A lot of Iceland’s natural beauty can be found right by the road – just driving around will get you some incredible views. But if you really want to explore, and to see the hidden gems and tucked away landscapes, go for a hike!
This guide will tell you about 10 of the best hikes in Iceland – I’ll talk about some day hikes, and a few short, easy hikes great for just stretching your legs!
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The Best Time to Hike in Iceland
The best time to hike in Iceland is usually the summer – this is when the weather is best! Some of the best hikes in Iceland are in the Highlands, which means you’ll need to take the F-roads (Iceland’s mountain roads), most of which are inaccessible for most of the year due to snow. Some of these hikes are right off the Ring Road, so they can be done throughout the year – however, Iceland is known for wild weather, so summer is the best time for hiking in Iceland. But no matter what time of year, it’s important to be prepared with rain gear and shoes with good traction!
Leave No Trace at The Hikes in Iceland
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
While I firmly believe everyone deserves to enjoy these amazing spots, do your part to make sure the hikes in Iceland stay clean and beautiful! Iceland is a popular tourist destination, so overcrowding really takes a toll on nature, especially when people don’t follow LNT. People not respecting the land has led to a lot of places and hikes in Iceland being closed – so to make sure we can keep enjoying them, follow these principles!
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you visit these best hikes in Iceland!
- Plan ahead and prepare – before you hike anywhere, make sure you know what to expect. Have the right gear, and be prepared for the trail.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – always stay on established trails. Avoid stepping on grass and plant life! “Social trails” are a big problem in Iceland – when a lot of people take short cuts off the trail, it kills the plant life and creates what looks like a small trail. Do not walk on these! Stick to the main trail to preserve the plants.
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Most of the hikes in Iceland don’t have trash cans, so pack out anything you bring in.
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the area won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are usually not allowed on the trails in Iceland.
- Respect wildlife – never approach wildlife, and never feed the animals! There isn’t much wildlife in Iceland, but there are a lot of sheep – they’re really cute, but give them plenty of space. Don’t stress them out!
- Be considerate of other visitors – you’ll often be sharing the trail with other travelers. Be respectful, and yield to uphill hikers.
What to Bring to These Hikes in Iceland
When you visit some of the best hikes in Iceland, here’s what you’ll need!
Some of the best waterfalls in Iceland require a hike to get to – and even if it’s just a short walk, the frequent rain often means mud, so good traction is a must!
My favorite hiking boots are my Danner boots – they’re cute, comfortable, and waterproof! I also love hiking in my Luna Barefoot sandals, and I wore them to pretty much all of these waterfalls in Iceland.
Rain boots are another great option for muddy or wet conditions, and are definitely the easiest to clean.
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When you hike, it can get colder as you gain elevation, so it’s important to bring layers. Plus, Iceland is known for wild weather, so waterproof gear and warm clothes are a must!
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight, waterproof option. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight and water resistant, but keeps me warm. It’s also water resistant! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
Rain pants are, of course, helpful for rain, so they can be a great thing to bring when you hike in Iceland. For the waterfall hikes, they’ll also help you stay dry when you’re up close to a waterfall!
The Marmot Precip Full-Zip Pants are light and packable, but if you plan to spend time in the snow too, the Stoic Insulated Snow Pants will be perfect for both rain and snow. You can also get some bib pants for more coverage – the Helly Hansen Pier Bib Pants are waterproof and wind proof!
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Anytime you’re exploring outdoors, especially if you’re hiking, it’s important to stay hydrated. Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
The Best Day Hikes in Iceland
Here are a few of the best day hikes in Iceland – some of them are longer than others, but all of these are hikes that will take at least a couple of hours! In the next section, I’ll also talk about a few of the best easy hikes in Iceland, which are short with little elevation gain.
Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
This five mile hike takes you to the Reykjadalur Thermal River, where you can soak and enjoy the mountain views around you! It’s a gorgeous (but popular) trail close to Reykjavik, and a great way to get a taste for hiking in Iceland.
Distance: 5.0 miles (8 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,138 feet (347 m)
Haífoss translates to “High Waterfall,” and it was once thought that this was the tallest waterfall in the country – until three bigger waterfalls were discovered, making this one fourth! Still, this waterfall, surrounded by a gorgeous canyon, is an incredible sight. You can see it from above without walking far from the parking lot, but if you want to go down to the base of it, you’ll need to do the hike!
