Descriptions of some of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland.
1. Landmannalaugar - Þórsmörk (Laugavegur hiking trail)
The trail "Laugavegurinn" is one of the most popular and most travelled hiking trails in Icelandic wilderness. It is equally popular with domestic and foreign hikers. This is not without a reason as the trail offers a great variety of landscape. Mountains in almost every colour of the rainbow, great glaciers, roaring hot springs, big rivers and lakes. Generally the hike lasts four days and the starting point is Landmannalaugar (altitude approx. 600 meters) Overnighting is in huts but you have to supply your own sleeping bag. Those with confirmed reservations have a higher priority so it is important to look in aðvance if you want to have a certain place to stay.
1. day: Landmannalaugar-Hrafntinnusker
Distance 12 km, estimated walking time 4 - 5 hours. Elevation increase 470 meters. From the hut in Landmannalaugar (75 persons, GPS 63°59.600 - 19°03.660) the trail goes through a rough lavafield "Laugahraun". From there on up the slopes of "Brennisteinsalda" and to the plateau. The view offers an incredible spectrum of colours. After 3 - 4 hours you arrive at "Stórihver", a hot spring and almost the only green spot visible in the first day. In most years the rest of the trail from "Stórihver" to "Höskuldsskáli" hut is covered with snow. Chances of fog are very high so even though the trail is clearly marked you must be careful. A walk to the icecaves (approx. 1.5km from the hut) is a must. The huts location GPS 63°55.840 - 19°09.700 and sleeps 36 persons.
2. day: Hrafntinnusker - Álftavatn
Distance 12 km, estimated walking time 4 - 5 hours. Elevation decrease 490 m. The first part of the trail takes us through a valley with some small ravines but be careful as they may be filled with snow. If the visibility is good a walk up to the top of mountain "Háskerðingur" (1281 m) will reward your with a breathtaking view. Soon we leave the colourful rhyolite mountains and enter an area with dark palagonite mountains and glaciers. You will also notice a considerable increase in vegetation. The trail down the "Jökultungur" is rather steep but leads down to a friendly oasis on the banks of river "Grashagakvísl" a fine place to rest for a while. From there on the trail to the two huts by the lake "Álftavatn" is on flat land. There are two huts (58 persons, GPS 63°51.470 - 19°13.640).
3. day: Álftavatn - Emstrur (Botnar)
Distance 15 km., estimated walking time 6-7 hrs., elevation decrease 40 m. The trail takes us over the ridge "Brattháls" into "Hvanngil" ravine, wading across the river "Bratthálskvísl". In "Hvanngil" are two huts, one built for sheepherders in 1963 and one for tourists, built in 1995. A short walk from the huts is the river "Kaldaklofskvísl" with a bridge for hikers. On the eastern bank of "Kaldaklofskvísl" the trail branches, one branch leading eastwards to "Mælifellssandur" (Road F 210) but the other one southwards to "Emstrur" and we choose the latter. Less than one km from "Kaldaklofskvísl" another river has to be waded and approximately 4 km further we come to the river "Nyrðri Emstruá" but this time there is a bridge to cross it. Soon we will be overlooking the huts in "Botnar" (40 persons, GPS 63°45.980 - 19°22.480). A fine walk in the evening is to the "Markarfljótsgljúfur" canyon.
4. day: Emstrur (Botnar) - Þórsmörk
Distance 15 km., estimated walking time 6-7 hrs., elevation decrease 300 m. First we have to go around the canyon of "Syðri - Emstruá" and there is a very steep path down to the bridge so be careful. Then a walk through the area known as "Almenningar" with crossing of among other rivers "Þröngá". It is good practice when wading to go hand in hand and head downstream. After crossing "Þröngá" a 30 minutes walk takes us to the hut in "Langidalur" in "Þórsmörk" (75 persons, GPS 63°40.960 - 19°30.890) Landscape and vegetation is changing rapidly. Birchwood and all kinds of plants a welcome change after the desert now behind us.
