Hiking in Iceland: The Best Routes for Your Walking Holidays

By Natascha Langelaan

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Hiking in Iceland: The Best Routes for Your Walking Holidays
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Hiking in Iceland? The land of geysers, glaciers and volcanoes and incredible landscapes. Only a handful of people live there, most of them in the capital. The nature in Iceland is unprecedented, untouched and unusually beautiful. Do the Laugavegur Trail or try pronouncing Fimmvörðuháls while marvelling at the most beautiful waterfalls. Go on a walking holiday in Iceland and be enchanted!

Iceland is the largest volcanic island in the world: the land south of the Arctic Circle, covering more than 100,000 km2, is inhabited by just under 330,000 people, about a third of whom live in the capital, Reykjavík. Their language - Icelandic - has not changed significantly in written form since the Vikings conquered the country in the 9th century: Icelanders can still read the texts of their sagas in their original. And one of the Icelanders' favourite pastimes? Hiking, of course. This blog post will introduce you to the best routes for a walking holiday in Iceland.

1. Waterfalls and Volcanoes: Fimmvörðuháls

Fimmvörðuháls, pronounced "Fimm ver thoo houls", is the area between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers in southern Iceland. The route between Skógar and Thórsmörk runs through this pass and is one of the most popular hiking routes in Iceland, despite its length of 22 kilometres and 1,000 metre climb. The hike is also frequently combined with the Laugavegur trail. On 20 March 2010, an eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began in Fimmvörðuháls. Just over a week later, the Fimmvörðuháls eruption caused a 300-metre long fissure and new craters were seen erupting on a northward path. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which paralysed air traffic across northern and western Europe, followed not much later. But no worries, things have been quiet since then.

On the Fimmvörðuháls trail, you can stay overnight in huts or pitch a tent next to one. Please note that it is absolutely forbidden to pitch a tent outside the designated areas within the nature reserve. All the huts along the route have camping areas. Two cabins are situated on the trail. You can walk Fimmvörðuháls in one day or stay overnight in one of the huts. You can read how that works in this extensive blog post. You can compare packages for Fimmvörðuháls here. You can even combine this route with the Laugavegur Trail and make more of your walking holidays in Iceland.

1. Waterfalls and Volcanoes: Fimmvörðuháls

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2. Geysers in the Highlands: Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trail is located in the Southern Icelandic Highlands and connects the geothermal area of Landmannalaugar with the forested valley of Þórmörk in the South. Laugavegur means "The Way of the Water", and that is exactly what the trail does: It simply follows a stream. Landmannalaugar is a spectacular location, accessible only in summer, known for its colourful rhyolite mountains and bubbling hot springs, where guests are welcome to take a bath. Þósmörk, on the other hand, is sheltered by mountains and glaciers and is famous for its greenery.

It is so beautiful that it was named after the most praised of the Old Norse gods, Þór (Thor). The Laugavegur Trail runs from Landmannalaugar past the 'Swan Lake', Álftavatn; the black sand desert of Mælifellssandur, known for the vividly green Mount Stórasúla; and through the plains of Emstrur. Along the way, there are numerous mountain peaks, crater lakes and volcanoes, and the trail lies in the shadow of the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers. The Laugavegur Trail is 55 kilometres long and can be covered in three or more days.

2. Geysers in the Highlands: Laugavegur Trail

3. Endless Lava: Askja Trail

The walking route across Ódáðahraun, from Herðubreiðalindir in the east to Svartárkot in the Bárðardalur Valley in the west, has been named Öskjuvegurinn (Askja Trail). This is a true wilderness hike across the country's largest continuous lava field, visiting many of Iceland's most important highlights, such as Herðubreiðalindir and Askja.

The trail reaches its highest point at about 1300 metres above sea level in the Dyngjufjöll mountains, where even in high summer a snowstorm can occur with very little visibility. Drinking water is scarce on the Askja Trail, except in the huts. Therefore, hikers should bring their daily drinking water.

3. Endless Lava: Askja Trail

4. Quickie in Iceland: Snaefellsjokull National Park

Iceland has three national parks and of course, they are dotted with hiking trails. Usually, you can spot hiking trails from local campsites - the grass is trampled down, or there is a hand-picked wooden sign at a gate. Snaefellsjokull National Park, however, is a special corner of western Iceland, with black sand beaches, gurgling waterfalls and jagged mountain peaks that stand out black against the sky.

A quickie: There is a beautiful one-hour walk between the small hamlets of Arnarstapi and Hellnar that goes from the coast all the way to the edge of the glacier. The path is called Nedstavatn and runs across the lava, winding between unworldly landscapes. Walk back to the road along the path, or continue to Raudfeldsgja ravine, which is also accessible from the road further along the path.

4. Quickie in Iceland: Snaefellsjokull National Park

5. In the Comfort of Reykjavik: Mount Esja Trail

The Mount Esja trail is probably the best-known and most visited hiking trail in Iceland. Why? It is located a stone's throw away from Reykjavik. The trail leads to a volcanic mountain range called Esjan, often referred to as Mount Esja, and offers breathtaking views of the capital and beyond.

The starting point of Mount Esja can be reached easily and quickly from Reykjavik by public transport. First, take bus number 5 from the main train station Hlemmur towards Artun. The bus ride takes about 10 minutes. At the bus stop Artun, take bus 57 towards Akureyri, but after about 20 minutes, stop at the bus stop Esja Hiking Centre. The trail is very clearly marked, and in good weather, you will have no problems navigating. However, keep in mind that the weather in Iceland can change very quickly and even an easy hike like this one can become very difficult in bad weather. Also check the snow conditions before you go, because if the mountain is covered in snow you will probably need crampons and an ice axe. So preferably in the summer!

