Hiking in Iceland: Top Trails for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Hiking in Iceland: Top Trails for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Welcome to the land of fire and ice, where rugged landscapes and untouched natural beauty beckon to the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts. Iceland, with its dramatic volcanoes, vast glaciers, bubbling hot springs, and cascading waterfalls, stands as a paradise for those who seek the thrill of hiking amidst the untamed wilderness. As you step foot on this Nordic island, prepare to embark on a journey like no other. Iceland's unique terrain, shaped by powerful geological forces, sets the stage for unforgettable hiking experiences. Whether you're a seasoned trekker seeking a challenge or a nature lover in search of breathtaking vistas, Iceland's top hiking trails promise to ignite your spirit of adventure.

This article will unveil the crème de la crème of Icelandic hiking trails, showcasing the country's most awe-inspiring destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. From the iconic Golden Circle route to the remote highlands of Thórsmörk and Askja, we will delve into the trails that will leave you awe-struck and craving for more.  So tighten your laces, pack your backpack, and let us embark on a virtual exploration of Iceland's top hiking trails. Whether you dream of conquering glaciers, chasing waterfalls, or immersing yourself in the untouched highlands, Iceland's trails await, ready to ignite your passion for the great outdoors. Get ready to experience the wonders of hiking in Iceland like never before.

Exploring Iceland's Unique Terrain

Iceland, often referred to as the "Land of Fire and Ice," is a geological wonderland that boasts a mesmerizing blend of contrasting natural features. Picture a landscape where mighty volcanoes rise majestically from the earth, glaciers carve their way through rugged valleys, hot springs bubble and steam, and magnificent waterfalls cascade down cliffs. This extraordinary tapestry of geological marvels sets the stage for unforgettable hiking adventures.

Volcanoes: The Fiery Guardians

Beneath Iceland's surface lies a hidden world of volcanoes, each one a guardian of the island's untamed spirit. These colossal volcanic mountains, some dormant and others still active form an integral part of Iceland's identity. As you hike in their vicinity, you can't help but feel a sense of reverence for the tremendous power that lies within. 

Mount Hekla, known as the "Gateway to Hell," has erupted more than twenty times in recorded history, leaving behind a legacy of destruction and rebirth. Meanwhile, the notorious Eyjafjallajökull volcano captured the world's attention with its explosive eruption in 2010, reminding us of the fragility of our modern world in the face of nature's might.

Glaciers: Icy Giants in Motion

Iceland's glaciers, vast rivers of ice that slowly carve their way through the landscape, evoke a sense of wonder and awe. These icy giants are the largest in Europe and have shaped Iceland's terrain for thousands of years. Vatnajökull, the largest glacier, covers a staggering area, its glimmering ice cap punctuated by black volcanic ash. 

Hiking on a glacier offers a surreal experience, with each step taking you into a world of icy blue crevasses, shimmering ice caves, and serene frozen lakes. Expert guides lead intrepid hikers across the glacier's ever-changing surface, revealing a captivating world that few have the opportunity to witness.

Hot Springs: Nature's Heated Oasis

Iceland's geothermal activity breathes life into the island, creating a network of natural hot springs that provide a soothing respite for weary hikers. These warm oases, scattered across the land, invite travelers to immerse themselves in their mineral-rich waters and bask in the embrace of nature's healing power. 

The world-famous Blue Lagoon, with its milky-blue waters and rejuvenating silica mud, is a must-visit destination, offering a luxurious and tranquil experience. However, beyond the well-known sites, hidden gems await discovery. Trekking through the Reykjadalur Valley, you can witness geothermal vents, steaming rivers and find your own secluded hot spring to relax and unwind in the midst of Iceland's untamed beauty.

Waterfalls: Nature's Symphony

Iceland's waterfalls are a testament to the country's wild and untamed spirit. With their thunderous roars and captivating beauty, they punctuate the landscape, providing hikers with moments of sheer wonder. Gullfoss, known as the "Golden Falls," plunges dramatically into a narrow canyon, captivating visitors with its raw power and grandeur. 

Skógafoss, a majestic curtain of water that tumbles down from a height of 60 meters, offers a mesmerizing display of mist and rainbows. Hiking trails often meander alongside these cascading wonders, granting trekkers an up-close encounter with nature's symphony. The sheer diversity of waterfalls in Iceland is

The Golden Circle: A Classic Hiking Route

The Golden Circle is one of Iceland's most famous tourist routes and a fantastic choice for hikers. This captivating circuit, located near Reykjavik, takes visitors on a journey through some of Iceland's most iconic natural landmarks. From the dramatic rift valley of Þingvellir National Park, where tectonic plates meet, to the awe-inspiring geothermal activity at the Geysir Geothermal Area and the breathtaking cascades of Gullfoss waterfall, the Golden Circle showcases the country's diverse beauty and rich history. For hikers, this route offers an opportunity to immerse themselves in Iceland's unique landscapes, witness geological wonders, and experience the raw power and grandeur of nature.

