With stunning vistas in every nook and cranny of Iceland, hiking is an essential way to see and experience the incredible beauty of this country. While driving the Ring Road, there are endless places to stop, stretch your legs, and enjoy being in nature so take advantage of it! Here’s a few short, scenic hikes in Iceland easy to get to while road tripping the Ring Road.
Skógafoss & Beyond – Southwest Iceland
Flowing directly from two glaciers, Skógafoss is an iconic waterfall located on the Skógá River. It’s easy to view the falls from the Ring Road (and maybe even the tourist buses lining the parking lot), but don’t let that be as close as you get to this famous waterfall. To the right of Skógafoss, take the 370 steps to the viewing deck above to begin one of the best hikes in Iceland.
Once you snap a few photos from this overlook, continue through the gate to the trail winding along the river. This trail is much quieter than the viewing areas of Skógafoss, which are often packed with tourists. The trail from Skógafoss to Fimmvorduhals is 13 miles long, but we hiked for as long as we had time for then turned back around.
Stóraklif in Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar – Southwest Iceland
Vestmannaeyjar, also known as the Westman Islands, was one of my favorite places I visited in Iceland. We took a ferry from Landeyjahöfn to Heimaey, the largest of the islands. There’s a trail that goes to the top of a craggy precipice, Stóraklif, which has to be one of the most exhilarating hikes in Iceland.
The start of the trail is located behind an N1 station near the port (GPS location 63.44420487, -20.28344393). There are two N1’s on the island so pick up a map at the port or visitor center. Around the back of the station, there is a track with a small ladder to help people cross the fence. Then, it’s all steep incline from there. Ropes and chains are there to assist the intense climb to the top, but don’t completely rely on them.
I read it takes about 30 minutes to hike to the top, but I took double that stopping anytime I reached a sturdy rock to cling to. But this physically and mentally strenuous hike is worth the stunning views of Heimaey and the surrounding islands at the grassy top. And another bonus: we didn’t pass another soul on the entire hike.
Reynisfjall Ridge in Vík – South Iceland
An invigorating but short hike up Reynisfjall Ridge offers wonderful views of the magical area around Vík lined with beautiful black sand beaches. Once you make it to the top, you’ll see the famous cluster of sea stacks known as Reynisdrangur. It’s a peaceful view without the big crowd down below.
Near the top of the ridge, there’s also a marvelous vista of Reynisfjara Beach and the village of Vík with its red and white church sticking out against the green landscape. And it was an unusually quiet area for being so close to the Ring Road.
Vatnajökull National Park’s Skaftafell Region – Southeast Iceland
Skaftafell, a region of the Vatnajökull National Park, encompasses a collection of peaks and glaciers and boasts numerous scenic trails that are some of the most popular hikes in Iceland. It’s 600 ISK to park small passenger cars in the national park’s lot. Prepare yourself to see lots of tourists though because this is an extremely popular area. However, the farther you hike, the less and less people you see. Lots of the paths crisscross each other, making it easy to shorten or extend your hike.
Svartifoss, also known as Black Falls, is a beautiful and unique waterfall with black basalt columns located just 1.8 km from the visitor center. It’s a stunning sight in this region of the national park, but don’t stop your hike there. Continue west on the path towards Sjónarsker for the incredible view across Skeiðarársandur. Once you’ve taken in this spot, make your way down towards Sel, a traditional turf-roofed farmhouse.
Viking Village & Mount Vestrahorn near Höfn – East Iceland
Located about four miles east of the turn-off of the Ring Road for Höfn is the Viking Cafe. If you’re coming from Höfn, you’ll turn right just before the Ring Road enters a tunnel. Follow this road for less than three miles until the road ends at the charming Viking Cafe.
Pay 800 ISK to explore the local farmer’s property for one of the most unique hikes in Iceland. And while you’re in the cafe, you might as well chow down on a waffle or piece of cake! There are a couple short hikes you can do on the farm featuring a viking village created for a film that was never shot and impressive views of Mount Vestrahorn and a beautiful black sand beach.
Dimmuborgir in Eastern Mývatn – Northeast Iceland
Dimmuborgir, which translates as “Dark Castles,” is a unique, jagged lava field. With an eerie atmosphere, the lava stacks, caves, and rock formations have turned the landscape into otherworldly terrain. Multiple simple walking trails run through the massive volcanic field, which formed in an eruption over 2,000 years ago.
The different walking paths are color-coded so it’s very simple to follow the trails without a map. Just pick which path you want to follow at the map displayed in the beginning and follow that color. The most popular route is the Church Circle, which is 2.3 km long. When we visited in September, the fauna beautifully popped with autumn color against the stark black backdrops.
Hikes in Iceland are a great way to see the beauty of this country. Have you hiked in the land of fire and ice? What hikes in Iceland would you like to go on?