Iceland is the perfect destination for those looking for adventure and great hiking opportunities. Almost every popular outdoor space has options for all levels of physical ability. The trails loop long, but they also have quicker outs for those looking for a shorter jaunt.
Choosing a hike in a country with thousands of trails—some marked and others not—can be overwhelming. These 10 hikes range from a few hours to a few days, and for some, you’ll even want to hire a guide to lead you. Read up and grab your hiking boots.
If you’ve only got an afternoon, head an hour north of Reykjavik toward Glymur, the second-tallest waterfall in the country. The hike can take upwards of four hours round-trip, but you’ll spot an impressive array of natural attractions along the way (caves, streams, mountain valleys). The beginning of this hike is relatively easy, and it's convenient to turn around whenever you want and only do part of it, making it a great option for beginners. There is a bit of steep climbing once you get closer to the falls, but there are ropes available for added support.
If hot springs, colorful mountain valleys, lava fields, and sulphur deposits are your kind of thing, spend some time researching Landmannalaugar. Located in the Southern Highlands, this is a very technical area best suited for experienced hikers. You can also hire a guide to lead you through this region, as it’s best experienced over multiple days (ideally four). There are shorter hikes in the area, but getting to Landmannalaugar can be a bit of a journey, especially if the weather is bad. The system of trails in this region will lead you across fields of lava rock, through rainbow-hued valleys, and to the iconic Thorsmark canyon.
The best way to take in the eastern fjords of Iceland is by exploring the Viknaslodir trail system. This is the spot for advanced trail hikers as you can spend up to 10 days exploring the area. You can cut that time in half if you just take on the north or south part of the region. Here, you’ll walk past black sand beaches, stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, and ruins of long-gone homes. Getting here is a trip: It’ll take you eight hours from Reykjavik by car. If you’re really short on time, do the three-day hike between Seyðisfjörður to Borgarfjörður.
Hornstrandir covers the country’s northernmost peninsula and it comes with dramatic cliff sides, lush green fields, and misty mornings. You’ll also find a nature reserve here, which is a prime area for quick and easy hikes. This area is completely what you make it, as you can also find six-day treks. There are countless suggestions on how to tackle this region, so it’s best to figure out how many days you can dedicate to exploring and research an itinerary best fitting your schedule. The weather in this region is also incredibly unpredictable — like most places in Iceland — so be sure to prepare for last-minute itinerary changes.
Reykjadalur Hot Spring River
For the less serious hikers, head 40 minutes north of Reykjavik to Reykjadalur where you’ll find a hot river stream running through the mountain valley. There’s a parking lot that drops you into the beginning of the path, which is surrounded by a couple of small geysirs. You’ll walk through the valley and toward even more geysirs — you’ll see the steam (and smell the sulphur) before you actually see the geysirs. Once you get to the hot springs, which is about a 40-minute hike from the parking lot, you’ll find a wooden boardwalk running alongside the water. The further up you walk on the boardwalk, the warmer the water will be.
Attempt this hike during the summer months, as the Highlands area can be quite treacherous during the winter. For the full experience, you can hike the entirety of Laugavegur, which will drop you at Þórsmörk (more on that next). Set aside four days if you’re hiking through. You can choose to do this hike going from north to south or vice versa, the latter will give you more elevation to tackle, but you’ll get fewer hikers along the way. Take note that the only safe hot spring to swim in is Landmannalaugar, so don’t miss that opportunity to rest your sore muscles. You will hit different elevations — and different amounts of snow, depending on the time of year — so plan ahead and book your lodging (there are huts available to rent along the trail) ahead of time. They fill up fast.
This is a fantastic spot to catch a day-long hike. There are multiple trails to choose from and, if you find yourself enjoying it so much you want to add even more time in the area, you can hike to Skógar, a wonderful route full of waterfalls, volcanic craters, and other geological wonders. Þórsmörk itself is stunning: Named after the Norse God Thor, the area looks as if Thor himself smashed down his hammed to create the canyon so many people love to explore.
If you’ve got two hours to spare and you find yourself in the northern reaches of Vatnajökull National Park, head over to Askja, an area with a crystal-blue lake located inside a volcanic caldera. You can hike to the crest of the crater and you won’t regret it once you see the views. It’s best to visit this area in the summertime as it’s located in the Highlands and can be impossible to reach during the winter.
If you’ve ever dreamed of hiking on a glacier, head to Snæfellsjökull. This moderate hike will lead you to the top of one of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes. You can join a tour group to do this hike, as well, as many operators offer such experiences and it’s encouraged if you’re not an experienced hiker or if you’re taking the trek on during the winter. There are a ton of trails in West Iceland, so it’s worth looking into spending a full weekend exploring the area. To hike to the top of Snæfellsjökull, plan a full afternoon.
If you’re sticking near Reykjavik, but still want a bit of a hike, head across the harbor to Mount Esja. You can spot the mountain from downtown Reykjavik and it offers the perfect afternoon getaway. The beginning of the trail begins in Mógilsá, about a 20-minute drive from Reykjavik, and takes you straight up the mountain. This hike isn’t nearly as technical as the others you’ll find on this list and it’ll only take a few hours out of your day. There’s even a guest book at the top you’re invited to sign.