Hiking Opportunities and Trails

The Golden Circle is not just about driving from one destination to another; it offers ample opportunities for hikers to explore the remarkable landscapes on foot. In Þingvellir National Park, traverse the park's well-maintained trails that wind through volcanic fissures, alongside crystalline lakes, and across moss-covered lava fields. For those seeking a more challenging hike, the park's backcountry trails provide an opportunity to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden gems away from the crowds.

Image Credit: BilgeBitig

In the Geysir Geothermal Area, take a leisurely stroll on pathways that meander through the geothermal wonders, allowing you to witness the bubbling mud pots and hissing steam vents up close. Be sure to follow designated paths to protect both yourself and the delicate geothermal features. At Gullfoss, enjoy a scenic hike along the canyon's rim, granting you panoramic views of the thunderous falls. Alternatively, descend into the canyon to witness the falls from a different perspective, feeling the mist on your skin and experiencing the sheer power of nature.

Trekking Across Glaciers: The Landmannalaugar and Skaftafell Trails

Prepare to be mesmerized by the natural wonders of Landmannalaugar and Skaftafell, two regions in Iceland that boast breathtaking glaciers and picturesque landscapes. Landmannalaugar, located in the highlands, is known for its mesmerizing blend of vibrant colors and challenging terrains. As you set foot on the Landmannalaugar Trail, you'll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of hues—striking oranges, radiant yellows, and earthy browns—painted across the rhyolite mountains, creating a surreal and ethereal atmosphere. 

Image Credit: Michal Klajban

This region is also home to soothing hot springs, where weary hikers can relax and soak in the mineral-rich waters, surrounded by the untamed beauty of the surrounding landscape. As you traverse the Landmannalaugar Trail, you'll be treated to panoramic views of vast valleys, towering mountains, and the contrast between the vibrant colors and the icy glaciers in the distance, making every step a visual delight.

Recommended Hiking Routes and Trails

When venturing into Landmannalaugar and Skaftafell, it is essential to plan ahead and be well-prepared. Both regions offer designated hiking routes and have campsites or mountain huts available for overnight stays. In Landmannalaugar, the popular Laugavegur Trail is a multi-day trek that takes you through the colorful highlands, with the option to continue on to Þórsmörk. For day hikers, the shorter trails around Landmannalaugar, such as the Brennisteinsalda Loop or the Bláhnjúkur Trail, provide captivating experiences within a shorter timeframe.

Image Credit: Onasill - Bill Badzo

In Skaftafell, the Svartifoss Trail is a must-do, leading you to the iconic basalt column waterfall. For a more challenging hike, the Kristínartindar Summit Trail rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers. It is important to check weather conditions, have proper gear, and be mindful of the rugged and ever-changing terrain in both regions. Additionally, guided tours are available for those seeking expert guidance and local knowledge to enhance their hiking experience.

Chasing Waterfalls: The Fimmvörðuháls and Glymur Trails

Embark on an exhilarating adventure as you chase waterfalls along the Fimmvörðuháls and Glymur Trails in Iceland. The Fimmvörðuháls Trail takes you through a mesmerizing journey between glaciers, revealing breathtaking waterfalls such as the iconic Skógafoss and the enchanting Goðaland. The challenging yet rewarding hike immerses you in the raw power and beauty of these cascades, making every step a thrilling experience. 

Image Credit: J. Griffin Stewart

On the Glymur Trail, prepare to be captivated by Iceland's tallest waterfall, Glymur, as you traverse stunning landscapes, moss-covered lava fields, and deep canyons. Witnessing the cascading waters surrounded by majestic cliffs creates a sensory spectacle that epitomizes the allure of Iceland's waterfalls. Chasing waterfalls along the Fimmvörðuháls and Glymur Trails promises an unforgettable adventure, immersing you in the natural splendor and awe-inspiring beauty of Iceland's cascading wonders.

Tips for Hiking the Waterfall-rich Trails

Hiking Fimmvörðuháls and Glymur Trails requires proper preparation and attention to safety. Ensure you have sturdy hiking boots, layers of clothing suitable for changing weather conditions, and sufficient food and water for the duration of your hike. Research the trail conditions and check weather forecasts before embarking on your journey. Carry a detailed map, GPS device, or guidebook to navigate the trails effectively. 

Image Credit: Jonathan Tweed

Respect the natural surroundings and follow leave-no-trace principles, preserving the pristine environment for future hikers to enjoy. Additionally, consider the level of difficulty and physical fitness required for each trial, and plan accordingly. Hiking these waterfall-rich trails is an adventure of a lifetime, where you'll witness the untamed beauty of nature at its finest.

