Driving and hiking in Iceland

 

Iceland is an amazing island with limitless possibilities when it comes to hiking. There is something for everyone, so what better way to explore the land than driving around and hiking. Here are a few ideas for hiking, but for further information please contact the hostel in your area or the nearest information centre where you can buy a detailed map of the most popular hiking routes.

 

Below is a list of a few of the most popular and scenic mountains in Iceland that have relatively easy access to their peaks or their base. The list is by no means exhaustive nor does HI Iceland take any responsibility for the accuracy of its information.

 

Hiking in Icelandic mountains can be treacherous and great care has to be taken when hiking on an unknown path in an unfamiliar area. Not only can the trails themselves be risky, but the weather in Iceland is known for being unpredictable and as a result you can have sun, wind, fog and the ever famous lateral rain all in the same afternoon! 

 

It is therefore imperative that travellers familiarize themselves with the area they intend to hike in (e.g. with maps) and after checking the weather forecast, dress accordingly. It is a very good rule to let someone know where you are going and leave an itinerary with your return date (or return time, if it´s a short hike), at your place of accommodation.

 

More detailed information on travel safely can be found on www.safetravel.is which is run and operated by the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue.  On that website you can leave a complete travel plan as a backup plan in case a traveller gets lost. HI Iceland urges all hikers, especially those who plan on hiking alone, on seldom travelled routes, or for a long time, to leave their travel plan on the website.

 

For those who want to participate in a scheduled hike with a professional guide, HI Iceland sells a variety of guided hikes for everyone. Further information can be found here.

 

Reykjavík and Reykjanes area


Mount Esja:  Þverfellshorn peak

 

Esja


Height: 914 m
Walking time (ascent):
 1,5-3 hours
Increase in elevation:
 830 m
Walking length:
 7 km


The most prominent mountain within the capital area of Reykjavík, Mt. Esja is situated about 10 km to the north of Reykjavík. This volcanic mountain range has some very popular hiking routes nestled in its slopes. One of the more popular ways up mount Esja is up the Þverfellshorn. Mt. Esja is more of a massif than mountain, its graceful bulk and skyline dominating the view to the north from the city. Its summit gullies will usually hold snow for the whole year, except one or two weeks in late August. There is an observation post on top and a guestbook for you to sign. Start the hike at the car park, follow the path to the top. The trails are clearly marked but can be a little narrow at the top and can be quite steep in places.

 

The summit can usually be reached in 1 to 1,5 hours, but expect to take anything from 1 to 2,5 hours, depending on your condition. 

 

In anything except high summer there will be some snow on the upper slopes. The wind can be very strong and Icelandic weather is quite mercurial. The final leg to the summit crosses a steep rock band and is marked with yellow posts and chains. Be sure to follow the route closely. Take extreme care on the way down as a fall could be serious.

 

 

Mount Móskarðshnjúkar 

 

Móskarðshnjúkar


Height: 807 m
Walking time (ascent): 2-3 hours
Increase in elevation: 677 m
Walking length: 3 km


A beautiful mountain close to Reykjavik, in the same range as mount Esja. The top peaks of this mountain always seem to have sunlight on them, due to their pale rhyolite rock. It is said that a person gets a new perspective on the soutwest part of Iceland when doing this moderately difficult hike.


Mount Hvalfell and Glymur waterfall 

 

Hvalfell

 

Height: 852 m
Walking time (ascent): 2,5-3,5 hours
Increase in elevation: 700 m
Walking length: 5-6 km

 

The hike up to Hvalfell mountain off which Glymur waterfall falls, can be a bit treacherous in low visibility.  However the nature and surroundings are well worth it for those with a little ambition and good hiking gear.

From the Botnsá parking area, one can hike up part of the mountain (350 m) on marked hiking paths. To get a better view of the waterfall it is necessary to see it from the south side of the river Botnsá, however the south side trail is strenuous and potentially hazardous, passing along the edges of steep dropoffs.

 

 

Mount Hengill  

 

Hengill


Height: 805 m (Skeggi peak)
Walking time: 2-3 hours 
Increase in elevation: 500 m
Walking distance: 5 km


Hengill is a beautiful geothermal area and only 20 minutes drive from Reykjavík. The area offers scenic views, amazing hot springs, craters, lush vegetation, rivers and lakes. There are about 125 km of well marked hiking trails at Hengill. It is highly recommended to buy a map published by Orkuveita Reykjavíkur to fully explore this exciting area.

