Igor

Igor has spent months exploring every inch of Iceland over several years. He specializes in the Highlands, F-roads, hiking, hot springs, and less touristy places. He loves Iceland and keeps coming back.
Igor has spent months exploring every inch of Iceland over several years. He specializes in the Highlands, F-roads, hiking, hot springs, and less touristy places. He loves Iceland and keeps coming back.
How to visit Hornstrandir: Full Hiking Guide 2024

How to visit Hornstrandir: Full Hiking Guide 2024

Hornstrandir is one of the last places on earth where you can still safely hike in untouched nature and enjoy full remoteness without the internet, cell phone, and any other fellow tourists.

We decided to write this guide on how to visit the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve because hiking in Hornstrandir is neither easy nor well accessible. To explore this northernmost corner of Iceland, you need to plan everything well in advance and pray for good weather.

For those willing to put up all the effort to conquer Hornstrandir, the reward is huge, though! This secluded peninsula offers endless hiking opportunities, many picturesque fjords, arctic foxes playing with your tent, and lots of moments to clear your mind and contemplate your life.

In this guide, we compile all the information we have about Hornstrandir from locals, our friends, and visitors who have hiked here recently, as well as numerous hard-to-find Icelandic online sources.

Hornstrandir Map

Our interactive Hornstrandir map displays all the campsites in Hornstrandir, ferry stops, 26 hiking trails, accommodations, all emergency shelters, and many interesting places to see:

Beware!!! Use only main hiking trails if you don’t have enough previous experience with Hornstrandir! The secondary trails may be very dangerous. Several visitors have almost died there. They should be taken only with a local guide or if you are highly experienced in the area!

How to visit Hornstrandir

The only way to reach Hornstrandir is by using a ferry from Ísafjörður or Bolungarvik or by hiking for multiple days from the mainland in Westfjords. There are no roads in Hornstrandir. Once there, your only way of transportation is hiking.

It’s important to say that visiting Hornstrandir is not easy. If you are looking for a laid-back trip without much effort, stay away from this part of Iceland. Just getting to Hornstrandir requires careful planning, and if you want to hike it, you have to prepare even more thoroughly.

Hornstrandir is also no place for those with a fear of heights or mobility issues. This is a hiking-only region and the hiking is not the easiest, although not the most hardcore one as well.

Ferry

There are currently three ferry companies running boat transfers to Hornstrandir from Westfjords:

  • Sjóferðir – departs from Ísafjörður
  • Borea Adventures – departs from Ísafjörður
  • Hornstrandir Tours – departs from Bolungarvík

They typically operate the boats from early June until early September. See all the current Hornstrandir ferry schedules here:

hornstrandir ferry schedule 2024

Hornstrandir ferry schedule for 2024 from Ísafjörður – a boat run by Borea Adventures

Borea Adventures ferry stops at six different stops – Aðalvík, Grunnavík, Hesteyri, Hornvik, and Veidileysufjörður.

The ferry by Sjóferðir also stops at Fljótavík and Hrafnfjörður upon request.

The Hornstrandir Tours ferry leaving from Bolungarvík stops at all stops above and also at Slétta, Hlöðuvík, Lónafjörður, and Flæðareyri.

You have to book the ferry in advance. The boat may be either full or may not depart at all if there are not enough passengers.

Guided tours

hornstrandir guided tour

Multi-day Hornstrandir guided tour by Borea Adventures

The easiest and safest way to visit Hornstrandir is to attend a guided tour. All the planning is handled by a guide. The main downside of a guided tour is that you will not see as much as you possibly can when hiking alone. Additionally, you won’t be alone, which means a part of Hornstrandir’s magic will be gone.

There are two main tour companies operating guided trips to Hornstradir – Borea Adventures and West Tours. Both companies are running their tours from Ísafjörður in Westfjords. Apart from tours, Borea also runs a ferry, as mentioned above.

5% discount code on all Hornstrandir Tours and Ferries by Borea Adventures: EPICICELAND

Both tour providers offer day hikes as well as multi-day treks across Hornstrandir, all with experienced local guides.

All tours have to be booked in advance and can be canceled due to unfavorable weather with a refund or a new proposed date.

When to visit Hornstrandir

when to visit hornstrandir

When to visit Hornstrandir? Only in summer. Even then, snowfields can be present. Photo by Rob Oo, CC BY 2.0

In short, you can visit Hornstrandir only in summer and only when the weather is favorable. This means no strong wind, no heavy rain, and definitely no weather alerts.

Planning is crucial when it comes to visiting Hornstrandir. The same applies to weather. I know it’s hard, but it’s essential to plan your trip to happen over a nice weather period. Otherwise, it may just turn into suffering rather than joy.

Discount codes on Icelandic Guided tours and Car rentals.

Season

You can visit Hornstrandir from early June until early September when the ferries are running. The main season also coincides with the time when Hornstrandir is partially or mostly snow-free. This is also when the weather is the mildest, with the lowest number of storms and weather alerts.

Hiking trails in Hornstrandir are typically best accessible between mid-July and the end of August when there’s only a little snow and temperatures reach their peaks.

Weather

hornstrandir arctic fox

Hornstrandir has by far the highest chances of spotting arctic foxes in Iceland!

Weather in Hornstrandir can be your biggest friend and also the biggest enemy. Simply said, it’s extreme. On a bad day, wind can reach hurricane-force strength and on a nice day, you can even sunbathe easily. That’s Hornstrandir, be ready for it!

In an ideal case, you should wait for a week or two of a stable and mild weather forecast. This is a good time to visit Hornstrandir. In reality, however, this is easier said than done. How are you supposed to know what the weather will be like at the time of your visit? Well, you can’t know. This basically leaves you with two options:

  1. Plan for fixed dates. In this case, be ready to cancel everything when the weather gets really bad. Or be ready to experience fog, rain, and wind throughout your entire trip. This can easily happen.
  2. Be flexible. Very flexible. Be ready to reschedule, postpone, shorten your trip, or whatever is needed to avoid harsh weather and maximize the time spent under favorable weather.

Always check the weather only on the official Icelandic meteorological office website. This is the most precise forecast. The longer it forecasts, the less precise it is, but it’s still the best one available.

25 hidden gems in Iceland nobody writes about.

Most Beautiful Spots in Hornstrandir

Below is the list of seven spots many consider to be the most beautiful places in Hornstrandir.

1. Skálarkambur pass views

most beautiful place hornstrandir skalarkambur

Skálarkambur pass offers one-of-its-kind views over Hloðuvík fjord. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

Skálarkambur Pass is one of the most beautiful places in Hornstrandir, offering breathtaking views of Hloðuvík fjord. You will reach it on the hiking trail between Hornvík and Hlöðuvík.

2. Hafnarskarð pass views

hafnarskard best place hornstrandir

Views from the top of Hafnarskarð mountain pass are one of Hornstrandir’s highlights. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

Hafnarskarð pass is another spot where you will be rewarded with picturesque views of the gorgeous fjords of Hornstrandir. Hafnarskarð overlooks both the Hornvík fjord and Veiðileysufjörður fjord. You will find this viewpoint on the Veiðileysufjörður-Hornvík hiking trail.

3. Hornbjarg cliffs

hornbjarg cliffs hornstrandir iceland

Hornbjarg Horn cliffs are by many considered the most beautiful spot in Hornstrandir. Photo by Evgeniy Metyolkin, CC BY-SA 3.0

The cliffs of Horn and Hornbjarg are undoubtedly the most iconic place in Hornstrandir. The sharp and steep cliffs full of birds entice thousands of photographers a year.

4. Hornbjargsvíti lighthouse

hornbjargsviti lighthouse hornstrandir iceland

The scenery around Hornbjargsvíti Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful places in Hornstrandir

The views from above the Hornbjargsvíti lighthouse are simply incredible on a nice day. The vibrant colors of the lighthouse create a unique photography contrast against the backdrop of a green, rocky coast.

5. Kirfi cliffs

Hælavíkurbjarg kirfi cliffs hvannadalur

Hælavíkurbjarg bird cliffs at Kirfi in Hvannadalur are one of the most scenic spots of Hornstrandir, still unconquered by crowds. Picture by Náttúrustofa Norðausturlands

Hælavíkurbjarg cliffs in Hvannadalur, sometimes also called Kirfi cliffs, are one of Hornstrandir’s hidden gems. You can reach them the easiest on a hike to Kirfi from Rekavík. It’s not a hike for the faint of heart, though.

6. Fljótsvatn lake

fljotsvatn floodplain top hornstrandir views

One of the top views you can experience in Hornstrandir is a view over Lake’s Fljótsvatn floodplain. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

Fljótsvatn Lake is the biggest and most beautiful lake in Hornstrandir. You will find the best views over Fljótsvatn on a hike between Hlöðuvík and Fljótavík or on the Fljótavík-Látrar hiking trail.

7. Aðalvík fjord

best hornstrandir view latrar adalvik

Bird’s eye view over Aðalvík fjord on one of the nearby hikes is one of Hornstrandir’s highlights. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

You can experience wonderful views over Aðalvík fjord on either the Fljótavík-Látrar hiking trail or on the hike between Látrar and Hesteyri.

Hornstrandir Accommodation

The only available accommodation in Hornstrandir is 14 campsites and three very simple guest houses with sleeping bag accommodation. Expect all three guesthouses to be fully booked in advance for the majority of summer:

Best Places in the Highlands of Iceland.

Remember, Hornstrandir is NOT a typical touristy destination. There is no comfortable lodging, and there are no normal services you are used to in a developed world. There’s wilderness and that’s it.

“No problem, I’m used to camping!” Well, are you? Have you camped in Hornstrandir? A friend of mine lost her top-class, well-pitched tent in Hornstrandir in August due to massive hurricane-force winds. She was lucky to be accommodated by one of the three guesthouses at the time. Is it always like this? No, it is not. But it can be. And you need to be ready for that!

hornvik campsite hornstrandir iceland

Hornvík campsite, the biggest camping in Hornstrandir. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

A note of caution! You may encounter a house from time to time. All houses in Hornstrandir are private properties! Don’t invade the privacy of the owners. These may be their holiday houses or a family heritage.

Campsites in Hornstrandir

There are 14 different campsites in Hornstrandir. Six of them also offer an emergency shelter. Here is the list of all Hornstrandir campsites:

  • Hornvík Höfn campsite (+emergency shelter)
  • Hesteyri campsite
  • Hornbjargsvíti campsite
  • Látrar campsite (+emergency shelter)
  • Sæból campsite
  • Atlastaðir Fljotavik campsite (+emergency shelter)
  • Smiðjuvík campsite
  • Bjarnanes campsite
  • Hrafnfjörður campsite (+emergency shelter)
  • Glúmsstaðir Fljótavatn campsite
  • Veiðileysufjörður campsite
  • Við Hlöðuvíkurós campsite (+emergency shelter)
  • Horn or Hornsá campsite
  • Lónhorn campsite
  • Furufjörður campsite (+emergency shelter)
hornvik campsite emergency shelter

Emergency shelter in Hornvík campsite. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

Most campsites are equipped with running water and dry toilets. Travelers must camp at campsites if there is one on the ground or in its immediate vicinity.

The biggest campsite is in Hornvík in Höfn. It’s large and well set up.  There is a ranger’s cabin, flush toilets, running water, and sinks in the Hornvík campsite.

Meals in Hornstrandir

There are no supermarkets or restaurants in Hornstrandir. You have to bring all the food by yourself or arrange for a food delivery. The basic food delivery can be ordered with any of the ferry companies, just discuss it with them in advance.

In summer, the three guesthouses typically offer snacks, hot beverages, canned drinks, and even soups or hot meals. This heavily depends on availability and their inventory at the time, though, so don’t rely on it!

It’s best you bring a calorie-heavy, lightweight food to Hornstrandir. The longer you stay, the calorie-heavier and more lightweight it should be. Nuts, biscuits, chocolate, and dried meat are some examples of such meals.

steep drops hornstrandir trails

Steep drops on unstable terrain are one of the main Hornstrandir hiking challenges, especially with a heavy backpack. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

What to Pack for Hornstrandir

The equipment you need to hike in Hornstrandir highly depends on how many days you plan to spend here. Is it just a day trip? Or do you intend to do a 2-week-long expedition? This makes a night and a day difference.

Remember you have to buy everything in mainland Iceland or/and in Isafjordur. There are no shops in Hornstrandir! You may be able to buy some essentials in Læknishúsið in Hesteyri or in Hornvík or Hornbjargsvíti, but don’t rely on that. It’s subject to availability.

Multi-Day Hiking Expedition

Recommended Hornstrandir hiking gear:

  • Backpack, fully waterproof, with a rain cover
  • Hiking poles
  • Map, GPS, compass, and a satellite device or Garmin InReach in case of emergency
  • Sleeping bag, high-quality, light, warm
  • Tent, high-quality, light, water and windproof
  • Mattress, light, small, inflatable
  • Cooking equipment, stove, gas, pot, matches, dish, cup
  • Thermos, water bottle, pocket knife
  • Sun protection
  • Painkillers and emergency medication
  • Band-aid and elastic bandages
  • Food, light, dry, long-lasting, and high calories, e.g. biscuits, chocolate, dried meat, fruits
  • Hot drinks, tea, coffee, cocoa
  • Reserve batteries and/or power banks
  • Towel, shampoo, toilet paper
  • Headlight, lighter
hornstrandir what to pack

What to pack for Hornstrandir multi-day trek (click to enlarge). Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

Recommended clothes:

  • Hiking shoes, waterproof and sturdy
  • Wading shoes, to ford rivers, or neoprene socks
  • Jacket, waterproof
  • Sweater, wool, or thermal
  • Trousers, thermal
  • Trousers, waterproof
  • Gloves
  • Hat, windproof
  • Wool is the material you want to wear as much as possible to stay dry and warm

Pay special attention to your hiking shoes and the water and wind durability of your clothes. Gore Tex is highly recommended if you are looking for clothes that are really waterproof.

Hornstrandir is wet in many places, rocky, and hiking through wet grass makes most of the shoes leak. Bring shoes that have high ankle support, that are new, and wax leather shoes with fat before your trip. Don’t wear trail shoes.

Here’s an example 2-week trek Hornstrandir packing list, including item weights. Thanks to Reinhold Seiz for providing this:

hornstrandir packing list

Day Trip

If you are visiting Hornstrandir as a day trip only, you can skip the following items from the list above:

  • Sleeping bag, Tent, Mattress, Cooking equipment, Knife, Medication, Hot drinks, Batteries, Towel, Headlight

If you are visiting Hornstrandir as a part of the guided tour, apart from the items above, you can also skip:

  • Map, GPS, compass, satellite device (a guide has these)
  • A guide will also inform you about your planned route and clothes requirements as well as any other requirements. Chances are, you won’t be fording rivers, and if yes, you will be informed about it

Hiking Tips from a Local

hornstrandir official hiking map

Official Hornstrandir hiking map (click to enlarge). Only the main hiking trails are displayed here. Source: www.ust.is

  1. Always check the Icelandic Safe Travel website and the local weather forecast before going.
  2. Submit your travel plan here before visiting and also provide it to all ferry companies you will be using.
  3. Consult your plan with an information center in Hornvik or Hesteyri, with a ranger if he/she is present at your point of arrival, and possibly also with a ferry company.
  4. Practice at home! Practice a multi-day hike in rain, wind, with a heavy backpack (20kg / 44lbs), wet shoes, etc. Practice pitching a tent in these conditions.
  5. Trails can often get swampy and boggy. Get ready for that with your gear.
  6. Sometimes, especially over the mountain passes, you can get a limited cell and internet signal. Use it to get the most recent weather info.
  7. Print the most recent weather forecast at Isafjordur and update it with a pen/pencil every time you receive any internet signal when hiking, and take screenshots of the forecast.
  8. If there’s a visible path, your best chances are to follow it. If there’s no visible path, use cairns, GPS, compass, and maps.
  9. Check tidal times. You may need to cross tricky parts through beaches.
  10. Let the boat company you booked a ferry with know of any changes to your plans! The best is to send them an SMS because it may get through even if you think you don’t have any cell coverage.
  11. The ferry will not be waiting for you. Better wait for a ferry yourself with enough time in advance.
  12. Take only the main hiking trails displayed above if you don’t have enough previous experience with Hornstrandir! Some of the secondary hiking trails displayed below may be deadly dangerous!

Hornstrandir Hiking Trails

all hornstrandir hiking trails map

Map of all Hornstrandir hiking trails (click to enlarge). Beware, some may not be passable or only very hard! Source: https://vefsja.iskort.is/

We describe below the fourteen main Hornstrandir hiking trails and twelve secondary trails. The secondary trails are usually less visited, often unmarked and can be very difficult, not always, though.

Bear in mind that the map of each trail may not be exactly precise, and the correct and easiest hiking trail may vary year by year and day by day. Especially the river and water crossing spots change based on the tide and conditions at the time.

The hiking trails in Hornstrandir range from almost invisible and unmarked to partially visible with sticks in the ground or boot prints to very clear when marked with stone cairns.

There can often be snowfields on trails, especially early in the season. If you are unsure of where to go, your best guess is to follow the shoe steps made by others.

Veiðileysufjörður – Hornvík

Length: 11km (7mi)
Time: 4-5 hours
Elevation hiked: 550m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornvik-hafnarskard-veidileysufjordur-5199072
veidileysufjordur hiking trail hornstrandir iceland

View over Veiðileysufjörður on a hiking trail to Hornvík in Hornstrandir. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The hiking trail from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík via Hafnarskarð pass is the trail multi-day hikers often choose as their starting route. It’s a good warm-up trek, not too long, not too short, giving you a glimpse of what you can expect in Hornstrandir.

The highlight of the trails is definitely the spectacular view from the top of Hafnarskarð pass into both Veiðileysufjörður in the back and Hornvik in the front.

The trail near Veiðileysufjörður is often very swampy and wet, but it becomes drier the higher you go up. The route is clear and easy to follow, thanks to the big cairns that mark the way.

The most difficult spot of the trail is the Hafnarskarð pass. It’s steep and may be covered with snow all year round. Be prepared for steep snow slopes in this area, the bigger the earlier in the season you come.

There are typically no big rivers to cross, just small streams, and you shouldn’t even take your shoes off under standard, not-too-wet conditions.

Hornvík – Horn – Hornvík loop

Length: 16km (10mi)
Time: 6-7 hours
Elevation hiked: 600m (2500 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornvik-midfell-hornbjarg-140087904
horn cliffs hornstrandir iceland

Hornvík – Horn hiking trail in Hornstrandir, photo by Rob Oo, CC BY 2.0

The hiking trail from Hornvík in Höfn, leading to the famous Horn and Hornbjarg cliffs, is by far the single most popular trail in Hornstrandir. What makes it so much sought-after is that the cliffs are strikingly beautiful, and the path is relatively safe to visit. Secondly, the biggest campsite in Hornstrandir, Hornvík in Höfn, is close by.

Roughly one mile east of Hornvik, you have to cross the Hafnarós river. The river is, on average, knee-deep, and the official river crossing spot is higher up the river, marked by two yellow markers. However, sometimes it makes sense to search for even shallower spots.

You can often find the shallowest spot near the shore, where the river meets the sea, especially during low tide. If you want to minimize the part of your body underwater, take note of tidal times beforehand. Beware, though, here the riverbed may be more sandy.

horn hornbjarg hiking trail river crossing

A river crossing at sea level during low tide near Hornvík on the way to Horn and Hornbjarg. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The main highlight of this trek is the otherworldly view that you will get in the Horn and Hornbjarg area, where cliffs as high as 500 meters meet the sea. This is also where puffins and various birds often nest!

From Horn, you can walk in a loop along the cliffs and reach the mountain Miðfell. Please beware that the trail to Miðfell is steep and can be difficult to walk, especially in wet conditions.

The most difficult section of the trail besides the river crossing is the sheer drops right next to the trails. Take special care in the strong wind!

Hornvík – Hlöðuvík

Length: 10km (6mi)
Time: 4-5 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hloduvik-to-hornvik-107093344
hornvik hloduvik hiking trail trollakambur

A sketchy spot over Tröllakambur cliffs on a Hornvík – Hlöðuvík hiking trail in Hornstrandir. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

This trail connects two fjords – Hornvík and Hlöðuvík. Starting at Hornvík, the first part of the trail is a bit sketchy and leads along the edge of Tröllakambur cliffs. You have to watch your steps on the smooth stones, and there’s also a rope to help you pass.

After that, you will get to the bay of Rekavík Bak Höfn. At this junction, you can either continue to Hlöðuvík via Atlaskarð pass or do a detour to Kirfi cliffs in Hvannadalur. We describe the fascinating Kirfi/Hvannadalur trail below, under secondary trails.

The most gorgeous spot of the Hornvík – Hlöðuvík trail is the view from Skálarkambur pass all the way to Hlöðuvík. To reach Skálarkambur, though, you first have to hike up the Atlaskarð pass.

The hiking path to the Atlaskarð pass is well-marked with cairns. From Skálarkambur, you will take a very steep descent down to Hlöðuvík. This section of the trek can be quite dangerous earlier in the season when there’s still a lot of snow.

Hlöðuvík – Fljótsvatn

Length: 12km (7.5mi)
Time: 6 hours
Elevation hiked: 550m (1800 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/fljotavik-reida-hloduvik-budir-1120730
hloduvik fljotsvatn hiking trail

Steep rockslides and boulders on the Þorleifsskarð pass on a hiking trail from Hlöðuvík to Fljótsvatn.Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The hiking trail from Hlöðuvík to Fljótsvatn is versatile but also demanding. The highlight of this trail is the view from the Þorleifsskarð pass down into the floodplain at Fljótavatn lake.

Some sections of the trail are marked with wooden sticks, however, you can easily lose your way in a fog. In that case, this will be a difficult and slow hike.

Fog is not the only threat of this trek. There are several sections with steep rockslides and boulders around Almenningar and Þorleifsskarð. Hiking poles will be priceless. And pray for no strong winds!

Apart from the steep parts and some unforgettable views, you will also encounter a seemingly endless stone desert.

Fljótsvatn – Látrar

Length: 11.5km (7mi)
Time: 5 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/latrar-fljotvik-reida-1120718
fljotstvatn latrar trail start

Beginning of the Fljótsvatn – Látrar trail. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The considerable part of the hiking trail from Fljótsvatn campsite to Látrar in Aðalvík leads through the swampy floodplains of Fljótsvatn lake. How wet you get varies strongly based on the current conditions around the lake.

Except for the swamps and pesky flies, this part of the trails is rather easy to walk. Later in the season, you may also be lucky to find a lot of blueberries in this area.

The prettiest part of the Fljótsvatn – Látrar hiking trail is most likely the magnificent view of Látravík after overcoming the Tunguheiði mountain pass southwest of Fljótavatn. This section is marked with cairns, and the initial hike up from Tungudalur is pretty steep.

Fljótavík – Látrar

Length: 12.5km (7.5mi)
Time: 5 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/fljotavik-latrar-1817356
fljotavik latrar tunguheidi hornstrandir

Steep Tunguheiði mountain pass on a Fljótavík – Látrar hiking trail in Hornstrandir. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The first real challenge of this trail is the Fljótsvatn Lake crossing next to Fljótavík. The water can be as high as your upper hips. The fording spot by the lake is marked opposite to Langanes.

Then there’s a steep ascent from Tungudalur all the way to Tunguheiði pass. After the pass, you can either continue southwest to Látrar in Aðalvík or choose one of the two detours – Rekavík and/or the Straumnes US Navy base.

By further following the main trail, you will then reach Látrar campsite by hiking alongside the mountain Látrafjall.

Látrar – Hesteyri

Length: 11km (7mi)
Time: 4 hours
Elevation hiked: 300m (1000 ft)
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornstrandir-day-7-latravik-hesteyri-4986488
latravik view from stakkadalur

View over Látravík from the Stakkadalur pass on a hiking trail to Hesteyri. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The trek from Látrar to Hesteyri (or the other way round) is one of the easiest main hiking trails you can take in Hornstrandir. With Hesteyri being one of the main hubs of civilization in Hornstrandir, it’s also a well-trodden path.

While this trail is probably not as breathtaking as the others, the most beautiful section is a wonderful view down to Látravik once you climb up Stakkadalur. You will also meet a nice waterfall along the way.

When climbing up from Stakkadalur, you have to cross the river Stakkadalsós with a sandy bottom. This may be the most difficult spot of this hike. The section between Stakkadalur and Hesteyrarskarð mountain pass is marked with distant cairns. The final part of the trail between Hesteyrarskarð and Hesteyri is an old but well-visible road.

Hesteyri – Sæból

Length: 13.5km (8.5mi)
Time: 5 hours
Elevation hiked: 400m (1000 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/iceland-j5-boat-124098641
hesteyri saebol trail hornstrandir

On a start to hiking trail from Hesteyri to Sæból in Hornstrandir. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The hike from Hesteyri to Sæból again belongs to the easier ones when it comes to hiking trails in Hornstrandir. From Sæból, you can take two side hikes – one to a British Military Base in Darri and one to Rytur mountain.

