Each year, thousands of visitors travel to Iceland to experience and enjoy the country’s exciting hiking routes, some of which deservedly appear on lists of the best hikes in the world. Gifted with an extremely varied landscape and awe-inspiring natural wonders, Iceland is one of the best places in the world for hikers and explorers.
Each region of this country offers visitors something different and unique. There are some amazing hiking spots surprisingly close to the capital. Many hiking trails are easily accessible from the main road. There are beautiful trekking routes off the beaten path as well, far away from the populated areas.
Whether you fancy climbing ice walls and glaciers, reaching the summits of tall mountain tops and volcanoes, exploring thrilling waterfalls and hot springs, or backpacking across Iceland’s national parks, there is a multitude of options available for every kind of adventurer.
Aside from giving you a lot of alternatives when it comes to sightseeing, the variety of trails to choose from will provide an amazing hiking adventure no matter what your fitness level may be. Whether you are an experienced hiker or just starting out, you will surely find a suitable adventure in the following list of the best hikes in Iceland that we have put together for you. Enjoy your walk!
Probably one of the most common questions when it comes to hiking in Iceland is, when is the best time to do it?
Ultimately, the summer months – June, July, and August – are the best for hiking in Iceland. These are the warmest, the driest, and the least stormy months, making summer the safest and the most comfortable time for hiking. The temperatures range between 10-20°C (50-68°F) and the average wind speed, precipitation, and storm frequency are lower than at any other time of the year.
The landscape blooms in its full glory. Sheep freely wander through the green pastures, vivid Arctic flowers grow everywhere, mosses and birch forests thrive, and loud bird chatter fills the air with life. Locals and foreign visitors spread out to the greenery to explore Iceland’s hidden beauties and to enjoy the gifts of the summer and the midnight sun. Real adventurers will leave the beaten path and wander into the Highlands to follow Iceland’s best hiking and trekking routes.
These trails are open only for a limited period of time during the short summer months. The Icelandic Highlands are only accessible for hikers between mid-June and early September, while the world-famous Laugavegur Trail is best to complete from July to late August. The remote Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is also accessible from around mid-June to about August 20. These areas are the most pristine hiking sites in Iceland.
The edges of the season, from May to mid-June and from late August to mid-October, are quite unpredictable. The temperatures are usually a few degrees lower than in summer and the weather is much more erratic. Both spring and autumn can be very rainy and windy or beautifully sunny and calm, but no one really can know this in advance. Every year is different.
The landscape is usually golden brown all over the country, if not white. In May and June, there is no darkness at night. In May, the endless sunsets and sunrises start to kick in. In September, however, the nights are dark and the Northern Lights may appear in the sky.
The accessibility of the trails depends highly on the actual weather conditions, on the area, and on the type of terrain, you would like to hike. If the winter was bad, then May is not a good option for hiking as there can still BE plenty of snow, especially at higher altitudes.
Even if the weather is excellent all around the country, the Highlands are still inaccessible in May due to bad road conditions and snow. Some shorter and less remote trails, however, such as the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Hike, the Glymur Waterfall Hike, or the Thorsmörk Volcano Hike, can be completed in spring and autumn as well.
September is usually rainy and stormy but it can sometimes be nice and sunny, too. October is considered the beginning of the winter; this is the time the first snow falls in the lower altitudes while the Highlands will already be covered by thick snow.
Iceland, of course, is famed for its long winters. The winter season, however, can be one of the best times to visit. The country is at its best when twinkling in the snow and shining under the Northern Lights. And, despite what you may think, Iceland is not that cold in the winter, with the city of Reykjavík experiencing an average temperature of 0°C (32°F) during winter. The average temperature in the mountains is much lower, of course.
Winter is not the best time for longer hikes. The daylight lasts only 3-6 hours and most of the hiking trails are not accessible at all. However, some low-altitude hikes, such as the famous Reykjadalur Hot Spring Hike, are walkable all year round. Even hiking these shorter tails requires good preparation.
It is necessary to research the weather, the trail conditions, and the possibility of avalanches before heading out. Hiking spikes or crampons are a must. For the best experience and safety, join a guided hiking tour. Once you have packed the right equipment, enough layers, and provisions, hiking in winter in Iceland is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The vast 40,000-square-kilometer deserted wilderness in the country’s interior is called the Icelandic Highlands. This area contains some of the most extraordinary landscapes in Iceland and is home to some of the best hikes in the world. For those looking for something truly unforgettable, choosing any of the trails in this area is a complete no-brainer.