Fimmvörðuháls is one of the most popular and breathtaking one-day hikes in Iceland and the trail takes you through Iceland´s most dramatic scenery.
“The banks began to rise and grow stony. Soon they were passing through a hilly rocky land, and on both shores there were steep slopes [...] Behind them stood low crumbling cliffs, and chimneys of grey weathered stone dark with ivy; and beyond these again there rose high ridges crowned with wind-writhen firs.” J.J. Tolkien.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? At least for those who read or watched the Lord of the Rings. And there is a reason why. They say the writer hiked Fimmvörðuháls and Laugavegurinn before writing the books. However, there are many theories about where Tolkien found the inspiration for Middle Earth, Iceland is for sure one of them.
Fimmvörðuháls is one of the most popular and breathtaking one-day hikes in Iceland, in every meaning of the word. The approx. 23 km long trail leads from Skógafoss Waterfall to Þórsmörk Nature Reserve, with an elevation of 1000 m. The hike can be done in either directions following five slightly different routes.
The hike from Skógafoss starts with a short but steep climbing on stairs. It’s the first challenge, especially if you are carrying your gear for a multi-day hike, but you will be rewarded at the top. After viewing the waterfall from the top, the trail follows the path of Skógá River. After a few minutes the chatting of people has become more distanced; we have left the noises from the tour buses and all the problems behind and we are enjoying the view of the 26 waterfalls what the canyon has to offer. After the first 8 km we passed a bridge, which is the last place to get some water before Þórsmörk. There we had to choose between the paths; the blue one is shorter and easier, the red one is a staked trail and it is not as well marked as the blue one. Since I consider myself the adventurous type, we decided to take the red one, and did not regret it, the landscape compensates for the effort.
The staked trail leads to the Fimmvörðuháls hut, where it is finally time to rest a bit. The way up there is quite steep and demanding, especially if it is still snowy, which was in our case. We definitely enjoyed sliding on our butts, when we were finally going downhill. The hut is almost the highest point of the trek, so there is no better place for the well-deserved home-baked flapjacks, than this hut.
Continuing the hike, the path goes between two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull and two craters, Magni and Moði, so the hiker gets the chance to experience the beauty and the power of ice and fire and the way how they form the landscape of Iceland. As you will get further from the glaciers the scene will change quickly, and will even become better.
On the way down to the valley of Krossá River the vegetation slowly appears and within 30 minutes the views breath-taking. Behind us, the white and blue glaciers, the black, rocky mountains covered partly by green grass and forests in the front. The cliffs are like big, unreachable watchtowers are looking down on you. Þórsmörk welcomes you with a flat, windswept vale, from where you can see how the mountains are getting smaller and smaller, until the ground becomes totally flat and reaches the black sand beach.
We spent the night in Þórsmörk, at the smallest, but still one of the loveliest campsites I have ever been, called Slyppugil. Peaceful and quiet. Whilst having dinner in the sunshine, staring at the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, we heard nothing but birdsong and the sounds to the river, which carries the water all the way down from the glacier.
- If you have questions about hiking the Fimmvörðuháls trail you get all the answers here
- Want to hike Iceland's most popular highland hiking routes, the Laugavegur hiking trail and the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail? See more information here.
Eszter Mátyás is a student from Romania, who visited Iceland once and then decided to move here.
She is a nature lover and a travel blogger, passionate about hiking, photography and outdoor activities.