On your way from Hesteyrarfjörður, you will first overcome the mountain Nóngilsfjall and head towards Sléttuheiði. This part of the trail is well visible and marked with cairns.  Then you have to cross the river Sléttuá.

The following part of the hike to Staður church is barely marked with a hard-to-see trail. However, the navigation is not too bad because you just have to keep right of the lake. This is also where the trail often gets wet.

During this trek, you may also make a detour to Slétta, which will extend your hiking time by about 1 to 2 hours. The most difficult part of the hike is the descent to Staður church, or the climb from the church, if you hike the other way round. It’s not any critical, though.

Hesteyri – Hlöðuvík

Length: 16km (10mi)
Time: 6-7 hours
Elevation hiked: 600m (2000 ft)
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/d3-hloduvik-hesteyri-52917311
doctors house laeknishusid hesteyri

Doctor’s House, or Læknishúsið, in Hesteyri. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

The hiking trail from Hesteyri to Hlöðuvík is more difficult, yet pretty popular because it’s one of the two shortest trails connecting southern and northern Hornstrandir.

The most difficult sections of the trail include hiking up and down the steep snowfields with an invisible path underneath. The sooner in season you go, the bigger and more dangerous the snowdrifts.

Nevertheless, the trail is marked well with plenty of stone cairns. Just sometimes, the path simply disappears, because of stony terrain or snow where footprints often can’t be seen.

Coming from Hesteyri, the first main challenge is the Kjaransvíkurskarð mountain pass. This is the place where snowdrifts occur often. However, it’s also most likely the prettiest spot of the trail, with a picturesque view back over Hesteyri fjord.

The rest of the trail is rather boring, though, with lots of rocks, cairns, and bogs. Despite cairns, it may be hard to find a trail due to difficult navigation on stones and occasional snowfields. On snowdrifts, your best guess should be the footprints of others, if there are any.

The final challenge of the hike is a crossing of river Kjaransvíkurá, which is most of the time best crossed at the shore.

Horn – Hornbjargsvíti

Length: 9.5km (6mi)
Time: 4 hours
Elevation hiked: 850m (1800 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/vestfirdir-hornstrandir-hornbjargsviti-hornbjarg-22-juni-2012-10524338
horn hornbjargsviti trail hornstrandir

Horn – Hornbjargsvíti trail map

Getting to Hornbjargsvíti is not easy nor comfortable, regardless of the trail you choose. But it’s well worth the effort! Your first alternative is the Horn – Hornbjargsvíti trek along the eastern shore.

The trail from Horn to Hornbjargsvíti is versatile but quite sketchy, especially around the Múli area, if you plan to continue along the eastern shore all the way to Hornbjargsvíti.

The hardest spot is said to be the climb up to Múli and back down to the shore. It’s particularly challenging with a huge backpack. The trails in this area are also not well visible and can be quite a daunting task to follow if it’s too foggy.

On a positive note, though, once at Hornbjargsvíti, you will be rewarded with one of its kind views and a surreal, remote atmosphere. Hornbjargsvíti lighthouse, with its surroundings, is one of the most scenic places in Hornstrandir.

Hornvík – Hornbjargsvíti

Length: 7km (4.5mi)
Time: 4 hours
Elevation hiked: 300m (1000 ft)
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornbjargsviti-veidileysufjordur-3008189
hornbjargsviti lighthouse hornstrandir iceland

A scenic view from over the Hornbjargsvíti Lighthouse in Hornstrandir, the destination of this trek.

The second way to reach Hornbjargsvíti leads south through the Kýrskarð pass. Although seemingly short, the trail is no easier than the second hiking trail. If you get lost, it may take you an entire day to pass.

There are rocky sections where you may even need to climb a bit. Then, there may be steep snow patches where both navigating and not falling would pose a challenge.

Moreover, the track is not that well-trodden and, at times, barely visible. You won’t welcome this in a fog. The only thing helping you not get lost are the wooden sticks along the trail. GPS should help you a lot on this trek.

And if it all wasn’t enough, the trek is not super eventful either and the path can become pretty muddy. Finally, you have to cross the river at the beginning, right next to Hornvík. And this needs to be examined for the best crossing spot, see the Hornvík – Horn – Hornvík loop trail above.

Hornsá – Hornbjargsvíti – Bjarnanes – Smiðjuvík

Length: 15km (9mi)
Time: 7 hours
Elevation hiked: 800m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/horn-i-hornvik-bardsvik-09-08-18-28278945
bjarnanes hiking trail hornstrandir

Views from the Hornbjargsvíti – Bjarnanes – Smiðjuvík hiking trail. Source: www.ust.is

This is a longer hike that can be divided into more days if necessary and ends up in Smiðjuvík. The first part of the hiking trail leads through the Innstidalur valley. Then, the section towards Hornbjargsvíti follows. Next, you have to overcome the Axarfjall mountain pass.

The highlight of this trail is the most beautiful and probably also the biggest waterfall in Hornstrandir, called Drifandisfoss. The waterfall is located halfway between Bjarnanes and Smiðjuvík and protrudes from majestic cliffs.

Smidjuvík – Furufjörður

Length: 14km (8.5mi)
Time: 7 hours
Elevation hiked: 750m (1700 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/furufjordur-to-smidjuvik-140422221
smidjuvik hornstrandir iceland

Smidjuvík – Furufjörður Hornstrandir hiking trail. Source: www.ust.is

The hiking trail from Smidjuvík to Furufjörður is long and remote. Privacy and no crowds guaranteed. Unfortunately, also almost no marks as well.

From time to time, you will find wooden sticks of various colors but don’t rely on this hike to be marked. Often, you just have to follow your GPS, and there’s no other option.

Your first checkpoint will be the fjord of Barðsvík on your east, and from there, you have to climb over the Göngumannaskörð mountain pass. To reach your next stop, Bolungarvík, you first have to cross the river Bolungarvíkurófæra. Watch out for a low tide time, though! Otherwise, you most likely won’t pass this river.

Finally, an almost never-ending, 7km long stretch of unmarked coastal hiking past tons of stones and driftwood will bring you to Furufjörður.

Furufjörður – Hrafnfjörður south

Length: 8.5km (5mi)
Time: 3 hours
Elevation hiked: 250m (600 ft)
Difficulty:
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/bardsvik-furufjordur-hrafnfjordur-10-08-18-28279062
furufjordur hrafnfjordur hiking path hornstrandir

Furufjörður – Hrafnfjörður hiking trail. Source: www.ust.is

The hiking trail between Furufjörður and Hrafnfjörður is not long, but it’s very isolated. Hikers often extend this trek with other stops or detours, like Svartaskarð to Þarlátursfjörður or the direction of Reykjafjörður, Ófeigsfjörður and Ingólfsfjörður.

One of the main challenges of this hike is the almost non-existent track east of Skorarvatn Lake. Your only chance there is to follow the cairns. GPS often doesn’t help either.

Coming from the east, after passing the lake, the trail improves and eventually turns into a mountain road between Skorarheiði and Hrafnfjörður.

Secondary Hiking Trails

Látrar – Sæból

Length: 7km (4.5mi)
Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation hiked: 100m (300 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/latrar-i-adalvik-saebol-i-adalvik-dagur-3-107615860
latrar saebol hiking trail hornstrandir

A beach hike with a steep cliff climb on a direct hiking trail between Látrar and Sæból. Source: https://is.nat.is/

You will not find the trail from Látrar to Sæból on the main hiking maps of Hornstrandir. However, this trail exists and hikers do take it every now and then.

This is mostly a coastal trail leading along the beaches of Aðalvík fjord. On a nice day it resembles a summer vacation, just a lot colder one.

The main obstacle and by far the hardest spot of this trail is a 100m high climb up the cliffs with the help of chains. This section is definitely not for the faint-hearted and it’s difficult to carry the bag on your back. After that, it’s easy to get to the campsite of Sæból.

Veiðileysufjörður – Tafla – Veiðileysufjörður

Length: 9km (5.5mi)
Time: 3 hours
Elevation hiked: 550m (1800 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.strava.com/activities/5793034662

From Veiðileysufjörður, you can take a short hike up to Tafla mountain. On a nice day, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view over Veiðileysufjörður fjord.

Rekavík – Kirfi – Rekavík

Length: 5km (3mi)
Time: 2 hours
Elevation hiked: 200m (600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/rekavik-bak-hofn-hvannadalur-rekavik-bak-hofn-8251036
Hælavíkurbjarg kirfi cliffs hvannadalur

Hælavíkurbjarg bird cliffs at Kirfi in Hvannadalur, Hornstrandir, Iceland. Picture by Náttúrustofa Norðausturlands.

The hike to Kirfi Hill, also called the Hvannadalur hike, is a popular detour locals often take on their way from Hornvík towards Hlöðuvík.

Since this is an out-and-back hike, it’s best to leave your big backpack on a wooden platform around Rekavík bak Höfn, where the hike starts.

The most difficult spot of the hiking trail is a very narrow section leading on the side of the cliff with pretty scary drops all the way to the ocean below. The beginning of the trail can also be swampy at times, so be prepared for that.

The highlight of the trail is a scenic view of Hælavíkurbjarg cliffs, considered by many to be one of the best views in Hornstrandir. These are huge, vertical cliffs you won’t see anywhere else.

Látrar – Straumnesfjall – Látrar

Length: 17km (10.5mi)
Time: 5 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornstrandir-straumnesfjall-78884503
Straumnesfjall military base hornstrandir

Straumnes or Straumnesfjall US military base in Hornstrandir. Picture by www.ust.is.

Straumnesfjall US military base is a popular day trip hikers take from Látrar in Aðalvík. There are two trails leading to Straumnes – the western one and the eastern one. The western trail is actually a road Americans built in the 50s, and it’s therefore considerably easier.

The highlights of this trail include a view over Aðalvík and, of course, an exploration of the abandoned radar station.

Thanks to the eastern path, you can turn this into a loop hike. This path down from Straumnesfjall leads through the Öldudalur valley in Rekavík. The trail here is almost invisible, but you can sometimes see cairns or pieces of cairns.

For those who still haven’t had enough, you can also hike around the Rekavíkurvatn lake.

Sæból – Darri – Sæból

Length: 8km (5mi)
Time: 3 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: ?moderate?
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/darri-107666880
darri saebol hike hornstrandir

A hike to the former UK radar station in Darri from Sæból in Hornstrandir.Source: Borea Adventures tour.

Straumnes is not the only military station in Hornstrandir. There’s also a British radar station in Darri. You can reach Darri on a day hike from Sæból.

Coming from the campsite in Sæból, you first have to cross the river Traðará. A well-visible path then follows up to the valley of Garðadalur. The ascent up the mountain is steep and challenging.

On top of the hill, there is a road that will take you to the ruins of the British military base on mountain Darri.

Hornvík – Sópandi

Length: 16km (10mi)
Time: 7-10 hours
Elevation hiked: 600m (2000 ft)
Difficulty: very difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornvik-to-sopandi-via-rangalaskard-14011721
typical driftwood hornstrandir iceland

A typical driftwood on almost every coastal hiking path in Hornstrandir. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

You can hike all the way from Hornvík to Sópandi in Lónafjörður fjord via one of the most challenging trails in Hornstrandir. The trek leads through the highest mountain pass in Hornstrandir called Rangalaskarð.

You should only take this hike with a local or if you are already highly experienced in the area. There are several dangerous sections, and the trail as such is hard to navigate through.

Some of the threats you may expect are no marks, boggy terrain, river crossings, and high tides. You need to plan for a low tide between Miðkjós and Sópandi, otherwise, you most likely won’t pass.

Fljótsvatn – Fljótavík east

Length: 9km (5.7mi)
Time: 3 hours
Elevation hiked: 130m (440 ft)
Difficulty: easy
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/atlastadir-reida-10469987

This is the trail leading along the eastern bank of the Fljótsvatn Lake to Fljótavík. By taking this path you should be able to avoid the crossing of the lake Fljótavatn.

It’s almost impossible to find any info about this trail, so if you know anything about it, please contact us, and we will give you credit for all the info you provide.

Fljótavík – Kögur

Length: 7km (4.5mi)
Time: 4 hours
Elevation hiked: 600m (2000 ft)
Difficulty: difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornstrandir-krossadalur-sandvikurvatn-og-kogur-upp-af-fljotavik-78884836
kogur hike fljotavik hornstrandir

The map of a day hike to Kögur from Fljótavík.

Kögur is a mountain near Fljótavík that can be explored on a challenging day trip. You may also add the areas of Krossadalur and Sandvíkurvatn to extend this hike.

Veiðileysufjörður – Kvíar

Length: 17km (10.5mi)
Time: 7-9 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/veidileysufjordur-kviar-8-juni-2014-7101103

The only way to get to the Kvíar lodge, one of the very few non-camping lodgings in Hornstrandir, is to take a private boat on a guided tour or to hike to it via challenging and unmarked trails.

One such trail leads to Kvíar from Veiðileysufjörður, and you should take it only if you are already well experienced in navigating throughout Hornstrandir.

Veiðileysufjörður – Hlöðuvík

Length: 9km (6mi)
Time: 4 hours
Elevation hiked: 500m (1600 ft)
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Hiking Trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/hornstrandir-j6-28131682
veidileysufjordur hiking trail hornstrandir

Veiðileysufjörður. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

It’s possible to get to Hlöðuvík also directly from Veiðileysufjörður and vice versa. However, the hiking trail is unmarked and quite challenging.

There are sections west of Veiðileysufjörður campsite where you basically have to hike in the sea around cliffs for hundreds of meters. Better pick a sunny day and low tide for this activity!

Furufjörður – Hrafnfjörður north

Length: 18km (11mi)
Time: 6 hours
Elevation hiked: 700m (1500 ft)
Difficulty: ???
Hiking Trail: ???

It’s almost impossible to find any info about this trail, so if you know anything about it, please contact us, and we will give you credit for all the info you provide.

FAQ

Is Hornstrandir worth it?

If you are a nature lover and hiking enthusiast, Hornstrandir is totally worth the time and money spent on planning. It’s one of the last pieces of remote hiking heaven on the planet, with no dangerous animals or insects. Just with a very harsh weather.

Can I see Arctic foxes in Hornstrandir?

Yes, you can, and the chances are high! Hornstrandir is by far the best place in Iceland to see an Arctic fox. It’s highly likely they may even start playing with your tent!

How many days do you need for Hornstrandir?

This highly depends on your hiking ambitions. As short as one day is enough to explore some of the most beautiful areas in Hornstrandir as a day trip. On the other hand, as long as two weeks may not be enough to fully explore all the beauty Hornstrandir has to offer.

Is Hornstrandir safe to visit?

Hornstrandir is 100% safe when it comes to:

  • Animals – there are no dangerous species,
  • Insects – none of them are dangerous,
  • Water – it’s fully safe to drink.

However, Hornstrandir can also be dangerous because:

  • Weather can get very harsh with strong wind, rain, and fog
  • There’s no network or cell coverage
  • Hiking trails may be steep and not well visible at times
  • If anything happens to you, help is far away
amazing views hornstrandir fjords

Hornstrandir fjords offer some of the most amazing views in Europe. Picture by Reinhold Seiz.

How to prepare for Hornstrandir?

Plan and study the area in advance. Dress well. Practice long hikes at home. Expect extreme weather conditions. Don’t overestimate your hiking skills.

After reading this article, you should already have a good idea of what to expect in Hornstrandir.

Hornstrandir hiking rules

  • Don’t leave any rubbish behind you, take it all with yourself
  • Don’t move stones or driftwood in any way
  • Follow the trodden path as much as possible
  • You can camp only in designated campgrounds
  • Most campsites have toilets, use them whenever possible
  • Campfires are forbidden
  • Do not disturb animals, keep a safe distance of at least 40 meters whenever possible
  • It’s strictly forbidden to feed animals
  • Drones are forbidden unless you have a special permit
  • Don’t pick any flowers, you can pick up berries, though
  • You can find detailed Hornstrandir visitors’ rules here
  • All the houses are private, don’t disturb anyone’s property!

In the end, I would like to say a huge thank you to Mr. Reinhold Seiz, who contributed sizeably to this article with his stunning photos of Hornstrandir!

Please, if you have any additional info you believe would be useful to place in this article, or if you believe something should be corrected, contact us, and we will give you all the credit for this info and a bottle of wine when we meet in Iceland 🙂

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Campervan or Car in Iceland? A Big Comparison

Campervan or Car in Iceland? A Big Comparison

Should you rent a campervan or a car with hotels in Iceland? This is the dilemma many Icelandic visitors face. Those renting a campervan or RV typically stay in campsites to be more flexible and to save money. On the other hand, those renting a car often combine it with staying in hotels or hostels.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of renting a car vs. renting a campervan in Iceland? In short, hotels win clearly when it comes to comfort, but a top choice for those seeking higher flexibility and a lower price is campervans. But your final decision should come down to many more factors.

We’ve tried both camping in a campervan as well as renting a car and staying in hotels over our numerous Icelandic trips. Yet, people ask us this very same question over and over. That’s why we wrote this detailed comparison of all the pros and cons of a campervan vs. a hotel.

This website may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us cover running costs of this website.

Campervan vs. Hotel + Car

Here’s a short comparison of hotels vs. campervans in Iceland:

  • Flexibility: with a campervan, you have full freedom VS. with hotels, you are fixed to a specific place that has to be booked in advance
  • Comfort: a campervan is not quite comfortable in many aspects VS. hotels are definitely very comfortable
  • Price: a campervan and staying in campsites in Iceland is cheaper VS. hotels combined with a car rental
  • Driving: a campervan is bigger, so it’s more difficult to drive VS. the 4×4 capabilities are typically better for non-camper jeeps and cars
  • Winter: camping in winter in Iceland is harsh and limited VS. hotels typically operate all year round in the same way
  • Meals: in a campervan, you have more room to eat and picnic VS. dining out in a normal car is a bit cumbersome, but possible

How to Choose the Best Car for Iceland?

Campervan Pros and Cons

4x4 campervan iceland

4×4 Campervan by Go Campers. 5% discount code: EPICICELAND on all Go Campers campervans

Pros

  1. Full freedom. You can go wherever you want and whenever you want. Being fixated on a specific hotel on a specific day for your entire trip can be frustrating. With a campervan, you are not fixed to anything! Just find the closest campsite when the end of your day is nearing, and you’re done.
  2. Campervan can be cheaper. At least compared to hotels with a rental car. Of course, there are various campervans and various cars/hotels, but this is generally true.
  3. The vibe is great. Imagine waking up, and the first thing you see is a giant waterfall. Yes, that’s entirely possible in Iceland in a campervan.
  4. Free shelter. When the weather turns sour, it’s much more pleasant to spend your time in a campervan compared to a standard car.
  5. Everything at hand. All your things are at hand. They can’t be anywhere else. This can also be a disadvantage, though 🙂
campervan vs car iceland

Campervan vs. Car? This is how it looks inside a CampEasy campervan.

Cons

  1. Comfort is limited. As the space in a campervan is. Also, the heating will never match the one in a hotel. And so will not the bed quality.
  2. It can still be a lot cheaper. If you rent a normal car and camp in a tent in campsites, instead of camping inside of a campervan.
  3. Setting up the beds and tables. When you have to do this twice or three times a day and 14 days in a row, this will not be your favorite activity anymore.
  4. Hygiene is more complicated. Imagine going for a toilet in the middle of the night in the wind and rain at a campsite. This was the thing I hated the most about campervanning in Iceland.
  5. The campervan is not a jeep. It’s impossible to visit hard-to-access places in a campervan. Not even in a 4×4 campervan! Several places in the highlands, like Þórsmörk or central Highlands, are impassable for all campervans.
  6. Winter can be unpleasant. Most of the Icelandic campsites are closed in winter, or their facilities are closed, and you can just sleep there over. Add to that a much colder, windier, and rainier weather, and all the remnants of comfort are gone.

Hotel with Car Pros and Cons

adventure hotel geirland iceland view

The main advantage of a hotel vs a campervan in Iceland is comfort, comfort, and comfort.

Pros

  1. Convenience and comfort. Warm bed, enough space, shower, toilet, oftentimes breakfast included. You know what I mean. Comfort is the bread and butter of staying in hotels or hostels and renting a car in Iceland. And it often beats all the other criteria.
  2. You can go anywhere. You can rent any car you wish, including a super jeep. This means you are free to access any part of Iceland, including all of the Highlands.
  3. Priceless in winter. As we already mentioned, Icelandic winter can be harsh. When staying in a hotel, the only thing you have to care about is getting to the hotel. The rest is taken care of by the hotel staff.
  4. Hotels are often the only restaurant in town. They sometimes even have a hot tub or a pool!
campervan or car iceland

Campervan or Car in Iceland? This is what a large car in front of the Icelandic cabin looks like.

Cons

  1. Price tag. Hotels and hostels are significantly more expensive than campsites.
  2. You have to book them in advance. Iceland has limited accommodation availability, especially in summer. Everyone will recommend you book hotels in advance. However, this limits your flexibility a lot. Free cancellation is typically available only seven or more days before the scheduled stay date.
  3. Plan changes are virtually impossible. If you want to change your plans for whatever reason, be it bad weather, it’s very difficult with hotels already booked. You can do it only partially. Entirely reversing the course of your trip is off the table.
  4. Sticking to hotel hours. You can check-in, check out, and have breakfast only at designated hours. Don’t like them? Well, you don’t have a choice, only to accept them.

Check out all the Discounts on Cars and Campervans and Guided Tours in Iceland

Price Comparison

f575 snaefellsnes iceland

Modified Land Cruiser by e.g. MyCar can pass almost anything

We will now make a real-life comparison of how much it costs to rent a campervan and stay at a campsite VS. how much you will pay for renting a car and staying in a hotel.

Let’s assume two travelers visit Iceland for seven days in July, and they plan to stay along the south coast. They either rent a cheaper 2wd car (Toyota Yaris) and stay in cheap hotels OR they rent a cheaper campervan and stay in campsites.

Renting a car and staying in hotels consists of the following major expenses:

  • Car rental (roughly 90USD/day)
  • Car insurance (roughly 35USD/day)
  • Gas (roughly 25USD/day)
  • Accommodation (roughly 180USD/day)

This adds up to around 330 USD per day per two travelers. So, on average, renting a car with hotels in Iceland costs 330USD per day for a couple.

thingeyri campsite sunset

Picturesque sunset at Þingeyri campsite

Now, here is a cost breakdown when renting a campervan and staying in campsites:

  • Campervan rental (roughly 200USD/day)
  • Campervan insurance (roughly 45USD/day)
  • Gas (roughly 30USD/day)
  • Campsite (roughly 35USD/day)

This sums to 310 USD per day per two travelers. So again, on average, renting a campervan and staying in campsites in Iceland costs about 310USD per day for a couple.

In this particular case, you would save 6% when renting a campervan compared to a car with hotels.

The difference is not huge, though, and can easily be reversed. 4×4 campervans are much more expensive, so in that case, it can be more expensive to rent a campervan and stay in campsites, compared to renting a 4×4 car and staying in a hotel.

In summary, whether it’s cheaper to rent a campervan and camp or to stay in hotels really depends on a particular offer, the type of campervan, and the level of the hotel.

Campervan can be cheaper but also more expensive. There’s no simple answer to this.

Season

iceland winter 4x4 car

Yes, 4×4 car may be very useful in winter in Iceland

Summer

Campervans are most comfortable in summer. That’s the time of the year when you either don’t need the heating at all in Iceland or you need it just during the night.

Secondly, in summer, all campsites are open. This gives you a lot of choices on where to park your campervan.

Thirdly, Icelandic weather is mildest in summer. This means that enjoying a picnic, camping, or overlanding in general is the most pleasant from June to September.

Winter

Camping in winter portrays an entirely different picture. Most of the campsites are either fully closed, or their shower, kitchen, and toilet facilities can be closed. You need to carefully plan for which campsite to choose.

Moreover, the weather is, on average, much harsher in winter or outside of summer. This makes any type of campervanning quite a challenge.

Our Experience

Fellabær camp rooftop tent

Waking up on a beautiful sunny morning in a rooftop tent in Fellabær camp, before our trip to Askja

We tried both a campervan combined with camping and a car with hotels several times when visiting Iceland and both of them had their advantages and disadvantages.

Campervan

During our first trip to Iceland, we rented one of the cheapest “campervans” out there – a car with a rooftop tent. Our aim was to save money, enjoy an authentic Icelandic atmosphere, and be fully flexible. You can read in detail about our rooftop tent car rental experience.

We loved it on nice, sunny days and when campsites were not fully booked. We also enjoyed the full freedom to choose when and where to end our day.

