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Our favourite hiking trails around Reykjavík

Our favourite hiking trails around Reykjavík

As two Icelanders we are excited to share with you our hidden secrets on this remote island. During off days and weekends, there is nothing that we love more than spending our time outdoors. Our top of the list activity is hiking; the options are endless and there is no better way to discover the land of ice and fire! You can hike up mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls or walk along the black beaches and moss-grown lava fields.

There is nothing more refreshing than breathing in fresh Icelandic mountain air or relax in one of Iceland’s many natural hot springs.

Hiking in Skaftafell Iceland

Móskarðshnjúkar

Located in Mosfellsdalur, a mere 20 min drive from Reykjavik, Móskarðshnjúkar offers a less discovered hiking path even by the locals of Iceland. The peak belongs to Mt. Esjan, the well known volcanic mountain range, and Iceland’s most popular mountain for hiking. However, this path leads to the two bright cone shaped peaks on the eastern side of the range. They often seem to be sparkling from a distance and have a distinct bright yellow color, a result of the rhyolite, a volcanic rocks that cover the peaks.

This hike is quite challenging but the scenery is amazing. You will walk through small lava fields, covered in moss and blue berries. As you get higher the flora will disappear but you will start noticing basalt stones and the yellow rhyolite rocks at the top. Some areas may be covered in snow year round. The view from the top is breathtaking, with a panoramic view over Reykjavík as well as a good view over the neighbouring peaks and ridges of the Esjan mountain range.

Hiking time: 4 hours
Trail length: 3 km (6 km roundtrip)
Elevation: 677 m
Summit: 807 m
Difficulty: Challenging

How to get there: Drive from Reykjavík towards Mosfellsbær. When you’re almost through town make a right turn (first exit) on the last round-abound towards Reykjadalur. After a 10-20 min drive you’ll reach a sign listed Hrafnhólar to the left (easily missed). Follow the muddy road until you reach an old summerhouse area. This is the end of the road and you should be close to a small bridge which you have to cross by foot to start our hike. Notice: This road can be closed during winters.

Moskardshnjukar iceland

Hiking Moskardshnjukar Iceland

Reykjadalur

This hike leads you up to a unique hot spring river that is ideal for bathing. You start at the backside of a cute little town, Hveragerði or “Steam Valley”, renowned for it’s geothermal activity. Here, people literally have hot springs in their backyard. The town also hosts a geothermal park which is worth the visit. In the park the locals bake the famous black bread using the geothermal ground as an oven.

This hike in Reykjadalur used to be our favourite a few years back, since we usually had the whole place to ourselves. Today a lot has changed, with more and more tourist visitors every year. Unfortunately the hot springs are not as unspoilt as they were; now they have built wooden ramps and cabins for changing clothes around the hot spring river. However, it’s still worth to make your way up there and experience this beautiful valley. You will witness everything from vibrant sulphur springs to small gurgling melting pots. It will take you around 1 hour to reach the warm river where you can relax after the hike. (Remember to bring swimsuits!)

Hiking time: 2 – 3 hours
Trail Length: 3 km (6 km roundtrip)
Elevation: 200-300 m 
Difficulty: Easy

How to get there: Reykjadalur is situated a 30-40 min drive from Reykjavík. Drive from Reykjavík and follow the signs towards Hveragerði/Selfoss. Drive the main road (route 1) until you reach Hveragerði. Drive through this small town until you reach the backside. You will reach a point where there is a right turn to a golf course, but there you should follow the road to the left and continue to its end, where there is a car park by a small river (Varmá).

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Mt. Vífilsfell

One of the most popular hikes among citizens of Reykjavík, in clear sky conditions this peak will offer one of the best views over the greater Reykjavík area, Mt. Esjan and the Reykjanes peninsula (the lower leg of “sheep-shaped” Iceland). The hike can be inaccessible during winters, but if so we recommend the nearby Bláfjöll (“Blue Mountains”), the most popular skiing area around Reykjavík.

Hiking time:1,5-2,5 hours
Trail length: 3 km (6 – 7 km roundtrip)
Summit: 655 m
Elevation: 305 m
Difficulty: Easy

How to get there:  Only a 20 min drive from Reykjavík, head towards Hveragerði and Selfoss on the main road, route 1, until you reach a sign for Bláfjöll skiing area. Drive past it and take the next right turn and follow the road until you reach the roots of the mountain.

