A mountainous terrain with an extraordinarily lush landscape, hiking in Iceland is the perfect way to explore this untamed wilderness. From full-day hikes to multi-day treks, the vast selection of Iceland hiking trails invites visitors of all ages and fitness levels to discover the country’s exquisite beauty. While the best hikes in Iceland are always up for debate, there are several alternatives that give both nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts the experience of a lifetime.
The Gjáin Valley (Easy)
Gjáin is one of Iceland’s best-kept secrets. This 1-mile trail is nestled in the Þjórsárdalur Valley at the edge of the highlands—the landscape is straight out of a fairytale. Go ahead and stray from the beaten path; this mystical oasis lies only a half hour from the more well-known Viking longhouse called Stöng. Watch for spirits from Scandinavian folk legends as you pass by the elegant Gjárfoss waterfall, and enjoy the breathtaking views.
The Fimmvörðuháls Pass (Moderate)
Number one on the list of favorite day hikes in Iceland, the Fimmvörðuháls Pass is a ten-mile trail. It weaves between two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. While the hike can be done in a single day, some choose to spread the trek out over two days, spending one night at the Fimmvörðuháls Mountain Hut, the halfway point between Skógar and Þórsmörk. The decision to hike from Skógar to Þórsmörk (south to north), or vice versa, is yours to make, but if you start in Skógar be aware that the staircase to the top of Skógafoss waterfall will leave you gasping for air even before the trail begins.
The Glymur Waterfall (Difficult)
Thousands of waterfalls span Iceland’s diverse landscape, but few can compete with the majestic Glymur waterfall. This natural wonder stands at a height of 650 feet. It is Iceland’s second tallest waterfall, after the recently discovered 790 feet-high Morsárfoss. Other famous Icelandic waterfalls include Seljalandsfoss, Gullfoss, and Godafoss. This hike is particularly challenging. It involves crossing multiple streams that test your balance, and vertical climbs that require strength and agility. Allow three hours to ascend into the lush, green landscapes. If you’re bothered by heights, you may want to skip this one. If you love the views, go for it.
The Svartifoss Waterfall (Easy)
On the southern edge of enormous Vatnajökull National Park, Svartifoss is fed by the Svínafellsjökull glacier—it’s known for its striking backdrop of black, basalt columns. These lava formations gave this 40-foot high waterfall the name “Black Falls,” and it’s a popular destination for tourists and local hikers. Just beyond Svartifoss is the lesser-known view point at Sjónarnípa. This is a beautiful location to admire mighty glaciers and black sand beaches. The 3-mile loop that includes Svartifoss and Sjónarnípa starts at the Skaftafell Visitor Center, and it’s one of the easier, if not the easiest, hike within the mountainous region of Skaftafell.
Mount Esja (Moderate)
Just on the outskirts of Reykjavík, Mount Esja dominates the city’s skyline north of the capital. This natural refuge is easy to reach, and all its routes are marked according to their level of difficulty. The most popular hike reaches a large rock about 600 feet below the mountain’s peak, Steinn. Most people turn around at this point, because the terrain on the final stretch becomes increasingly difficult. Experienced hikers do have the option to continue to the summit.
The Laugavegur Trek (Difficult)
A 34-mile trail, with an extremely diverse landscape, the Laugavegur Trek has been named one of the world’s best hikes by National Geographic. From Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk Nature Reserve (or vice versa), this trail passes through multicolored rhyolite hills, black sand deserts, and geothermal hot springs. The Laugavegur Trek is indisputably one of the best hikes in Iceland, but due to unpredictable weather and varying terrain, it is only open for two months during the summer. Plan accordingly.
The Icelandic wilderness is as diverse as it is vast. Fortunately, Iceland hiking trails invite locals and tourists alike to discover the country’s natural beauty on foot. With easy, moderate, and difficult trail options, the possibilities for hiking in Iceland are endless. Whether you have a few hours or a few days, this captivating land will certainly lend itself to memories that will last a lifetime.
If you are looking for adventure, Iceland fits the bill. Stay in Reykjavík or venture further into the country’s wilderness. An Iceland vacation is ideal for thrill seekers, nature lovers, or active outdoor enthusiasts.