List of 21 best routes and places to run in Iceland and around Reykjavik, from tackling the mountainous fjords of the east to epic 250km trails across highland deserts.

One of the best ways to enjoy the magnificent Icelandic landscapes is by getting active and tackling one of the many trail races around the country. 
 
It comes as no surprise to anyone that Iceland is an outdoorsy kind of place. And despite the often-gloomy weather, in recent years trail running has been growing in popularity. Nowadays, there are plenty of great running routes races around the country, from tackling the mountainous fjords of the east to epic 250km trails across highland deserts.  Iceland is a spectacular country for trail races; if you’re looking to get involved, here’s a list of running trail races around the country. 
 
 

Best Running Routes in Capital Region

 
Pentecost Trail Race
Beginning in the town of Hafnarfjörður in the capital region, this trail race is one of the easiest for visitors to participate in. Heading southeast of the town into lava fields, past lakes, through forests and up mountains, the scenery is hard to beat; especially when you consider how close to Reykjavik the race is. This is one of the fastest growing events in the country, with every year seeing more participants. There are three distances available: 22km, 17.5km and 14km.
 

Photo credit; © Pentecost Trail Race

 
Mt Esja Ultra - Iceland´s toughest mountin race
This challenging run tackles Mt. Esja, the mountain range that serves as the dramatic backdrop to Reykjavik. Held in June, there are a number of options for those looking to compete: the Mt Esja Ultra is a 14km course that loops up to Steinn and back a couple of times; the Mt Esja Marathon is 45km and Iceland’s only sky-marathon (trail runs above 2000m with an incline exceeding 30%); and a new race called ‘The Rock Vertical’ is a 3km race up to Steinn. As one of the most popular spots for Reykjavik locals to spend their time in nature, the views of the city and surrounding landscapes are amazing.
 
 
Photo credit; © Mt Esja Ultra Trail Race
 
 
Eco Trail Reykjavik
One of the newer trail races on the circuit, the Eco Trail Reykjavik begins at the volcanic lake of Kleifarvatn on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Taking in the incredible scenery on the way in to Reykjavik, there are four different trails open for registration – the longest being a whopping 83km. Participants run through the summer’s night in July, with all distances (83km, 43km, 23km and 13km) finishing at  Nauthólsvík, Reykjavik’s geothermal beach. Once you’ve crossed the finish line you can take a refreshing dip in the ocean before retreating to the nearby hot tub for a long recovery soak.
 
 
Photo credit; © robertrunar
 
 
Tindahlaupið – The Peaks Run
Taking place in the town Mosfellsbær north of Reykjavik, the peaks run is another great challenge taking place in the amazing nature on the city’s doorstep. You might have already guessed that this run involves slogging up and down several different peaks; just how many is entirely up to you. There are four different options to choose from: the easiest tackles just one peak while the most difficult climbs seven – not for the faint of heart.
 
 
 
Reykjavik Marathon
This is Iceland’s biggest running event, taking place in the capital in August every year. There are five different distances that you can register for, meaning that there’s something for all kinds of people and fitness levels; there’s even a 600m fun run which is perfect for kids. Since its inception in 1984, it has taken place on the same day as Culture Night in the city. This means that if you do decide to take part in the marathon, you’ll also be able to enjoy the music, performances, and fun of one of the biggest nights on the Reykjavik calendar.
 
 
The Midnight Sun Run
Another popular running event that takes place in Reykjavik is the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run. Held around the summer solstice in June (which is generally the 21st of June), it makes use of the longest day in Iceland. Beginning and ending in Reykjavik’s Laugardalur Valley, participants are granted access to one of the biggest and best swimming pools in the country, Laugardalslaug, where they can recover after the race. There are three different distances to choose from: half marathon, 10km and 5km, and the routes lead you into the eastern suburbs of Reykjavik via footpaths.
 
 
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Affordable accommodation in Reykjavik capital area
If you are looking for accommodation in Reykjavik we recommend the affordable Reykjavik HI Hostels. These award winning, ecolabelled and welcoming budget hostels all have guest kitchen and self-catering facilities and can accommodate small and large groups; Reykjavik HI Hostels.
 
