May 20, 2024

Iceland’s Best Kept Secrets: Hiking Hidden Trails in the Highlands

Introduction: The Allure of Icelandic Hiking

The island of ice & fire, with its dramatic landscapes and untouched wilderness, is a hiker’s paradise for those looking to do some hiking in Iceland. The Highlands, in particular, offer some of the most breathtaking and challenging trails in the world. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or a casual hiker, exploring these highlands promises an unforgettable adventure.

Must-Visit Trails in the Icelandic Highlands

For those seeking well-trodden paths and spectacular scenery, here are some of the top hiking trails in the Icelandic Highlands:

1. Laugavegur Trail

  • Length: Approximately 55 km
  • Duration: 3 – 5 days
  • Overview: The Laugavegur Trail spans approximately 55 km from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk, traversing through some of Iceland’s most stunning landscapes. This hiking trail in Iceland starts in Landmannalaugar, known for its colorful rhyolite mountains and geothermal hot springs. As you hike southwards, you’ll encounter vast lava fields, black sand deserts, and the iconic volcanic formations of Hrafntinnusker. The route culminates in Þórsmörk, a lush valley surrounded by glaciers, offering panoramic views and diverse flora and fauna.
Iceland Hiking - Landmannalaugar

2. Fimmvörðuháls Trail

  • Length: About 25 km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 days (depends if you opt for sleeping on the way)
  • Overview: The Fimmvörðuháls Trail stretches approximately 25 km from Skógar to Þórsmörk, passing through some of Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes. Starting at Skógar, famous for its majestic Skógafoss waterfall, the trail ascends through the rugged terrain between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Along the way, hikers can witness the aftermath of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, with views of lava fields, steaming vents, and newly formed craters. The trail ends in Þórsmörk, where lush birch forests and glacial rivers provide a serene conclusion to this challenging trek.

3. Strútsstígur Trail

  • Length: About 30 km
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Overview: The Strútsstígur Trail is a hidden gem that links Hólaskjól hut with the remote Mælifellssandur desert and Strútur mountain hut, on the way to the Laugavegur. Starting from Hólaskjól, near the Eldgjá canyon, the trail offers solitude and stunning views of volcanic landscapes. Hikers can experience the stark contrast between the colorful rhyolite mountains of Törfajökull, the moss-covered hills and the black sand deserts of Mælifellssandur. The route continues towards Strútur Mountain, known for its unique geological formations and panoramic vistas across the highlands.

    This trail is recommended only for experienced hikers accustomed to wilderness trekking and with prior hiking experience in Iceland.
Iceland Hiking - Strútsstígur trail

Discover the “Hidden Trails”

For those who crave adventure off the beaten path, the new “Hidden Trails” is a perfect choice. This innovative hiking trail begins at the base of Sveinstindur mountain, near Langisjór lake, and follows ancient trails once used by shepherds. It then connects with unmarked paths leading to Strútur mountain, before joining the final spectacular stages of the Laugavegur trail. This journey promises an epic and secluded hiking experience.

Why planning for 55km (approx 34mi) of the Laugavegur trail if you can plan a +150km (+90mi) backpacking adventure?

Overnighting in very small, basic, and secluded mountain huts adds a unique charm and adventure to your hiking experience in Iceland’s rugged landscapes.

These rustic mountain huts, tucked away amidst the wilderness, offer a refuge from the elements while immersing you in the raw beauty of Iceland’s highlands. Typically equipped with minimal amenities such as bunk beds, heating stoves fueled by propane gas, and basic kitchen facilities, these huts provide a cozy haven after a day of trekking.

Fording glacial rivers is a thrilling & challenging, yet necessary aspect of hiking in Iceland’s highlands, where these majestic rivers carve through volcanic landscapes and connect expansive glacial systems.

Iceland Hiking - Secluded trails

For hikers seeking authenticity, immersion in nature, and a true sense of exploration, overnighting in these small, basic, and secluded mountain huts is an essential part of the Icelandic highlands experience. It’s an opportunity to forge deeper connections with both the natural environment and oneself, leaving you with cherished memories of a journey off the beaten path.

In essence, choosing the Hidden Trails is not just about hiking—it’s about embarking on a transformative journey through Iceland’s heartland, where solitude, diverse landscapes, and thrilling adventures converge to create unforgettable memories.

Hiking with a certified local guide

Hiking with a local certified guide in Iceland’s highlands can significantly enhance your experience, especially when navigating challenges like fording glacial rivers. Certified guides bring invaluable knowledge of the terrain, weather patterns, and safety protocols, ensuring a safer and more informed journey.

They are adept at assessing river crossings, choosing the safest routes, and providing essential guidance on technique and timing. Beyond safety, hiking with a local guide enriches your adventure with insights into Iceland’s geology, flora, fauna, and cultural history. They can point out hidden gems, share local folklore, and facilitate meaningful interactions with the environment. Opting for a guided hike not only enhances safety but also deepens your appreciation and understanding of Iceland’s wilderness, making for a more immersive and memorable experience overall.

Conclusion: Embrace the Adventure

Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands is more than just a physical challenge; it’s a journey through some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on Earth. Whether you stick to the popular routes or venture onto the Hidden Trails, you’re sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Explore More: Ready to embark on an extraordinary adventure? Discover the Hidden Trails and other incredible routes in the Icelandic Highlands by visiting our Hidden Trails page.

Iceland Hiking - Eldgjá canyon
See our Iceland adventures