Are you planning on hiking in Iceland? Where are the most beautiful and challenging treks in Iceland? Are all hiking trails open throughout the year and what should be packed for those looking to undertake a long hike? Are there any easy hiking trails near Reykjavík? Read on to discover all there is to know about hiking in Iceland.
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Iceland is a land that was seemingly sculpted with hikers in mind; every region of the country boasts fantastically unique trails, some of which suit those new to the activity, others that will challenge even the most experienced of cragsmen. Iceland, and especially its highlands, is a wildland with a plethora of roaring rivers, mountainous canyons and mystical valleys.
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This abundance of opportunity is what makes hiking in Iceland so exciting—visitors here will often return, year after year, to tick off the next trail on their checklist. After all, if hiking in Iceland proves one thing, it’s that no experience on the trail is quite the same as another. Whichever route awaits them, be it in the north, east, south or west, is sure to provide an experience unlike anything found elsewhere.
Thankfully, Iceland as a nation is all too aware of this blessing. The country boasts three sprawling National Parks, countless nature reserves and, each year, efforts are made by both the government and the population to bring forward further measures to preserve the island’s unique flora and fauna.
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Even the city folk understand this; five minutes in downtown Reykjavík will quickly enlighten doubters as to the sheer devotion Icelanders hold for the great outdoors.
Icewear, 66°North, and Cintamani are all staple outfits in the city centre, capable of providing everything a prospective hiker could need, from windproof raincoats to three-man tents.
The city’s art galleries display photographs, paintings and sculptures in tribute to the island’s astounding nature, from its cragged mountain peaks to its creeping glaciers. Even its most famous landmarks—Hallgrímskirkja, for instance, or the National Theatre, Þjóðleikhúsið—are deeply inspired by Iceland’s dazzling natural aesthetic.
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But we’re looking to escape the city… So, without further ado, let’s explore the ins and outs of hiking the great outdoors in Iceland.
Hiking in Iceland, as with anywhere, requires forethought, preparation and a little courage, all before setting out.
How long will you be hiking for? Is anyone, save you, aware of your plans and what is your estimated time of return? Do you know the phone number for the Icelandic emergency services, and have you packed the means to call them?
Photo from: Hiking at the End of the World | Five-Day Trek in North East Iceland.
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These are only a handful of the questions that should be circulating in your mind before tying the laces up on your hiking boots. Try to ask yourself silly questions, to envision every possible scenario that might occur and consider whether you’d be equipped to deal with it.
• See also:What To Pack for Travel in Iceland
First of all, you should consider the distance of your hike, evaluate your own physical fitness and estimate how long you think the hike will take you. An easy method of doing this is to do some basic research, either online or through specific books relating to Icelandic hiking trails. There are a great many on the market, easily purchased at numerous tourist information centres across the country.
The information provided will quickly inform you as to the expected elevation, terrain and duration of your proposed hike, giving you at least some awareness of what you’re in for. If you happen to be a photographer, you will also need to consider what specific equipment to take, weighing up between which kit best suits your trek and what you can physically carry with you.
Regardless, once these basic assumptions have been made, you should have an idea as to the rest of the equipment you will need for the hike itself. For example, if you’re only planning on hiking a couple of kilometres, there’s little need for anything more than your camera, some warm clothing layers, a sturdy pair of boots and a bottle of water.
Note that most hikes in Iceland will have access to drinking water along the route (although not all of them) and it’s safe to drink spring water in Iceland so you can almost always refill your bottle along the way.
Alternatively, if you’re planning on hiking throughout most of the day and making overnight stops, you will need far more, including a large backpack capable of storing all of your necessities.
Any hiker worth their salt will know that one of the most important contributions to your backpack is a first aid kit. This is particularly important in Iceland where the stretches of wilderness are vast and often difficult to navigate for rescue crews. If, god forbid, one was to suffer an injury, hikers should immediately call the Icelandic emergency telephone number, 112.
There is also a downloadable app which allows the emergency services to track a GPS of your location, making it easier for them to find you should a rescue be necessary. This is available for Android, Windows and iPhone and should be considered an essential for hiking here.
And whilst we’re on the subject of self-preservation, it is crucial that you let somebody know of your plans before setting out on your hike. You can leave your travel plan here with Safetravel.is so that Iceland’s search and rescue teams can react quickly in case something happens.
Hiking in Iceland is as safe as anywhere else on the planet. That does nothing to diminish, however, how necessary it is to be aware of potential dangers whilst out exploring the wilderness.
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A lot can be done to mitigate this potential, coming down to making sure that you’ve packed everything you’ll need on the trail (i.e. medical kit, maps, clothing, etc.) A prepared hiker is far safer from harm than one who is not.
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The first hazard to mention is, of course, the obvious one; the weather. Iceland’s weather patterns are infamously unpredictable; one moment, you’re basking under the glorious rays of the sunshine, the next you’re running into the nearest shelter, a damp newspaper resting over your head as hailstones plummet the earth like tiny white meteorites.