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Adventure, Travel / April 2, 2017

The 5 best trips in Iceland

Written by: Mattie Schuler

Iceland is dubbed the Land of Fire and Ice: a small country filled with volcanic activity and covered with glaciers. Between hiking, backpacking, riding, climbing, and scuba diving, there is no shortage of ways to explore the land.

But some ways are better than others—and these five are the very best.


1. Backpack the Lanugavegur Trek

Iceland’s most popular long walk is the Laugavegur Trek, which stretches 33 miles from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk. Along the route, hikers pass through snowfields, lush green mountains, and black sand desert. Hikers’ huts are available along the way, but hikers are still required to carry sturdy four-season tents. 

This trek can be done without a guide, but we recommend the $795 five-day guided trek from our friends at Carpe Mundo. 


2. Hike some more in Thórsmörk

Whether you get there via the Laugavegur Trek or by a tourist bus, you’ll want to carve out some time for this nature preserve’s spectacular day hikes. Though most hikes in this area can be done in just a few hours, we recommend spending a night or two in one of the area’s many campgrounds and huts.

Our favorite hike is the Tindfjöll Circle: a loop that takes you up Tindfjöll Mountain, along Stangarháls Ridge, down to the Krossá riverbed, and up and over the small Valahnúkur mountain. From the end point of the loop, you’ll find yourself mesmerized between the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier and the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap. Wear proper foot wear, carry rain gear, and don’t forget your camera.

The 33-mile Laugavegur Trek tours through some of the wildest scenery of Earth. Photo by Aurelién Coillet.

The countryside around Thórsmörk offers some of the best hiking in the world, but doesn't draw crowds. Photo by Mattie Schuler.

3. Drive the Golden Circle

Iceland’s Golden Circle route offers an unforgettable look at the Icelandic landscape, complete with waterfalls, geysers, and a national park. The route takes about six hours to drive, and is traveled by many tourist buses. We strongly recommend renting a car and driving the route on your own.

From Reykjavik, head first to Þingvellir National Park to stroll through the rock walls and peer to the bottom of completely clear rivers.  Then stop at the geothermal area Geysir to watch the oft-erupting Great Geysir (it goes off every ten minutes). After that, head just up the road to Gullfoss Waterfall: a wide, two-tiered pounding waterfall that dives into a canyon. 

Our friends at Carpe Mundo offer a great self-guided four-day tour of the Golden Circle for just $315.


3(a). Soak in Hveragerdi’s hot river

There’s a lot to see in the Golden Circle, but we really only have one must-do: hike to the “hot river” outside of Hveragerdi .

The small town of Hveragerdihas hotel accommodations and a very nice full-facility campground. From the center of town, drive north into the mountains on the only road that heads that way until you see the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Trailhead (and coffee shop). The hour and a half hike is a bit steep, but it ends at a hot river with plenty of space to soak and even semi-private changing rooms.

4. Walk on glaciers

Iceland has no shortage of glaciers—11 percent of the country is covered by them.

If you are heading to the south coast, visit Skaftafell National Park to enjoy an easy but fascinating tour of the nearby glacier, then head about 45 minutes east to Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon. This ice lagoon is an absolute must see, as is the black sand beach just across the bridge. The ice lagoon is filled with house-sized icebergs that you can see from the parking lot, which then float out the channel and get beached on the black sand to create a scene filled with glass art.

That trip is included in our current favorite Iceland tour: the seven-day, $2,339 Best of Iceland tour from G Adventures.

The Gulfoss Waterfall is just one of the bucket-list items found in Iceland's Golden Circle. Photo by Mattie Schuler.

Icebergs in the Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon can be the size of office buildings. Photo by Mattie Schuler.

5. Trek the West Fjords

Another popular trek in Iceland is in the West Fjords along the Hornstrandir Coast. The West Fjords are extremely remote, with the Hornstrandir Trek only accessible by boat. Borea Adventures offers a six day, $2,100 trek in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve with basalt mountains and deep fjords, and high possibilities of seeing the arctic fox.

Three days of the trek involve around seven miles of hiking; the other three days have longer hikes at about 11 miles per day. All meals during the trek are included, and accommodation is camping.

Do you guide trips in Iceland? How about anywhere? Pitch your offerings to us at [email protected].

Featured photo courtesy of Borea Adventures. 

about the author

Mattie Schuler

Mattie Schuler is an adventure journalist who specializes on the outdoor industry, gear reviews, adventure sports, fitness and health, yoga, and travel. She currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. She has written for numerous publishers including Gore-Tex, Gear Junkie, Outside, Backpacker, Yoga Journal, Gore-Tex, Men's Journal, and Men's Fitness.

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