2. Hveravellir - Hvítárnes (The old Kjalvegur hiking trail)
When you cross Iceland via Kjalvegur route you drive through a very barren land. Before the age cars when everyone travelled by horse the route was further to the west, closer to the glacier "Langjökull" because of richer vegetation. This is where the hiking trail is today. Even though the trail is hardly as spectacular as the "Laugavegur" trail it has its charm and is relatively flatter and easier to walk. Many people consider it a good preparation for walking the "Laugavegur" trail. It doesn't matter whether you start in "Hvítárnes" or "Hveravellir" i.e. walk from south to north or vice versa. We have choosen to describe the trail with "Hveravellir" as the starting point and spend three days. Many hikers choose to stay in the hut "Þverbrekknamúli" for two nights.
1. day: Hveravellir-Þjófadalir
Distance 12 km, estimated walking time 4-5 klst, elevation increase 70 meters. The Iceland Tourist Association has built two huts in "Hveravellir". One was built in 1937 but the other one in 1980. (66 persons, GPS 64°51.910 - 19°33.150). The elevation is approximately 600 meters. Before you leave, take time to walk through the geothermal area which has a great variety of hot springs. When we leave "Hveravellir" we walk southwest until we come to the valleys "Sóleyjardalir". From there on due south to the ridge "Þröskuldur" which is east of the valleys "Þjófadalir". The name "Þjófadalir" means valleys of the thieves and there is an old legend about outlaws and thieves that supposedly hid in this area. From the ridge is a short walk to the hut built in 1939 (12 persons, GPS 64°48.900 - 19°42.510). The area is very friendly and richly vegetated.
2. day: Þjófadalir-Þverbrekknamúli.
Distance 13 km, estimated walking time 4-5 hrs, elevation decrease 80 m. Now we head southwest and leave the valleys. Walking along the southern edge of the "Kjalhraun" lava field with the river "Fúlakvísl" on our right, running in a tight ravine it has made in the lava. We come to a small bridge and cross it, walk up on the mulls and southbound to the hut south of "Þverbrekknamúli" (20 persons, GPS 64°43.100 - 19°36.860). Another option is to go south along the river "Fúlakvísl" and across it on a second bridge due east from the hut. As mentioned earlier many people stay for two nights in the hut and use one day to hike in the area.
3. day: Þverbrekknamúli-Hvítánes.
Distance 14 km, estimated walking time 4-5 hrs From the hut we head east across the river "Fúlakvísl" on the footbridge and then follow the river southbound to the tuff hills "Hrefnubúðir". The hills are mostly eroded but on the southern side are some patches with rich vegetation among other birch trees growing at approximately 400 - 500 meters above sea level and thus being one of the highest elevation with birch in Iceland. An alternate route for this day is to walk towards "Karlsdráttur" where the glacier flows into the lake "Hvítárvatn" and from there towards "Hvítárnes" hut. If we take this route we will have to wade across the river "Fúlakvísl" close to "Hrefnubúðir". Any way we choose we end up in the hut in "Hvítárnes" (30 persons, GPS 64°37.007 - 19°45.394).
3. Skógar - Þórsmörk (Fimmvörðuháls between Eyjafjallajökull glacier and Mýrdalsjökull glacier)
Distance 20 km, estimated walking time 7-9 hrs., Elevation increase/decrease 1000m. The trail takes us from the old school center "Skógar" between the glaciers "Eyjafjallajökull" and "Mýrdalsjökull" over to "Þórsmörk". This is probably the most popular hiking trail in Iceland as it is relatively short but it can also be very dangerous because of sudden changes in weather that can occur in any season. It can be calm and fine on the lowland but as you climb up to 1000 meters you can get heavy winds, pitch-black fog or even snowstorm. There are two huts on the way for shelter in case of bad weather.
4. Herðubreiðarlindir-Svartárkot í Bárðardal, Öskjuvegurinn (the Askja hiking trail)
The touring club in Akureyri (FFA) has made it possible to hike across the "Ódáðahraun" lava fidel by building huts and putting up markers on the trail. The hike starts in "Herðubreiðarlindir", an oasis close to the mountain "Herðubreið" accessible via mountain road (F 88 ). The trail ends at the farm "Svarárkot" in the "Bárðardalur" valley. Please note that the trail takes you up to 1300 meters on the "Dyngjufjöll" mountain range so you could find yourself in a blizzard even in the summer. Watersupply on the trail is very scarce except close to the huts so you will have to carry drinking water for the day. The trail also takes you through some very rough terrain in lava fields so good hiking boots are essential. For further information about the trail and tours contact FFA (Tel ++ 354 462 2720 -- Fax ++ 354 462 7240 -- email firstname.lastname@example.org). It is also necessary to book places in the huts in advance.