 

 

Mount Vífilsfell  

 

Vífilsfell


Height: 655m 
Walking time: 1,5-2,5 hours
Increase in elevation: 305 m
Walking distance: 3-4 km


Close to Reykjavik and easily accessible by car.  Exit just off route 1, shortly after the exit to the Bláfjöll skiing area (when driving from Reykjavik).  One of the most popular hikes on the southwest corner and gives an amazing view in clear weather.  Some clambering needed near the top.  Use the same way to descend as to ascend.



Mount Keilir 

 

Keilir


Height: 378 m
Walking time: 2-3 hours (up) 4-5 hours (circular route)
Increase in elevation: 280 m
Walking length: 3-4 km (up) 8-9 (circular route)


A relatively easy hike up the mount Keilir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Exit the Reykjanesbraut, west of Kúagerði, to the right and then under the road to the left.  Easily accessible to all car types to Höskuldarvellir, where you park.  About 3 km hike to the mountain itself over lava fields. Difficult to pass at first, but then it gets smoother.  Mountain view is very good over the flat lava fields of the Reykjanes and at the top there is a guestbook for everyone to write in.

 

 

Mount Geitafell 

 

Geitafell

 

Height: 509 m
Walking time: 1,5-2,5
Increase in elevation: 300 m
Walking length: 4 km


A lone mountain in a lava field on the Reykjanes peninsula.  Exit off road 39 and park in the gravel quarry at Litla Sandfell where the trail starts.

 

West Iceland

 

Mount Akrafjall 

 

Akrafjall


Height: 643 m 
Walking time: 2-3 hours (up) 5-6 (circular route)
Increase in elevation: 500 m
Walking length: 12-13 km


Akrafjall mountain has one of the best views in the West Iceland across Faxaflói bay and is the local mountain and pride of the town of Akranes.  A fairly long hike, but relatively easy.  The proprietor of the Akranes HI hostel is always ready to give directions and can even be persuaded to guide in some hikes up the mountain.  

 

 

Mount Hafnarfjall 

 

Hafnarfjall


Height: 844 m 
Walking time: 3,5-5 hours (circular route)
Increase in elevation: 740 m
Walking length: 6-7 km


Hafnarfjall mountain is near the town Borgarnes, it has nine peaks and is a worthwhile mountain to climb.  A trail should be visible up the northern ridge of the mountain, but that is the most popular route.

 

 

Mount Drápuhlíðarfjall 

 

Drápuhlíðarfjall


Height: 527 m
Walking time: 2-3 hours 
Increase in elevation: 477 m
Walking length: 4-4,5 km


On the mountain you will find colourful volcanic rocks like rhyolite and it is famous in Iceland for the slates that people used to collect there and use in in decorating both interior and exterior of their houses. Start the walk right off road 54, close to the deserted farmstead of Drápuhlíð.

 

 

Mount Helgrindur 

 

Helgrindur


Height: 988 m
Walking time: 3-4 hours 
Increase in elevation: 948 m
Walking length: 6-7 km 


Quite a long and brisk hike to a majestic mountain range with jagged edges. The easiest hike up the mountain is from the south point. Start at Kálfárvellir farm, a short way from Búðir hotel. The peaks of Helgrindur are almost solely accessible from the south.

 

 

Mount Kirkjufell 

 

Kirkjufell


Height: 463 m
Walking time: 3-4 hours


This well-known landmark for Grundarfjordur is believed by many to be the most beautiful mountain in Iceland.  A hiking path around the base of the mountain offers amazing views and varied bird life. This is a perfect walk for families and takes about 3 hrs. The hike up the mountain itself, to its peak, is very treacherous and difficult and should not be hiked except by experienced mountaineers and those not suffering from vertigo! 

 

West Fjords 


Mount Vaðalfjöll 

 

Vaðalfjöll 


Height: 609 m
Walking time: 1,5-2,5 hours 
Increase in elevation: 540 m
Walking length: 3 km


Start at Bjarkarlundur hotel. The first part of the trek is steep and rocky so hands are needed for support (no climbing though). Be careful to keep the group together and watch out for falling rocks.

 

 

Mount Ernir 

 

Ernir


Height: 628 m
Walking time: 1,5-2,5 hours
Increase in elevation: 580 m
Walking length: 3 km


An interesting hike up to an excellent viewpoint over the nearby towns of Ísafjörður, Hnífsdalur and Bolungarvík.  Start just outside of Naustahvilft, under the Kirkjubólshlíð, by the road that leads to Súðavík.  The hike is not technically difficult, but can be strenous whereas the slopes are mostly scree and are quite steep.

