Craters

The hike around the Grábrók Craters is a short walk which includes a walk around the crater rim on one cone and a loop around a second. The walk up to the crater rim is steep but has steps most of the way, the views across the flat landscape and the other craters is worth the effort.

This short hike is similar to other crater walks in the area, but its proximity to Ring Road 1 makes it a perfect stop on a road trip around Iceland. The parking area is in a layby adjacent to information boards about these craters. There are two large craters here – Grábrók that can be climbed and the adjacent Grábrókarfell which has a path around the base. A third cone, Litla Grábrók is no longer visible after mining in the past. The cones were formed around 3600 years ago.

The hike leaves the parking area on new boardwalks. These are a mix of path and steps and take you all the way to the rim of the crater. The viewing area is in a dip but the path continues around the entire crater rim. As you get to the more exposed part of the crater the wind will be extreme. Even on what seems like a still day the wind will make walking incredibly difficult.

From the crater rim the path heads down to a small junction by a ruined farmhouse. Take the left path which heads across the lava fields and loops around the base of Grábrókfell. This path is a mix of grassy path and a small amount of track. There are two options – to loop back between the two craters or continue along the road to meet the main Ring Road. There are a number of trails that head off into the surrounding lava fields and meadows if you want to extend the hike beyond the immediate area.

  • Start point:  Small car parking area at the base of the cones
  • Co-ordinates of parking area: 64.77164°N, 21.53156°W
  • Nearest town or road: Close to the small village of Bifröst on Ring Road 1, 33km north of Borgarnes
  • Distance: 3.5km
  • Time needed: 50 minutes
  • Elevation: 98m
  • Guided Hike: A super jeep tour that starts with a hike up to the crater rim

Final Thought!

It goes without saying, but some appear to forget to plan ahead – there are no toilets on these trails. Landowners do close access if walkers use the trail as their own personal convenience so please help to keep routes open by not using it as a public toilet. Grim I know and it shouldn’t have to even be said.

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