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Mt. Esja

Mt. Esja (usually referred to as “Esjan” or “the Esja”) is probably the best known and the busiest trail outside Reykjavík. You will be sure to meet many happy Icelanders  on the way who greet you “góðan daginn!” every time you pass. Most citizens of Reykjavík have hiked up Mt. Esja during some point of there life, even though they haven’t gone up a single other mountain in Iceland. After holidays abroad, we really don’t feel like home when landing at Keflavík Airport, it’s not until we can see our “City Mountain” that “home” kicks in. Many Icelanders go up there every weekend and some every day, no matter the weather conditions. It’s also popular among athletes who will go up and down the mountain as often as 10 times in one day. So don’t get startled if you see people running passed you while you’re trying to catch your breath.

As mentioned before, Esja is not a single mountain, but a volcanic mountain range. The real name of this particular hiking path takes you up to Þverfellshorn summit. The path is well marked with signs along the way. At the very start you walk past pine trees and a beautiful little river running down the mountain with drinkable fresh water. Once you start to gain some elevation you’ll have an amazing view over both the city and its surroundings. At one point the route splits up; pick the one on your left if you like the steeper more faster way up, otherwise take the right and cross the small river. Most hikers will only go as high as the big rock, simply named “Steinn” or “Stone”. From here the way to the summit becomes more steep and requires some hands on climbing (not recommended for youngest). When you get to the top you really feel like you have achieved something! Enjoy the beautiful view over the city and sign your name in the guestbook that is located at the summit.

Hiking time: 3-4 hours roundtrip
Trail length: 3,5 km (7 km roundtrip)
Summit: 780 m (Steinn: 760 m)
Elevation: 780 m
Difficulty: Challenging

How to get there: A 20-30 min drive from Reykjavik, head east through Mosfellsbær, going straight through all of the many round-abounds. As you get closer to the mountain you’ll see a big parking space and a nice café at the root of the trail. You won’t miss it. This trail is also reachable by bus (take bus 15 from Hlemmur and change to 57 in Mosfellsbær).

Mountain Esja Iceland

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Glymur Waterfall

We saved the best for the last! Glymur is Iceland’s second highest waterfall (196 m) and is located in Hvalfjörður, a deep fjord north of Reykjavík. Today, the Hvalfjörður is know as a “ghost” fjord, since most Icelanders bypass it through a tunnel under the sea (built a few years ago), saving 2 hours of driving time. The “old” route 1 is even more enjoyable these days since the roads are almost empty. You’ll drive by the calm sea on your left with steep mountain ranges on your right, passing rivers and old farms.

At the deep end of the fjord lies Glymur waterfall. What we love about this hike is that you won’t have to walk the same way back…this trail is a loop! However, you’ll have to wade through the freezing river that feeds the waterfall to reach the other way down, a thrilling adventure and a good massage for your tired feet!

The hike starts by passing through a small cave and crossing the river Botnsá over a wooden log. We usually start from the south side of the waterfall, since that trail is steeper (dangerous to go down) and offers better views on the way up. Be careful; some parts are strenuous and potentially hazardous, and you’ll have to pass along the edges of steep drop-offs.

Hiking up Glymur waterfall is incredibly scenic and beautiful. You will catch a view over the whole fjord as well as the huge waterfall, which is otherwise hidden behind the gorge when viewed from below.

Hiking time: 3 hours
Trail length: 3 km (6 km roundtrip)
Elevation: 280 m
Difficulty: Easy – Challenging

How to get there: Glymur waterfall is located in Hvalfjorður fjord in West Iceland, about an hours drive from Reykjavík. To go there you need to drive into the rear end of the fjord. At first you will pass some old farms and few bridges. When you see an abandoned gas station, then you know that you are getting closer. There is a sign by the road nr. 47 telling you when to turn right.

 

Hiking Glymur Waterfall Iceland

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Hiking Glymur Iceland

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Note. Take full precautions when mountain hiking in Iceland. Be sure to be well equipped and remember that mountain weather can change dramatically in a very short time. Remember to bring with you some snacks and water bottle. It’s a good rule to let at least 2-3 persons know where you are going and what time they should expect you back, like receptionists at your hotel or family members. During winter, snow overhangs can form and steep dropoffs and should be avoided.

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Did you like the post? Check out our unique river rafting experience in iceland with Viking Rafting

Planning a trip to Iceland? Contact me through Guide To Iceland and I’ll help you to plan your Iceland trip for free! 🙂 Click the image below. 

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Peter Haycock
    June 23, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Hi Guys. If your ever going to visit Australia, come to Brisbane & stay with us !!..love you web posts !
    Peter.

