Best Hiking Trails In And Around Reykjavik

Esja hiking trails Reykjavik

Best Hiking Trails In And Around Reykjavik

Do you enjoy hiking? Are you looking for some hiking trails in Reykjavik? Do you want to experience Icelandic nature like a local? Are you looking for a fun activity to do in Reykjavik? Are you searching for something free to do in Reykjavik? 

Angie Diamantopoulou Author

Text by: Angie Diamantopoulou

Icelandic people love their hiking trails. Every time the sun is out in the summer, there are two things to do as a Reykjavik local; barbecue and go up Mount Esja. Hiking up mountains and walking around vast expanses of nature is very popular with Icelandic locals, as it gives everyone a chance to appreciate the beautiful nature of Iceland.

As I am practically a local myself by now, I have compiled this list for you. It will guide you through all the best hiking spots and walking trails in and around Reykjavik.

You can go around Reykjavik with the public transport. Visit the strætó site for more information or download the app (iOS and Android) to check schedules and buy tickets. If you want to go outside Reykjavik, though, you will need a car. No worries, you can rent one with us!


Don’t miss: A Layover In Reykjavik: Ten Best Things To See As A Photographer


At a glance

  • Best hiking and walking trails you can reach with public transport
  • Best hiking and walking trails you can reach with a car
  • Most beautiful hiking trails in and around Reykjavik
  • If you like exploring places on foot, why not try our Reykjavik food tour or Reykjavik beer tour? Walk around with a local and recharge with traditional Icelandic food or Icelandic beer!


Mount Esja hiking trail in Reykjavik

1. Esja

I mentioned Esja before. That is because Esja is perhaps the most popular hiking spot in all of Reykjavik. With its easy access from the capital and a total of 914 meters in height, it’s no wonder Reykjavik locals favor it. While you can go to the highest point, called Hábunga, it is a difficult, almost 10.5-kilometer hike in an unmarked path. Therefore, most hikers only make it up to Steinn, a big rock that marks the end of the easy part of the hike. Others with more experience may choose to go to the Þverfellshorn (780 m) and Kerhólakambur (851 m) summits.

There are multiple paths leading to the summits. They are all very well-marked, and the signs show you each path’s difficulty, so you can choose according to your level of skill.

Make sure to bring a water bottle (you can fill it up in the river!), but also a camera. The first part of the hiking paths is filled with overgrown trees and bushes, and then as you head upwards, you will find a myriad of colors in the mountain’s rocks, due to ancient volcanic activity. Once you get to the top, whether that is Steinn or one of the summits, you will see the city of Reykjavik sprawled beneath you, as well as the ocean around the capital.



Reykjadalur hiking trail

2. Reykjadalur

Next on our list we have one of the most rewarding hikes. Reykjadalur is a little further out, about twenty minutes from Reykjavik, but you can reach it with a car or a bus. Once there, you will find a fairly easy 3-kilometer hiking trail. The start is quite abrupt, with a lot of small hills to walk up, but about halfway through the hike gets easier.

While there isn’t a lot of vegetation and the hills are bare, there are plenty of opportunities for photographs, as the view becomes increasingly alluring the higher you get. Along the way, you might see some Icelandic horses, but what will definitely pay you a visit and keep you company throughout your hike is Mý. Mý are tiny flies that swarm around warm objects; a.k.a. you on a hike. However, they are perfectly harmless, if a bit annoying.

Once you get to the top, you will find your reward. A green valley with a hot spring river in which Icelandic people have been bathing for centuries. The further you follow the river, the warmer it gets, so pick the temperature you like!

Once again, bring a water bottle (but don’t drink the river water here!) and a bathing suit. Also, make sure to keep the place clean and the nature undisturbed, so that other tourists and some local sheep can enjoy it, too.

If you want to explore some more hot springs, check out this article about the best natural hot spring and thermal pools in Iceland!


Glymur hiking trail

3. Glymur

At 198 meters, Glymur is Iceland’s second tallest waterfall. It’s a stunning waterfall with a beautiful hiking trail leading to it.

You will need a car to get to Glymur (so why not rent one with us?), which is about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. Once there, you will not be able to see it from the road, so you have to hike up to it. The hike itself is gratifying, though. You will hike along a canyon covered in greenery. Along the way, there will be plenty of highlights. You will walk through a cave, take paths covered in rocks and mud, and trek through a river.

There are two hiking trails you can get to the top. So, why not take one on the way there and the other on the way back?

You can see Glymur throughout your hike. However, when you get to the top, you will see the waterfall in all its glory, falling into the moss-covered canyon and crashing onto the rocks at the bottom, creating a symphony of sounds.


Helgafell hiking trail

4. Helgafell

Go to the top without looking back or saying a word and three of your wishes will come true. That is what Icelandic people say about Helgafell.

It might sound hard to not look back at all during your hike, but it might be easier than you think. Helgafell is only around 73 meters, and the hike takes 10 to 15 minutes. So, not only is it perfect for beginner hikers or hikers who wants a short hike, but it’s also easy to get the mountain to grant you your wishes. One you are at the top, look east, think about your wishes, and don’t tell anyone about them!

Helgafell has been considered sacred by Icelandic people for centuries. A monastery and a church called Helgafell their home, and to this day, a stack of rocks at the top is thought to be the ruins of a prayer chapel dating back to 1184.

Did you make a wish in Helgafell? Let us know if it worked!

Pro tip: if you go to Helgafell, make sure to visit the nearby area called Kleifarvatn for some more stunning nature!


Elliðaárdalur walking trail Reykjavik

5. Elliðaárdalur

In the last post, we have a walking trail right in Reykjavik. While I wouldn’t consider it a hiking spot, it’s the perfect place for a walk in nature. You can reach Elliðaárdalur by public transport. Once there, you will find a hidden gem right in the middle of the capital.

There are plenty of little paths to guide you around Elliðaárdalur. Roam around and explore the river Elliðaár that runs through the valley, and its multiple waterfalls. You can even go fishing in one part of the river! Nearby, you will find some very friendly bunnies, so remember to bring carrots with you!

In the summer, Elliðaárdalur is covered in lupins. The lupins turn the entire valley purple and give you excellent opportunities for some pictures.

Whatever time of the year you choose to visit Elliðaárdalur, it will definitely charm you. When I first visited, I could not believe that such an oasis existed in the middle of Reykjavik! It’s a truly breathtaking place, and a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city.


Last words

So here you have it; five top spots to go hiking or walking in nature near Reykjavik. You can find nature anywhere in and around Reykjavik, hidden in the nooks and crannies of the city, little pockets of wildlife that pop up around every corner. Nature is one of the best things about Iceland, so explore it as thoroughly as you can!


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