The saying “take a hike!” has never been more appropriate than when it comes to hiking in Iceland. Iceland's hiking trails cater to both experienced hikers and amateurs. It provides amazing experiences and breathtaking scenery for all.
No matter what your skill level or experience level is, you will find Iceland treks that are the perfect fit for you. In this article, we discuss everything from the Iceland weather and what to pack to some of the best hikes in Iceland. This way, you can be fully prepared for your outdoor adventure.
Hikes in Iceland: Unpredictable Weather
Weather is crucial for outdoor activities on an island where the local saying goes, "expect all four seasons in a day." So, if you’re planning a hiking trip to the island soon, please take note of the seasonal weather below. And remember, check the Iceland weather forecast before heading out:
Hiking in Iceland in Winter
The Iceland winter season is from December to March, and we don’t recommend taking on the Iceland treks. You won’t be able to hike certain trails even if you wanted to, as certain regions are closed during the winter months.
If you have an Iceland hiking trail in the Highlands or the Westfjords in sight, you won’t even be able to reach the area.
Hiking in Iceland in Summer
The Iceland summer season is from June to September. As we already mentioned, summer is considered the best time to go hiking in Iceland.
The average temperature is between 10 – 15 degrees Celsius – perfect for the long daylight hours (which at its peak can be 24 hours long!) to take on those longer treks.
What to Pack for Your Hike
Irrespective of the season, the following is what you will need to pack when going hiking in Iceland. The only time you will need to adapt it a bit is for multi-day hikes. You will obviously need to increase certain items based on the number of days you’ll be hiking:
- T-shirts & long sleeve shirts (to layer)
- Waterproof hiking pants (preferably the zip-off kind)
- Waterproof hiking boots
- A fleece jacket
- A light, down jacket
- Woolen socks
- A warm hat (a beanie works well)
- Warm gloves
- Warm scarf
- Sandals/flip-flops (for any water crossings)
- Hiking backpack
- Water bottle (you can refill this along the way)
- Snacks such as trail mix and energy bars
- Small microfiber towel
- Plastic bags for trash
- Electronic devices such as a GPS (if you don’t have an app on your phone or fear there won’t be any signal), powerbank, charger, cables, etc.
- A small first-aid kit
- Toilet paper
- Matches or a lighter (even if you’re not planning on making fire, you’ll need these to burn the toilet paper after you’ve used the “toilet”).
The Best Hikes in Iceland
If you’re looking for some of the best hiking spots in Iceland, you’ve Googled the right article. These are a few of the Iceland treks that come highly recommended by the hiking community:
Mount Esja, 25 km from Reykjavík
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty Level: Moderate
This trail is a favorite due to its easily accessible location. The trail is open all year round and offers visitors amazing views of the capital of Reykjavík and the Atlantic Ocean.
Glymur Waterfall, Hvalfjördur
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty Level: Moderate
As the second-tallest waterfall on the island, Glymur is not to be missed. And the hike offers unique experiences such as walking through a cave and river crossings. The latter is also why this hike is seasonal, as the log needed to successfully cross the first river will be inaccessible between October and May.
Blahnukur Brennisteinsalda Loop, Landmannalaugar
Duration: 6 hours
Difficulty Level: Challenging
Whilst there are plenty of hiking options in and when driving to Landmannalaugar, the crown jewel in hiking is this popular loop to the Blahnukur summit. Just keep in mind that this trail is only open from the end of June to mid-September.
Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, Vatnajökull National Park
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy
Just as with Landmannalaugar, Vatnajökull National Park offers hikers a variety of Iceland treks. One of our favorites is to the base of this glacier tongue. This is one of the routes where it’s recommended that you rope in a guide before taking on the trail.
The Hornstrandir Trek, Westfjords
Duration: 6 days, 4–7 hours daily
Difficulty Level: Moderate to challenging
This hike will take you on an 86 km adventure over mountains, pastures, fjords, and some of Europe’s largest bird cliffs. Definitely one for the books! Recommended only for experienced hikers, the trail to Blahnukur summit has no cellphone reception or signal. That makes it crucial for hikers to be completely self-reliant. Because of its location, the trail is also only open between late June and mid-August.
The Kjolur Route, The Highlands
Duration: 2–3 days, 4–7 hours daily
Difficulty Level: Moderate to challenging
This trail runs between two glaciers in the heart of the Highlands. Due to its location and unpredictable weather conditions, it’s recommended that this trail is only tackled during the high season. That's mainly between July and August.
Regarding Hiking in Iceland
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding hiking in Iceland:
Is Iceland a good place to hike?
Hiking in Iceland truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The island offers trails for beginners and pros, young and old. All promising breathtaking views and majestic scenery along the way. Trails also offer interesting attractions such as volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, and much, much more.
Is hiking in Iceland free?
In general, hiking in Iceland is free. But this will obviously change if you opt for a guided hike or book a spot on a multi-day hike group tour.
Can I hike anywhere in Iceland?
You will find hiking trails all over the island, but if you’re secretly planning on hiking “off the beaten trek” we strongly advise against it. Not only is it extremely dangerous (especially in the more remote parts of Iceland), but it’s also illegal.
If caught, you’ll be leaving the island with a pretty hefty fine. Besides that, you'd probably destroyed an ecosystem that will take a lot of time to restore itself – especially if you trampled on the highly protected Icelandic moss.
Also, there are several hiking locations that do require the company of an experienced guide. This is the case for both Ice cave tours and Glacier hiking tours.
Hiking Requires Transport
It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re planning a hiking trip in Iceland, you’ll need to start thinking about transport. Especially if you intend to visit during the busy summer months, when booking beforehand is essential.
Keep in mind that public transport is easily accessible in the cities. However, in the more remote regions of the island, transportation is limited.
And unless you plan on hiking the entire island, you’ll need a vehicle to take you from one trail to the next. Many opt to rent a car in Reykjavík shortly after their arrival on the island, as this is often the first stop after the airport.
Just by driving Iceland’s Ring Road from the capital city, you’ll hit quite a few popular hiking trails that range from long and challenging hikes to short walks to waterfalls and other attractions. Whatever your preference, the perfect hiking trail is just waiting for you to take that first step!