However, we hated arriving at a campsite in the rain and wind, walking through the wet grass and mud in the middle of the night to get to the toilet, and waking up due to cold feet and noses.

Those are the bright and dark sides of a campervan.

hellissandur campsite

Hellissandur campsite on a foggy, rainy evening

Hotels

Our preferred option is to book cheap hotels or hostels and rent a large 4×4 car or a super jeep to explore every inch of Iceland we want without any limits.

This is what we’ve done most of the time after trying a campervan. We love sleeping in a warm hostel room in a proper bed after an exhausting day of exploration. We enjoy a proper shower and toilet and don’t want to bother waiting in a campsite in a shower queue.

What we don’t like about hotels is the inability to change plans last minute. This typically means some days may be wasted due to unfavorable weather, or we need to drive many more miles a day, which can be tiring.

Campervan vs. Motorhome

campervan or motorhome iceland

Campervan vs. Motorhome battle. This is a great RV/Motorhome by Geysir Car Rental, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND

There’s one more option worth considering when visiting Iceland. And that’s renting an RV or, in other words, a Motorhome.

The difference between an RV/Motorhome and a Campervan is that an RV/Motorhome is much bigger than a campervan and has all the facilities like a toilet, shower, and kitchen inside. These are also the main advantages of an RV/Motorhome.

Best Motorhome rental in Iceland? That’s McRent according to reviews.

A quick comparison of an RV/motorhome and a campervan:

  Campervan RV / Motorhome
Price cheaper more expensive
Winter possible not recommended
F-roads, Highlands possible with 4x4 no
Clutch manual / automatic Manual
Parking and Handling easy difficult
Space small huge
Toilet no yes
Shower no yes
Comfortably Sleeps 2-4 people 2-6 people

Motorhome Pros and Cons

motorhome vs campervan iceland

The best Motorhome rental in Iceland is most likely McRent Iceland.

Pros

  1. More spacious. Option for bigger groups willing to stay together or those who value space.
  2. A hotel on wheels. Especially hygiene amenities are a huge plus.

Cons

  1. More expensive than a campervan, but overall affordability depends on the number of people using it and on a particular model.
  2. A motorhome is big, so you can’t easily park it. Also, forget about the Highlands. Motorhomes are not allowed to enter, except the specially modified ones (e.g. Unimog), which are not available for rent in Iceland.
  3. You have to handle the sewage and electricity on a daily basis.

FAQ

Landmannalaugar Brennisteinsalda campsite

Landmannalaugar Brennisteinsalda campsite on a summer evening

Is it cheaper to rent a campervan than to rent a car?

It is typically slightly cheaper to rent a campervan, but this depends on a specific deal and on the model of a campervan, the model of a car, and the type of accommodation you choose.

What is the cheapest way to visit Iceland?

By far the cheapest way to explore Iceland is to rent a standard car and stay in campsites in your own tent.

Should you rent a campervan in Iceland?

You should rent a campervan in Iceland if you want to be flexible, enjoy camping, and are willing to sacrifice the comfort of a hotel room.

Should you rent a motorhome in Iceland?

You should rent a motorhome in Iceland if you prefer spacious RVs with all the facilities and you plan to drive only on main, paved roads around Iceland.

lava car rental campervan

Campervan by Lava Car Rental. Free WiFi discount code on Lava Car Rental: EPICWIFI

Do you have to reserve the campsites in advance?

Most of the Icelandic campsites have enough space, and you don’t need to reserve them in advance.

Can you rent a campervan in winter in Iceland?

Yes, you can rent a campervan in winter in Iceland, but traveling in a campervan in winter is significantly less pleasant due to cold weather and most of the campsites being closed.

Can you visit the Icelandic Highlands with a campervan?

Yes, you can visit some easier-to-reach areas in the Icelandic Highlands with a 4×4 campervan. You can’t visit hard-to-access parts of the highlands, though.

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Posted by Igor in Tips, 2 comments
21 Best Day Trips from Reykjavik to Take in 2024

21 Best Day Trips from Reykjavik to Take in 2024

We hand-picked a list of the 21 best day trips from Reykjavik to help you plan your trip. Many visitors choose Reykjavik as their base for exploring Iceland. It’s not necessarily a bad choice because Reykjavik is close to many charming spots one can make a day trip to.

Having visited Iceland numerous times over several years, we list here exclusively the places that can realistically be planned for as a day trip, and we also believe are worth your precious time in Iceland!

We include all kinds of activities to offer a diverse range of adventures for all types of explorers. Our Reykjavik day trip guide should give you a good overview of what’s out there and what to choose to have an unforgettable Icelandic holiday!

1. Thórsmörk

thorsmork valahnjukur hiking trail

Hiking trip in Þórsmörk valley

What is it: a scenic valley
Where is it: near Hvolsvöllur
Distance from Reykjavik: 3 hours, or 130km (81mi)
How to reach it: super jeep tour, self-drive with a jeep or highland bus
When to go: self-drive in summer only, super jeep tours all-year-round
Best for: hikers and nature lovers

Why go

Þórsmörk is a hidden gem away from all the tourist crowds and yet pretty close to the main Icelandic ring road. Thórsmörk can easily be done as a day trip from Reykjavik. It’s a go-to place for every hiking enthusiast or avid nature explorer.

Lush green valleys intersected with hundreds of riverbeds with majestic glaciers sitting above this awe-inspiring scenery. That, and much more, is Þórsmörk.

How to get there

To reach the Valley of Thor, you have to overcome a rough highland road F249. This so-called F-road requires a huge jeep because of the several significant rivers you must cross on your way.

There are three different ways to get to Thórsmörk:

  1. Take a guided Thórsmörk super jeep tour
  2. Take a public Highland bus to Þórsmörk
  3. Drive to Thórsmörk yourself

It takes less than 3 hours to reach Thórsmörk from Reykjavik.

Tip from a local

  • It’s best to visit Þórsmörk between June and September when all the snow is melted and the valley is the most colorful.
  • Plan for doing at least one hike. It’s more than just worth it!

Our experience

We drove to Thórsmörk ourselves with a modified Toyota Land Cruiser we rented in August. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Iceland. We wrote a detailed guide on visiting Þórsmörk and dealing with its challenges.

2. Kerlingarfjöll

kerlingarfjöll hveradalir geothermal area

One of the Best Day Trips from Reykjavik – Kerlingarfjöll Hveradalir Geothermal area

What is it: orange mountains
Where is it: central highlands of Iceland
Distance from Reykjavik: 3.5 hours, or 190km (118mi)
How to reach it: guided tour, or self-drive with a 4x4
When to go: hiking possible in summer only
Best for: hikers and nature lovers

Why go

Kerlingarfjöll is one of the most otherwordly spots you can visit as a day trip from Reykjavik. You will be hiking orange mountains full of steaming Sulphur and bubbling hot springs. We guarantee you’re going to feel like you’re on another planet!

Kerlingarfjöll is a must-see if you are into remote places in harsh surroundings and enjoy silence rather than company. Be sure to take any hike here, and your jaw will drop.

How to get there

To reach Kerlingarfjöll, you can either:

  1. Drive there via rough but rather easy roads 35 and F347
  2. Take a guided Kerlingarfjöll tour

Tip from a local

  • Kerlingarfjöll typically enjoys volatile weather. A visit in heavy rain and wind may be quite unpleasant. We suggest carefully planning the trip according to the local weather forecast.
  • Dress well! It will be cold, even in summer. When camping, remember that summer night temperatures may fall as low as 0°C, or 32°F.

Our experience

We have visited Kerlingarfjöll several times and have always struggled with harsh weather. We wrote a detailed article on How to visit Kerlingarfjöll and what to see.

On one trip, we even took a hike to the tallest peak of Kerlingarfjöll called Snaekollur, and we can’t recommend it enough!

It takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to get to Kerlingarfjöll from Reykjavik.

3. Snæfellsnes

kirkjufell in winter iceland

Kirkjufell in winter, the most legendary place on a Snæfellsnes peninsula

What is it: a scenic peninsula
Where is it: west Iceland
Distance from Reykjavik: 2 hours, or 140km (87mi)
How to reach it: self-drive or a guided tour
When to go: any time
Best for: easy day trip for anyone

Why go

Snæfellsnes peninsula is a great day trip spot full of natural wonders and mesmerizing coastal sceneries not too far from Reykjavik. It’s very well accessible with basically any car and almost any time of the year.

Some of the most photographed spots in Iceland, like Kirkjufell or Budakirkja, are in the heart of Snæfellsnes. Unique cliff formations, black beaches, narrow ravines for adventurers and even seals! You can find all of these in Snæfellsnes.

How to get there

It will take you slightly over 2 hours of driving to get to Snæfellsnes from Reykjavik. Driving is the easiest and most convenient way to access Snæfellsnes.

Tip from a local

  • By far the most sought-after spot is Mt. Kirkjufell. We recommend visiting Kirkjufell before 10 AM or after 7 PM to avoid big tour groups.
  • There’s a cute little hill with lovely views called Helgafell, where almost nobody goes. Check it out!

Our experience

We visited Snæfellsnes three times. We enjoyed each trip a lot and highly recommend seeing the peninsula both in summer and winter. It looks entirely different when covered by snow in February, opposite to lush green surroundings in July or August.

4. Katla Ice Cave

katla ice cave day trip

Katla is the Best Ice Cave that can be done all year round as a Day Trip from Reykjavik

What is it: an ice cave
Where is it: south Iceland, close to Vik
Distance from Reykjavik: 3 hours, or 200km (125mi)
How to reach it: a guided tour only
When to go: all-year-round
Best for: any ice cave enthusiast

Why go

Katla is the most beautiful ice cave doable as a day trip from Reykjavik. And we don’t know anybody who was not impressed by Katla! It’s a one-of-a-kind ice cave consisting of glacial ice and black volcanic ash. Out of this world, colors will follow you with each step.

How to get there

To visit Katla, you have to take a Katla guided tour. Visiting the cave by yourself is very dangerous and highly discouraged.

The two best tour operators in Iceland running Katla Ice Cave tours are:

  1. Arctic Adventures (5% discount code: EPICICELAND23), pickup in Vik or Reykjavik
  2. KatlaTrack (5% discount code: EPICICELAND), pickup in Vik.

A ride to Katla from Reykjavik takes something over 3 hours.

Tip from a local

  • Katla is the only natural ice cave in Iceland open all year round for visitors.

Our experience

If you could choose a season, we recommend going to Katla in winter. Katla typically possesses the most shiny colors between November and April in winter. You can also visit Katla outside of winter, and it’s still awesome, just a bit smaller and less shiny.

5. Snowmobiling

snowmobiling from gullfoss

Snowmobiling day trip from Gullfoss

What is it: a guided tour
Where is it: central Iceland, next to Gullfoss Falls (pickup point)
Distance from Reykjavik: 2 hours, or 120km (75mi)
How to reach it: a super jeep tour from Reykjavik, or self-drive to Gullfoss
When to go: all-year-round
Best for: thrill seekers

Why go

What about snowmobiling on a glacier besides volcanoes during the sunset? Too much of a cliché? Well, it’s entirely possible in Iceland!

Various tour providers offer the snowmobiling experience in Iceland. The two best ones are also located the closest to Reykjavik:

How to get there

To take a snowmobile tour, you can take either:

  1. Tour from Reykjavik: Take a combo super jeep tour of snowmobiles with Golden Circle or
  2. Self-Drive to meeting point: Either to Gullfoss (Mountaineers) or Myrdalsjökull (Icelandic Mountain Guides) and take just the snowmobile tour directly there

Reaching Gullfoss or Myrdalsjökull from Reykjavik will take you around 2 hours.

Tip from a local

  • The cheapest way to enjoy the snowmobile is to ride on a shared snowmobile with your companion. Separate snowmobiles are priced higher.

Our experience

We are young, and we love adventure and speed. This means we would always choose the fastest snowmobiling tour available. Currently, Mountaineers run the fastest one from Gullfoss on a Langjökull glacier. The fast-paced tour is a bit pricier but comes with fewer fellow riders.

6. Southern Highlands Safari

highlands jeep day trip reykjavik

Best Super Jeep Day Trip from Reykjavik? Try Highlands with Midgard Adventure! 10% discount code: EPICICELAND10

What is it: isolated canyons, hills, and deserted roads
Where is it: an area between Vik, Hvolsvöllur (pickup point) and Landmannalaugar
Distance from Reykjavik: 1.5 hours, or 110km (70mi)
How to reach it: a super jeep tour from Hvolsvöllur, or self-drive with a jeep
When to go: from July to September
Best for: those who love remote sceneries

Why go

Southern Highlands of Iceland are our personal favorite when it comes to day trips from Reykjavik. It will be a long day, but the one you will never forget!

There’s just so much to see in the highlands, and basically, any place there looks like on another planet. You will be fording rivers with a jeep, exploring green volcanos, and admiring the harsh power of the Icelandic wilderness.

How to get there

Reaching the southern highlands of Iceland requires a large 4×4 car and sound driving experience, including crossing treacherous rivers. You have two options when it comes to visiting the highlands:

  1. Study, practice, plan, and drive there on your own or
  2. Take a guided super jeep tour (10% discount code: EPICICELAND10)

Tip from a local

  • One day is not enough to explore every single place in the southern highlands. It could take you weeks to do so. Nevertheless, even one day in the highlands is much better than no day!

Our experience

We’ve driven across the southern highlands countless times and never stopped admiring them. This is simply our most beloved corner of Iceland. We write extensively about every place we’ve ever visited in the highlands for free on our website.

Don’t underestimate the highlands! Always check the road conditions before going, and when feeling unsure, better don’t go!

7. Solheimajökull glacier

iceland glacier tour

Solheimajökull Glacier hike is the nearest glacier hiking trip you can take from Reykjavik

What is it: a glacier to hike and a glacier lagoon to sail on
Where is it: between Vik and Hvolsvöllur in the south
Distance from Reykjavik: 2.5 hours, or 160km (100mi)
How to reach it: a self-drive to a meeting point at the glacier or a combo tour from Reykjavik
When to go: any time
Best for: glacier and winter lovers

Why go

Do you want to hike on a glacier near Reykjavik? Then, your best choice for a day trip would be a Solheimajökull glacier hike. Is that not enough? Well, then you can also take a kayaking tour of the glacial lagoon right next to the glacier!

Solheimajökull is the closest glacier to Reykjavik, providing excellent hiking and canoeing opportunities. Blue ice, white ice, ice covered with ash, or icebergs in a lagoon are just an introduction to this ice paradise.

How to get there

You can reach Solheimajökull in about two and a half hours from Reykjavik. The ride there is easy and just follows the ring road.

To hike the glacier, you have to take a guided tour. It’s too dangerous to go on your own.

Tip from a local

Our experience

We had the best experience at Solheimajökull with the two most experienced local glacier hiking companies:

  1. Icelandic Mountain Guides, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND24
  2. Arctic Adventures, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND23

8. Hvammsvik

hvammsvik hot springs iceland

Hvammsvík Hot Spring is possibly the best hot spring day trip from Reykjavik! Image courtesy to: https://hvammsvik.com/

What is it: a man-made hot spring with a scenic view
Where is it: north of Reykjavik
Distance from Reykjavik: 1 hour, or 55km (35mi)
How to reach it: an easy self-drive or guided tours
When to go: any time
Best for: relax in the natural scenery

Why go

Hvammsvik hot spring offers a unique combination of a luxurious spa with Icelandic wilderness. The hot spa overlooks the fantastic scenery of Hvalfjordur Bay, with picturesque mountains in the background.

A combination of hot water and beautiful views of the fjord makes Hvammsvik a perfect spot for a relaxing day.

How to get there

Hvammsvik is a top candidate for one of the best day trips from Reykjavik. It’s conveniently located just about an hour of drive from the Reykjavik city centre.

Many guided tours visit Hvammsvik on a daily basis. You can either join one of these tours or simply drive to Hvammsvik yourself via easy and well-maintained roads.

We can highly recommend a Hvammsvik guided tour with Golden Circle run by NiceTravel, a top local family company. You can use a 5% discount code: EPICICELAND on their tours.

Tip from a local

  • Regardless of whether you’re a couple, a single traveler, or a family with small children, we are sure you will enjoy Hvammsvik! Just check out the reviews anywhere online.

Our experience

We haven’t visited Hvammsvik yet, but we are really looking forward to it! We’ve heard so many spectacular references about this place. We plan to visit Hvammsvik during shoulder season, like April, May, or October, to avoid crowds.

9. Hrunalaug

hrunalaug hot spring

Amazing scenery around Hrunalaug hot spring

What is it: a wild hot spring on a grass field
Where is it: near the town of Fludir
Distance from Reykjavik: 1.5 hours, or 110km (68mi)
How to reach it: self-drive only
When to go: any time
Best for: relax in the natural scenery

Why go

Hrunalaug hot spring is one of the most picturesque Icelandic hot springs. As it is located close to the Golden Circle, “Hruni” has become a viral spot and a popular day trip from Reykjavik.

Netflix could easily feature Hrunalaug in a fairy tale. Green grass, sheep eating it, and in the midst of this scenery, an old wooden shelter with a hot pot next to it.

How to get there

The only way to visit Hrunalaug is to drive there. No tours are stopping at Hrunalaug.

That being said, Hrunalaug is an easy one-and-a-half-hour-long drive from Reykjavik.

Tip from a local

  • Hrunalaug sits on private land, and you must pay for pool access.
  • The hot spring has become quite crowded; better visit it during unusual times.

Our experience

We visited Hrunalaug for the first time in the summer of 2020 during the worldwide Covid lockdowns. The charm of the hot spring quickly enchanted us. Only until we had a very peculiar experience with a young Icelander in the hot pot :).

We’ve also been to Hrunalaug in winter and can confirm it’s an equally good choice. Maybe even more charming when you bathe with snow and ice everywhere around you.

10. Black Sand Beach

reynisfjara beach winter

One of the most popular day trips from Reykjavik, Reynisfjara beach, can easily get crowded also in winter. This is one of the most touristy places in Iceland.

What is it: a black gravel and sand beach
Where is it: near the town of Vik
Distance from Reykjavik: 2.5 hours, or 190km (120mi)
How to reach it: self-drive or guided south coast tours
When to go: all-year-round
Best for: anyone loving beautiful natural sceneries

Why go

The Black Sand Beach, or Reynisfjara in Icelandic, proudly belongs to the most beautiful day trips from Reykjavik. The beach has been featured in many movies and is famous due to the otherworldly sand and rock formations.

How to get there

The Black Sand Beach is nested in the vicinity of the cute little town Vik. It takes around 2.5 hours to get to Reynisfjara from Reykjavik. The road is usually accessible all year round and by any car.

Tip from a local

  • The sneaky waves on the beach can be deadly. Always pay special attention to the traffic lights showing how far from the waves you should stand. More info about these dangerous waves is on the Icelandic Safe Travel website.

Our experience

When we first visited Reynisfjara, I remember we just stood still in awe. Black Sand Beach is a one-of-a-kind place, and there’s no wonder it attracts so many visitors. That’s the price you have to pay for such a beautiful place that is very easily accessible from Reykjavik.

11. Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss

reykjavik day trip skogafoss seljalandsfoss

Two favorite waterfalls for Icelandic day trippers – Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss

What is it: waterfalls
Where is it: south Iceland between Vik and Hvolsvöllur
Distance from Reykjavik: 2 hours, or 140km (88mi)
How to reach it: self-drive or guided south coast tours
When to go: all-year-round
Best for: any waterfall enthusiast

Why go

Visiting Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls is most likely the the most popular day trip from Reykjavik. And for a very simple reason. These are the two most gorgeous yet easily accessible waterfalls in south Iceland.

Yes, Seljalandsfoss is that waterfall you can walk behind, and Skogafoss is the one you may climb above. Both are, without any doubt, just must-see spots for any first-time visitor. And when you are based in Reykjavik, it makes perfect sense to go see them on a day trip.

How to get there

Driving on the main Icelandic ring road, you can easily reach both Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls from Reykjavik in about 2 hours.

The best way to do so is by renting a car. Alternatively, you can take a guided south coast tour. Almost all of them stop at both Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss and are pretty affordable.

Tip from a local

  • You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss only outside of winter. Otherwise, it’s dangerous due to paths full of snow and ice.
  • Make sure to wear spikes on your shoes when taking stairs to climb above Skogafoss in winter. The trail is very slippery.

Our experience

These two waterfalls are an Icelandic classic, and we’ve seen them countless times, so we are not that much excited about them anymore. BUT. Exactly the opposite was true when we saw them for the first timewe were impressed! And so will be you, so go and see them!

12. Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon

blue lagoon sky lagoon iceland

Blue lagoon and Sky lagoon

What is it: luxurious hot spas
Where is it: Reykjanes peninsula (Blue) and Reykjavik (Sky)
Distance from Reykjavik: 45 minutes and 15 minutes, or 50km (30mi) and 10km (6mi)
How to reach it: self-drive, public bus or taxi
When to go: all-year-round
Best for: lovers of luxurious hot springs

Why go

Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon are iconic hot spas every visitor to Iceland has heard about. Being located either close the Keflavik airport or directly in Reykjavik, they are frequently a beloved candidate for a Reykjavik day trip.

Blue Lagoon offers an almost unrealistically looking blue color of water, that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. On the other hand, Sky Lagoon is sought for its even more luxurious experience with the so-called 7 Steps Ritual and views over the ocean.

How to get there

Sky Lagoon is located right in Reykjavik in the neighborhood called Kópavogur, near the shore. It takes 15 minutes to reach it by car from the city center. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or a public bus.

To reach the Blue lagoon, either rent a car and take a 20-minute drive from the airport or use a transportation service.

Tip from a local

  • Did you know that neither Blue Lagoon, nor Sky Lagoon are natural? Both have been man-made, and so is the source of the hot water.
  • Ticket prices vary based on the particular time slot. The less attractive times have lower price.

Our experience

Our philosophy goes against mass tourism, so we avoided both lagoons for years. Finally, we visited Blue Lagoon a year ago with modest expectations. And it was nice. Blue Lagoon definitely wasn’t and will never be a highlight of any of our trips to Iceland, but it can be a nice relaxing stop.

13. Active Volcano

active volcano day trip iceland

We took a day trip from Reykjavik to a lava field created by an active volcano at Fagradalsfjall.

What is it: Fagradalsfjall volcano
Where is it: between Keflavik and Reykjavik
Distance from Reykjavik: 1 hour, or 60km (37mi)
How to reach it: self-drive, or guided tour
When to go: all-year-round, but better in summer
Best for: volcano enthusiasts

BEWARE! Before visiting any volcanic area, carefully check www.road.is and www.safetravel.is. The area may be dangerous or closed!

Why go

Did you know Iceland boasts 32 active volcanoes? Yes, you read it right, thirty-two. But don’t confuse an erupting volcano with an active volcano. These are two different things. No volcano is erupting at the time of writing this article.

So why go and see an active volcano? The closest active volcano that can be visited as a day trip from Reykjavik is Fagradasfjall volcano and its neighboring Litli-Hrútur area. Here you can admire the freshly spewed lava from 2021, 2022, and the summer of 2023. And that is a hell of an experience!

How to get there

There are two ways of getting to Fagradasfjall volcano. You can take a guided volcano tour or drive there yourself and take a hike. A drive takes about 30 minutes from Keflavik airport.

There are several hiking trails around Fagradasfjall. Choose the one that suits you based on your hiking ability and on how much time you have.

Tip from a local

  • Please closely monitor the situation of any volcano before heading there. Icelandic Safe Travel web should help a lot.

Our experience

We were lucky enough to experience an active volcano in Iceland erupting and spewing out lava in August 2021. Similar “tourist” (harmless) eruptions then followed in the summer of 2022 and 2023 near the Fagradasfjall area.

In the end of 2023, however, Iceland faced a different kind of eruption near the town of Grindavik. This eruption may have been be very harmful and dangerous, but only locally around the Grindavik town. Please closely monitor the situation and information before visiting the area.

14. Þakgil

yellow trail Þakgil iceland

Amazing views from the yellow hiking trail in Þakgil

What is it: a scenic green valley full of hiking trails
Where is it: near the town of Vik
Distance from Reykjavik: 3 hours, or 200km (125mi)
How to reach it: self-drive only
When to go: from July to September
Best for: avid hikers

Why go

Although a bit further away from Reykjavik, Thakgil can make a day trip of a lifetime! Þakgil is one of our favorite spots in the Icelandic Highlands. When you go for a hike in Thakgil on a nice summer day, you will be rewarded with unbeatable views you will never forget about.

Þakgil is a majestic valley full of ravines, ridges, and even melting glaciers, just a few hours of hiking away from the Thakgil campsite. There are three main trails, and each one is simply breathtaking.

How to get there

You can get to Þakgil only by car. To reach it, first, take the ring road towards Vik and then the rough road 214 full of potholes.

