Reykjavik might have culture and history to spare, but let’s face it – very few people go to Iceland for the museums. And as much as it may pain Icelanders to know, fewer still make the trip for the Hákarl (fermented shark meat, to me and you). No – it’s the natural attractions that make millions of us board a plane for Iceland every year, and it’s the natural attractions that keep us coming back for more. Whether it’s seeing the Northern Lights or taking a selfie by a geyser, Iceland is to nature-buffs what Paris is to romantics. But what about hiking? Are there many opportunities to pull on a pair of walking boots and head out into the wilds? Or is the rugged terrain too tough to handle? Fortunately, it’s very much a ‘yes’ to the first question and a ‘no’ the second. While some of Iceland’s more trepidatious peaks are off-limits to all but the bravest, even the casual walker will find plenty to enjoy in the Icelandic countryside. Even better, you won’t have to venture far from the capital to experience some of the best trails Iceland has to offer. Don’t believe us? Then check out our round-up of the ‘10 Best Places for Hiking in Reykjavik’.
If you thought you’d need to venture outside of Reykjavik’s city limits to enjoy a hike, think again. As or.is points out, Elliðaárdalur is one of the hidden gems of Reykjavik, offering plenty of recreational opportunities to keep all ages and fitness levels entertained. Spotted with scores of biking and hiking trails, it makes an excellent place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some fun in nature.
Viðey is a gorgeous little island located just a stone’s throw from Reykjavik. Simply jump on a ferry at either Skarfabakki pier or Ægisgarður harbor and you’ll be knee-deep in nature before you know it. With plenty of historical sights to explore and miles upon miles of hiking and biking trails, it’s as popular with locals as it is with tourists. The terrain is easy to manage, even for those of us who spend most of our lives huddled over a computer screen. The breathtaking beauty of the terrain and the splendid, endless ocean views, meanwhile, provide plenty of opportunities to get snap-happy with your camera.
3. Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach is famed more for its swimming opportunities than its hiking possibilities, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to stretch your legs. The area around the beach is surrounded by forest, studded throughout with numerous trails and pathways. Take the right path, and eventually, you’ll find yourself on the beach itself. As well as offering a lovely, relaxing walk across the sand, it’s also a fantastic place to treat yourself to an indulgent soak; the hot geothermal tub that’s been hollowed out of the sand is heated to around 38ºC… perfect for relaxing your muscles after a long walk.
4. Mt. Esja
Venture just a short hop, skip, and a jump from the heart of Reykjavik and you’ll find Mt. Esja, a great place for hiking and one of the most popular natural attractions in Iceland. Offering majestic views over the surrounding land, it’s a challenging, but not intimidating, hike that most people will manage easily enough, even if some of us do have to take a few more pitstops along the way than others. Pack some supplies and your comfiest shoes and prepare to make some memories.
5. Glymur Waterfall Hike
Granted, the Glymur Waterfall Hike isn’t in Reykjavik itself, but few would argue it’s not worth the hour drive… least of all tourradar.com, who rank it as one their favorite places for hiking around Reykjavik. Although the Glymur Waterfall isn’t among Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, it’s still a superbly impressive sight – although at 198 meters tall, it’s not a hike for anyone with a fear of heights.
6. Thingvellir National Park
Venture just 45 minutes outside the heart of the capital and you’ll find Thingvellir National Park, a place of such charm, beauty, and serenity, it’s guaranteed to be one of the chief highlights of your Icelandic experience. The park is dotted with several trails, the most impressive of which has to be Öxarárfoss Waterfall Trail, a well maintained, fairly easy path that takes you between the North American crater and the Eurasian tectonic plates.
Recommended by wakeupreykjavik.com as one of the best places for hiking around Reykjavik, Reykjadalur consists of a manageable, 3-kilometer hiking trail that offers plenty of rewards along the way. The views are outstanding enough on the ascent, but once you reach the peak, you’ll really understand what all the fuss is about as you look down over the lush green valley and meandering hot spring river below. Needless to say, this is one hike you won’t want to forget to bring your camera on.
According to local legend, anyone who manages to get to the top of Helgafell and back again will have three of their wishes come true. How true this is, we wouldn’t want to guess. What we can say with some confidence is that anyone with a wish to enjoy some of the best views in Iceland without having to walk too far in the process (the hike shouldn’t take you much more than 15 minutes from start to finish) won’t be left disappointed.
Located just 20 minutes from the beating heart of Reykjavik city center is Móskarðshnjúk, a challenging hike that comes complete with gorgeous scenery, breathtaking views over Reykjavík, and a top pick recommendation from guidetoiceland.is.
10. Mt. Vífilsfell
Mt. Vífilsfell is a favorite with locals, and for good reason. Offering jaw-dropping panoramas over the greater Reykjavík area, Mt. Esjan, and the Reykjanes peninsula, along with an easy trail that even couch potatoes should be able to manage without breaking too much of a sweat, it’s a great way to experience the wilds of nature without venturing too far from the city limits.