Hikes & treks



Our Guide to Hiking and Trekking in Iceland

Date 12 April 2020

Our Guide to Hiking and Trekking in Iceland

Our Guide to Hiking and Trekking in Iceland

Iceland is a paradise for trekkers and hikers and walkers of all kinds. From leisurely 2-hour hikes to multi-day marathon treks, Iceland is full of twisting, crisscrossing trails in incredibly varied landscapes.

Specialist of the field are often quoted saying Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world for hikers. Trails are countless and well-maintained, especially in national parks and nature reserves.

Since Iceland's nature is fragile and tourism has grown immensely in the country, you really need to respect the rules and stay on marked trails so as not to damage fragile ecosystems.

A few essential resources for hiking

Randonnée à Kerlingarfjoll

First things first, this very detailed hiking map was designed by iceland-dream.com and is updated all the time with the best hikes in the country:

Check out these articles for our favorite hikes and treks:

For many years now this reference book has been the gold standard for hikers in the country and lists about sixty of the best: the Rother guide:

Shelter and weather information websites in Iceland:

What do you need to plan for?

Randonnée skogafoss

While some short hikes are very easy, others require a rather high level of physical endurance. Whatever you do, don't go out hiking on monster trails in Iceland without doing your research, especially for multi-day treks that require proper organization and training.

There are shelters in the highlands designed for long treks with over-night stops, but these are rare and can get crowded, so it is essential to check first on the official fi.is website.

It is of course essential, especially for long hikes, to get accurate weather data before leaving, especially since the weather changes very quickly in Iceland and can really rain on your parade.

In terms of equipment, here are some essentials:

  • Hiking boots: Although it may seem obvious, good waterproof hiking boots are essential in Iceland, especially as the terrain is slippery and uneven almost all of the time.
  • A backpack: Indispensable for storing maps, bottles, food, first-aid kits and spare clothing.
  • Warm clothing: It's not called Iceland for nothing so dress accordingly and layer intelligently to keep warm. Waterproof rain-gear is also absolutely essential, as well as a good fleece jacket and spare socks (you may have to cross rivers and get your toes wet).
  • Gloves and hat: Yes, even in summer you should bring gloves and a hat to avoid freezing your ears off on days when the temperature drops well below 10 °C.
  • A good detailed map: Especially in regions where trails are less marked, a map is essential, after all this is the actual wilderness and your mobile phones can't get a signal everywhere in Iceland.
  • Walking sticks: These can be a game-changer for long, tiring hikes where more support makes all the difference.
  • Water!: Water is of course the most important resource on any hike, especially in the center of the island which is essentially a desert in many places (Sprengisandur for example).

When should you go hiking in Iceland?

Randonnée glacier

While you can hike technically at any time of the year in Iceland, most are only possible in summer.

The Icelandic winter is rough and the days are short, and the road conditions do not allow for long drives. Most secondary roads are simply closed in winter, making it impossible to get to the inland areas where the trails are most numerous. 

Those who wish to hike within the island or on the glaciers in winter should know that these are usually organized tours with professional guides.

The preferred period for those who want to hike without a guide is therefore summer, from May to September for so-called “short” day hikes. But for the more adventurous trekkers and hikers, the long days from early July to September are best.

Where to go hiking in Iceland?

Randonnée Landmannalaugar

While hiking trails can be found absolutely everywhere in Iceland, some regions are better than others, with more trails or more beautiful trails, as is the case for:

  • Landmannalaugar region
  • Snaefellsnes region
  • Lake Myvatn area
  • Skaftafell Park
  • Thorsmork Region
  • Kerlingarfjöll Region
  • The Fjords of the East
  • Hornstrandir region

While all of these have amazing hiking trails, some are known for their much more intensive treks, such as Landmannalaugar, Thorsmork, the Eastern Fjords or Hornstrandir.

  • Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork

Landmannalaugar is simply the best region for hikes and treks in Iceland. The landscapes are some of the most beautiful in the world and if you had to choose only one region for hiking, we would recommend this one. Besides its incredibly colorful rhyolite mountains, the region is also known for its hot springs and having the best-known trek in Iceland which leads to the Thorsmörk region in 4 days and can even be extended to Skogafoss.

The Thorsmork region is just as beautiful. The landscapes found along the trek are unforgettable with their birch forests (extremely rare in Iceland), black sand deserts, volcanic phenomena, solfatares and other fumaroles, and finally the splendid multicolored Landmannalaugar mountains.

  • Skaftafell Park

Skaftafell Park is one of the most popular parks for hikers. It is located in the south of Iceland and is very easy to get to. There are numerous very well-marked hiking trails and this time in completely different setting, a world of waterfalls, greenery, and glaciers!

The Myvatn region is one of the most touristic regions in Iceland because there is so much to see. There are scores of hiking trails concentrated in a radius of about 50 km around the lake. The landscapes alternate between lakes, lush flora, and lava fields...

In the eastern fjords you can enjoy hikes of beautifully contrasting and varied landscapes. Here, you'll see waterfalls, meadows, fjords, and mountains. This variety is particularly pronounced near Seydisfjörður or Borgarfjörður Eystri. And Viknasloðir and its treks are among the most beautiful in the country. Altogether there are dozens of hiking trails in the region.

  • Kerlingarfjöll Region

Often compared to Landmannalaugar, but less well known because it is more isolated, the Kerlingarfjöll region is nevertheless one of Iceland's treasures. The site offers numerous well-marked hikes and trails that traverse snowy rhyolite mountains with scattered fumaroles, a real slice of paradise.

Accessible even in winter, the peninsula is known for its many short and user-friendly hikes that are nevertheless magnificent. Many of them have the famous Snaefellsjökull volcano in the background, which dominates the area. And in the Snaefellsjökull National Park you can actually ascent the volcano to see the incredible panorama from the top.

  • Hornstrandir region

While all the western fjords have a many hiking trails, the Hornstrandir region at the far north of the fjords and accessible only by boat, is quite simply a dream for trekking enthusiasts. Indeed, it is in this region cut off from the world and inhabited only by birds and polar foxes that you can do two of the Iceland's most mythical treks, one in 7 days from Grunnavík to Hesteyri, the other from Aðalvík to Hornvik in 3 days.