A journey to Thakgil will take you more than 3 hours from Reykjavik, but it will be worth every minute of driving! Be sure to rent a car with higher ground clearance, otherwise, you may damage the undercarriage. Road 214 is very bumpy.

Tip from a local

  • Þakgil boasts one of the most picturesque campsites in Iceland. If you are into camping, you can’t miss the Thakgil campsite!

Our experience

We took the day trip to Þakgil from Vik, as it is much closer. The same can be done from Reykjavik as well, though, it just requires more time. We hiked two out of the three most beautiful hikes in Thakgil and wrote a detailed guide about hiking in Þakgil.

15. Fimmvörðuháls hike

fimmvorduhals trail most beautiful part

Fimmvörðuháls hike is one of the longest, but also one of the most beautiful day trips from Reykjavik

What is it: a 10-hour long hike through incredible terrain
Where is it: between Skogar and Thórsmörk
Distance from Reykjavik: 2 hours, or 150km (93mi)
How to reach it: self-drive, Highland bus, or guided tour
When to go: from July to September
Best for: long hike lovers

Why go

This place is famous for its panoramic views of the volcanoes Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla and its beautiful waterfalls and the Thórsmörk valley. The famous trail from Skógar to Thórsmörk passes through Fimmvörðuháls, which can continue to the rainbow mountains of Landmannalaugar.

What can you expect there? You will probably see the most dramatic scenery Iceland has to offer. Get ready for a series of canyon-like waterfalls, volcanic moonscape, glaciers, and many more.

How to get there

The best way to get to Fimmvörðuháls is to rent a car from Reykjavík and drive along Route 1 towards the southeast until you reach Skógar, where the Fimmvörðuháls trailhead begins. It is possible to complete the hike in a day, but camping facilities are available for those wanting to extend their journey.

Tip from a local

  • If you don’t have the energy or time to make all 22 kilometers, do not worry. From Skógafoss Waterfall in Skogar, follow the path along the Skóga River, where plenty of beautiful waterfalls await you.

Our Experience

You can read in detail about our experience in our Detailed guide to hiking Fimmvörðuháls. Long story short, we highly recommend you hike Fimmvörðuháls at least once in your life! But only in summer and only in good weather. The trek may be dangerous otherwise.

We started the trek in Skógar and finished in Thórsmörk in about 9 hours, still having plenty of time to wait for the last bus. There was one section that was quite dangerous, and hiking poles were a must. Other than that, the hike was not difficult, just long. This can change dramatically during adverse weather, though.

16. Glymur

glymur waterfall iceland

Glymur is one of the most sought-after waterfalls in Iceland. It makes for a beautiful summer day hike.

What is it: a very tall waterfall
Where is it: west Iceland
Distance from Reykjavik: 1 hour, or 70km (45mi)
How to reach it: self-drive only
When to go: from June to September
Best for: waterfall and hiking enthusiasts

Why go

Glymur, the second-tallest waterfall in Iceland, is a hidden gem within easy reach of Reykjavik. It was the tallest in Iceland at 198 meters. In 2011, however, it was overtaken by Morsárfoss with 240 meters. Though this waterfall is very difficult to access, we can still say Glymur is the tallest accessible waterfall in Iceland.

Glymur is one of the best one-day trips that you can do from Reykjavík. The surrounding nature is beautiful, and you will enjoy the peaceful atmosphere when you come here.

How to get there

Drive north from Reykjavik towards Hvalfjörður. From the parking lot, follow the signs to the Glymur trail. You will then have a roughly 50-minute trek uphill quite steeply. The hike is moderately challenging but well-marked.

Tip from a local

  • The hike to Glymur is usually only one-way, but if you don’t want to follow the same way, we have a pro tip. It includes a river crossing. Follow the trail until the peak and then get down to the river, choose the spot you like, and get ready for some adventure. The water is cold, but it allows you to make a loop, see the waterfall from all sides, and enjoy more Icelandic nature. There is a well-marked trail.

Our experience

Glymur is quite a hike, but it is worth every breath. At one point, you need to cross a river – there is a log with a rope to get over so your feet will not get wet. The more you move up, the more you can enjoy an unbelievable view of the deep and narrow gorge and surrounding mountains.

17. Reykjadalur

reykjadalur hot river iceland

Reykjadalur Hot River is a trendy Reykjavik day trip all year round.

What is it: a hot river valley
Where is it: south Iceland near Hveragerdi
Distance from Reykjavik: 45 minutes, or 45km (28mi)
How to reach it: self-drive, or public bus
When to go: any time, except for harsh weather
Best for: hikers and hot spring enthusiasts

Why go

Do you want to enjoy a hot bath after the hike? Then Reykjadalur is a great place for your one-day trip from Reykjavík. The trail is not very challenging, so it is also suitable for beginners.

Reykjadalur is a very famous spot, so don’t be surprised if you won’t be alone there. On the positive side, thanks to that, there are wooden walkways around the river and even screens for changing clothes.

How to get there

The trail starts in Hveragerði. It takes around 45 minutes to drive there from Reykjavík. There is a paid parking lot where you can leave a car and then follow the signs for the trail to Reykjadalur.

It is so close you can even get there by bus from Reykjavík. Take the bus number 51 from Mjödd Bus Stop in Reykjavík. Get off in Hveragerði and continue to the Reykjadalur parking lot. But it takes around 45 minutes to walk from the bus to the parking lot.

Tip from a local

  • If you want to avoid crowds, take advantage of long summer days and go there early in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Reykjadalur in winter can be challenging, wear spikes!

Our experience

A small hill in the beginning was a bit steep, but after that, the hike was quite easy. After about an hour of hiking, we enjoyed a relaxing reward.

The higher upstream we went, the warmer the water got. Where the water is at the best temperature for a bath, wooden walkways, benches, and changing shelters have been built around the river. The water temperature here is between 35 and 45 °C (95 to 113°F).

18. Landmannalaugar

f208 landmannalaugar iceland

Amazingly beautiful roads around Landmannalaugar

What is it: a colorful mountain valley
Where is it: central Iceland, in the Highlands
Distance from Reykjavik: 3 hours, or 180km (110mi)
How to reach it: self-drive with a 4x4, highland bus, or guided super jeep tour
When to go: from June to September
Best for: wild nature lovers and hikers

Why go

Landmannalaugar is an iconic, must-visit place located in the southern highlands of Iceland. This geothermal valley offers stunning views of multi-colored mountains and thermal springs. It is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

Enjoy views of lush green valleys, walk through black-grey lava fields, observe steaming spots in the valleys and mountains, and relax in hot springs.

How to get there

There are multiple options for taking a day trip to Landmannalaugar from Reykjavik:

  1. Drive yourself. A 4×4 car is required, and various roads of variable difficulties lead there. Please read our detailed Landmannalaugar guide.
  2. Take a Landmannalaugar super jeep tour
  3. Take a Highland bus

A journey to Landmannalaugar from Reykjavik takes about 3 hours.

Tip from a local

  • If you want to enjoy more of Landmannalaugar, there is a campsite where you can stay overnight.
  • Landmannalaugur is accessible only from around mid-June to mid-September. Outside of this time, the road is closed due to weather conditions.

Our experience

We keep coming back to Landmannalaugar over and over. It’s a magical place with endless hiking opportunities. We’ve recently discovered a magnificent Graenihryggur hike and can’t recommend it enough!

We advise you to choose some of the many Landmannalaugar hiking trails based on your time and hiking skills. Try to follow the tracks deeper into nature or climb up to catch the best views.

19. Westman Islands

westmann islands top things to do

A hot candidate for a top Reykjavik day trip? Westman Islands are close!

What is it: a volcanic island
Where is it: south of Iceland
Distance from Reykjavik: 2 hours
How to reach it: ferry from Landeyjahofn
When to go: any time, but ideally in summer
Best for: nature lovers

Why go

In our opinion, the Westman Islands are most likely the best day trip from Reykjavik, where you can enjoy so many attractions in a small area in just one day.

Westman Islands, precisely the main island – Heimaey, have everything – mountains, puffin colonies, volcanoes, and interesting history. It is easily reachable, and even though it is better to plan it at least for two days, you can explore it in one day, too.

How to get there

To get to the main island of Heimaey, you need to take a ferry departing from Landeyjahöfn, which is 2 hours away from Reykjavík, following Ring Road to the south.

Tip from a local

  • You can explore the island on foot, but if you want to save time, take a car with you.
  • Heimaey has one of the largest puffin colonies. Visit the island while puffin season is on.

Our experience

We visited Westman Islands on a sunny summer day, and that’s exactly what we recommend to you as well. Wait for a nice day! It’s more than just worth it. Westman islands are one of the windiest places in Europe, so dress well, you’re going to feel the wind!

We wrote a detailed article with all the attractions, hiking trails, and things to do on Westman islands in one day.

20. Golden Circle

best golden circle tour iceland

By far the most crowded day trip from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle.

What is it: a loop trip around the famous national park
Where is it: northeast of Reykjavik
Distance from Reykjavik: 45 minutes, or 45km (28mi)
How to reach it: self-drive or a guided tour
When to go: any time
Best for: first-timers

Why go

The Golden Circle is one of Reykjavik’s most famous day trips, featuring three iconic destinations: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. This route provides a perfect introduction to Iceland’s natural wonders.

Golden Circle might be crowded and very touristic, but we must put it on this list as it is a kind of a trailer of what Iceland can offer. 

How to get there

The Golden Circle is easily accessible by car from Reykjavík. The entire loop is about 230 kilometers, and you can complete it in a day. There are many different locations where you can stop and enjoy some nice walks around the area.

All the spots are very accessible by car. There are also many Golden Circle guided day tours to choose from.

Tip from a local

  • Golden Circle is the most visited area in Iceland, so prepare for crowds. If you want to avoid people, start early.

Our experience

We are not huge fans of the Golden Circle because this is one of the most crowded day trips in Iceland. That being said, it’s definitely a beautiful start for any Iceland first-timer.

We suggest you also add some other places in the area to your itinerary to make it a bit different. You can, for example, dive into the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir or the cute Hrunalaug Hot Spring. After that, you can continue to Kerid Crater, the picturesque lake in a volcanic crater formed around 4000 BC.

21. Háifoss

haifoss

Haifoss waterfall

What is it: a remote waterfall
Where is it: east of Reykjavik
Distance from Reykjavik: 2 hours, or 140km (87mi)
How to reach it: self-drive only
When to go: summer only
Best for: wild waterfall enthusiasts

Why go

Háifoss is one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, falling from 122 meters into the Fossá River Canyon. The waterfall is located in a desert landscape a little bit away from the main tourist streams. You will have a quiet place to visit and enjoy the solitude of the landscape to the full.

How to get there

Haifoss is easily accessible with a 4×4 car. It takes roughly 2 hours to reach it from Reykjavik.

Alternatively, some guided tours going to Landmannalaugar also include Haifoss in their itineraries. However, there’s no bus option to Haifoss.

Tip from a local

  • A visit to the waterfall can be combined with a trip to the Rainbow Mountains of Landmannalaugar, as it is close to the road leading to them.
  • Route 332 to Haifoss is entirely impassable in winter.
  • Consider combining this trip with another nearby waterfall – Hjálparfoss.

Our experience

When we visited Haifoss, we realized that the main waterfall viewpoint was not very far away from the parking lot. This means many other visitors may be standing at this place, racing for better pictures.

However, there are other trails you can take if you want to explore the area more. You can even walk down to the valley and walk through the canyon to the end. Then, you will enjoy the majestic waterfall from below and typically have it all for yourself!

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Posted by Igor in Top Places, 0 comments
How to Visit Maelifell Volcano

How to Visit Maelifell Volcano

Maelifell is an epic green volcano hidden in the black Icelandic desert in the southern Highlands of Iceland.

Did you know that there is not just one Maelifell in Iceland? There are about 20 of them. Maelifell means “measuring mountain” in Icelandic, or an “orientational hill”. And Icelanders in the past were not very original in naming their mountains. So, yes, there are many Maelifells in Iceland.

Below we explain in deep detail how to reach Maelifell. Information in this article is based on our multiple visits to the volcano over several years. There’s no guarantee the conditions will be the same at the time of your visit, though! More on this below.

Maelifell Video Guide

Maelifell Map

How to get to Maelifell

You have three options:

  1. Drive to Maelifell yourself
  2. Take a public super jeep tour (10% discount code: EPICICELAND10)
  3. Or take a private super jeep tour

There are no buses or bigger group tours.

Driving to Maelifell

You have three options to reach Maelifell:

  • From the West – the most scenic route
  • From the South – the easiest route
  • From the East – route with the biggest river crossing

how to visit maelifell volcano

How to visit Maelifell volcano in Iceland

First of all – it is NOT EASY to get to Maelifell. It’s not a trip for beginners.

You need to drive a big 4wd car AND you have to cross the unpredictable rivers.

Maelifell is disguised deep in the southern Icelandic Highlands. To reach it, you need to take the difficult Highland roads, which are also called the F-roads.

For all of this, you HAVE TO prepare in advance.

Western route

You can reach Maelifell from the west by either

  • Road F210 only, or
  • Roads F261 and F210

Both of these roads are incredibly scenic and rough highland roads. You have to cross medium-sized rivers on both.

F210 only

F210 west near Keldur

F210 west near Keldur

My favorite option is to take the F-road F210 from the west only. It’s one of the most beautiful roads in Iceland. Views on a nice day are simply amazing.

You will have to cross several small to medium rivers on F210. Moreover, you will also drive in a river bank for about 100 meters (yards).

The most significant river crossing is located near the crossroads with F261, and the river is called Kladaklofskvisl:

There are no more river crossings after Kaldaklofskvisl, but the road gets rougher and rougher.

You will, for example, encounter huge volcanic boulders that require a high ground clearance and cautious driving.

What Car do you need for F210?

f-roads maelifell iceland

F-roads around Maelifell

To pass F210 safely, you must drive at least a Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Hilux, or Jeep Wrangler.

The best option is to drive a super jeep. Super Jeep is a modified vehicle with big tires and a snorkel. Some examples include Land Rover Defender, Land Rover Super Defender or a modified Land Cruiser.

You can rent all of these in Iceland. Check out our article on How to Rent a Super Jeep in Iceland.

F261 and F210

The second option from the west is to use the combination of the roads F261 and F210.

F261 is a bumpy road with one medium-sized river crossing at the end. The river is called Blafjallakvisl and requires just about the same cars to pass as F210.

F261 is also beautiful and worth the drive.

Southern route

f232 blafjallafoss waterfall

F232 Bláfjallafoss waterfall

F232 from the south is the easiest road.

It is the least bumpy road and there is just one medium-sized river crossing. Or better said – a waterfall crossing.

There are huge stones at the bottom of the river and the crossing is very bumpy.

f232 road iceland

F232 south of Maelifell

This one particular spot – the waterfall crossing of Blafjállafoss – is great for drone lovers, and it’s very picturesque.

Other than that, there’s nothing super highly interesting along the road, just one more cute waterfall called Holmsarfoss.

To pass F232, we again recommend ideally a Land Cruiser or something bigger.

On a dry day, you may be able to pass with Dacia Duster, Suzuki Jimny, Nissan Qashqai, or something similar. BUT you need to drive well without mistakes. To be sure not to damage your car, it’s better to rent something bigger.

Eastern route

The final option is to take F210 from the east. Eastern F210 is not difficult, but there is one major obstacle on the road.

f210 iceland east

F210 East of Maelifell

A big river crossing of Holmsa river. This river crossing is located east of Maelifell, right next to the Raudibotn craters area.

To pass this ford safely, it’s best to drive a super jeep. On a dry day you may be able to pass with Land Cruiser or Hilux or something similar.

Please never cross Holmsa in a Duster, Jimny or anything similar!

When to visit Maelifell

In short, you can visit Maelifell only in summer AND only when the roads to Maelifell are open.

maelifell iceland our visit

Our first visit of Maelifell in August

The roads to Maelifell typically open in the beginning of July and usually become impassable around mid-September.

Always check this upfront on www.road.is or www.trafficinfo.is, that is the same website of Icelandic Road Administration.

You can drive to Maelifell only if the road is marked green or dashed green.

What to do around

Our favorite hidden gems near Maelifell are Raudibotn craters, Strútslaug hot spring, Markarfljotsgljufur canyon, and Hungurfit dirt track.

Raudibotn craters

Rauðibotn waterfalls

Raudibotn waterfalls

Raudibotn craters are an out-of-this-world secluded area full of waterfalls, rivers, and craters. Beware, though, to reach Raudibotn from Maelifell, you must cross the more giant Holmsa river.

Or you need to go all the way back to the ring road and access Raudibotn by F210 from the south.

You can read more about our Raudibotn experience here.

Strutslaug hot spring

strutslaug hot spring iceland

Strútslaug hot spring deep in the Fjallabak highlands of Iceland

Strútslaug is most likely the least visited hot spring in Iceland. This is a truly wild hot pot, unlike many other touristy ones in Iceland.

To reach Strútslaug, you have to cross one medium-sized river several times and then hike for about 1.5 hours.

You can read more about our Strútslaug experience here.

Markarfljotsgljufur canyon

markarfljotsgljufur east viewpoint

East viewpoint of Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon

Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon is one of our favorite canyons in Iceland. You are almost guaranteed to be alone when you reach it.

That being said, Markarfljótsgljúfur belongs to some of the most difficult-to-access canyons in Iceland.

You can get to Markarfljótsgljúfur either from the west or from the east. We describe in detail both of these options in the article about our Markarfljótsgljúfur experience.

Hungurfit dirt track

We will finish our list of the most secluded and fascinating spots in Iceland by Hungurfit track. This is one of our favorite deserted and totally remote dirt tracks in Iceland.

Driving the Hungurfit track involves steep ascents and descents, driving next to the deep ravines, as well as crossing numerous rivers and streams.

The most sought-for spots on Hungurfit, even for locals, is one of the tightest boulder-passes in Iceland – see video thumbnail above.

Tips and Safety

How do you prepare for a trip like this?

  1. Watch road videos and read blog posts to know what to expect
  2. Rent a proper car – Land Cruiser, Hilux, or a super jeep
  3. Practice on easier roads first
  4. Don’t go alone, ideally, go with more than just one car
  5. Go only when the weather is good, and the roads are open for tourists
  6. Check road and weather conditions on road.is or trafficinfo.is and en.vedur.is in advance
  7. Check with your car rental company if you are allowed to drive the roads to Maelifell
  8. Read our Highlands road trip guide

FAQ

maelifell iceland drive

Driving around Maelifell

Is there any accommodation near Maelifell?

There is no hotel or hostel anywhere nearby. Only mountain huts with sleeping bag accommodation.

The closest ones are Hvanngil hut, Strútur hut, Alftavatn hut, Alftavotn hut and Emstrur-Botnar hut.

Can I get to Maelifell in Dacia Duster or Suzuki Jimny?

Long story short – we do not recommend it.

It is theoretically possible on a nice and dry day. And only if you use the easiest southern route F232. But you are risking damaging your car.

Can I take small children to Maelifell?

Well, like generally? NO. Only if you already have experience with the highlands, otherwise not.

Maelifell highlands Iceland

Maelifell in the highlands of Iceland. Photo credit to: snorrithorphotography.com

How much time do I need?

It takes roughly 2 hours to reach Maelifell from the town of Vik and roughly 2.5hours from Hella.

If you want to see just Maelifell and nothing else, the roundtrip will take you around 6 hours.

Is it worth going in a fog?

Unfortunately not really. But this depends on how heavy the fog is and if it’s persistent or not. This is impossible to predict. So you just need to take your chances!

Why can I visit Maelifell only in summer?

Because there is snow or mud on the roads. You would get stuck or you could damage the fragile soil.

Can I hike Maelifell?

Yes you can, BUT it is a very hard hike on an unmarked trail. It’s very steep and only for highly experienced hikers.

Our Experience

maelifell highlands iceland

The gem on the highlands of Iceland

Our first trip to Maelifell started in Hella via F210 from the west.

Most of the F210 is without bigger river crossings, so in case of good weather, even if you don’t feel like doing bigger river crossings, you may try to drive it in a proper 4×4 (ideally Land Cruiser or bigger, see our guide on how to choose a proper car for Iceland) – up to Alftavatn mountain hut.

F210 west of Alftavatn

Up to Alftavatn hut, the road is just bumpy, with potholes and some steep sections, but really picturesque and one of my favorite Icelandic roads. You will get amazing views in each direction – seeing Landmannalaugar from the distance and a big part of Fjallabak Park.

Even until Alftavatn, you will still have to cross several smaller streams, and even drive in the riverbed for around 100 meters! This is really one of the “once in a lifetime” experiences, for anyone not used to it (yes, maybe not for Icelanders ;).

f210 iceland west

F210 west of Alftavatn

As I mentioned, the road leads through multiple mountainous areas, so if you are unsure about driving in such an environment, please don’t go. Once you pass Alftavatn, the first real obstacle gets into your path – crossing the Kaldaklofskvisl river.

F210 to Alftavatn

Hence, we drove F210 all the way to Alftavatn lake. The road was admiringly beautiful. The part I liked the most was the highest spot just before Alftavatn, where you could see all the surrounding land, including Landmannalaugar in the distance, almost from the “bird’s eye” point of view.

We took a short break at Alftavatn lake, which is a very nice, calm, and quiet spot to stop at and have a picnic or short stay during nice weather. We were lucky enough that exactly after our arrival at Alftavatn the sun started to fight its way between the clouds and we could even walk in the T-shirt outside.

F210 Fjallabaksleið Syðri

F210 Fjallabaksleið Syðri to Alftavatn

F210 after Alftavatn then continues in two directions – south towards F261 and east towards Maelifell and Holmsa river. Since our journey went smoothly up to this point, we definitely wanted to take a detour toward Maelifell and so we did. We turned left on the eastern part of F210. Here’s where the truly lunar landscapes have begun to emerge.

Kaldaklofskvisl river crossing

Kaldaklofskvisl crossing on F210 can get tricky at times because there are some large boulders in the river that you are unable to see beforehand. Secondly, the water level in the river may get too high to allow for safe crossing in vehicles not big enough.

It’s always necessary to strictly adhere to all the river crossing rules, watch someone cross before you, wade the river yourself if feeling unsure, and if still feeling unsure better turn back.

F210 kaldaklofskvisl river crossing

Kaldaklofskvísl river crossing F210

We had nice partially cloudy/partially sunny weather, luckily with no fog and no rain. We already knew from our friends and from the day before, that the water level in rivers is favorably low and rivers are shallower than usual. These are practically one of the best conditions possible.

F210 to Maelifell

F210 towards Maelifell is definitely one of the most unique Icelandic roads. Firstly, the weather almost always changes when driving on this road. F210 towards Maelifellsandur literally feels like a gateway towards another world, thanks to this. Secondly, the road itself is very specific – it starts with huge boulders and continues as a black sand road.

And it’s almost always covered with some kind of mist – either light or heavy. Huge boulders are the most difficult part of F210 towards Maelifell. The road doesn’t have a clearly visible track, and if you don’t take enough care, you may damage the underside of your car.

F210 Fjallabaksleid Sydri east to Maelifell

F210 Fjallabaksleid Sydri east to Maelifell

After basically driving on huge stone plates rather than an ordinary road, the route turns into tracks in the black sand. Oftentimes expect it to be wet and muddy because this is the area where it may rain occasionally. This part of the road doesn’t have any huge obstacles, or rivers, so it looks like a giant moon highway.

There are no more river crossings going from Kaldaklofskvisl to Maelifell. If you are the only car on the road (which is frequently the case, as with us) then your only guides are the tracks in the sand and yellow sticks marking the side of the road.

Maelifell

After a drive in the middle of “black sand nowhere”, you will be able to spot majestic Maelifellsandur in the distance. If you are lucky enough, and Mr. Maelifell is not covered in fog – which he likes to do – your view will be truly amazing. As I already mentioned, the weather usually changes to worse after turning towards Maelifell. This was exactly our case (multiple times). This time it, however, only changed to cloudy with occasional little rain – which is still considered good weather.

maelifell iceland

Maelifell in Fjallabak nature reserve

Finally, after an adventurous drive – there it stood – Maelifell volcano. It’s a view as if you were on a deserted planet. A huge green volcano in front of you, surrounded by black sand fields, with occasional little lakes created by past rain and absolute silence in the air.

It’s even possible to climb the Maelifell, but we don’t recommend doing that unless you are really experienced in performing steep, unmarked hikes unless there’s ideal weather and ideally only with a guide. We didn’t go for the hike as it may be really dangerous (and the view from above wouldn’t be great in partially foggy weather).

Holmsa river crossing

We still had enough time at that point of the day, because everything went pretty smoothly. Thus, we decided to take a look at the Holmsa river crossing with an aim of seeing Raudibotn – the beautiful hidden (from a typical tourist) area with a crater, river, and amazing landscapes all around.

holmsa river crossing iceland

Me crossing bigger Hólmsá river by Land Cruiser on F210 near Maelifell

After reaching Maelifell, we continued east and we soon arrived at the Holmsá river crossing. According to a friend of mine, the crossing was supposed to be doable, without problems, at this time of the year (especially due to low water levels). Beware, this is the river crossing which may get pretty nasty. Always check both beforehand and on-site.