Day 1: From Herðubreiðarlindir to the hut in Bræðrafell.
Distance: 17-19 km, elevation increase: 240 m, estimatied time: 5-6 hrs. From the hut "Þorsteinsskáli" (30 persons, GPS 65°11,56'N - 16°13,39'V) we follow a marked trail over lava field westwards to "Herðubreið" mountain and onwards to the hut in "Bræðrafell" (12 persons, GPS 65°11,31'N - 16°32,29'V)
Day 2: From Bræðrafell hut to Dreki hut.
Distance: 18-20 km, elevation increase: 60 m, estimated time: 6-7 hrs. Again we follow the markers now southbound over some very rough lava fields. Then we turn eastwards to escape the lava from the eruption in 1961 and then follow the road (F 910) which takes us to the hut "Dreki" (20 persons, GPS 65°02,52'N - 16°35,72'V). The hut is located close to "Drekagil" or Dragons ravine, a must-see. Magnificient formations made by the interaction of the forces of nature.
Dagleið 3: From Dreki hut via Askja to the hut in Dyngjufell.
Distance: 19-20 km, elevation increase: 500 m, estimated time: 8-10 hrs. We can now choose between two possibilities; either we follow the road up to a parking area in "Öskjuop" and leave our backpacks for a visit to the caldera and the crater "Víti" or we cross the mountain along "Drekagil" straight to the eastern side of the caldera and from there on down to the lake and towards the crater. We will then start off from the parking area northwest towards the beginning of the marked trail (GPS 65°04,51'N - 16°49,07'V). From there we follow the markers to the hut in "Dyngjufjalladalur" (20 persons, GPS 65°07,48'N - 16°55,28'V).
Day4: From Dyngjufell hut to the hut Botni.
Distance: 20-22 km, downhill all the way, estimated time 6-8 hrs. The trail follows a 4x4 trail north from the valley "Dyngjufjalladalur". About 13 km north of the hut (at GPS 65°13,69'N - 16°58,83'V) we turn left from the path and follow an indistinct trail over a flat and relatively smooth lava field to the hut "Botni" (GPS 65°16,18'N - 17°04,10'V)
Day 5: From Botni to the farm Svartárkot.
Distance: 15-16 km, downhill, estimated time: 5-6 hrs. The trail is an old path heading north - northwest. Then along the "Suðurá" river until it turns away from the river towards the "Svartárvatn" lake and there it ends at the farm "Svartárkot".
5. Snæfell - Lónsöræfi
This popular trail is done in 3 - 7 days. It crosses magnificent landscape, glacier, valleys and rivers. Sleeping in mountain huts with heating facilities. There are gas cookers in every hut, mattresses and kitchen utensils.
1. day: Snæfell.
On the first day the group is transported to the mountain hut "Snæfellsskáli" (62 persons, GPS 46°48,250 - 15°38,510) Arrival in the hut is depending on departure from Egilsstaðir, flights etc. If the weather is clear a walk to the top of Mt. "Snæfell" will offer you great view of the eastern part of Iceland. It is the highest mountain in Iceland outside the glaciers, 1833 meters. The hut is in approximately 800 m. so the elevation increase is ca 1000 meters and there is a glacier on the top so good boots are necessary.
2. day: Bjálfafell - Geldingafell.
Distance 20 km, elevation increase ca 100 m, estimated walking time 8 - 10 hrs. Normally a car will transport the group the first 12 km to the place where the hike starts. From there on the trail takes us across the "Eyjabakkajökull" glacier and then along to the hut in "Geldingafell" (16 persons, GPS 64°41,690 - 15°21,690) Many groups choose to stay two nights in this hut and use the extra day to do some hiking in the area.
3. day: Geldingafell - Kollumúlavatn.
Distance 15 km, elevation decrease 300 m, estimated walking time 7 - 9 hrs. A worthwhile detour is to the waterfall in "Jökulsá í Lóni". The destination is the hut at "Kollumúlavatn" (22 persons, GPS 64°36,680 - 15108,750)
4. day: Víðidalur.
