Iceland is intense, in a totally good way. It’s hard to imagine just how wild it is until you get out into its wild spaces but, given that 80 percent of the country is uninhabited, this doesn’t take long. We seek out wilderness trails on our Iceland walking holidays, we stay in remote mountain huts and we bond with the volcanic and mesmeric landscapes around us, as well as with other Iceland explorers who journey with us. With small group tours, Iceland is still as intensely uplifting, but without as much of the lifting.
On the most celebrated of our Iceland self-guided tours, along the Laugavegur Trail, you carry your food from hut to hut, but you will have the solitary, stunning landscapes all to yourselves. No matter how you choose to explore the sanctuary of Iceland’s volcanic trails, groaning glaciers and heartstopping waterfalls, these are all walking holidays to awaken the adventurer within.
Where to go
Vatnajökull National Park
When an Iceland walking holiday starts with dramatic landscapes like Vatnajökull National Park, you know that it’s going to be epic. Home to the largest glacier in Europe, at 8,100km2, it’s also gateway to a fine spread of volcanic landscapes. Highlights include a trek to the top of Sveinstindur (1,093m) with mind-blowing views over Lake Langisjór and a panoply of glaciers, volcanoes and river valleys. All giving you a flavour of what lies ahead on the rest of your walking holiday.
This 55km trail taking you south from Landmannalaugar to Skógar is both spectacular and strenuous. You can do it guided or self-guided, staying at bunkhouses on an Iceland walking holiday that is both biodiverse and like another universe. This southern interior is home to natural hot springs, a volcanic wilderness, crystal tarns and glacier caps that hover over swathing valleys. Some moments, like when you see Icelandic horses being brought up to pasture, or the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers, make you feel as if you are in a Norse saga.
As if the Laugavegur Trail couldn’t get better, the finale is the 20km Fimmvörðuháls day trek, culminating in Skógafoss waterfall, tumbling over cliffs that were once its coastline. This trek captures Iceland’s ever shifting landscapes perfectly with, for example, views from Morinsheiði plateau of the lava stream that flowed from Fimmvörðuháls volcano in 2010. Or two craters, Magni and Móði, that erupted prior to the main Eyjafjallajökull crater, infamous for bringing international flights to a halt due to its ash cloud.
All of our Iceland walking holidays top and tail in Reykjavík, where you can easily pick up a public bus that will take you into the heart of Iceland wilderness areas. After immersing yourself in the country’s natural heritage, its cultural journey is perfectly curated at the capital’s Settlement Exhibition which is built around an excavated longhouse, as well as the National Museum. The country’s dynamic art scene can be seen and heard at the Reykjavik Art Museum, National Gallery and the modernist coup de théâtre (and architecture) Harpa Concert Hall.
Things to do
- Stay in a mountain hut on our walking holidays and surround yourself with fellow hikers, adventurers and storytellers. Leave any notions of luxury behind, but embrace the community spirit at the likes of Strútur Hut, just north of Mýrdalsjökull glacier or, in the heart of the volcanic highlands at Skælingar Hut. You will need your own sleeping bag, sometimes there is only an outside loo, showers are sporadic and shared dorms are the norm.
- With over thirty volcanic systems bubbling away under and over Iceland, there is no shortage of hot lagoons or pools to bathe in. Some, such as the Blue Lagoon, are popular spots on the tourist trail, but our walking holidays in Iceland take you to ones out in the middle of nowhere, heating you up between huts.
- Prepare for four seasons in a day while trekking in Iceland. Because this is a country that is not just unpredictable geologically but also meteorologically. This is why our walking holidays take place during the summer months, when longer days and ice-free access roads make them the best time to visit Iceland. Although you may need an eye mask to sleep during the midnight sun period, the light is impeccable for keen landscape photographers.
Responsible travel tips
- Iceland is a popular place to go whale watching, but it is also a place that, sadly, still supports whaling for its meat. Enthusiasm for eating whale meat has died down locally, thankfully, but research by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) shows that 84% of Icelanders have never eaten it, and that whale meat is most often sold to tourists as a cultural experience. Read up on IFAW’s work to ban whaling in Iceland, donate to support it and please never eat whale meat. The same thing goes for puffin on the menu, a bird that is listed as endangered by Birdlife International.
- Always tread carefully on walking holidays in Iceland, and be prepared for all weathers. We will provide you with a detailed packing list, but always hike responsibly, stick to waymarked ways, never leave litter and, if nature calls, make sure you dispose of it correctly, with Leave No Trace giving excellent guidelines on pooping and scooping.
- With wilderness walking holidays in Iceland, they live up to their reputation and really are ‘far out’. So, as well as maps, ensure that you have a GPS device and check the weather forecast before heading out, especially on our Iceland self-guided tours. Also, be wary of fast flowing rivers when the glaciers are melting.