    • Reply
      Ása Steinarsdóttir
      June 29, 2015 at 7:44 am

      Hey Peter!
      Thank you for your kind invitation and we are so glad you like it! 🙂 We are dreaming of travelling to Australia as soon as possible! We have been looking into work&travel over there…So hopefully, sooner than later 🙂

  • Reply
    Megan
    July 9, 2015 at 11:54 am

    this is such a useful list! ive been to reykjavik twice and really wanted to experience local nature (especially since i had a car one of the times) but didn’t even know where to start! im sure ill be back in the near future and will definitely be taking this list with me.
    Megan recently posted…5 Reasons Why Bratislava Doesn’t Suck… It’s Probably YouMy Profile

    • Reply
      Andri Wilberg Orrason
      July 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Hey Megan! I’m glad you found this list useful 🙂 Most of these hiking spots are a mere 20 min drive from the city center so you don’t have to look far. There is also a range of hiking routes on the Reykjanes peninsula, between the Keflavik airport and Reykjavik. The cone shaped volcano Keilir is about midway and another great easy hiking option 🙂 Hope you visit Iceland again sometime 🙂

  • Reply
    Anders Konradsen
    March 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Hi fellow hikers 😉
    We are a couple from Denmark and we got planetickets to iceland 17-24 june 2016 and we wanna go hiking on our own but need help!
    Been looking at the Landmannalaugar – Thorsmork but some sites says that its clossed on the 17 of june?and if so where is it possible to hike on marked trails and what will u recommend? (Dont need huts we will sleep in tent;)
    may the Sun shine on your path
    Anders

    • Reply
      Ása Steinarsdóttir
      March 15, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Hey Anders! 😀
      Thank you for contacting us.
      Visiting Iceland in June is really great! The 17th of June is our national holiday, but tourism in Iceland is growing so extremly much so I would find it highly unlikely that the path or cottages are closed! I actually think that they never close the path, maybe only some shops will be closed.
      Landmannalaugar – Þórsmörk is a really amazing hike, the hiking path is called “Laugarvegurinn” and usually takes between 3 – 5 days.
      Other hikes I would recommend is Skógarfoss waterfall over to Þórsmörk, that hike is called “Fimmvörðuháls” but only takes 1 day. Then there are plenty of shorter hikes you can do around Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar. The paths are usually marked and other travellers and guides will also be walking in the area.
      So I think it will work out fine for you 🙂
      Good Luck!

  • Reply
    Jack Cullen
    July 5, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    This is fantastic! I have a few days in Reykjavik before meeting my friend for the ring road tour and was looking for some hikes near the city…are there some good one or two night backpacking trips that you guys could recommend near Reykjavik? I will be arriving in late July 🙂

    Thank you!!
    Jack

  • Reply
    Laura K Hake
    January 28, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    I am planning on going to Iceland from March 18-23. I was hoping to hike up to the Glymur Waterfalls and have a moderate amount of hiking experience. Would you recommend this hike during that time?

    • Reply
      Ása Steinarsdóttir
      January 30, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Hey Laura 🙂
      It depends on if it will be snow or not…If there is no snow then it might be great to go there! But the trail to Glymur waterfall can be dangerous and slippery when it’s ice and snow. So I would just check the conditions before you go 🙂
      You also get a nice view of the waterfall without finishing the hike entirely.
      Let me know if you have any further questions 🙂
      Ása Steinarsdóttir recently posted…Helicopter Flight in Iceland With NorðurflugMy Profile

  • Reply
    Haley Glassy
    February 28, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Hi a friend and I are traveling to Iceland in April and would love to do some hiking. However we wont have a car. Is it still possible for us to reach these hiking areas and if so what ways would you recommend? Specifically the Glymur Waterfalls hike.
    Thanks,
    Haley

  • Reply
    Per
    March 22, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Hi!

    Me and my girlfriend are planning a trip to Iceland, we will arrive June 2 and leave June 7. Our plan was to hike without guide, sleep in tent and walk the trail Landmannalaugar – Þórsmörk. But it will most likely be closed during that time…
    Are there any other good hiking trails that takes 3-4 days (preferably with some hot springs on the way 🙂 )?
    Bus connections to the starting point and destination must also exist.

    Best Regards, Per

  • Reply
    karen
    May 14, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Hi,

    Thank you for your post. I am keen to climb Móskarðahnúkar however is it possible to reach there using a 2WD car?

    Thank you!

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