Distance 12 km, estimated walking time 6 - 7 hrs. This day is used for hiking without rucksacks in the vicinity of the hut especially the "Víðidalur" valley . It is now deserted but was last inhabited around 1900. Some old ruins are to be found and interesting landscape. Some wading has to be done.
5. day: Kollumúlavatn - Múlaskáli
Distance 6 km, elevation decrease 550 m, estimated walking time 6 - 8 hrs. The trail takes us to "Tröllakrókar", palagonite cliff formations made by wind and water erosion that cannot be described in words or pictures. Then down rather steep slopes "Leiðartungur" entring birch wood forest and then along the "Jökulsá" river towards the hut "Múlaskáli" (25 persons, GPS 64°33,199 - 15°09,077).
6. day: Múlaskáli - Illikambur.
Distance 2 km, elevation increase 200 m , estimated walking time 45 minutes. The area around the hut "Múlaskáli" offers various possibilities of shorter walks accommodating everyone's needs. Usually a pickup is arranged at the ridge "Illikambur". The trail crosses the river "Jökulsá" on a footbridge and then along an easy trail to a short but steep slope up the ridge "Illikambur" where the cars will be waiting to take us back to civilization
Víknaslóðir trail in the land of the hidden people
Víknaslóðir, or the “Deserted Inlets”, takes you form one of this worlds great natural monuments, Stórurð, through mountains in amazing and blazing colours, along one of the country's most magnificent coastlines. Around 150 km of trails with countless possibilities, long or short through unearthly landscapes. Hvítserkur, Brúnavík, Dyrfjöll, Urðarhólar, Breiðavík, Loðmundarfjörður are just a few of the places you should not miss.
Hiking in Víknaslóðir is a unique experience. The mountains come in all shapes and sizes and the variety of colours is stunning; everything from the black sands of the beaches to the pinkish orange hues of the mountain ridges. The trails wind themselves between isolated coves and fjords over colourful hills and green valleys to down to the coast. Abandoned houses and ruins of ancient farms set their mark on the surroundings. With a little luck reindeer herds are seen, birds are abundant and the arctic flora of the area is characterized by large flowers and bright colours.
Among Icelanders the vicinity of Borgarfjörður is known for its great natural beauty and incredible hiking routes but it is still untouched by mass-tourism. This isolated region is also considered to be a central province of the elves. In the Álfaborg (Elves fortress) their queen has long resided, governing and guarding her realm. Whereas the Bishop of the elves reigns is the incredible Blábjörg, a gigantic columnar basalt wall that goes straight in to the blue ocean.
The Fjord Trail: fascinating fjords and amazing views
The mountains of the east rise dramatically from sea level up to over 1200 m providing some of the most beautiful coastal scenery. The Fjord trail follows faint but often marked paths, from fjord to fjord, over high and sometimes snowy passes, down rich valleys with arctic woodlands and abundant flowers. Along the way you will enjoy wonderful geology, great flocks of eider ducks at every inlet, close encounter with puffins, seals an the occasional reindeer herd. Explore mountains built from thousands of lava-layers, lush green valleys and river crossings making every moment an experience.
Seyðisfjörður to Skálanes over to the tranquil, remote Mjóifjörður. From Mjóifjörður continue along the trail to reach the fishing town of Neskaupstaður or take the scheduled Fjardaferdir boat and enjoy spectacular views while on the look out for puffins, seal and whales. From Norðfjörður the trail continues to Hellisfjörður, formerly a large whaling station and Viðfjörður and a detour to Barðsnes for some great geology ( an ancient volcano and a petrified forest buried in ash some 12 million years ago). Follow the trail leading to the deserted inlet of Vöðlavík and enjoy the brilliant views and awesome mountains carved by glaciers long gone. Finally the lovely old fishing village of Eskifjörður .
This trail begins in Seyðisfjörður along the fjords ending Eskifjörður. It can be done fjord by fjord or you can combine it with the Víknasloðir trail.
Víknaslóðir, or the “Deserted Inlets”, where imposing, colourful mountains meet the ocean, along one of the country's most magnificent coastlines.
exploring the hidden gems of Víknaslóðir, or the “Deserted Inlets” in and near Borgarfjörður eystri. There the imposing and colourful mountains meet the ocean creating deep fjords littered with secluded alcoves along magnificent coastlines. Among Icelanders the vicinity of Borgarfjörður is known for its great natural beauty and incredible hiking routes but it is still untouched by mass-tourism. This isolated region is also considered to be a central province of the elves. In the Álfaborg (Elves fortress) their queen has long resided, governing and guarding her realm.