 


Mount Kaldbakshorn 

 

Kaldbakshorn


Height: 525 m
Walking time: 2,5-3,5 hours
Increase in elevation: 510 m
Walking length: 7 km


A fairly easy walk, although a bit on the long side, up one of the signature mountains of the Strandir area, which is considered very majestic and beautiful.  Start the hike at Fossá river. The hike is up a grassy slope at first, but then scree and gravel plains take over.

 

 

Mount Reykjaneshyrna

 

Reykjaneshyrna


Height: 316 m
Walking time: 1 hour
Increase in elevation: 250 m
Walking length: 1-2 km


An easy walk for the whole family, up to a great viewpoint over an area known for magic and mystery.  Start the walk on the northeastern side of the mountain, which slopes are grassy and accessible, except at the top where scree takes over.

 

North Iceland

 
Mount Tindastóll

 

Tindastóll 


Height: 995 m
Walking time: 3,5 - 4,5 hours
Increase in elevation: 950 m
Walking length: 6 km


A splendid hike and and relatively easy, although quite long, up a historic mountain right above the town of Sauðárkrókur. Start just south of Skíðastaðir farm in Laxárdalur. Mt.Tindastóll is about 20km long and about 8 km wide and is used as the local skiing area during winter.

 


Mount Súlur

 

Súlur  


Height: 1213 m
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Increase in elevation: 1163 m
Walking length: 7-8 km


Mount Súlur is the local mountain of Akureyri, the second biggest town in Iceland and it is very popular for hiking tours.  Start at Syðragil farm in Eyjafjörður, off road 821.  The hike itself is of medium length and difficulty, but immensely enjoyable, giving a spectacular view of the Eyjafjörður fjord (some say as far as to Grimsey island – but for that you might need your binoculars).  

 


Mount Vindbelgjarfjall 

 

Vindbelgjafjall


Height: 524 m
Walking time: 40-50 min.
Increase in elevation: 240 m
Walking length: 1,5-2 km


Easy, short and pleasant hike on a clear path, with a great view over lake Myvatn and surroundings.

 


Dimmuborgir rock formations 

 

Dimmuborgir 


The Dimmuborgir area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel (hence the name). The dramatic structures are one of Iceland's most popular natural tourist. Several marked trails, up to 1 hour long, all easily passable. Option to hike up to Hverfell mountain (1,5 – 2 hours).

 

Ásbyrgi 

 

Ásbyrgi

 

One of the treasures of Jökulsárgljúfur national park, a wooded, horseshoe shaped depression surrounded by cliffs. Old folklore says that Sleipnir, Odin's eight legged horse, stepped down to earth and left a hoof print where today the wooden wonders of Ásbyrgi welcomes visitors and locals alike. Marked trails thread through the area.

 


Dettifoss waterfall 

 

Dettifoss


Walking time: 1 hour
Walking length: 2 km (back and forth)


Dettifoss is a waterfall in the Vatnajökull National Park, it is the most powerfull waterfall in Europe in terms of volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s.. The falls are 100 m wide and have a drop of 45 m down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.

 


Böggvistaðafjall 

 

Böggvisstaðafjall


Height (peak): 773 m
Walking time: 2,5-3 hours
Increase in elevation: 700 m
Walking length: 2,4 / 3,2 km


The local mountain of the town of Dalvik in the mouth of Eyjafjordur.  The mountain is about 730 m high and is the local skiing area and the service hut for the skiing are is also the start of the hike. This path is rather steep and about 2,4 km long.Another trail is often used, an old driving road, which leads most of the way to the top.  That way is about 3,2 km but less steep.A lovely hike for the whole family and an excellent berry picking area in late summer.

 

East Iceland 


Rauðanes peninsula in Þistilfjörður 

 

Rauðanes


Walking time: 2 hours
Walking length: 7 km (back and forth)


About 4 km north of Svalbarði farm in Þistilfjörður, drive up the road to Vellir farm until seeing a marked hiking path around the peninsula.  Rauðanes has some beautiful rock formations in all shapes and sizes and wonderful birdlife.

 


Mount Dyrfjöll 

 

dyrfjöll


Height: 1136 m
Walking time: 5-6 hours
Increase in elevation: 1080 m
Walking length: 7-8 km


Exquisitely beautiful mountains with a color unlike anything.  The hike itself is quite treacherous and demands patience and carefulness.  The view is magnificent. Start the hike at the road between Grjótá river and Jökulsá river in Borgarfjörður eystri (about 50 m).  It is not advisable to go for other parts than the northernmost peak called Ytra Dyrfjall or Dyrfjallstindur (1125 m).  The trail is marked and follows the river Grjótá to begin with.

