Five great hiking areas of Iceland
You know, we hate lists. Simply because travel is not shopping for groceries and because lists of all kinds can make us blind for better opportunities on our travels.
That said, we had to make a list of the greatest places for hiking in Iceland for the simple reason we´ve been asked again and again for such tips. Earlier we wrote about the most popular hiking routes in Iceland but that is not the same as the best hiking routes. So off we go again.
Before we start the list let us make clear what we mean by „best“ hiking route. We mean places and spaces where either you by yourself or with a smallish group can hike in either amazingly beautiful landscape or rapidly changing landscape without too much difficulty. We mean hiking places not too expensive or horrid to get to and we mean places where you are less likely to come across busloads of tour groups en route. But keep in mind others may have a different opinion as to the best.
DYRHOLAFJÖLL >> Apart from Snaefell mountain the most impressive mountain range in the East of Iceland is without doubt the Dyrholafjoll mountain range. The name roughly means Door mountains and some say it stands for a door between our world and the nether world. Whatever the truth in that this area is pure marvel for hikers. Hiking here can be done in myriad of ways depending on will and fitness. The North side seems to be rather less impressive at first sight but after an hours walk or so one would likely happen upon a marvelous spot known to locals as Storaurð. This is an unusual collection of vast boulders gathered in the same spot and colorful ponds in between. Beware though, this route is rather difficult and time consuming. Most do treks around here from the small village of Bakkagerdi in Borgarfjordur side of the mountains. Lots of ways to choose from many of which are well marked. Avid hikers should settle down here for a couple of days at least.
HORNSTRANDIR >> Apart from chunks of the highland of Iceland Hornstrandir area is the only area in the country where absolutely no one lives. Quite amazing considering this is a whole peninsula. It was not always so. Hardened folks of yesteryear did try to make a living here but without success as decades ago sea-ice made it impossible to get wares to and fro. Again here, you have the option of millions of different paths to wander about but much care must be taken. This place is very, very remote and should anything happen there is a long wait for help. Two days here should do the trick but plan ahead and preferably take an escorted tour. More here.
SPAKONUFELL >> For anyone wanting just a fleeting hike and world class views should consider stopping at the tiny village of Skagastrond. One very dominant but not very high mountain nearby is Spakonufell mountain. Rising almost 700 meters it makes for a great day out in a leisurely mode and the views on a clear day are magnificent. One can spot fjords after fjords along the North coast of Iceland and the hike should not take more than 4 to 6 hours on the whole. Hiking maps are available in the village but the hike is pretty self-explanatory.
SKALATINDAR >> For the more adventurous among you wanting absolutely stunning views over the largest glacier in Europe should consider hiking to Skalatindar in the Southeast of Iceland. This is one of the mountains near to the Vatnajokull glacier and once on top will offer unparalleled views over the flatlands but no less importantly; over vast swathes of the gigantic Vatnajokull glacier. This path is unmarked and only for experienced hikers for the hike is difficult although not dangerous. Take off from Ring Road by the Skardsdal valley and follow the small river. Five hours should suffice if you are fit and healthy.
HJORLEIFSHOFDI >> No one driving along the South coast of Iceland will fail to notice this rather weird cape rising 220 meters from the black sands around. Simply because this is the only such cape around. Its location and the lush green hills make amazing contrast to the famous pitch black sands in all directions. We should not need to explain the views from the top far out to sea but also deep inland. Awesome is a word the does a good job describing the feeling.
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