The crossing looked exactly like my friend Haraldur described it – this time harmless. I examined the river anyway and it looked calm and shallow. Because of this, we decided to go for a ford even without wading the river on foot. And the crossing went smoothly. There’s a small hill with the road, usually easy to spot on your left after the Holmsa crossing.

Raudibotn, Markarfljostgljufur and Hungurfit

After crossing Holmsa we went hiking all the way to Raudibotn craters. Highly recommended and totally worth a tiring day!

hungurfit track river crossings

Many small to medium river crossings are an amazing part of the Hungurfit track

After Raudibotn, we didn’t have enough and explored also Markarfljotsgljufur canyon and drove Hungurfit track. You can read in detail about our Fjallabak highlands day involving all these activities.

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How to visit Eldgjá

How to visit Eldgjá

Eldgjá is a gigantic canyon created by the largest volcanic eruption on earth in the last millennium. From a historical point of view, Eldgjá is definitely a fascinating place to visit.

Except for the Eldgjá canyon, there’s also a very picturesque waterfall called Ófærufoss right in the heart of Eldgjá.

But does Eldgjá belong to one of the most beautiful places in the Icelandic Highlands, as many people describe it? Well, we are not so sure about that, and we will explain why below.

Map of Eldgjá

eldgja map iceland

Map of the Eldgjá area (click to enlarge)

Eldgjá hiking trails

There are three main hiking trails in Eldgjá:

eldgja hiking trails iceland

Hiking trails in Eldgjá

The two most popular hiking spots in Eldgjá are Ófærufoss waterfall and the peak of Gjátindur. The majority of visitors go only to the famous Ofaerufoss because it’s the most efficient option.

We wrote a list of 25 Off-The-Beaten Track Places in Iceland that nobody else writes about.

Besides the main trails, there are also several traverse routes leading to the Highlands.

Ófærufoss waterfall

ofaerufoss waterfall eldgja iceland

Beautiful Ófærufoss waterfall in Eldgjá

Hiking time: 1.5 hours round-trip
Difficulty: very easy
Trail Map: Ófærufoss hiking trail

Ofaerufoss is the legendary picturesque waterfall and the main attraction of Eldgjá. The waterfall is a must-see spot in the area we highly recommend visiting. It’s spectacular in any weather.

It’s an easy, well-marked walk that anyone can do. It took us less than 30 minutes to reach the Ófærufoss waterfall from the Eldgjá car park.

The shortest trail to Ófærufoss leads along the right/eastern bottom of the canyon and turns left/west right before the waterfall.

Small circle

ofaerufoss waterfall eldgja

Ófærufoss viewpoint from the “Small Circle” hiking trail in Eldgjá

Hiking time: 2 hours round-trip
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Trail Map: Small Circle hiking trail

If you want to enjoy Ófærufoss from more angles and the bird’s eye perspective, you can take a longer Small Circle hike.

This trek is a loop path extension of the easy bottom-of-the-canyon walk. After passing Ófærufoss, you will need to climb shortly to the eastern edge of the canyon. From there, you turn back south.

Once you finish the climb, you will also get nice views over the Eldgjá Canyon. You can take this loop trail in any direction. It’s a nice compromise between a short Ófærufoss walk and a long Gjátindur trek.

Gjátindur circle

eldgja iceland

Bird’s eye view over the Eldgjá Canyon when hiking to Gjátindur

Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours round-trip
Difficulty: moderate with one steeper climb
Trail Map: Gjátindur hiking trail

Gjátindur is the tallest peak in the Eldgjá area. By climbing Gjátindur on a nice day, you will be guaranteed to have the best views over the entire Eldgjá. But are these views worth the climb? Well…

It took us almost 6 hours to complete the loop trail to Gjátindur and back, including a stop at Ófærufoss and then a struggle to find the correct path. The hike to Gjátindur is moderately difficult, with one pretty steep ash climb. Otherwise, the trek isn’t anyhow dangerous. It’s just long (around 16 kilometers, or 10 miles).

Several different trails lead to Gjátindur. One of the trails leads inside the bottom of the canyon, while the other trail leads along the upper edge of the canyon, see the Eldgjá hiking map above.

Langisjór traverse trail

langisjór lake iceland

View over the Langisjór lake from Sveinstindur trail

Hiking time: 1 to 2 days
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Trail Map: Eldgjá Skaelingar hiking trail

Eldgjá Canyon is actually a part of the vast hiking area that stretches all the way in between the road F208 (Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri) in the southwest and Lake Langisjór in the northeast.

Numerous marked and unmarked remote trails connect Eldgjá to Langisjór and Uxatindar mountains in between. See the huge Eldgjá map.

How to Visit the Icelandic Highlands and prepare for the Highlands road trip?

How to get to Eldgjá

To get to Eldgjá, you must take the F-roads F208 and F223, respectively. There are no buses or guided tours, so your only option is to drive or take a private tour.

Road F208

If you take the road F208 from the south, you have to cross one medium-sized river. You need to drive at least a medium-sized 4wd car to pass safely.

When you arrive by F208 from the north, you will encounter several small to medium-sized rivers to ford. This route is one of the most beautiful Icelandic highland roads.

We again recommend driving, at minimum, a medium-sized 4×4 car like Dacia Duster. That being said, if the conditions are ideal and the weather is dry enough, you may also pass with smaller 4wd cars like Toyota RAV4 or whatever is being called a 4×4 these days.

Road F223

F223 to Eldgjá is an easy F-road without any river crossings or other obstacles.

It’s a very short drive from the southern part of F208 (Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri). The only reason Eldgjárvegur is marked as an F-road is probably that it’s impossible to get there without using other F-roads.

Once you reach Eldgjá, there’s a huge car park with a ranger’s hut and modern toilets.

Is Eldgjá worth a visit?

Eldgjá is worth a visit if you have more time to explore the southern Icelandic Highlands. If you are short on time, we recommend other fantastic spots in the Highlands.

Interestingly enough, if you ask locals in Iceland to name a few most beautiful places in Iceland, many replies will include “Ásbyrgi” and/or “Eldgjá”. We have visited both, and both were actually slightly underwhelming in our opinion (and other foreign visitors’ opinions).

How to choose the Best Car for Iceland based on your trip plans?

Don’t get me wrong, both Eldgjá and Ásbyrgi are beautiful places to visit. But Iceland has so many unique gems to offer that Eldgjá or Ásbyrgi simply don’t measure up to many of them.

What is the Best Hike in Eldgjá?

gjatindur eldgja iceland

At the peak of Gjátindur in Eldgjá

If you have just a few hours dedicated to visiting Eldgjá, we suggest primarily seeing Ófærufoss. Ófærufoss waterfall was probably the highlight of our full-day visit to Eldgjá. Moreover, a hike to Ófærufoss is just an effortless walk, not even a hike.

If you have more time, you can do a longer hike to Gjátindur, the highest summit of Eldgjá. We suggest doing this hike only if you are really into hiking and have enough time. Once you climb the edge of the Eldgjá Canyon, there’s a nice viewpoint over the entire Eldgjá area from a bird’s eye viewpoint.

List of 130 most beautiful Icelandic Waterfalls with detailed info.

However, to reach Gjátindur, you need to continue even further, and the view from the peak isn’t that special in our opinion. Definitely not if you compare it, for example, to nearby Sveinstindur, Bláhnúkur, or Thakgil.

Once again, don’t get me wrong, the Gjátindur hike is pretty. If you have time and energy, then go for it. It’s just not among our favorite ones in Iceland, not even close to it.

Our Eldgjá Experience

We visited Eldgjá at the end of July and did all the main treks. We hiked to Ófærufoss and then to Gjátindur for the best views over Eldgjá.

Ófærufoss hike

As expected, we met many fellow tourists along the way to Ófærufoss. Apart from tourists, we also met many infamous Icelandic midges 🙂 Eldgjá is actually the only place where we’ve ever used head-nets in Iceland.

Ófærufoss hiking trail eldgjá iceland

Easy hiking trail to Ófærufoss

Midges don’t bite, and they are not dangerous. They are just very pesky and persistent about getting into your nose and eyes, being attracted to wet spots. So either you will be waving your hand in front of you, or you’re gonna use head-nets.

Ófærufoss is totally worth a short walk. If I were to come here next time, Ófærufoss would be the only place I would visit again in Eldgjá. The waterfall is magnificent, and it will definitely make it to our list of favorite Icelandic waterfalls.

There’s even a huge viewpoint platform with seating. Rangers built ropes around the waterfall to protect the moss and tourists from falling into the waterfall. Despite the ropes, several arrogant visitors didn’t respect them and stepped on the moss to take better pictures anyway. This is how NOT to be a responsible tourist.

crowds at ofaerufoss iceland

Crowds at Ófærufoss and tourists breaking the rules by standing behind the rope.

Gjátindur hike

After seeing Ófærufoss, we still had enough time and energy to hike more, and the weather was ugly everywhere else anyway. Thus, climbing Gjátindur made great sense.

We were equipped with hiking poles, head nets, and an old map, which showed we were supposed to be able to reach Gjátindur from the western trail. The map was terribly wrong. The only real trail leading to Gjátindur is the eastern trail, but more on that below.

Be sure to always check the safety warnings, road conditions, and weather forecast before embarking on any hike in Iceland!

The Bottom of the Canyon

Our hike to Gjátindur started by walking to Ófærufoss from the eastern bottom of the canyon which, right before the waterfall, turned to the west to reach the waterfall itself. After stopping at the waterfall, we continued further along the western bottom of the canyon in the north direction towards Gjátindur.

eldgja canyon hiking

Hiking the bottom of the Eldgjá Canyon

This part of the hike is a fairly easy walk on flat ground. I remember very sparse red marks, but we mostly just followed the well-trodden steps along the bottom of the canyon.

Ascent to the Edge of the Canyon

According to our map, we were supposed to turn left a few hundred meters before the canyon ended and begin ascending steeply. There were no marks, only steps of someone else walking before us.

List of All Hot Springs in Iceland with detailed info.

Thus, we followed the steps, which soon turned into a very slippery and steep ascent via the ash slope. Steps soon disappeared, and we reached the point where it was impossible to continue safely. We tried to find the correct western trail but without success.

After climbing down the ash slope, we instead turned right to the marked trail (yellow sticks if I remember correctly). This eastern trail to Gjátindur led via a pretty steep slope entirely consisting of ash. Thus, with every step we slipped back a bit, because ash rolled back together with us. This was the spot where hiking poles came in extremely handy.

Crossroads and the Ridge

eldgja canyon iceland

Great view over Eldgjá on a halfway towards Gjátindur

After finishing the climb to the eastern ridge of the Eldgjá canyon, we soon reached the crossroad of several different trails. Some lead further toward the Langisjór area, while one leads to Gjátindur (yellow sticks). Another trail leads back to Eldgjá car park, but not via the bottom of the canyon, but rather via the upper eastern edge of it.

Once you finish this climb and get to the edge of the canyon in the Gjátindur direction, this is where the most beautiful views over Eldgjá will pop up in front of you. You can see the entire Eldgjá Canyon from the bird’s eye viewpoint and this sight is really magnificent.

We then continued towards the peak of Gjátindur via a marked trail, which was basically a pretty dull and rocky ascent. It took us roughly an hour to reach Gjátindur from the above-mentioned crossroad of routes.

The summit of Gjátindur

gjatindur iceland eldgja

Views from the summit of Gjátindur

Gjátindur is the tallest possible viewpoint over the entire Eldgjá, so yes, you will be guaranteed 360° views if you hike on a day with good visibility. Despite the moody weather, we were lucky to have this good visibility.

Nevertheless, we were not overwhelmed by the views from Gjátindur. They were a bit monotonous and not that spectacular compared to many other amazing views we’d seen already at that time. Nice hike, nice views, but nothing out-of-this-world.

The weather felt a bit cold at the time of our visit, with some 5°C and light winds. Not ideal picnic weather, though. We started to feel cold even in all our layers after standing on Gjátindur for 5 minutes. Thus, we made a short protein bar break and started our descent back.

The Way Back

gjatindur hiking trail eldgja

Hiking trail to and from Gjátindur

We decided to take a loop trail because we didn’t want to hike the same route twice. It was a good decision. Not only we avoided the unpleasant and steep ash slope descent, but we also saw Ófærufoss from a beautiful eastern ridge viewpoint.

The loop trail back from Gjátindur is a marked trail that leads along the upper edge of the eastern part of the Eldgjá Canyon. After more than halfway through the trail, you will reach an Ófærufoss viewpoint from the bird’s eye perspective, which is undoubtedly worth seeing. This is already a part of the “Small Circle” hike in Eldgjá. The trail then continues and descends back towards the car park.

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Posted by Igor in Highlands, Hikes, 0 comments
Guided Tours or Rent a Car in Iceland?

Guided Tours or Rent a Car in Iceland?

Should you rent a car and self-drive around Iceland or take guided tours? The answer is not straightforward and depends on what you want, what your budget is, and what type of comfort you expect.

Guided tours vs. renting a car is a dilemma many travelers face when visiting Iceland. It’s also one of the most frequent questions we are getting about Iceland. That’s why we decided to write a detailed comparison of both of these options, covering all aspects you should consider.

We’ve personally tried both choices several times over the past years and we have our personal favorite. But let the facts speak for themselves 🙂

Guided Tours vs. Self-Drive

Here’s a quick comparison of renting a car vs. taking tours in Iceland:

Guided Tours Self-Drive
Plans They plan everything for you You have to plan everything
Freedom You have to follow the group all the time You can go wherever you want and whenever you want
Price Typically 30% to 100% more expensive Cheaper, when accounting for all expenses
Safety Icelandic guide will handle all the safety for you You have to drive and follow all the warnings yourself
Crowds Most of the tours will take you to touristy places You can try to find the non-touristy spots yourself
Pace Tours set the fixed pace of their excursions You can slow down, speed up or skip places as you want
Winter Local guide handles driving and weather issues You have to follow the road and weather info yourself
F-roads Easy to access with guide's super jeep Hard to access with a rental car

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Self-Drive Pros and Cons

Pros

  1. You are your own boss. Feels like this place is too crowded? You are free to leave whenever you want. Want to stay your entire trip in the north? Why not, just do it. Was it too tiring yesterday, and you would rather spend a day in a hot spring? Go for it.
  2. It’s cheaper. Some argue it’s not, but we are sure it is cheaper to book everything yourself. Considerably cheaper.
  3. Higher privacy. You don’t have to follow any group. Privacy is all yours.
  4. Crowds and timing. You can arrive early in the morning or late in the evening at a potentially crowded spot to avoid these crowds.
  5. Weather flexibility. You can change your itinerary at any time based on the current weather forecast. Is it raining in the south? You can visit the West! And vice versa.

Cons

  1. You have to plan. What car to rent, which company to choose, what insurance to take, where to go, where to eat, where to stop for the toilet. You know what I’m saying.
  2. You are responsible for yourself. You have to follow the road conditions, weather forecasts, all Icelandic rules, etc. There’s no excuse for not knowing any of these.
  3. You need to drive. Well. Driving in Iceland can be difficult if you are not used to driving in the countryside. And it’s especially difficult in winter when roads are icy or full of snow.
  4. Handling winter is challenging. The more so if you have to handle it alone without a local.

Guided Tours Pros and Cons

Pros

  1. Everything is planned for you. The next stop, meal pauses, toilet pauses, parking, stop lengths, and more.
  2. A knowledgeable guide. You will learn much more about Iceland from a local guide than by reading signposts next to the most famous attractions.
  3. A helpful guide. A guide will quickly explain to you where you may go and where you shouldn’t. He’s your walking guidebook and rulebook.
  4. A worry-free trip. The tour company handles literally everything, so you have to do virtually nothing. Including potentially tricky driving.

Cons

  1. You pay for the guide and organization. Due to that, guided tours are more expensive.
  2. You can’t change the schedule. You have to stick to what is planned for you, no matter what.
  3. You have to follow the group and be on time.
  4. Chances are, you won’t be alone. Tour companies rarely go to really off-the-beaten-path places. Except for pricier Super Jeep tours.

nice travel guided tour

Multi-day guided tour in Iceland by NiceTravel, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND

Price Comparison

Let’s assume two travelers in July are considering taking a 7-day ring road guided tour or renting a Dacia Duster (cheaper 4×4), self-driving, and staying in hostels.

A self-drive trip consists of the following major expenses:

  • Car rental (roughly 130USD/day)
  • Car insurance (roughly 35USD/day)
  • Gas (roughly 25USD/day)
  • Accommodation (roughly 180USD/day)

This adds up to around 370 USD per day per two travelers, with meals and optional tours excluded.

A guided multi-day tour would cost you around 250-300 USD per day per person, i.e., on average, about 550 USD per couple.

Using this specific example, a guided tour in Iceland is roughly 50% more expensive than a rental car with a self-drive.

Fellabær camp rooftop tent

Us Renting a car and self-driving around Iceland

Day Tours vs Multi-Day Tours

You can take two different types of tours in Iceland – a Day tour or a Multi-Day tour.

Day Tours

A day tour lasts just one day, leaves from one place, and arrives back at the very same place. 90% of the day tours in Iceland start and end in Reykjavik. Transport may or may not be included in the day tour.

Some examples of fantastic Icelandic day tours are:

north sailing whale watching

Whale-watching Day Tour by North Sailing from Husavik, 10% discount code: EPICICELAND

Multi-Day Tours

A multi-day tour lasts at least two days. This means, it always includes also accommodation! That’s the main reason why it’s more expensive than two separate day tours. A multi-day tour, of course, also includes all the transportation. Meals and optional add-on tours are typically not included in the price.

Some examples of excellent Icelandic multi-day tours include:

arctic adventures multi day guided tour

Amazing multi-day guided tours by Arctic Adventures, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND23

Season

The month you plan your trip for is an important factor in deciding between renting a car and taking a guided tour. Winter in Iceland is notoriously known due to unpredictable weather. This makes winter driving difficult, especially for those with no winter driving experience.

Summer

Are you planning your trip for the summer months of June, July, or August? This is the time when all campsites are open, and roads are the easiest to drive. So, if you are unsure about driving in Iceland, better visit the country in summer.

What should you consider in summer when it comes to self-drive vs. guided tours?

  • A lot of tourists everywhere.
  • Frequent and unpredictable rain, fog, and wind.
  • Campsites are open, and roads are much easier to drive compared to winter.

f261 iceland

Self-drive in Iceland on F261 in the highlands with our “super jeep” Modified Land Cruiser

Winter

On the other hand, if you want to observe the northern lights and you plan your trip to take place in winter, you should take special care. Get yourself ready for possible:

  • Road closures. You may not get to your next accommodation.
  • Snow, black ice, wind, rain, and weather alerts.
  • More frequent plan changes.
  • Shorter daylight hours.

Trip type

Another factor worth considering when choosing between guided tours and renting a car is how you want to spend your time.

Seeing the Main Highlights

If your aim is to experience mainly the most well-known spots in Iceland, you should be well off taking a guided tour. Are you looking for a Golden Circle, South Coast, Blue Lagoon, or the Ring Road in 7 days? All of these are perfectly covered by tour companies.

When visiting the main attractions, you will see basically the same with the tour company as well as when going by yourself. That means plus one point for guided excursions in this case.

iceland winter 4x4 car

We decided to rent a car and self-drive also in winter. This requires winter driving experience, some flexibility, and a bit more planning.

Seeing the Remote Places

If you want to primarily explore the Icelandic hidden gems, you would be better off renting a car and going on your own. Another option is to take pricier super jeep tours or hire a private guide. That is by far the most expensive option.

Harder-to-access places, or the spots off the classical tourists’ routes, are typically omitted by guided group tours in Iceland. There are several reasons why it might be so:

  • It simply takes too much time to reach them.
  • There is no infrastructure nearby (toilets, restaurants, etc.).
  • They may not be as shiningly beautiful compared to the places everyone visits.

Atmosphere

If you are more sociable and you instead enjoy talking to other people than sitting somewhere alone, you would most likely enjoy guided tours much more, opposite to self-drive. Icelandic tours are typically reasonably limited when it comes to the number of attendees. A typical guest limit is 19 persons, but it, of course, varies among companies.

local guide ice cave tour

Fantastic Vatnajokull Ice Cave and Glacier hike tours by Local Guide, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND

On the other hand, if you came to Iceland for its remoteness and isolation, bus excursions most likely wouldn’t be your thing. Iceland is a great country if you want to enjoy silence and some time to spend just with your fellow travelers and no one else. There are many places around the island where you will be alone. But only in case you rent a car and self-drive.

Our Experience

Long story short, our ideal combo is to rent a car, explore Iceland on our own by self-driving, and occasionally take day tours where it makes sense. Why?

Well, we are young, adventurous, and enjoy freedom and flexibility. Moreover, the biggest part of Iceland’s charm, for us, includes experiencing remote places far away from everybody else.

Some of our favorite activities include hiking somewhere in the middle of Iceland at a place nobody would Google or bathing in a wild hot spring that used to serve as a sheep-cleaning facility.

F235 towards Langisjór

Driving by yourself around Iceland may be magical and tough at the same time

On the other hand, for some activities in Iceland, like hiking glaciers, visiting ice caves, or watching whales in the open ocean, you must take a tour with a professional guide. And we happily do that! In that case, we prefer really small groups, sometimes also called “semi-private,” and rather pay a bit more to not be on the bus with 30 other people.

That being said, not everybody is like us! I can imagine many visitors simply don’t enjoy wild and dirty hot springs without any dressing rooms. So, please choose whether to go for guided tours or rent a car in Iceland based on your personal preferences.

FAQ

Is it better to drive or take tours in Iceland?

If you prefer freedom, flexibility, fewer crowds and want to save some buck, then self-drive may be your best choice in Iceland. On the other hand, if you don’t want to plan anything, want a local guide or you are visiting in winter and don’t have a winter driving experience, then taking tours might be your best option.

Is it cheaper to rent a car or buy guided tours in Iceland?

Most of the time, renting a car is significantly cheaper than buying guided tours in Iceland. It’s typically 30% to 100% cheaper to rent a car.

Remember, though, that for some activities like ice caves, glacier hikes, whale-watching, or snowmobiles, you must take a guided day tour, and there’s no other option.

thorsmork winter super jeep tour

Best super jeep day tours in Iceland are run by Midgard Adventure, 10% discount code: EPICICELAND10

Do you need a guided tour in Iceland?

You have to take guided tours in Iceland only for specific activities, like whale-watching, hiking a glacier, visiting an ice cave, riding a snowmobile, an ATV, or a horse. You don’t need to take guided tours for sightseeing, driving, and hiking around Iceland. But you can, of course, use guided tours if you don’t want to plan or explore independently also for sightseeing.

Are guided tours in Iceland worth it?

Most of the guided tours in Iceland are of very high quality with friendly and knowledgeable local guides, so they surely are worth experiencing. The tours are not cheap in Iceland, though, so you need to decide which tours to take based on your budget and preference.

Should you rent a car in Iceland?

You can easily rent and drive a car in Iceland if you are used to driving in the countryside. Iceland’s main roads are paved and well-maintained one-lane roads. In winter, they often get icy and snowy, though, so you need a winter driving experience to stay safe.

When should you rather buy guided tours in Iceland?

You should buy guided tours in Iceland if you don’t want to plan anything or drive and you prefer an experienced local guide to take control of everything.

snowmobiling from gullfoss

Best Snowmobiling day tours in Iceland are offered by Mountaineers of Iceland, 5% discount code: EPICICELAND

Is driving in winter in Iceland safe?

Driving in Iceland in winter requires a winter driving experience. Icelandic roads are fully paved and well-maintained, but in winter, they often become slippery or covered with a snow layer.

Do guided tours take you to hidden gems?

Most of the time, only super jeep tours in Iceland will take you to the so-called “hidden gems”. These are the places far away from the usual touristy routes, that are hard to access.

What are the Best Guided tours in Iceland?

There are many fantastic guided tours and fabulous tour companies in Iceland with top reviews. We wrote a list of the best summer guided tours in Iceland, where we feature only such companies. We also wrote a list of the best winter guided tours in Iceland with the same criteria to include only the best providers.

What is the best way to travel around Iceland?

The cheapest and most flexible way to travel around Iceland is to rent a car and stay in various accommodations around the country. Another great option is to rent a campervan if you like camping and don’t want to book lodgings in advance.

If you don’t want to plan or care much about your trip, or if you are visiting in winter without any winter driving experience, then the safest way to travel around Iceland will be to take guided tours from Reykjavik or multi-day guided tours around Iceland.