A 4×4 is required to drive here, or you can take a tour from Reykjavik that includes Haífoss and Landmannalaugar!
Distance: 2.7 miles (4.35 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 780 feet (238 m)
This hike is a steep one, and quite a challenge – but the views are absolutely worth it! Bláhnúkur Mountain was my personal favorite hike that I did in Iceland. The name translates to “Blue Peak” in English, and you’ll see why! The volcano is made up of blue-green sand, which is actually volcanic ash. You’ll ascend through lava rocks and incredible mountain views!
Distance: 4.1 mile loop (6.6 km)
Elevation Gain: 1,256 feet (383 m)
This was one of the most incredible hikes I did in Iceland! You’ll hike with views of the glacier, with incredible vistas overlooking Hangandifoss on the way. But don’t stop there! Keep going, and when you reach the top of the Múlagljúfur Canyon trail, you’ll see an absolutely jaw dropping view of the canyon.
Askja and Víti
Askja is deep in the Highlands of Iceland, requiring a long drive over bumpy lava fields and several river crossings. Getting here is part of the adventure, but it’s definitely a challenge (especially the river crossings), so a tour can be an easier way to experience this place! You can take a group 4×4 tour, or book a private excursion.
Once you’re here, it’s time to hike! Askja is a huge caldera formed by volcanic eruptions, and Víti is a small crater right next to it, with geothermal blue water that you can swim in – it’s a unique hot spring! The hike itself is pretty easy, flat most of the way until you descend a little to see the craters.
Distance: 4.1 miles (6.6 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 541 feet (165 m)
These cliffs over the ocean are the westernmost point in Iceland, and they’re one of the best places to spot puffins (if you’re in Iceland during puffin season). But even if you don’t see the birds, taking a walk along the clifftops is so worth it, and the views are incredible! The hike walks along the cliffs, and you can do the entire trail, or just part of it. Either way, the views are amazing!
Distance: 3.3 miles (5.3 km) round trip
Elevation Gain: 1709 feet (521 m)
The Best Short Hikes in Iceland
If you just want to stretch your legs on a road trip, or want a hike that’s beautiful but not too hard, here are a few of the best short hikes in Iceland! All of these are short hikes without much elevation gain, so they’ll be easy for most people.
Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
A short walk along the river will bring you to the Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool – a pool fed by the hot spring where you can soak amongst incredible views of the mountains around you. This place is pretty popular, but there are some quiet times throughout the day! This hot spring in Iceland is kind of controversial – so be sure to read about it before you go!
Distance: 1.1 mile round trip (1.8 km)
Elevation Gain: 170 feet (52 m)
Kvernufoss is just a few minutes away from the famous Skógafoss, but it’s much less popular, so you’ll have a lot more privacy. This is (in my humble opinion), one of the best waterfalls in Iceland, and you can even walk behind it! The hike is short and pretty easy, so it’s a great stop after you’ve seen Skógafoss.
Distance: 0.9 miles round trip (1.45 kilometers)
Elevation Gain: 147 feet (45 meters)
This short hike is pretty easy, and it makes for a great place to stretch your legs – and the scenery is really amazing! You’ll walk along a path with several overlooks over the canyon, and it ends with a waterfall.
Distance: 2.0 miles round trip (3.22 kilometers)
Elevation Gain: 278 feet (84.73 meters)
The hike to Fardagafoss is pretty short, but it’s really cool – you get to see the waterfall from above, but the best part is that you can walk down to the base of it, and there’s a cave behind it that you can go into!
Distance: 1.6 miles round trip (2.6 kilometers)
Elevation Gain: 498 feet (151.8 meters)
Best Hikes in Iceland Map
Here’s a map of all the best hikes in Iceland that I mentioned in this post! The yellow icons are the day hikes, while the green icons are the easy hikes in Iceland that are short with little elevation gain.
More Adventures Near the Best Hikes in Iceland
To find more things to do in Iceland, be sure to check out these Iceland itineraries! For more adventures, you can also read this post about the best hot springs in Iceland, and this one about the best waterfalls.
- Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Iceland
- Guide to Camping in Iceland
- Iceland Road Trip Itineraries
If you’ve been to any of these best hikes in Iceland and have any tips, or if you’re planning a trip and have any questions, leave them in a comment below!
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