 


Stórurð rock formations 

 

Stórurð


One of east Iceland's most illustrious spots is the Stórurð (The Giant Boulders), located to the east of the road leading to Borgarfjörður eystri. Stórurð lies below a small glacier west of Dyrfjöll mountains. It consists of gigantic tuff boulders, charming meadows and attractive ponds. This wonderful scene can be reached in 2.5 hours on foot from Vatnsskarð pass. To enjoy Dyrfjöll and Stórurð a whole day plan is highly recommended. Location 2,5 hours walk from Vatnsskarð on road 94. 

 


Mount Bjólfur

 

Bjólfur


Height: 1085 m
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Increase in elevation: ca.900 m
Walking length: 2 – 2,5 hours


The trail starts at Stafdalur skiing area and leads up the western slope of the mountain. This trail is not marked. The river Stafdalsá has to be crossed above the topmost waterfall. This mountain is considered the "village" mountain and in wintertime it collects huge amounts of snow, which can and has resulted in massive avalanches. As a result there have been built great levees in the slopes of the mountain to prevent future avalanches to reach the village.  Even so, some of the houses in the village below have to be abandoned during wintertime because they stand in a designated danger zone.

 

The levees can be reached by car during the summer months on a 4x4 road, but they stand at about 600 m.a.s.  From there is a marked trail (nr.48) to the Vestdal valley towards lake Vestdalsvatn.



Mount Snæfell (north of Vatnajökull glacier)  

 

Snæfell


Height: 1833 m
Walking time: 4-6 hoursIncrease in elevation: 1030 m
Walking length: 7-8 km 

 

Snæfell is the highest mountain in Iceland, which is not a part of a glacier. Snæfell is not far from the controversial power plant Kárahnjúkar.  Snæfell is visible from all over the east, and is particularly magnificent seen from Fljótsdalshérað.


Mount Herðubreið 

 

Herðubreið


Height: 1677 m
Walking time: 6-7 hours
Increase in elevation: 1190 m
Walking length: 10-11 km


Herðubreið is often called the queen of Icelandic mountains because of how beautifully formed it is and its majesty where it looms over the flat lands around it.  Hiking Herdubreid should be done with care, since there is a danger of falling rocks in the hills.  Only experienced hikers should do this hike.

 

South of Iceland 


Mount Kristínartindar 

 

Kristínartindar


Height: 1126 m
Walking time: 3-4,5 hours
Increase in elevation: 1030 m
Walking length: 8-9 km


The mountain Kristínartindar is located in the Skaftafell National Park with an ideal view of the largest glacier of Iceland, Vatnajökull and the surrounding mountains.  In addition to hiking up to the peak of the mountain, it is also possible to hike around it, which is a much easier task and and an excellent choice for the whole family.



Fimmvörðuháls pass 

 

Fimmvörðuháls


Height: 1100 m
Walking time: 10 hours
Increase in elevation: 988 m
Walking length: 21 km


Fimmvörðuháls is the area between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull and it is one of the most popular hiking paths in Iceland. In March 2010 an eruption began in Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the Fimmvörðuháls route. The trail lies between Skogar and Thorsmörk and takes about 7-10 hours, depending on walking speed.  It is possible to get accommodation on both sides of the trail and also up in the pass.  

 

It is very important to watch the weather forecast closely before starting and prepare well for the trip.  At the ICE-SAR homepage it is possible to leave a travel plan (http://www.safetravel.is/), which is highly recommended, especially when hiking alone.


Mount Þríhyrningur 

 

Þríhyrningur


Height: 675 m
Walking time: 2-3 hours (two of the lower peaks)
Increase in elevation: 410 mWalking length: 3-4 km


A nice hike up to a historic mountain with a fantastic view over the Thorsmörk mountain reserve and the Eyjafjalla- and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.  Start the hike at Fiská river on the south side of the mountain.  The slopes are grassy but can be steep in between.

 


Mount Ármannsfell 

 

Ármannsfell


Height: 764 m
Walking time: 2-3 hours (two of the lower peaks)
Increase in elevation: 600 m
Walking length: 5 km


Relatively easy, but fullfilling hike.  This mountain is right on the beaten track but much too seldomly hiked. Start under the Sleðaás at the foothills of the mountain (160 m).



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