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Posted by Igor in Tips, 0 comments
25 Hidden Gems in Iceland Nobody Writes About

25 Hidden Gems in Iceland Nobody Writes About

Hidden Gems in Iceland are increasingly challenging to find. Many travelogues claim to list them, but in reality, they are not hidden anymore and are often crowded.

To reach the authentic off-the-beaten-path places in Iceland, you need to do something different than everyone else. You have to step out of your comfort zone.

We have been exploring hundreds of Icelandic spots away from the crowds for years. They are never easy or quick to get to. There is always a trade-off between „easy“ and „hidden“.

Below we list the 25 places we still believe to be Icelandic hidden gems. You need to, however, plan your road trip carefully in advance when, for example, exploring the Highlands. And you may fail on your first attempt. But that’s the beauty of exploration!

Map of Hidden Gems in Iceland

1. Graenihryggur ridge

graenihryggur green ridge

Grænihryggur green ridge hike in the Highlands

Why go

Everybody visits the famous Landmannalaugar mountains and goes on the same two hikes – Bláhnúkur and Brennisteinsalda. But did you know there’s an even more beautiful hike in Landmannalaugar almost nobody knows about? That is the Grænihryggur hike.

We wrote a detailed guide on How to hike Graenihryggur.

Graenihryggur is the green ridge hidden deeper in the rainbow mountains. On your way there, you will meet some of the most stunning Icelandic landscapes of all different colors. Graenihryggur is one of our favorite Icelandic treks only locals take.

How to get there

You have to first get to Landmannalaugar. You can then find the Grænihryggur trailhead on the highland road F208, about 10km (6 mi) south of the final highway F224 to Landmannalaugar.

A 4wd car is necessary to drive on these roads. We better recommend at least a medium-sized 4×4 car.

An often overlooked sign beside the road indicates the hiking trail. You have to park your car next to the road.

Our tips

Graenihryggur hike is very scenic but also a bit more difficult. It involves crossing snowfields, climbing steep, slippery hills, and even crossing a shallow river. Go only in summer and prepare well in advance.

2. Sturlungalaug hot spring

sturlungalaug hot spring iceland

Sturlungalaug hot spring, sometimes called Guðmundarlaug, is one of the hidden gems in Iceland

Why go

Sturlungalaug hot spring is one of our favorite hot springs in Iceland because it’s wild, in the middle of nowhere, and you will most likely be there alone.

We wrote up a List of All Hot Springs in Iceland.

If you catch a nice day, you will get a bonus of gorgeous views around the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Sturlungalaug is large enough to accommodate even groups of friends, so no worries, it’s not just for couples.

How to get there

To reach Sturlungalaug, you need to take a gravel dirt track as a detour from Heydalsvegur, or Road 55, in Snæfellsnes.

You can get to Sturlungalaug only in summer when the road leading there is snow-free. You need a 4wd car or at least any car with higher ground clearance to pass the bumpy path safely.

There’s a little car park for about 2-3 cars; from there, it’s just a minute toward the hot pot.

Our tips

The grass around the hot spring may be wet. You can bring some slippers to handle this.

The temperature of the water in Sturlungalaug varies around the year. There’s no guarantee it will be hot during your visit. The pool even received some bad reviews from visitors due to this, but we think it’s impressive anyway!

3. Huldujökull glacier

Huldujökull glacier hike Þakgil iceland

Amazing views at the melting Huldujökull glacier in Þakgil

Why go

One place that really positively surprised us as a true hidden gem in Iceland was Huldujökull glacier. Very few folks know about this spectacular hike with a live view over a melting and falling glacier!

The Huldujökull glacier hike is especially astonishing on a sunny day. You may witness massive glacier chunks as they tear from the glacier base and fall down into a deep ravine below. We’ve never seen anything like that in our lives!

We wrote a detailed article about our hike to Huldujokull in Þakgil.

How to get there

Huldujökull is located in Thakgil, and it’s the longest day trek you can take in this hiking area.

In short, you first need to reach the Þakgil campsite via road 214. The road is open for visitors only in summer, typically from mid-June until the end of September. We recommend driving a higher ground clearance car because the road is very bumpy.

Once in Thakgil, you must take the yellow or red hiking trail. When you reach the northernmost end of these trails, you need to continue to the north via a partially marked white trail. After hiking further along the eastern ridge of the Þakgil Canyon, Huldujökull will appear in front of you on a clear day.

Our tips

Don’t go on a foggy day, you will see nothing. We also highly recommend avoiding heavy rain and winds, as they can be dangerous.

Our favorite day hike was a Yellow Trail – Huldujökull – Red Trail loop. It’s a long and challenging hike but very much worth your energy.

4. Strútsfoss waterfall

strutsfoss waterfall iceland

Why go

Have you ever heard about Hengifoss, the red strata waterfall in East Iceland? The car park is typically completely packed, and the path to Hengifoss suffers from human traffic jams.

What about an even larger red strata waterfall with a two-level cascade where you will be alone? Well, that exactly is Strútsfoss.

List of 130 most beautiful Icelandic Waterfalls with detailed info.

Strútsfoss is breathtakingly picturesque, and you can reach it via an easy hiking trail, suitable also for a nice family hike.

How to get there

Why is Strútsfoss still a hidden gem, then? Because it’s not so easy to find the trailhead.

The main orientation point you have to get to is the Sturluflöt farm. Strustfoss car park lies right next to the farm. You must take Road 935 on the southeastern bank of the river and drive all the way to the farm.

strutsfoss waterfall map

Map of the road and hiking trail to Strútsfoss waterfall

The major part of this road is not depicted in international maps like Google Maps. But the road is there and is an easy gravel road accessible in summer. Not sure about the winter, though.

Any car should be able to make it to the car park. It then takes about 1 hour of easy hiking from the car park to reach Strútsfoss.

Our tips

It’s impossible to get very close to the waterfall. It would involve hiking on unmarked trails and treacherous river crossings. We don’t recommend doing that without a local guide.

However, the main viewpoint at the end of the marked hiking trail is more than stunning anyway.

5. Brúnavík beach

brunavik beach borgarfjordur eystri iceland

Virtually everything between a T-shirt and 4 layers with a jacket. These are the clothes for the highlands.

Why go

In our humble opinion, Brúnavík beach is the most beautiful hike in Borgarfjordur Eystri and one of the most stunning beaches in Iceland. It can be proudly considered one of the hidden gems in Iceland.

When hiking to the Brúnavík beach from Bakkagerdi, we felt like on another planet. The beach is particularly jaw-dropping on a sunny day.

The best viewpoints of the Brúnavík hike are in the second half of the trek when you descend to the beach and then on the beach itself.

How to get there

The trailhead can easily be overlooked as it is located just on the side of Road 94 near the Kolbeinsfjara cliffs in Bakkagerdi.

Our Brúnavík beach hiking experience in September.

There’s a little car park that can serve only a few cars. It will then take you about 2.5 hours and 8 kilometers (5 miles) of moderate hiking to reach Brúnavík.

There are several hiking trail options. We wrote a detailed article about our hikes in Borgarfjordur Eystri and also alternative hiking options around Brunavik.

Our tips

An out-and-back hike to Brúnavík beach is the most efficient option with the best views.

Don’t get discouraged by the first half of the hike. It’s a tad uneventful without extraordinary views. Nevertheless, the main reward will come during the second half of the trip.

6. Snaekollur hike

snaekollur hike kerlingarfjoll

Snækollur hike in Kerlingarfjöll is one of the best off-the-beaten-path places in Iceland

Why go

Snækollur is the tallest peak of the otherworldly orange mountains of Kerlingarfjöll. If you climb Snaekollur on a clear day, you will be guaranteed the best views over the entire Kerlingarfjöll.

Almost every Kerlingarfjöll visitor hikes just the main geothermal Hveradalir hot spring area. While beautiful, it’s not the best viewpoint of Kerlingarfjöll. The peak of Snaekollur is.

How to hike Snaekollur in Kerlingarfjoll – our detailed experience.

Hike to Snækollur is more challenging compared to Hveradalir, but totally worth every step.

How to get there

First, you need to arrive at the main Kerlingarfjöll area by highland roads (F)35 and F347. For that, you need a 4wd car. Even a small one should be sufficient.

 

Right before Hveradalir, you must take the detour left to Fannborg car park. This is where the trailhead to Snækollur begins.

Our tips

The Snaekollur hike is not the easiest one, but also not one of the worst. Bring hiking poles, watch the weather forecast in advance, try to avoid heavy rain, fog, and winds.

Orientation may be a bit difficult because the marks are infrequent and, at some points, disappear altogether.

7. The Waterfall Circle

Kirkjufoss waterfall iceland

Kirkjufoss, part of the hidden waterfall circle in East Highlands

Why go

The Waterfall Circle is a magical place in the eastern highlands of Iceland you’ve most likely never heard about. It’s one of Iceland’s most incredible waterfall hikes, together with the famous Waterfall Way in Skógar.

There are almost ten waterfalls of various sizes and shapes along the Waterfall Circle. The two most astonishing ones are called Faxi and Kirkjufoss.

If you are at least remotely a waterfall enthusiast, this hike is an absolute must-do for you!

How to get there

The Waterfall Circle trailhead begins at Laugarfell Guesthouse. You may leave your car there.

How to visit Highlands of Iceland – guide to an epic road trip.

You can get to Laugarfell by any car from around June until September. The same applies to the hike, which is snow-free precisely during this period.

Our tips

The waterfall trek is moderately difficult, about 8km (5 mi) long, and takes about 3 hours to complete.

When you have enough time, be sure to also soak up in a nearby Laugarfell hot spring (paid).

If you, instead, prefer a wilder experience, you may take a longer drive to the other side of the Kárahnjúkar dam. There you may hike around the magnificent Hafrahvammagljufur canyon or take a dip in a wild Laugavallalaug hot spring.

8. Hungurfit track

hungurfit road iceland

Hungurfit track

Why go

Hungurfit Road is one of the toughest tracks to drive in southern Icelandic highlands. And also one of the most fairy-tale-like.

Hungurfit is the name of the mountain hut in the middle of this dirt track. The track connects F-roads F210 and F261 across the highlands, and it’s one of the top off-the-beaten-path roads in Iceland.

What are the dirt tracks in Iceland? Can you drive them too?

The entire area is an excellent spot for 4×4 enthusiasts as well as nature lovers. The highlights of Hungurfit drive include Lush green valleys, hills with views over highlands, and countless small streams and medium river crossings.

How to get there

Hungurfit is strictly only for advanced 4×4 drivers equipped with proper cars. A large 4wd vehicle is an absolute minimum, and we highly recommend renting a super jeep to pass the track safely.

Hungurfit track is very rough, with uneven terrain, steep ridge drives, and several river fords. You can get to Hungurfit from the north from road F210 or from the south from F261.

Our tips

The most scenic spot is a narrow pass between two colossal stone boulders. You have to pass it with an inch of precision, otherwise, you could damage your car.

This is where locals go play with their modified jeeps and where many private super jeep tours would take you on their highland tours.

9. Mt Laki

laki crater hike

Mount Laki at Laki Craters is one of the Icelandic hidden gems almost nobody knows about

Why go

Mt Laki is the highlight of a visit to Laki Craters – an area full of hundreds of 200 years old volcanos. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to enjoy the surreal atmosphere of this place.

After just a short climb, Mt Laki offers an unbelievable one-of-its-kind view over the Laki volcanos. This is also one of our favorite spots in the highlands of Iceland.

If you plan a trip to Laki, be sure to check out our detailed guide to Laki craters.

How to get there

The main roads leading to Laki are F-roads F206 and F207. Both require you to drive at least a medium-sized 4wd car to pass without problems.

Roads to Laki craters are open only in summer, typically from early July until late September.

A drive to Laki is long, bumpy, and involves two medium-sized river crossings. One on F206 next to Fagrifoss waterfall and one on F207 near Tjarnargigur lake. We recommend reserving an entire day to visit Laki area at a relaxed pace.

Our tips

When going to Laki craters, don’t forget to visit also the fabulous Fagrifoss waterfall next to F-road F206 and tranquil Tjarnargigur lake along the road F207.

10. Núpsárfoss waterfall

nupsarfoss hvitarfoss iceland

Núpsárfoss and Hvitarfoss in Núpsstaðaskógur

Why go

Núpsárfoss and Hvitarfoss are two hard to reach hidden gems among Icelandic waterfalls. They are unique waterfalls of two different watercolors right next to each other.

This scenic place has been formed thanks to a one of its kind natural phenomenon. Two different rivers, a clear river Hvítá and a glacial river Núpsá, flow into the same spot. This way, they create this unbelievable play of colors.

If you are adventurous and love exploring entirely remote spots, then a hike to Núpsárfoss will be one of your favorites. Zero tourists expected.

How to get there

Getting to Núpsárfoss is very difficult. Although located not too far from the ring road, next to Skaftafell park, there’s no road or marked trail leading to Núpsárfoss or Hvitarfoss.

Love remote places? Check our list of 25 best places in the Highlands of Iceland.

There is a dirt track for super jeeps that can get you closer to the waterfalls, however, it changes every year with the movement of nearby rivers. Sometimes it’s even entirely flooded.

An alternative option is to walk from the ring road to the waterfall. Just bear in mind it’s about 10km (6 mi) one way.

Once you reach the Núpsstaðaskógur area, you must then climb a several meters high rock with the help of the rope to reach the most beautiful viewpoints of the valley.

Our tips

We highly recommend contacting a local or a ranger in Skaftafell before the hike and asking about the best available trail at the time of your visit.

11. Raudaskal crater

raudaskal crater iceland

Rauðaskál crater, often marked as a “hidden” spot.

Why go

Rauðaskál crater is one of Iceland’s most impressive volcanic craters, yet overlooked by most visitors. Its unique red color makes it an attractive spot to visit in the southern Icelandic Highlands, close to the Hekla volcano.

Raudaskal experience also feels like one of the darkest and most remote corners of Iceland. You will be surrounded by the harsh volcanic area of Hekla with a very mysterious atmosphere.

How to visit Raudaskál crater in Iceland.

How to get there

You may drive to the upper edge of Raudaskal by a challenging dirt track suitable for big jeeps only and not covered by any insurance.

Alternatively, you can drive to the bottom edge of the crater and take a steep hike to the upper edge. The road leading to the bottom is still a problematic dirt track but more accessible than the one going up.

A large 4×4 car like Land Cruiser is an absolute minimum for this track. We would not drive to Rauðaskál in anything other than a super jeep. There may be snowfields, huge potholes, and steep slopes on the road.

The tracks are snow-free between July and September.

Our tips

Rauðaskál is not a trip for beginners in the Highlands. Practice 4×4 driving elsewhere first, and once you feel comfortable enough, then come and see the Raudaskal crater.

12. Hvannagil Valley

hvannagil golden valley hike

Hvannagil golden valley hike – the ascent

Why go

If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path hike close to the ring road with panoramic views, look no further. The Hvannagil Golden Valley meets these criteria precisely.

Hvannagil is an area full of secluded canyons, dry river beds, and interestingly colored hills usually only Icelanders tend to visit.

Our detailed article about hiking the Hvannagil Valley.

How to get there

A gravel track called Grænahlíð on the eastern bank of the river Skyndidalsá will take you from Stafafell right into the heart of Hvannagil. Many Icelanders have their holiday houses here, so please don’t park or stroll through the private property.

You can get to the bottom of the Hvannagil Valley by any car, although a higher ground clearance car will be more comfortable due to the large gravel on the road.

Our tips

We took the Hvannagil loop hiking trail and were happy about the choice. The loop is one of the most beautiful hikes in the area, and it took us just 2 hours to complete.

If you want to drive past the Hvannagil loop trailhead, come with at least a medium-sized 4wd car. The track gets tougher, steeper, and narrower the further you drive.

13. Strútslaug hot spring

strutslaug hot spring iceland

Strútslaug hot spring deep in the Fjallabak highlands of Iceland

Why go

One of the hardest-to-reach and isolated Icelandic hot springs in the wilderness? That is Strútslaug.

Quietly hiding in the middle of the southern highlands of Iceland, Strútslaug is a perfect spot for hikers seeking a refreshment during their highland treks.

Our day trip to Strútslaug hot spring in the highlands.

Strutslaug is not extraordinarily picturesque or comfortable to bathe in. However, what makes it rare is the adventure of reaching it with the reward of bathing alone in the highlands.

How to get there

The only way to reach Strútslaug is to hike. Strutslaug is located close to the famous Laugavegur trail and the Maelifell volcano.

The shortest hiking trail to Strútslaug leads from the Strútur hut and takes about 1.5 hours one way to finish.

To get to the Strútur hut, however, you need to drive various difficult F-roads and dirt tracks. First, the highland road F210 and then the Strútur dirt track. Both involve crossing medium-sized rivers and are suitable only for large 4wd cars and, ideally, super jeeps.

Our tips

The hike to Strútslaug from Strútur is easy and comfortably doable with kids. The tricky part is the drive.

Always consult your car rental company before driving any dirt tracks in Iceland. Typically all the insurance is void, and sometimes it’s even forbidden unless you rent a super jeep.

14. Dynkur canyon

Búðarhálsfoss (Dynkur) waterfall iceland

Búðarhálsfoss (Dynkur)

Why go

Dynkur, or in Icelandic also Búðarhálsfoss, is a gigantic canyon close to a highland road F26 filled with tens of picturesque waterfalls.

It is one of the least-known, yet stunning, waterfalls in the highlands. If you have enough time and a proper car around the Sprengisandur road, we recommend you go and see Dynkur.

An ideal time for a visit is in summer, from early July until late September. Outside of this period, the dirt tracks leading to Dynkur may be muddy, and you can quickly get stuck with no help nearby.

How to get there

You will not find roads to Dynkur on Google Maps. You have to use the local map.

How to choose the Best Car for Iceland based on your trip.

Take the gravel detour north of the road 26, but south of Sultartangalón. You can then reach Dynkur from the southern bank. You will have to hike a last mile or so.

What car do you need to reach Dynkur? Well, it depends. In dry summer conditions, any 4wd vehicle should be sufficient. However, once it rains or the track gets distorted, the bigger the 4×4 car the better.

Our tips

We always better travel to the highlands in the super jeep. Yes, it is expensive. But, once you go to remote places like this, there’s always a risk something will happen to your car. And the bigger the car, the lower this risk.

15. Sveinstindur hike

langisjór lake iceland

View over the Langisjór Lake from the Sveinstindur trail

Why go

Sveinstindur is the highest peak of the surreal Langisjór Lake area. Views from the summit of Sveinstindur on a nice day are simply breathtaking.

This is one of our favorite hidden gems in Iceland. We discovered it just a few years ago, and since then, we keep coming back as if we were pulled by a magnet.

The entire landscapes around Langisjór are unique, picturesque, and more than just worth a detour. For us, Sveinstindur resembles a hike somewhere on the moon.

How to get there

The easiest way to reach the Sveinstindur trailhead is by taking the F-roads F208 and F235 to Langisjór. The hike to Sveinstindur then takes about 1.5 hours to complete one way.

Our drive to Langisjór via F235 and our next drive via Langisjór dirt tracks.

The trek to Sveinstindur is short, steep, and well-marked with sticks. You will need to climb some narrow spots with rocks, so the hike is not for the faint-hearted. Hiking poles will surely help.

If you are an offroad enthusiast, you can reach Sveinstindur trailhead also by driving several adventurous dirt tracks around Langisjór like Faxasund, Botnlangalón or Skaelingar and Blautulón. A super jeep is preferable for these roads.

Our tips

We’ve made several attempts to hike Sveinstindur in rain and fog and to no avail. Don’t make the same mistake as we’ve done. It doesn’t make sense to hike Sveinstindur when it’s foggy. You will not see anything.

16. Krakatindur track

krakatindur mountain iceland

Legendary Krakatindur mountain

Why go

As the name of this road suggests, Krakatindur is one of the darkest roads in the Icelandic Highlands. We drove Krakatindur on a rainy August day and it was a hell of an adventure.

A pointy green volcano mountain named Krakatindur is the main highlight of the dirt track. However, there’s more to see.

How to rent a Super Jeep in Iceland?

The road begins next to the beautiful Raudaskal crater and connects it to the Raudufossar waterfall hiking trail. If you plan a day in the highlands around Hekla, Krakatindur is an exciting track to take.

How to get there

You can easily get to Krakatindur road when you turn south from the F-road F225, or Landmannaleid. However, this is where the easy part ends.

Krakatindur is very rough, and it’s not even an F-road. There are huge holes and steep hillside drives at every step along the road. Only an experienced driver equipped with a super jeep should drive this road.

Our tips

We saw Dacia Duster entering one end of the Krakatindur track, but we didn’t see it exiting the other end.

So can you take a Dacia Duster on this road? For sure, you can, but you will most likely not get it out of this road anymore 🙂

17. Tungnaárfellsfoss waterfall

Tungnaárfellsfoss waterfall iceland

Tungnaárfellsfoss

Why go

When looking for off-the-beaten-track waterfalls, Tungnaárfellsfoss should not miss on your list. It is one of the widest waterfalls in Iceland and it is actually not that hard to reach.

Tungnaarfelsfoss is a wild highland waterfall close to Landmannalaugar and a popular stop for many private super jeep tours.

It takes just a short while to visit it, so if you are seeking for something different, this may be a thing for you.

Need an inspiration? Read about the best places in Landmannalaugar!

How to get there

Tungnaárfellsfoss sits right next to northern Road 208, former F208 North. It takes about 15 minutes of driving to reach the waterfall from the famous Sigöldugljúfur Canyon.

You will have to leave your car beside the road and walk to the waterfall via an unmarked trail to see it from the best viewpoint. In summer, any vehicle should be sufficient to reach this spot when driven correctly.

Our tips

Combine the stop at Tungnaárfellsfoss with the visit to Landmannalauagar. There are many amazing places to see in Landmannalaugar and around as well.

18. Ker cliffs

ker cliffs iceland Þerribjörg

Ker, or Þerribjörg Sea Cliffs

Why go

Ker is an often-overlooked peninsula in East Iceland with some unique and gorgeous hikes to take along its coastline. One such hike is a trek to the Þerribjörg Sea Cliffs, sometimes called Ker cliffs.

We’ve discovered Ker cliffs just by chance, and they quickly became one of our favorite hikes in the Eastfjords.

How to go off-the-beaten path in Iceland?

The coast of the Therribjorg, or Ker, cliffs forms one of the most breathtaking beaches and coastlines in Iceland. Moreover, it is very scarcely visited even during the high season.

How to get there

Ker cliffs are easy to reach via gravel road 917, or Hlíðarvegur in Icelandic. From the south it’s just a comfortable flat-road drive. From the north, you must take the somewhat scary mountain pass.

If you are at least slightly adventurous, we actually recommend taking the mountain pass, be it before or after the hike. It offers fantastic views over the coast on a clear day, and the drive itself is an adventure too.

You can easily pass Road 917 in any car, typically from May until October. Just watch out for the official road conditions and potential closures and openings.

Our tips

Þerribjörg Sea Cliffs is an easy family hike that will take you about 1.5 hours to complete as a roundtrip. It is a great photo spot as well as a place for a small picnic.

19. Lónsöræfi

f980 lonsoraefi jokulsa views

Views at Jökulsá river from F980

Why go

Lonsoraefi is a mountain range somewhat similar to the rainbow mountains of Landmannnalaugar, not yet been discovered by any foreign travelers. It offers wonderful hiking opportunities for more hardcore hiking enthusiasts.

Lónsöræfi is special thanks to its unconquered trails and thrilling views in the very remote surroundings. It’s a hikers’ paradise, especially for the locals who often visit the area in the summer.

Always check road conditions, weather forecast, and safety warnings before any trip!

How to get there

The main caveat of visiting Lonsoraefi lies in its accessibility. To get to the main Lónsöræfi area, you have to complete a drive on the road F980, Kollumúlavegur. That being said, F980 is one of the most troublesome F-roads in Iceland.

The main problem with F980 is one of the most treacherous river crossings in Iceland. Roughly around the mid-point of the road, you must cross the wide and deep Skyndidalsá river.

Never do this alone, not even in a super jeep! Always call someone local for help.

Our tips

Ask for assistance with the Skyndidalsá river crossing either at Stafafell guesthouse or contact the company called South East Iceland.

20. Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon

markarfljotsgljufur east viewpoint

East viewpoint of Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon

Why go

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and Stuðlagil Canyon are in every other Icelandic visitor’s photo album. So how to beat all these crowds heading to these two canyons? Visit Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon instead!

Markarfljotsgljufur is a massive ravine hidden in the highland next to the F-road F261. Some may argue it’s even more picturesque than the other crowded canyons. It’s undoubtedly unique and remote.

How to get to Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon in Iceland?

You can hike along the edge of Markarfljótsgljúfur both from the eastern bank and the western back. And as is the case with many of Iceland’s hidden gems, the canyon is not easy to reach.

How to get there

Regardless of which side you choose to hike to, you need to first take the highland road F261 to approach the gorge.