Hiking through the magnificent landscapes of the Víknaslóðir or “Deserted inlets” is a unique experience. The mountains come in all shapes and sizes and the variety of colours is stunning; everything from the black sands of the beaches to the pinkish orange hues of the mountain ridges. The old trails between isolated coves and fjords over colourful hills and green valleys to down to the coast. Abandoned houses and ruins of ancient farmsteads set their mark on the surroundings. With a little luck reindeer herds are seen, birds are abundant and the arctic flora of the area is characerized by large flowers and bright colours. Accommodation in well equipped huts.
We head north up the valley and climb a broad rockycridge to a tricky three cornered pass at 772 m offering stunning views of the east fjord mountains. We drop down easily towards Borgarfjörður, a small fishing town surrounded by colourful rhyolite mountains and stay in local houses. 5-7 hours. In bad weather we may follow an alternative route nearer the coast, which crosses two lower passes. Coastal route takes 7-8 hours.
Snæfell-Lónsöræfi : Trekking at a the edge of the ice
This popular trail is done in 3 - 7 days across magnificent landscape, glacier, valleys and rivers in the Vatnajökull National park. Accommodation in well equipped mountain huts or simply camping.
1. day: Snæfell.
The starting point of the trail is at Mount Snæfell´s, mountain hut"Snæfellsskáli", easily reached from Egilsstaðir. This beautiful dormant volcano reigns at 1833 m. over the eastern Highlands, the home of the great Reindeer herds. The top of Mt. "Snæfell" will offer you some of Icelands best view of almost half the country. It is a easy climb that makes a perfect day.
2. day: Bjálfafell - Geldingafell.
Distance 20 km, elevation increase ca 100 m, estimated walking time 8 - 10 hrs. From the Snæfell hut you pass Þjófahnjúkar and then the trail takes us across the "Eyjabakkajökull" glacier and along to the hut in "Geldingafell". Many travellers choose to stay two nights in this hut and hike in the area.
3. day: Geldingafell – Kollumúlavatn (Egilssel hut).
Distance 15 km, elevation decrease 300 m, estimated walking time 7 - 9 hrs. A worthwhile detour is to the waterfall in "Jökulsá í Lóni". The destination is the hut at "Kollumúlavatn", en-route you may come across semi-precious stones, reindeer and other wonders. Many hike down to Víðidalur with old ruins and interesting landscape.
4. day: Kollumúlavatn – Múlaskáli; Lónsöræfi
Distance 6 km, elevation decrease 550 m, estimated walking time 6 - 8 hrs. The trail takes us to "Tröllakrókar", palagonite cliff formations made by wind and water erosion. A must for those interested in trolls and elementary beings. Then down rather steep slopes "Leiðartungur" entring an arctic birch forest and then along the "Jökulsá" river towards the hut "Múlaskáli" in Lónsöræfi and their enchanting nature.
5. day: Múlaskáli - Illikambur.
Distance 2 km, elevation increase 200 m , estimated walking time 45 minutes. The area around the hut "Múlaskáli" offers various possibilities of shorter walks accommodating everyone's needs. Usually a pickup is arranged at the ridge "Illikambur".
You can also contiue your hike along the glaciers edge, past Lambatungnajökull and along the Hoffellsdalur back to the ringroad just SW of Höfn. Allow 2 days for this detour.
Stórurð (Boulder Hollow) – Dyrfjöll (the Door mountains)
The most dramatic mountains of east Iceland are Dyrfjöll (1136m) at the entrance of the wonderful Borgarfjörður region. A gigantic breche or door, hundreds of feet across splits its main ridge and dominates the skyline with vertical black walls. At the heart of Dyrfjöll lies Stórurð, a mysterious unearthly place. A labyrinth of enormous rocks through which a little river winds its way and calm turquoise ponds of icy water lie hidden among the huge boulders, lined by flat banks of short, green grass. This trail offers some wonderful view from the black sands of Héraðsflói with yellow mountains in the background over the greens of Hérað all the way to Vatnajökull glacier and Mt. Snæfell . Allow a full day for this amazing trail that leaves no one untouched. ( 15 km - 5 hrs.)