Iceland is a country that is built to be explored on foot. Lava fields, waterfalls, glacial rivers, volcanos and black sand beaches all await you, and this is a country that everyone should visit. The country is small, and you can cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. The history and the culture will fascinate you, and you will want to discover more about the country and all of her secrets.
So what are the best hiking trails in Iceland?
Hire a Car
The best way to hike around Iceland is to rent a car, drive to a destination and then set off on your adventure. To hike to the most interesting places, you will need a 4 x 4 vehicle as this can cope with the country’s rugged terrain. You will be driving on dirt tracks and sometimes cross country so you will need a car that is built to last. Many hire firms offer car rental in Reykjavik with many hiring a car from Reykjavik Cars as they supply good 4 x 4 vehicles.
Now you have your 4 x 4 you have access to the Highlands. This region has some of the most exciting places to visit, and due to its hard to reach location few outside of Iceland has ever seen it. Landmannalaugar, situated in the Highlands, offers some of the best hiking in Iceland. Let’s look at some highlights.
Laugahringur Circle Hiking Trail
One of the most popular hiking trails in the Landmannalaugar region is the Laugahringur Circle Hiking Trail. Here, on this one day tour, you visit the Laugahraun lava field. Formed by the Brennisteinsalda volcano, the field is small compared to some, but the shapes and colours formed by the basalt lava combining with black obsidian rock makes trekking through the region exciting.
Most trails begin at the FÍ service centre, and you hike through the middle of the field. At the end, you are treated to a glorious view of the Vondugil valley.
When you’re ready to move on, you hike towards the Brennisteinsalda volcano. The steep path is lined with small lava steps, and hot springs are sometimes visible, often lined with black smoke. Eventually, you head east towards the Grænagil ravine.
The Laugavegur Hiking Trail is for the experienced hiker with a sense of adventure. You hike around 54 kms across Iceland’s Highland region beginning at Landmannalaugar, heading south and finishing in Thorsmork. Given the beauty of the area and its unusual geology, many continue you on following the Fimmvorduhals trail to Skogar.
You have a choice when hiking this trail of camping or hut accommodation. If you opt to stay in huts, it is advised to book early. You will probably be walking around 5-6 hours per day and most complete the trail in 3-4 days.
The trail will take you to the stunning sights. Here is a snapshot:
The Torfajökull Caldera. Part of your hike will take you through The Torfajökull caldera. This formed when a magma chamber drained, causing the land that sat above it to collapse. The magma here was rhyolite lava instead of basalt lava. This has led to arguably a more interesting geological appearance.
Near the service centre in Landmannalaugar is a geothermal pool. Here cold water is heated by underground lava flows. Many visitors come and take a dip in the pool. The temperatures are perfect, and the whole experience is liberating.
This is a one-day hiking tour in its own right, but you can include it in a longer trek. The view from the 800m summit is breathtaking as most of the surrounding mountains and lava field becomes visible. Brennisteinsalda translates to ‘Sulphur Hill’.
Bláhnjúkur Mountain features the second highest summit in Landmannalaugar. It greets you as you drive into the region, forming the backdrop. From the top glaciers and icecaps become visible, and the colourful view is magnificent.
Suðurnámur Mountain Ridge and Vondugil
The mountain range is a steep trek but worth it. The walk carries its own reward as each step reveals a little bit more of the surrounding area. From the summit, you will see the Torfajökull volcanic system which has formed Landmannalaugar. You will also have a great view of the Bárðarbunga volcanic system, the ‘daddy’ of the Laugahraun lava field.
When you are ready, descend into the Vondugil valley. This is a highly colourful region and you may find you need to cross a stream either through wading into the water, or finding stepping stones to cross.
Obviously, it is important you have the best and most comfortable hiking gear you can get your hands on. Good boots are essential, and you should prepare for weather changes as this can happen quickly. Not everywhere will allow you to charge electronic equipment so you should plan to keep most equipment switched off unless you need it.
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