The western viewpoint is easier to reach but less spectacular. You must take a short but very rough dirt track detour east from F261. A large 4wd car or a super jeep is highly recommended.

The eastern viewpoint is even tougher to get to. You have to take the Emstrur dirt track toward the Emstrur hut. This is a longer and similarly challenging drive with some pretty steep ascents and descents.

Our tips

If you want to avoid the worst part of the Emstrur track, don’t take the western branch! This is where the roughest and steepest part of the track is, where even our 31” Land Cruiser struggled to pass.

21. Morsárfoss waterfall

Morsárfoss waterfall iceland

Morsárfoss

Why go

Do you know which waterfall in Iceland is the highest? No, it’s not Skógafoss, nor Dettifoss. The tallest Icelandic waterfall is a little-known Morsárfoss.

Morsarfoss is no ordinary waterfall. It’s a glacial waterfall falling down from a giant glacier in Skaftafell with a respectable height of 230m (750ft).

It’s too dangerous to hike close to Morsárfoss, but you can still experience it from afar. Several treks can take you to the proximity of Morsárfoss, with the best one being a climb to Kristínartindar.

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How to get there

The best and most sought-for viewpoint of Morsarfossar can be enjoyed from the summit of Kristínartindar.

You may hike Kristínartindar from Skaftafell Park, but it’s not easy and requires experienced hikers and good preparation.

It takes about 4 hours of climbing and 11km (7 mi) to reach the best viewpoints.

Our tips

Good weather is crucial for this trip. Wait for the day you are sure will be dry, windless, and fogless.

22. Blautulón Lake track

Skælingar blautulon track langisjor iceland

Skælingar track and Blautulón track to Langisjór are Iceland’s off-the-beaten-path roads

Why go

In Iceland, you may bathe in the hot waterfall or sail in the glacial lagoon. But did you know you can also drive through the lake in the highlands? You can do this perfectly legally on a Blautulon dirt track.

Blautulón Lake dirt track, which gradually turns into Skælingar dirt track, is one of our favorite highland tracks in Iceland. It’s one of the old access roads to Lake Langisjór and one of the most deserted ones.

Our Skælingar-Blautulón road trip to Langisjór article.

The highlight of this drive is the picturesque, crystal-blue lake Blautulón. Once you arrive at the lake, you will realize there’s no other way to continue than to drive inside the edge of the lake. There’s even a road sign for this!

How to get there

To access the southern end of the Skælingar-Blautulón dirt track, you have to arrive by road F208, close to the Eldgjá area. The detour towards Skaelingar is then located just a few kilometers south of the detour to Eldgjá, just a few meters south of the little ranger’s hut.

There’s one medium to big river crossing right at the beginning of the track next to F208. So if you feel unsure about the drive, you may just turn back immediately.

The track doesn’t involve any other river crossings, but you have to cross the lake. It is similar to fording a medium-sized river. A large 4wd car or a super jeep is necessary, and a car snorkel is a considerable advantage.

Our tips

If you are already experienced in driving through the highlands, we recommend you take a loop trail. Drive to Langisjór via F235 and come back via the dirt tracks of Blautulón and Skælingar. This is the most beautiful drive possible.

23. Kverkfjöll

kverkfjoll hveradalur highland iceland

One of the least visited corners of the Highland of Iceland – Hveradalur in Kverkfjöll

Why go

Kverkfjöll is a glacial mountain range and an extensive hot springs area in the eastern highlands of Iceland. You can visit ice caves nobody knows about, observe hot pots and take several challenging hikes in Kverkfjöll.

If you aim for an adventurous experience without any fellow tourists, then Kverkfjöll may serve you well.

Never go without a guide or at least without consulting a Kverkfjöll ranger, though. You may have to hike through the glacier with a lot of crevasses. The local knowledge of the area is an absolute necessity.

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How to get there

You can access Kverkfjöll only in summer by the highland road F902, Kverkfjallaleið and/or F903, Hvannalindavegur.

F902 doesn’t contain any river crossings. It’s just a rough mountain road. That being said, all the connecting roads, be it F910, F905, or F88, all contain medium-sized rivers that have to be forded.

F903 is a bit tougher to drive with more challenging terrain and two unbridged medium-sized rivers.

Our tips

A hike from the Kverkfjöll cabin at the foot of the glacier to the hot spring area and back will take a full day. There are guided tours that start at the hut.

24. Vonarskarð hot springs

Vonarskarð iceland

Vonarskarð – a hidden gem in Iceland nobody writes about

Why go

Vonarskarð is a hard-to-access hot spring area hidden in the central highlands of Iceland. Vonarskarð has a little bit of everything:

  • a little bit of Landmannalaugar-like mountains
  • a little bit of Kerlingarfjöll-like hot springs
  • a few colossal glaciers around
  • a lot of harsh central highlands everywhere

How to get there

Vonarskarð is one of the most difficult-to-access places in Iceland. It has two main access points:

  1. The western one via the Svarthöfði dirt track
  2. The northern one via the Gjósta dirt track

List of all F-roads in Iceland with detailed info on each road.

To reach these points, you must first get into the central highlands, either by road F26 or by the central F910.

Most of these roads involve crossing medium to big rivers, and we highly recommend driving them exclusively in a super jeep.

Our tips

We visited Vonarskarð because we’d heard a story from one hiker describing a beautiful remote hot spring where he supposedly bathed at. We desperately searched for this hot spring but haven’t found any. Only steaming fumaroles not suitable for any bathing.

25. Bergárfoss waterfall

Bergárfoss waterfall iceland

Bergárfoss

Why go

Bergarfoss waterfall is most likely the prettiest and most secluded waterfall in North Iceland. Foreign tourists only very rarely stumble upon this waterfall, and locals don’t tend to visit the place either.

This makes Bergárfoss one of the hidden gems of North Iceland. The unclear directions on how to reach the waterfall will probably keep Bergárfoss away from the crowds for the time being.

How to get there

To reach the Bergárfoss, you must first get to the more famous Kolugljúfur Canyon. From there, take the local gravel road further to the south, but on the eastern bank of the river, not the western one.

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After about 4km (2.5 mi) long drive, you need to stop, leave your car at the side of the road, and continue by walking. Finding Bergárfoss is part of the adventure!

A 4wd car is necessary for all seasons to pass the gravel road safely. The road may be impassable in winter, although a large 4×4 car like Land Cruiser may be able to make it when appropriately driven.

Our tips

Please never block the road with your car, nor touch the moss or anything alive with your vehicle! Park on the gravel instead!

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Posted by Igor in Top Places, 3 comments
Snækollur – Hiking the highest peak of Kerlingarfjöll

Snækollur – Hiking the highest peak of Kerlingarfjöll

Snækollur is the highest peak of an amazingly beautiful Kerlingarfjöll. And guess what happens if you hike to the tallest point of the heavenly place? You will be getting once-in-a-lifetime views!

And that’s exactly what you will get once you climb to Snækollur on a nice day. Views above Kerlingarfjöll you will never forget.

Most Kerlingarfjöll visitors go just for the Hveradalir hot spring area and/or just visit the Kerlingarfjöll campsite area. Both of these are quite easy to hike, and this way, typically, everybody ends up visiting the same spots. Instead, we wanted to do something different this time. A hike to the highest peak of Kerlingarfjöll, Snækollur, seemed an ideal candidate.

Hike in a Nutshell

Hiking time: 4 to 7 hours round-trip (depends on the trail and conditions)
Length: 9.3km / 5.8mi
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Season: July to September
Obstacles: slippery terrain, snowfields, sometimes bad visibility and sparse marking
Trail map: Snaekollur main hiking trail

Snækollur main hiking trail via Fannborg. Powered by Wikiloc

Kerlingarfjöll Hiking Map

Snækollur hiking trail map

The main hiking trail to Snækollur along other Kerlingarfjöll hiking trails

How to get to the Snækollur trailhead

It’s easy to reach Kerlingarfjöll by car via Kjölur (road 35, or former F35) and F347. You need a proper 4×4 car, though. We’ve already explained how to get to Kerlingarfjöll in our Guide to Kerlingarfjöll.

Heading to Highlands? Read how to prepare for Highlands in Iceland.

Snækollur trailhead is just a few hundred meters from the main Hveradalir geothermal area. You can easily park there, similar to parking in Hveradalir.

When to hike Snækollur

We highly recommend hiking only from mid-July until mid-September, when the trails are clear of snow. Sometimes, when spring is hot enough, it may also be possible to do the hike a few weeks earlier. And vice versa, when summer is longer than usual, also a few weeks later.

These are the Top 25 Places in Icelandic Highlands.

Regarding weather, we again highly recommend visiting only on days without rain or strong winds. Ideally, you aim for a day with good visibility. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to hike to Snækollur and see nothing from above.

How to hike Snækollur

Hike to Snækollur is challenging. It’s no easy walk. You need to be in good physical shape to climb all the way up. On the other hand, the Snækollur hike is not especially dangerous or exposed if you come at the right time, in the right shape, and follow the right trails.

Now what about equipment? I highly recommend you bring hiking poles and a satellite location device, for example, PLB, if any emergency occurs. Otherwise, just autumn hiking clothes are needed.

snækollur hike kerlingarfjöll views

Views from the peak of Snækollur

Expect very chilly weather. The temperature reached around 5°C (41°F) at noon in July, when we reached the peak of Snækollur. Kerlingarfjöll is one of the coldest areas in Iceland due to its proximity to two glaciers and a pretty high altitude.

Oh, and one last thing – if you want to do the hike as a loop, starting at an unmarked trail in Hveradalir (as we did), you will need to cross a river. In that case, bring some water shoes and a little towel.

Hiking trails to Snækollur

There is one main hiking trail to Snækollur. It begins next to the Hveradalir geothermal area car park and leads first to the peak of Fannborg and then to Snækollur. It can only be done as an out-and-back trail. The main route is the easiest one for orientation.

snaekollur hike map kerlingarfjoll

Various hiking trails to Snaekollur, most of them unmarked

Then there are also several unmarked hiking trails leading to and from Snækollur. It was almost impossible to get any info about ANY of these trails, even the marked one, before our trip. This was also one of the main reasons why I decided to write this article.

All the alternative routes to make a “loop trail” are unmarked or barely marked. We’ve chosen one of these loop trails. And it was pretty hard to follow. I recommend instead taking the marked trail to Snaekollur and back the same way.

Before every trip check weather forecast, road conditions, and safety warnings.

Fannborg car park to Snaekollur – the main trail

When you drive to Hveradalir, coming from the Kerlingarfjöll campsite direction, there’s an often-overlooked detour left, a few hundred meters before reaching Hveradalir. This detour will take you to the Fannborg car park.

This is the beginning spot for the only marked trail to Snaekollur. We took this route on our way down, returning from the peak. This is the recommended trail. We describe it in detail in the section about the descent.

The barely marked loop trail we took (not recommended – take the main trail instead). Powered by Wikiloc

Hveradalir car park to Snaekollur – mostly unmarked

This is the trail we took on our way up. It starts at a Hveradalir hot springs area (marked) and follows as an unmarked detour towards the river crossing. You then steeply and steadily climb upwards to Fannborg, where you will join the marked main Fannborg trail. For more details, see our Snækollur experience below.

Other trails – mostly unmarked

There are multiple other, mostly unmarked trails leading to and around Snaekollur – see our Snækollur trails map. Most of them were covered by deep snow at the time of our visit in July. I strongly advise against taking these trails without a local guide. There’s a risk of an avalanche and dangerous falls.

Our Snækollur hiking experience

snaekollur hike kerlingarfjoll

Views from the Snækollur hike in Kerlingarfjöll

Since our first visit to Kerlingarfjöll, I wanted to see Kerlingarfjöll also in nice weather, which seemed almost impossible. I’ve been watching the forecast for quite some time, and Kerlingarfjöll had the worst weather possible for most of the time. The same happened last July when I was planning our 2nd visit.

Trail and Conditions

We began our hike to Snaekollur at 11:00 after a long morning drive from Selfoss to Kerlingarfjöll in the middle of July. The weather was very nice when it came to Kerlingarfjöll – cloudy, no rain, little wind, and occasional sun fighting through the clouds.

It was not ideal, though. From time to time, some huge fog clouds appeared, especially the higher we were on the trail. Nevertheless, this was definitely very good weather for the hike.

Snækollur hike views

Snækollur hike views

We chose a loop trail that starts in Hveradalir hot spring area, follows a marked path in Hveradalir towards Hverabotn, and then it turns into an unmarked trail as a direct ascent to Fannborg. Once reaching Fannborg, it then continues via a classical partially marked trail to Snækollur.

We finished at Snækollur, turned back, took the main marked trail down via snowfields to reach the north-eastern Fannborg car park, and then walked back to Hveradalir. This was our Snækollur hiking trail in a nutshell. Now how did it look in detail?

Ascent from Hveradalir

We left the car in a classical Hveradalir car park, where visitors of all the Hveradalir hot spring area park. Firstly, we descended to the famous hot spring area. Several short hiking trails lead all around Hveradalir, so we struggled a bit to connect to the correct path toward Snaekollur.

Following the Wikiloc trail on our cell phones definitely helped a lot. In Hveradalir, we turned left, climbed stairs onto a nearby hill, and continued hiking the otherworldly landscapes of Kerlingarfjöll for a few hundred meters.

hveradalir ascent to snaekollur

Beginning of the unmarked trail from Hveradalir to Snækollur

The marked trail then starts turning right. However, this is the direction toward another hot spring area called Hverabotn, not the right direction for our hike. Firstly, we got confused and hiked a little bit in this direction, but then we realized we had to take a different – unmarked – trail, so we did.

We followed some barely visible footsteps, which anyway disappeared for most of the time, and mostly used Wikiloc GPS trail for orientation.

Please never ever step on moss or fragile orange soil. It may never recover. If unsure, you better take a marked trail.

River crossing

We reached the point where there was no other way than to cross the nearby river. We searched for a suitable spot for a while and had to descend down to the river via slippery hills, following the almost invisible footsteps and our GPS.

At times even GPS didn’t help because its precision is relatively poor without a satellite connection. Nonetheless, we were surrounded by the fantastic beauty of Kerlingarfjöll and full of energy and motivation to reach Snaekollur.

We finally found an (at least for us) suitable crossing point. We removed our shoes, put on our wading shoes, and quickly crossed the ice-cold river stream.

Soon after the river crossing, another obstacle appeared right in front of us. A large, melting snowpack was blocking the (at least what we thought to be) trail, so we had to find a safe and careful way around it.

A word of caution – never step on any moss in Iceland, and don’t step on the ground in a way that the soil below your feet falls down. This can cause erosion to the fragile soil. If this is the case, find a different path or turn back.

The Worst Part

After about 20 minutes of searching for the best spot to climb the nearby hill, we finally found our way. We finished the very steep and slippery ascent with the substantial help of our hiking poles. This was one of the worst spots of the entire hike – hard orientation and risk of falling down. That’s why we instead recommend taking the main marked trail.

Snækollur hiking trail ascent

Snækollur hiking trail ascent

The footsteps completely disappeared at this point, and we only had to use our GPS trail. GPS was inaccurate and often led directly via deeper snowfields, which didn’t feel safe to cross through.

During this part, we basically had to traverse a lot between snowfields and take special care to step only on stones and gravel and head towards Fannborg. This is precisely the point where you need good visibility. I cannot imagine heading towards Fannborg if we didn’t see it before us.

Fannborg ascent

What followed was the steep and steady ascent towards Fannborg, with the ground covered by trillions of pieces of broken stones. With each step, we were getting more and more rewarded with better and better views of the entire Kerlingarfjöll area. You will not get these views anywhere else, only from this hike.

snaekollur trek kerlingarfjoll

Between Fannborg and Snækollur

After about less than an hour, we successfully connected to the (supposedly) yellow-marked hiking trail leading from the left (from the Fannborg car park) and continuing up to Fannborg and Snaekollur. The only thing was – the marks were not there 🙂 However, the footsteps on the ground were more evident, so we could follow them more easily. Finally, some guidance.

We reached the peak of Fannborg after 2.5 hours of hiking from Hveradalir. On a nice day with good visibility, views from Fannborg are already more than impressive.

If, for whatever reason, you are unable or just don’t want to continue all the way to Snaekollur, you don’t need to regret it too hard because you will already see close to the best available views from Fannborg.

fannborg kerlingarfjoll views

Views from Fannborg, the peak right before Snaekollur

Nevertheless, we initially thought we’d already reached Snækollur when we got to Fannborg. Only after checking the GPS, I wondered why it still shows less than one more kilometer to go.

Unfortunately, after we climbed to Fannborg, the fog settled down more intensely, interrupting our breathtaking views. At that moment, we contemplated ending the hike at Fannborg and turning back because continuing with almost zero visibility didn’t make sense. Moreover, Snækollur seemed still quite far away and not that easy to reach with a lot of snow on the trail.

Snækollur ridge

My cousin co-hiker, however, persuaded me to finish our hiking plan, no matter the weather. And luckily, I agreed. In the same way, the fog had started to settle down, it slowly faded away in a few minutes, and our spectacular views got even better.

snaekollur ridge snow

Snaekollur hike – ridge with snow

360° views into Kerlingarfjöll, Hveradalir, and around all nearby hills and hot springs partially covered with snow and partially with out-of-this-world orange and blue colors were simply overwhelming.

That being said, we still had to hike for quite some time through the ridge leading from Fannborg to Snaekollur. There was still a lot of snow on this part of the trail, so we had to be careful, and hiking poles came really handy here. We also had crampons in our backpacks but didn’t need them because the snow was soft, and the problem wasn’t the grip on the snow but the fear of falling deep into the snow. And, obviously, you don’t know what’s below the snow.

Firstly, we had to descend a bit from Fannborg, only to ascend again a few hundred meters later. The trail was not evident from a distance and sometimes not even clear a few meters ahead.

We reached the point where we had no other option than just to go through the snowfield and slightly climb over the big rock. During this part, we passed some pretty exposed spots of the trail, with steep falls on both sides. Luckily, the snow was firm enough to hold us, which we’d tried to test before stepping on it.

snaekollur peak kerlingarfjoll

At the peak of Snækollur

Finally, the last and the steepest climb took us to our final destination – the peak of Snækollur. It was hard but totally worth it! We felt like having climbed the Icelandic version of Mt. Everest.

Snækollur, the highest peak of the entire Kerlingarfjöll, obviously offers the best views out there over the Kerlingarfjöll area. We were lucky with good visibility and pleasant weather. Although cloudy, the clouds were high enough not to block our views and small enough not to produce rain. On a nice day, views from Snækollur could easily qualify as a natural wonder.

Descent – partially marked trail

If it wasn’t so cold out there, we would have stayed and admired the views for at least an hour. However, the reality was a bit harsher, with around 5°C (41°F) and occasional wind, up at Snaekollur. This meant that, by just sitting or standing, we started to feel pretty cold, and thus, we were pretty motivated to move again.

descent from fannborg

Descent from Fannborg

We had to return via the same steep and exposed parts, partially covered with snow, to reach Fannborg again (see section Snækollur ridge). Then we continued further down, now via the yellow-marked trail leading to the north-east. We got back to the little crossroads of our unmarked trail, which we used for the climb up and of a (supposedly) marked path with footsteps leading eastwards (to the right).

The trail led diagonally downwards on the slope of Fannborg, with billions of broken stones forming the ground. Still no marks, just footsteps. Eventually, we reached the point where there were only snowfields to continue through. One gigantic, which didn’t look very safe, and one smaller, with what looked like some old footsteps. We opted for the smaller snowfield with (hopefully) footsteps.

My cousin checked the snowfield, and it seemed to be pretty firm. Hence, we began our snowfield descent. Luckily, everything went alright. After crossing the biggest snowfield of our trip, we finally saw a stick in the ground. Is this supposed to be the mark or just the random stick? Yes, it turned out to be a mark, because it was followed by another yellow bar soon.

snaekollur trail snowfields

Snækollur hiking trail snowfields

Finally – a first real trail mark after 4 hours of hiking. This made the descent much more straightforward, and no other obstacles were on the trail. Soon we arrived at the Fannborg car park and headed back to the Hveradalir car park, which is about 10 minutes of walking on F347 away.

To sum up, the north-eastern (supposedly) marked trail to Fannborg is definitely easier in many aspects:

  1. The bottom part of this trail is marked, making orientation easier.
  2. Even after marks end, there should be trodden footsteps to follow in summer.
  3. This trail is much shorter. The unmarked trail via Hveradalir was more adventurous, but I instead recommend you take the partially marked trail from the separate Fannborg car park.
kerlingarfjoll highest peak view

Bird’s eye views of still snowy Kerlingarfjöll even in July, after the hard winter

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Posted by Igor in Highlands, Hikes, 0 comments
Hveravellir Hot Springs: 2024 Guide + Hiking Trails

Hveravellir Hot Springs: 2024 Guide + Hiking Trails

Hveravellir Hot Springs is a nice natural geothermal site in the middle of the highlands, pretty close to the famous Kerlingarfjöll.

Hveravellir is mostly special because there are several natural hot springs, and these things called fumaroles that bubble up from the ground. You can even take a dip in one of these natural hot pools.

There are also numerous trails for hiking, a little cafe, and a campsite. Hveravellir is surrounded by the remote area of the Kjolur Highland road, with great views of two big glaciers, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re into very remote lands and a bit of adventure.

How to get to Hveravellir

Unlike many other places in the Icelandic Highlands, Hveravellir is rather easy to reach. You can get to Hveravellir by driving or by a guided tour.

By Car

Road 35, or in Icelandic Kjölur or Kjalvegur, followed by Road 735, will get you to Hveravellir hot springs. These are both gravel roads where you officially don’t even need a 4wd car.

That being said, I do recommend driving a car with higher ground clearance, like Dacia Duster, which is typically also a 4wd car. The roads are bumpy and rough, with no river crossings.

When driving the highland roads in Iceland, always check the road conditions in advance, along with the official Icelandic weather forecast and current safety warnings!

f35 kjalvegur

F35, aka Kjalvegur, near Hveravellir

By Bus

There used to be a bus service from Reykjavik, but it has been recently canceled.

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By Tour

You can take a Hveravellir guided tour from Akureyri. The trip combines a visit to Kerlingarfjöll and Hveravellir to make the most of your day.

When to visit Hveravellir

The easiest and most popular time to visit Hveravellir is during Icelandic summer, i.e. between June and October.

Hveravellir hot springs

Hveravellir hot springs area, source: http://www.icelandofmine.com

Summer

Roads to Hveravellir typically become snow-free and mud-free sometimes between the end of May and the end of June. This is when the Icelandic Road Administration marks the road as “Easily Passable” instead of impassable.

Summer is the best time to visit Hveravellir because you can get there easily, hike freely in the area and there’s no danger of storms.

Roads to Hveravellir then become impassable again anytime between mid-September and the end of October once the new snow settles in.

Winter

It’s possible to visit Hveravellir also in winter and experience there fabulous Northern Lights, but only by a private jeep tour.

Top Things to Do in Hveravellir

Hveravellir is rather undeveloped without too many things to do. Yet hikers and hot springs enthusiasts will definitely have a fun time in here.

Hveravellir Hot Spring

hveravellir main bathing hot pool

Hveravellir main bathing hot pool

The number one thing to do in Hveravellir is undoubtedly the main Hveravellir hot spring. Bathing in a picturesque hot spring in the middle of nowhere is an unforgettable experience in any weather.

Hiking to Other Hot Springs

hveravellir hiking trails

Hiking around hot springs in Hveravellir

There are also many other hot pots and fumaroles where you can’t bathe, but you may still hike around them.

After seeing many other amazing places in Iceland, we found them a bit underwhelming, though. You can read more about our Hveravellir experience below.

Our tip: if you are short on time, take just a dip in the main hot spring. This was the highlight of our Hveravellir visit

Hveravellir Mountain Cafe

Right next to the parking lot, there’s a cute little cafe inside the Hveravellir Lodge. The lodge serves as a highland accommodation. You can also pitch your tent at the Hveravellir campsite right next to the lodge.

Hiking around Hveravellir

hveravellir hot springs iceland

The easiest hiking trail around Hveravellir hot springs takes about 20 minutes.

There are numerous hiking options in Hveravellir. The easiest but also the least spectacular option is just to wander around the main hot spring area.

The alternatives include longer hikes, where you will see some better views of the area, though not the best in Iceland in our opinion.

Hveravellir Hiking Trails

Hveravellir’s hiking trails offer harsh landscapes and historical points of interest entirely away from crowds or any civilization. The three main routes are the Green Trail, the Red Trail, and the Orange Trail.

Green Trail

hveravellir green hiking trail

Green hiking trail in Hveravellir. Source: www.hveravellir.is

Route: Eyvindarrétt Circle 
Length: 3km (1.8mi) 
Walking time: 30-50min
Elevation: almost none

The Green Trail takes you through a route lined with lava fields, moss heath, and heathland. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter an Arctic fox.