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Best Running Routes in South Iceland

The Puffin Run, Westman Islands
Catch the ferry across to the Westman Islands to enjoy the Puffin Run, which loops around the biggest island in the volcanic archipelago, Heimaey. The entire loop is 20km and can be run solo or as part of a group, each member tackling a part of the course. The terrain is very volcanic, most of the race taking you along the island’s coastline. You’ll be granted great views of the mainland, where the shimmering Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers stand. 
The HI Iceland team did it!
 
 
 
Hengill Ultra
The Hengill Ultra is held in June every year and is one of the only races in this list that scales an active volcano. With the longest course coming in at 100km, it’s also one of the longer trails available in the country. All routes start at the park in Hveragerði, a small village situated over one of the most geothermally active spots in Iceland. Courses then continue into the mountains and valleys north of town. On top of the 100km, there’s a 50km, 25km, 10km, 5km and a 4X 25km relay available as well.
 
 
 
Gullspretturinn 
A somewhat low-key run, the Gullspretturinn is a small 8.5km cross country race around the lake Laugarvatn in the Golden Circle area. Laugarvatn is home to the Fontana Geothermal Baths, making this another race where you can enjoy the geothermal water of Iceland after you’ve crossed the finish line. On top of that, the area itself is beautiful
 
Photo credit; © Otto and Birta
 
 
Laugavegur Ultra
The Laugavegur trail is Iceland’s most famous hike, so it makes sense that this mountain race is one of the most popular in the country. Traversing 55km of ice, rivers, sand, gravel and snow between Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk, this is also quite the challenge; normally hiking the same trail is done over 4 days. But the spectacular volcanic makes it all worth it. Registering for the Laugavegur Ultra might be the bigger challenge though; as one of the most popular races in the country, it usually gets fully booked within a few hours.
 
Photo credit; © Laugavegur Ultra Trail Race
 
 
Thórsgata Volcano Trail Run
For something a little less intense than the Laugavegur Ultra but equally as beautiful, the Thórsgata Volcano Trail is a 12km run through the stunning Thórsmörk Nature Reserve. The run starts at the Volcano Huts before leading participants through forests of birch onto the volcanic ridges and mountains that make up this stunning reserve. All of it is backdropped by the glittering Eyjafjallajökull glacier as well, from which glacial rivers flow into the deep valleys of the reserve.


Photo credit; © Volcano Trail Race
 
 
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Affordable accommodation in South Iceland
If you are looking for accommodation in the southern area we recommend these 10 affordable HI Hostels close by. These hostels all have guest kitchen and self-catering facilities and can accommodate small and large groups; HI Hostels in South Iceland
 
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Best Running Routes in the Westfjords and West Iceland

Snæfellsjökulshlaupið
This 22km race takes in some epic scenery on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and its perfect cone-shaped volcano. Starting in the small coastal village of Arnarstapi, the trail goes along Route F570, the mountain road that takes you as close as you can get to the glacier Snæfellsjökull. This volcano was the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and on a clear day can be seen all the way from Reykjavik. The race takes place at the end of June each year.
 
Photo credit; © Snaefellsjokulshlaupid
 
 
The Runner’s Festival, Westfjords
The Runner’s Festival is held every year in July around Ísafjörður and Thingeyri in the Westfjords, one of the more remote regions in the country. There are plenty of events to get involved in here; a half marathon and a shorter 10km course, a wilderness run with three different distances, a fun run, open water swimming and mountain biking and even a triathlon over three days. With so many options, there’s something for all types of runners and fitness levels.   
 
Photo credit; © iceland.is
 
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Affordable accommodation in Westfjords and West Iceland
If you are looking for accommodation in the Westfjords and West area we recommend the affordable HI Hostels close by. These hostels all have guest kitchen and self-catering facilities and can accommodate small and large groups; HI Hostels in West Iceland and HI Hostels in West Fjords.
 
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Best Running Routes in North Iceland

Mývatn Marathon & Lava Run
At the end of May every year the Mývatn Marathon takes place in North Iceland. Looping around the lake famed for its volcanic landscapes and diverse birdlife, there are multiple different distances open for registration; 42km, 21km and 10km. In recent years there has also been the addition of the Lava Run, a 9.4km run that begins in the expansive lava field Dimmuborgir. Both the marathon and lava run end at the Mývatn Nature Baths (entrance included in the registration) so you can have a nice long soak after your race.
 