The Highlands: Thórsmörk and Askja Expeditions

Discover the untamed allure of Iceland's highlands through epic expeditions to Thórsmörk and Askja. Thórsmörk, nestled amidst glaciers and towering mountains, offers awe-inspiring vistas and challenging trails that lead to enchanting viewpoints like Stakkholtsgjá and Tindfjallajökull. In contrast, Askja Caldera transports you to an otherworldly wonderland with its volcanic landscapes and the captivating Víti crater lake. 

Image Credit: James Handlon

The remote nature of these regions demands careful planning, ensuring you have the necessary supplies and self-sufficiency. Guided tours are available for deeper insights, allowing you to explore these extraordinary landscapes while respecting the fragility of the environment. Embrace the raw beauty of Thórsmörk and Askja as you embark on unforgettable expeditions into the highlands of Iceland.

Safety Tips and Considerations for Hiking in Iceland

As you prepare for your hiking adventure in Iceland, it's crucial to prioritize safety to ensure a memorable and secure experience. The country's diverse and sometimes unpredictable weather conditions, challenging terrains, and remote locations require careful planning and preparation. Keep the following safety tips and considerations in mind to make the most of your hiking journey:

  • Weather Check: Iceland's weather can change rapidly, so it's essential to check weather conditions before heading out. Pay attention to forecasts, especially for mountainous and coastal areas where weather patterns can be more extreme. Be prepared for sudden shifts in temperature, strong winds, rain, and even snow.

  • Appropriate Gear: Invest in suitable hiking gear to stay comfortable and protected throughout your hike. Wear sturdy and waterproof hiking boots to navigate diverse terrains. Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions, and don't forget essential items like a waterproof and windproof jacket, thermal base layers, gloves, a hat, and sunglasses. Carry a backpack with essentials such as a map, compass, flashlight, extra clothing, food, water, a first aid kit, and a charged mobile phone.

  • Trail Research and Planning: Before setting off on a hike, research the trail thoroughly. Study maps, guidebooks, or online resources to understand the trail's difficulty level, duration, and any potential hazards. Be aware of river crossings, steep ascents or descents, and challenging terrains. Plan your route accordingly and inform someone about your hiking plans, including your expected return time.

  • Water Safety: Iceland is known for its stunning waterfalls, rivers, and glacial streams, but caution must be exercised around water bodies. Never underestimate the strength and depth of water currents, and avoid crossing rivers or streams in hazardous conditions. Use bridges or designated crossing points whenever possible. Remember that glacier hikes or ice cave explorations should only be undertaken with experienced guides and appropriate safety equipment.

  • Leave No Trace: Respect Iceland's pristine environment by adhering to the principles of "Leave No Trace." Pack out all your trash and dispose of it properly in designated areas. Stay on marked trails to prevent damaging fragile vegetation. Respect wildlife and avoid disturbing their natural habitats. By leaving no trace, you contribute to the preservation of Iceland's natural beauty for future generations.


Iceland stands as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wealth of remarkable hiking trails that showcase its diverse landscapes and natural wonders. From the famous Golden Circle route to the captivating beauty of Thórsmörk and Askja, each trail presents a thrilling adventure filled with awe-inspiring waterfalls, majestic glaciers, and breathtaking vistas.

However, it is vital to prioritize safety, preparedness, and environmental responsibility when exploring these trails. By embracing the spirit of adventure while respecting the pristine wilderness, hikers can truly immerse themselves in the extraordinary beauty of Iceland, forging unforgettable memories and experiencing the sheer magnificence of nature at its finest. So, don your hiking boots, embark on a journey of discovery, and let Iceland's captivating trails ignite your passion for exploration and leave you yearning for more adventures in this remarkable land of fire and ice.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Is Iceland good for hiking?

Ans: Absolutely! Iceland is a haven for hikers, offering stunning landscapes, diverse trails, and breathtaking natural wonders that make it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Q: What is the best month to hike in Iceland?

Ans: The summer months of June, July, and August are popular for hiking in Iceland due to milder weather and longer daylight hours, providing more opportunities to explore the trails. However, shoulder seasons like spring and autumn also offer their own unique charms, with fewer crowds and the possibility of experiencing the mesmerizing Northern Lights.

Q: How do I prepare for hiking in Iceland?

Ans: To prepare for hiking in Iceland, it's important to research the trails, check weather forecasts, and pack appropriate gear, including sturdy hiking boots, layered clothing for changing weather conditions, and essential items like a waterproof jacket, gloves, and a hat. Inform someone about your hiking plans, carry a map and compass, and familiarize yourself with leave-no-trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

Q: Is it safe to hike alone in Iceland?

Ans: While it is generally recommended to hike with a companion or join guided tours, hiking alone in Iceland can be safe with proper precautions. It's important to be well-prepared, inform someone about your plans, stay informed about trail conditions, and use caution, especially in remote areas or during challenging weather conditions. Prioritize your safety, be mindful of potential hazards, and make informed decisions based on your skill level and experience.

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