As you traverse this trail, one of the main points of interest is Eyvindarhellir, also known as Eyvindur’s cave. This was where Eyvindur and his wife took refuge with their sheep.

Alongside, you’ll also come across Eyvindarrétt, an impressive volcanic rock structure once used for sheep herding.

Red Trail

strytur hveravellir red hiking trail

Strýtur at the red hiking trail, source: www.hveravellir.is

Route: from Hveravellir to Strýtur and back 
Length: 12km (7.5mi) 
Walking time: 3-5 hours
Elevation: 240m (800ft)

Although a bit longer, the Red Hiking Trail in Hveravellir isn’t demanding, and anyone in fair shape can manage it. The trail offers a blend of grey, black, and brown colors, remnants of lava and volcanic ashes.

As you traverse this path, you’ll see steam escaping from beneath the lava and cross a few tiny streams. A nice stop is Strýtur crater, located amidst the lava field. It erupted roughly 7,000 years ago and is generally flat and vegetated, making it relatively easy to cross. You can even walk around Strýtur and even inside the crater.

On clear days, seeing glaciers, including the impressive Hrútfell, is a beautiful bonus.

Orange Trail

hveravellir orange hiking trail

Hveravellir orange hiking trail, source: www.hveravellir.is

Route: from Hveravellir to Þjófadalir and back 
Length: 21km (13mi) 
Walking time: 5-6 hours
Elevation: 150m (500ft)

The Orange Trail is straightforward and mostly flat, offering a diverse landscape to enjoy.

The literal translation of Þjófadalir would be the Valleys of the Thieves because several places in the area were used as hideouts for outlaws.

You will see lava fields, flowers, berries, and great views on this trek. The most spectacular ones are views over the mountain “Mt. Redhead” (Rauðkollur), the Langjökull glacier, and also of Kerlingarfjöll and Hofsjökull glacier.

Our experience with Hveravellir

Distance from car park: 2 minutes (hot spring)
Time spent at: 1 hour 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

I had been so excited to visit Hveravellir, imagining a crystal blue bubbling hot spring in my mind. I had read about the multiple hot springs in the area and seen some absolutely mesmerizing photos, so I was really looking forward to experiencing it all for ourselves.

hveravellir hot spring iceland

This is a typical picture of Hveravellir hot spring you will find on the internet. Real? Not really. Just post-processed.

Arrival

However, when we finally arrived, I was a bit underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the Hveravellir area was nice enough, but it just didn’t quite measure up to some of the other stunning landscapes we had seen in Iceland.

When we got to Hveravellir from road (F)35, it was a quick and easy drive to a parking area by a charming little restaurant.

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Our Hot Spring Experience

There was a public hot spring right next to the parking lot that was really nice, although it was pretty crowded since it was so convenient. Despite our visit in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis!

The hot spring itself was quite spacious, and the water was a lovely temperature, around 38°C from what I could tell.

hveravellir main hot spring

Hveravellir main hot spring, source: www.hveravellir.is

However, the air temperature was surprisingly chilly, even in August, hovering around 7-8°C. So, it’s definitely important to come prepared for those kinds of conditions, especially since you’re up in the highlands of Iceland.

Our Search for Other Hot Springs

We decided to take a chance and visit also the other hot springs in search of those mesmerizing photos I mentioned in the beginning. We had heard that there were multiple hot springs, so we set out to explore and hopefully find some that were less crowded.

We followed one of the hiking trails, which was an easy, flat path through fields with a great view, but no steam or hot springs in sight. We kept walking, hoping to stumble upon them, but after 20 minutes, we still had not found anything. Although we didn’t mind the walk, the scenery was unremarkable and lacked any exciting sights.

hveravellir trail

Hveravellir hiking trail. Pretty dull landscapes compared to other ones in Iceland

We did meet some sheep along the way, but they didn’t seem to know where the hot springs were either. Eventually, we reached a small hill, and I scanned the area, but still no hot springs in sight. We decided to take a different path on our way back, hoping for better luck.

Despite returning by the second trail, we still couldn’t find any hot springs. I was really looking forward to experiencing the stunning hot springs I had seen online, so I was determined to find them. As a last resort, we asked for help at a nearby restaurant.

hveravellir trail sheep

Sheep around Hveravellir trail

The staff member informed us that the only hot spring suitable for bathing was the one by the car park. The others were further away and not meant for bathing. With this information, our enthusiasm waned, and we decided to bathe in the only hot spring we had found.

Our take on Hveravellir

To be clear, Hveravellir, like almost every place in Iceland, is a beautiful place. Our disappointment stemmed from the difference between our huge expectations and what we actually experienced that day. Nice, but not overwhelming, like many other top Icelandic places.

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Top 10 Easiest F-roads in Iceland

Top 10 Easiest F-roads in Iceland

The easiest F-roads in Iceland are those that either don’t contain any river crossings or their terrain is simply easy to drive. Many F-roads often lead to stunningly beautiful landscapes of the Icelandic Highlands. These are one of the most beautiful highland roads in the world and you should definitely visit at least some of them when you are in Iceland during summer!

It’s not easy to find information about what are the F-roads without river crossings and which roads are not steep, narrow, or dangerous in any other way. That’s why we collected all this info for you based on our multi-year driving experience in Iceland.

Below you will find the list of F-roads we consider the easiest to drive and suitable even for those with little 4×4 driving experience. The list is ordered based on the difficulty and starts with the easiest road, based on road conditions and obstacles.

When planning your Icelandic trip, please choose a proper car in advance, based on where you plan to drive. It’s also useful to know how to pick the best Icelandic car rental insurance. Moreover, we collaborate with the best Icelandic companies to offer you car rental and tour discounts and us a small commission at no extra cost to you.

1. (F)35, Across Iceland

f35 kjölur kjalvegur iceland

F35, Kjölur, Kjalvegur

Why is it worth a drive

Firstly, if you want to easily traverse from southern Iceland to the north, Road (F)35, Kjalvegur, or Kjölur (yes, these are all names for the same road) will be your best choice.

Secondly, the two of the most beautiful Highlands areas of Iceland are located right in the middle of (F)35:

Personal Tip: Both Kerlingarfjöll and Hveradalir have become quite popular. If you want to enjoy them alone, arrive either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Why is it easy

F35 is the easiest F-road in Iceland and it’s not exactly an F-road anymore. It has been reclassified in recent years to a non-F-road 35. The reason why is, there are no unbridged rivers to cross, and, on top, significant road improvements were made to Kjalvegur.

Road 35 is just bumpy with many potholes, but otherwise, it’s completely OK to drive with no difficult parts or steep sections.

When to drive it

Despite being easy to drive, F35 is passable for visitors with rental cars only in summer. Kjalvegur typically opens the first among all F-roads, around the end of May.

It then usually becomes impassable due to snow in early October. Between October and May, only super jeeps are allowed on the road and only at their own risk.

Recommended car

A 4×4 car is NOT compulsory on Kjalvegur. Once the Icelandic Road Administration marks the road open, or passable, you can drive it in any car. It will be a more comfortable drive in a 4wd car with higher ground clearance, though.

2. (F)208 North, Fjallabak

F208 north horses

Horses blocking the F208 road Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri north of Landmannalaugar

Why is it worth a drive

Firstly, F208 North, or Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri in Icelandic, is the easiest road leading to picturesque Landmannalaugar.

Secondly, several otherwordly natural landscapes are situated along northern Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri, such as:

  • Sigöldugljúfur canyon – famous and touristy canyon with waterfalls and crystal blue color
  • Hnausapollur (Bláhylur) crater lake – probably the most photographed crater lake in Iceland
  • Ljótipollur crater lake – one of the most beautifully-colored volcanic lakes in Iceland
  • Frostastaðavatn lake – a huge lake right next to Landmannalaugar
  • Tungnaárfellsfoss waterfall – a glamorously wide waterfall almost nobody visits and nobody knows about
  • Dynkur (Búðarhálsfoss waterfall) – a very remote canyon with a big waterfall. Exercise caution, it’s further away from Road 208 and low-quality dirt tracks lead there.
Personal Tip: Road 208 North is pretty boring as such. Once you gain more experience with Icelandic highland roads, we recommend taking different routes back from Landmannalaugar.

Why is it easy

F208 North is also one of the very easy F-roads. The are no river crossings on northern (F)208. Moreover, the route has been reclassified to non-F-road in recent years due to road improvements. It’s not steep, nor narrow, just bumpy.

When to drive it

F208 North typically opens to visitors with rental cars around mid-June and typically closes near the end of September. This means you can drive with a rental car on F208 only in summer.

Recommended car

A 2wd car is sufficient for the northern part of (F)208 when it’s marked open. Nevertheless, we recommend driving it in a 4wd car with some ground clearance for a more comfortable drive. Such a car is also useful for many connecting roads, such as F225 or southern F208.

3. (F)570, Snæfellsnes

road 570 Snæfellsness iceland

Road 570 Snæfellsness near Snæfellsjökull

Why is it worth a drive

Firstly, there are no special spots or attractions along Road 570, Jökulshálsvegur. But – that does NOT mean the road is not interesting. It’s actually in our opinion one of the most beautiful roads in Iceland. The colorful surroundings of F570 are on their own worth the drive!

Secondly, there’s a plateau roughly in the middle of F570, with stunning views of the southern Snæfellsnes beaches. Definitely go for it on a nice day with clear skies, and enjoy the views!

Personal Tip: Road (F)570 leads to the bottom of the trailhead for Snæfellsjökull - the highest point of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The hike goes over a glacier with unstable terrain and crevasses, never attempt it alone!

Why is it easy

There are no river crossings on F570, that’s why the road has also been reclassified to non-F-road recently and it’s quite easy to drive. The road is a bit steep, though, so if you are afraid of heights, we do not recommend driving it.

When to drive it

Road 570, Jökulshálsvegur, standardly opens around the beginning of July and closes near the end of September. Always watch out for current road conditions, though. For example, during our drive of (F)570 in July of 2022, the road became passable as late as on 19th of July, due to deep snow still covering the road – see video above.

Even after opening in mid-July, it was passable only for 4×4 cars (despite being non-F-road). Long story short – the bigger 4×4 car is always an advantage and always check road conditions before driving any mountain roads in Iceland!

Recommended car

After a mild winter, you can drive Road 570 in a 2wd car. However, when there’s more snow, Jökulshálsvegur is passable only in a 4wd car. Bear this in mind.

4. F347, Kerlingarfjöll

f347 Kerlingafjallavegur Kerlingarfjöll iceland

F347 Kerlingafjallavegur leading to Kerlingarfjöll, Hveradalir

Why is it worth a drive

First of all, F347, Kerlingafjallavegur, leads to one of the most spectacular areas of the Icelandic Highlands – the orange mountains of Kerlingarfjöll. That on its own is more than just worth a drive.

Secondly, my insider tip would be – don’t visit just Hveradalir hot springs area in Kerlingarfjöll! Almost everybody heads only to Hveradalir. And that’s a pity. There are many other amazing spots in Kerlingarfjöll and along F347:

  • Snækollur hike – the highest peak of Kerlingarfjöll with by far the best views
  • Kerlingarfjöll hot spring – a natural hot spring located in a picturesque canyon
  • Horseshoe Bend – one of the favorite spots for photographers
  • Hveradalir hot springs – the main and most popular hot spring area in Kerlingarfjöll
  • Gýgjarfoss waterfall – a cute little waterfall right along F347
  • Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort – a brand-new luxury mountain resort
  • Hveravellir hot springs – another great hot spring area; one-hour drive from F347
Personal Tip: Kerlingarfjöll is located in a special glacier microclimate. This unfortunately means, it's almost always foggy, cloudy and/or rainy. If you are flexible, be patient and try to find a day with clear skies to visit it. Trust me, it will be worth it!

Why is it easy

F347 is the easiest F-road in Iceland that is still officially being marked as an F-road. There are no river crossings on Kerlingafjallavegur nor on the connecting road (F)35. The road will most likely be reclassified to non-F-road soon, more so thanks to the new Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort.

The only difficult part of road F347 is the last section between the mountain resort and the Hveradalir hot springs area, which is a bit steep.

When to drive it

F347 typically opens once all the snow from the road melts. Given the proximity of the glacier, this usually happens around the beginning of July. However, due to a new mountain resort, it’s reasonable to expect the road will be much better maintained in the future and will open even sooner, around May or June.

As of now, F347 typically becomes impassable around mid-to-end September. We again expect this to be prolonged due to the resort, to sometime around October or November. F347 may in the future even be the only road in the highlands accessible also in winter. Watch out for the latest road developments on Icelandic Road Administration website.

Recommended car

F347 can easily be driven in any 4wd car. It is still compulsory to drive a 4×4 car on the road because it’s still marked as an F-road. This may change in the upcoming months/years, though.

5. F575, Snæfellsnes

F575 Eysteinsdalsleid iceland

F575 Eysteinsdalsleið, Snæfellsnes in mid-July

Why is it worth a drive

To begin with, the drive around F575 is full of lush green hills, valleys, and snowfields making it a beautiful colorful mountain drive a very few visitors take. F575, Eysteinsdalsleið, is a mountainous F-road in Snæfellsnes that leads up to Snæfellsjökull glacier. It connects the western Snæfellsnes coast with road (F)570.

Furthermore, there are several lesser-known places to see in Snæfellsnes around the road F575, for example:

  • Rauðhóll crater hike – very little visited crater, close to the road
  • Eyvindarhola Lava Cave – an old cave with old bones
  • Klukkufoss waterfall – hidden waterfall; requires hiking
  • Snekkjufoss waterfall – another hidden waterfall that you need to hike to
  • Scenic views from above – views from F575 on a clear day are simple breath-taking
Personal Tip: The drive on F575 takes only around 30 minutes. However, if you want to fully explore the entire area around, you will need around 5-6 hours for it. Plan accordingly.

Why is it easy

F575 doesn’t have any river crossings or any dangerous parts. It’s just a mountainous road where you will be driving up the hill for the entire time when coming from the west coast.

Eysteinsdalsleið may easily be reclassified in upcoming years to a non-F-road. I believe the only reason why it has not happened yet are some steep sections, remoteness of the road, and snow staying on the road often longer.

When to drive it

F575 becomes usually passable around the beginning of July and becomes again impassable around the end of September. This varies depending on the strength of the preceding winter and the quickness of the arrival of an upcoming winter.

In years of a soft winter, the road may open as soon as mid-June, and in years with harder winters (for example 2022) it opens as late as mid-July.

Recommended car

You can drive F575 in any 4wd car. A 4×4 car is compulsory on the road because it’s an F-road. Bear in mind the road has some steep sections and you will definitely feel safer driving a bigger 4wd car, though.

6. F225, Landmannalaugar

f225 landmannaleid in rain

F225 Landmannaleið in rain

Why is it worth a drive

F225, Landmannaleið, is the second easiest road leading to Landmannalaugar. We believe this is the best road to Landmannalaugar for first-time visitors. Why? F225 has amazingly beautiful surroundings and it’s easy to drive. It’s much much more beautiful than very often used northern road (F)208. Although there’s one river crossing, it’s an easy one, which we believe everyone can make when following river crossing rules.

Furthermore, there are many amazing hidden places around F225:

  • Rauðaskál crater – incredible volcanic crater where you either need to hike from below, or drive with a super jeep from above
  • Hekla volcano – famous volcano where you may hike in summer when weather conditions are good; the road leading to the hike is very difficult, though, and requires a super jeep
  • Raudufossar waterfall – one of the most incredible orange waterfalls in Iceland; you need to hike there
  • Raudufossafjol waterfall hike – the extension of the Raudufossar waterfall hike to the source of its orange water
  • Landmannahellir hiking area – a campsite in the middle of a hiking area
  • Domadalur ravine – scenic road in between volcanic hills full of black ash
  • Frostastaðavatn lake – one of the biggest lakes in Landmannalaugar with beautiful surroundings
Personal Tip: If you are unsure about the river crossings in Iceland and you want to practice somewhere first, F225 is a very good road for it. There are only small and easy river crossings on the road.

Why is it easy

There are no dangerous or steep sections on F225 and only small river crossings and ponds. It’s a good F-roads for practicing for any first-time visitors with some 4wd driving experience. There’s also usually good network coverage and a lot of traffic in the summer.

When to drive it

F225 typically opens among the first F-roads, around mid-June. This can move for about 2 weeks sooner or later based on the preceding winter intensity. Landmannaleið then typically becomes impassable around the end of September or the beginning of October.

Recommended car

A 4wd car is necessary for F225. Basically, any 4×4 car would be sufficient because this is an easy F-road. Bear in mind, though, that if you want to drive via some of the difficult detours from F225 like the Krakatindur dirt track, up above Rauðaskál crater, or towards Hekla, you will need at least a large 4×4 car, ideally a super jeep.

7. F235, Langisjór

F235 to Langisjor

Out-of-this-world landscapes surrounding the F235 road toward Langisjór Lake

Why is it worth a drive

Despite being located deep in the Icelandic Highlands, road F235 surprisingly belongs to one of the easiest F-roads in Iceland. At the same time is one of the most astonishing roads in Iceland at all. Out-of-this-world lunar landscapes surround F235 to Langisjór from the start until the end. And once you finish, a beautiful reward will be waiting for you – an unbelievably clear Langisjór lake.

Although the surreal landscapes encompassing F235 would be strong enough a reason to drive the road, there’s more to see around:

  • Sveinstindur hike – one of the most spectacular hidden Icelandic hikes
  • Blue River Valley viewpointviewpoint of a beautiful crystal blue river valley
  • Difficult dirt tracks – there are many fascinating connecting tracks for experienced drivers with large cars and super jeeps
  • Lake Langisjór – huge and amazingly clear and tranquil lake; you can hike around it for days
  • Eldgjá hiking area – a nice hiking area in the valley next to F235
Personal Tip: F235 should not be your first 4x4 experience. The road is easy to drive, but it's very remote and you need to cross one medium-sized river on F208 to reach F235.

Why is it easy

There are only small river crossings and ponds on F235 leading to Langisjór. Other than these there are no difficult parts and the road is easy to drive, almost like a highlands highway.

There’s one catch, though. To get to F235 you need to arrive by F208 either from the north or from the south. Both of these routes contain medium-sized river crossings. The northern route has several ones and the southern route has just one medium river crossing. When you rent at least a medium-sized SUV and follow the river crossing rules this should not be a problem, though.

When to drive it

F235 usually becomes passable and snow-free at the beginning of July. Some years this may happen a few weeks earlier and in some years a few weeks later. By mid-July the road should almost always be open to visitors. F235 then usually becomes impassable around the end of September.

Recommended car

To drive F235 we recommend at least a medium-sized 4×4 car. As we mention above, F235 as such is quite easy and would require only a small 4wd car. However, connecting southern F208 is harder and you definitely need a medium 4wd car such as Dacia Duster at minimum to pass safely under most of the weather and river conditions.

8. F586, Haukadalsskarðsvegur

road 586 Haukadalsskarðsvegur iceland

Road F586 Haukadalsskarðsvegur

Why is it worth a drive

F586 is an easy F-road with a little bit of everything and well suitable as an F-road driving practice for beginners. Haukadalsskarðsvegur will serve you shallow river crossings, exhilarating inclines, and just enough potholes and rugged patches to keep your heart racing. But don’t worry – this road never gets too wild or intimidating.

What sets the F586 apart, though, is the refreshingly green landscapes that surround you as you journey onwards. To add to the magic, there’s a little canyon nestled right beside the road on its eastern side, just waiting to be explored.

Personal Tip: If you're ready to take on the Icelandic F-roads but want to start with a gentle yet unforgettable adventure, the F586 is your go-to destination.

Why is it easy

There are only small river crossings on F586 and all the inclines and declines are moderate and bearable. The road is also located near the main roads and is short in distance.

When to drive it

F586 typically becomes passable for visitors in the second half of May and usually closes in the first half of October.

Recommended car

You can drive F586 in any 4wd car, which is, however, compulsory for the road. For peace of mind, we suggest driving Haukadalsskarðsvegur in a medium-sized SUV.

9. F821, Eyjafjarðarleið

F821 Eyjafjardarleid iceland

F821 Eyjafjardarleid

Why is it worth a drive

F821 is a scenic mountainous drive through a valley full of small river streams and moss around every corner. Besides the gorgeous drive, F821 also leads to Laugafell – one of the most secluded hot springs and campsites in Iceland. Laugafell is a peaceful oasis of remoteness in the middle of nowhere, and if you haven’t visited it yet, you should!

Highlights of F821:

  • Laugafell hot spring – well-maintained remote Highland hot spring with a campsite
  • Eyjafjardara Valley – one of the best roadside viewpoints in northern Iceland
  • Green summer scenery – horses, farms, rivers, hills
Personal Tip: You will get the best views over the Eyjafjardara Valley if you arrive from the south and descend towards Akureyri. This is also the easier way to drive Eyjafjarðarleið because you don't have to take steep ascents. You need to drive the northern part of F26 first and then continue via F881. These road sections should normally be doable with only small rivers to cross.

Why is it easy

There are only small rivers and streams on F821, so river crossings are not an issue. The only potentially problematic aspect of the road is its inclination and rough terrain. This is not a road for someone trying to learn how to drive a 4×4 car, but it’s definitely one of the easier F-roads.

When to drive it

F821 is one of the latest roads to open in summer. The median opening date happens to be around mid-July, and definitely don’t expect to drive the road sooner than in July. Eyjafjarðarleið then typically closes around the end of September.

Recommended car

A 4wd is compulsory on F821, the same as it is for any F-road. More experienced drivers should be able to drive the road in any 4wd car. That being said we better recommend taking at least a medium-sized 4×4 car for the road, to not risk damaging your car on rough and steep terrain.

10. F936, Eastfjords

f936 thordalsheidarvegur iceland

F936 (or 936 already) – Thordalsheidarvegur

Why is it worth a drive

F936 is kind of an outsider road because we have never noticed anybody talking or writing about it. I stumbled upon Þórdalsheiðarvegur just by looking at the map trying to find the roads I haven’t driven yet 🙂 Well, and it was worth a drive.

Although there are no special attractions along (F)936, the road itself is an attraction. Zig-zagged drive through huge Eastfjords valleys with no cars anywhere nearby made road 936 a little hidden road gem for us.

Personal Tip: Road 936 leads along the power lines. These go from Kárahnjúkar dam to Alcoa Fjardáal aluminum smelting company that consumes five times more power per day than the capital city Reykjavik. And this road is basically just a service road for them.

Why is it easy

F936 is not for the faint-hearted due to some pretty steep sections, however, these should be bearable for anyone with a 4×4 driving experience. There are also no rivers to cross on the road.

It is actually unclear whether the road is still an F-road (that’s why we wrote (F)936 at some points). On Icelandic Maps it’s just 936, but in front of the road there’s still a sign with “F936”.

When to drive it

(F)936 typically opens near the end of June and typically becomes impassable at the beginning of October.

Recommended car

While any 4wd should officially be feasible for the road (according to Icelandic Maps even a 2wd car), the bigger the car the better – at least for the steepest sections. Definitely take a 4wd car. We drove F936 in a Land Cruiser and it felt just right at the most difficult spots.

List of F-roads with NO river crossings

f985 jokulvegur iceland glacier

Amazingly beautiful sunset at the peak of F985, Jökulvegur, next to the Skalafellsjökull glacier

Here is a list of F-roads without any river crossings:

  • (F)35, Kjalvegur
  • (F)208 north, Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri
  • (F)570, Jökulshálsvegur
  • F347, Kerlingafjallavegur
  • F575, Eysteinsdalsleið
  • (F)936, Þórdalsheiðarvegur
  • F985, Jökulvegur – very steep and narrow road leading to glacier
  • F959, Viðfjarðarvegur – very steep and narrow road leading to the fjord
  • F881, Dragaleið – easy road to drive, but a bit boring, and connecting roads have rivers to cross
  • (F)508, Skorradalsvegur – nothing special about the road
  • F333, Haukadalsvegur – a bit boring to feature
  • F337, Hlöðuvallavegur – same as above
  • F223, Eldgjárvegur – nice road to Eldgjá, but all connecting roads have river crossings, similar to F235
  • F894, Öskjuvatnsvegur – a crazy, bumpy road to Askja; all connecting roads contain medium-sized river crossings
  • F946, Loðmundarfjarðarvegur – steep mountainous road, not exactly an easy one

F946 Loðmundarfjarðarvegur Borgarfjörður Eystri

F946 Loðmundarfjarðarvegur Borgarfjörður Eystri

And here is the list of F-roads with only small river crossings:

  • F225, Landmannaleið
  • F235, Langisjór
  • F586, Haukadalsskarðsvegur
  • F821, Eyjafjarðarleið
  • F66, Kollafjarðarheiði – a steep mountain pass connecting northern and southern Westfjords

F223 Eldgjárvegur iceland

F223 Eldgjárvegur

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