Photo credit; © Myvatn Marathon and Lava Trail Race
 
 
Thorvaldsdalur Terrain Run
Iceland’s oldest terrain run, the Thorvaldsdalur race has been around since 1994. For 25km, participants struggle over challenging terrain, following old sheep tracks where possible through valleys, over hills and even over an avalanche of rocks. All of this takes place northwest of Akureyri in a little-visited area of the country.
 
Photo credit; © northiceland.is
 
 
Four Forest Run, Fnjóskadalur
Running through one forest in Iceland is unusual enough, let alone four of them, making this trail race one of the more unique in the country. The atmosphere is relaxed and very local, and despite not having the intensely dramatic scenery found on the Laugavegur or Dettifoss trails, it’s still beautiful in its own way, trailing alongside the banks of the Fnjóská river. There are four different options: 30.6km, 17.7km, 10.3km and 4.3km. 
 
 
 
Súlur Vertical
The Súlur Vertical is exactly what it sounds like: a vertical ascent up the mountain Súlur, which boasts an impressive height of 1170m. Beginning at the Hamrar campsite just south of Akureyri, the trail first meanders through the area (one of Akureyri’s most popular recreational spots) before turning towards the challenging mountain. The race then turns back and finished in the city centre of Akureyri, where there are plenty of great spots to enjoy a nice cold beer.
 
Photo credit; © VerticalSulur
 
 
Fire and Ice Ultra
No doubt the toughest foot race in Iceland, and amongst the toughest in the entire world, the Fire and Ice Ultra isn’t for the faint of heart. Taking place at the end of August/beginning of September, the trail covers 250km of every Icelandic landscape imaginable; from the highland deserts and glacial rivers to lush meadows and chaotic lava fields. Over six stages, competitors run from the centre of Iceland all the way to the northern coastline, mere kms from the arctic circle.
 
Photo credit; © legendaryandyericksenfilms
 
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Affordable accommodation in North Iceland
If you are looking for accommodation in the northern part of Iceland we recommend the affordable HI Hostels close by. These hostels all have guest kitchen and self-catering facilities and can accommodate small and large groups; HI Hostels in North Iceland.
 
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Best Running Routes in East Iceland

Dettifoss Trail Run
Another of the most spectacular runs available in Iceland. Held on the second Saturday of August, the race takes place in the canyon Jökulsárgljúfur, the northernmost territory of Vatnajökull National Park. There are three distances available: 32.7km, 21.2km and 13km, all of them ending at Ásbyrgi, the horseshoe shaped canyon at the northern end of the park. The longest route begins at Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, following the edge of the canyon as it heads north towards the coast.
 
Photo credit; © Kristjan Halldorsson
 
 
Dyrfjöll Trail Race, Borgarfjörður Eystri
In the northeast of Iceland is the quiet village of Borgarfjörður Eystri, surrounded by some spectacular mountain scenery. This trail race delves deep into those mountains, taking you past alpine lakes and rock formations towards Stórurð, one of the most underrated areas in the country. The views from the mountains (over 1000m in elevation) are sublime; the distance of the race is 23km.
 
Photo credit; © dyrfjallahlaup
 
 
Barðsnes Trail Run, Neskaupstaður
Taking place on the same weekend as the Neskaupstaður town festival, the Barðsnes Trail Run is a 27km race that takes place in August in the East Fjords. To begin, the emergency rescue squad ferry participants across the fjord to the starting point. The route dips in and out of two uninhabited fjords before coming back into the final fjord where Neskaupstaður If 27km feels too long, there’s also a 13km option that tackles the second half of the course.
 
Photo credit; © bardsnedhlaup-norðfirdi
 
 
 
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Affordable accommodation in East Iceland
If you are looking for accommodation in the eastern part of Iceland we recommend the affordable HI Hostels close by. These hostels all have guest kitchen and self-catering facilities and can accommodate small and large groups; HI Hostels in East Iceland.
 
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James Taylor is a travel journalist from Australia who lived in Iceland for three years.

Falling in love with the country, he began to write about his travels for magazines and websites in Australia, Europe and the U.S.A.