5. In the Comfort of Reykjavik: Mount Esja Trail

Hiking in Iceland? Mind the Seasons!

As a hiker, you may already know that it is not enough to just know the general weather patterns of a country before you start your trek. Tourists who spend most of their time in museums and on shopping streets need a different weather forecast than those who spend their days in the wilderness under the open sky, venturing into uninhabited areas, climbing to higher altitudes and sleeping in huts or tents.

What surprises most foreign hikers in Iceland is not the stormy weather or the isolated wilderness, but the constant wind! In practice, this means that you cannot wear thin plastic ponchos to protect you from the rain and your tent must be sturdy and able to withstand the weather. The season runs from May to September but the weather in Iceland can always change quickly. So pay attention. The safest season for the Laugavegur trail is summer.

What Is Life Like in an Icelandic Hut?

If you stay in an Icelandic hut, you must bring your own sleeping bag, as no sleeping bags or blankets are provided. The huts are warm, so the sleeping bag does not have to be of Arctic quality. In the larger huts, you can expect both running water and water toilets, but in some smaller huts, you will have to fetch water from a nearby stream and use a latrine or outdoor toilet. Please note that it is not possible to buy hot, ready-made meals in most Icelandic huts. You will therefore have to bring your own food while hiking in Iceland. The exception to this is the huts along the popular Laugavegur walking route. There, all huts sell some supplies, such as dried food for backpacking, soft drinks, and bars, as well as cookers and gas. Only in Langadal in Þórsmörk is it possible to buy beer and wine.

Moreover, in all, except the largest huts, you cannot leave any waste or rubbish behind but have to take it back to the lowlands. You can camp near the huts for a camping fee, but campers have to bring their own cooker and kitchenware because they cannot use the kitchen facilities in the huts.

Huts rules

Hygiene, cleanliness, and consideration for fellow travellers are very important. The aim of these simple hut rules is to ensure a comfortable stay for hikers and other travellers.

  • If the manager is available, please discuss your reservation with him/her, where to sleep, and specific hut rules
  • Rest times are from midnight to seven o'clock the next morning2
  • No shoes in the hut. Please leave your hiking boots in the hallway
  • Smoking in the huts is strictly forbidden
  • Leave the cooking area clean and tidy
  • Add water to the big pot on the kitchen cooker, if necessary
  • When leaving, make sure the hut is clean and tidy
  • Don't forget to pay for the accommodation and facilities
  • Help to keep the environment clean by not leaving your rubbish behind
  • You hike in Iceland to experience nature. Remember: Clean environment = beautiful nature!

What Is Life Like in an Icelandic Hut?

Laugavegur Trail Huts' Price List

Check the price list below to get an approximate idea of what you can buy in the huts and what it costs. Please note that the prices are in Icelandic Kronor (IKR).

Laugavegur Trail Huts' Price List

Packing List for Your Walking Holidays in Iceland

Iceland's weather is completely unpredictable and constantly changing. The only predictable thing about Icelandic weather is the wind, as it is almost always blowing. For example, it is not unusual to experience a snowstorm in July or dense fog when the weather forecast was sunny! This is why walkers should always carry the same basic equipment in their backpacks, regardless of the season, weather, or length of the walk. This basic equipment includes navigation equipment (GPS, map, and compass) and wind and waterproof clothing. Please note that when staying in cabins in Iceland, you will need to bring both a sleeping bag and your own food, as you cannot buy a ready-to-eat meal in the cabins. 

Essentials

  • Hiking boots (broken in)
  • Hiking socks
  • Base layer tops - ideally thermal
  • Mid-layer tops (e.g. fleece)
  • Hat for warmth or shade
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Casual clothing & footwear for evenings
  • Nightwear and underwear
  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses & sunscreen
  • Toiletries
  • Meals

Extras

  • Small first aid kit
  • Blister plasters
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera and charger
  • Map and compass
  • Whistle
  • Book to read
  • Energy snacks
  • Walking Sticks

How to Get Ready for Your Walking Holidays in Iceland

A hut-to-hut trek can be done by anyone in normal health. However, if you want to get the most out of your Laugavegur trek, it is wise to prepare yourself physically. Iceland is not anything, so you will have to be creative when it comes to your preparation. For adequate preparation, consider the following five things.

Cardio

It is best to get moving as soon as you think about your walking holiday in Iceland. With proper aerobic fitness, you will have a better heart rate, healthy muscles, and great lung capacity. Running, walking, more walking, and cycling or swimming are excellent exercise methods. One hour, 3 to 4 times a week is sufficient.

Endurance training

Building up endurance fitness is also important. The best thing you can do is walk long distances, at least once a week. If you can walk comfortably for a long time you are ready to go.

Train with equipment

Use the backpack and shoes you plan to use for your hut trip and add this to your training as you work on your cardio and endurance.

Altitude

If you can, mimic altitude by hiking and trekking in the hills and mountains. If you don't live in the right area for this, don't panic. The first two points are the most important.

Know your body

This is perhaps the most important part. If you question your physical abilities, it is wise to have a check-up with your doctor. There is no set method for preparing for your hut trek. Do not overthink your preparation. Take it easy and enjoy your time in Iceland.

There is no fixed method for preparing for your trek to the mountains. Do not overthink your preparation. Take it easy and enjoy your time in Iceland.

How to Get Ready for Your Walking Holidays in Iceland

Where can I book my walking holiday in Iceland?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book many treks in Iceland. We take care of all the details for you, give you personal trekking advice and give you the best service possible. Find all our offers for Iceland here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of Trekking Experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is a walking holiday in Iceland not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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