Backpacking Iceland falls into the “dream vacation” category. It’s the type of adventure you read about in a Nat Geo feature or on the Discovery Channel. One of those “man, that would be awesome” situations. Why is it so special? Well, it’s not everywhere that you can hike through lava fields and past blue lagoons to end up taking a dip in a hot spring. Or maybe it’s ice-caving during the day and then leaving your sleeping bags to catch the Northern Lights at night. Whatever dream combination you’re after, backpacking Iceland is certainly an adventure not soon forgotten.
So how does one navigate this beautiful island, it’s vast wilderness and natural beauty? We’re here to give you a little head start and help you make that dream vacation a reality.
Overnight Trekking Trips
Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals Trek
Normally tackled in five to seven days, Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals is one of Iceland’s most stunning treks. You’ll walk in between glaciers, visit volcano eruption sites and explore geothermal areas (hot springs).
The trek makes a loop in southern Iceland and is easily accessible from Reykjavik. While you may have to compete with other backpackers looking to see the sights (Southern Iceland is the tourist region), this loop is one of the best ways to see the incredible diversity of Iceland’s wilderness.
The Golden Circle
Another southern loop that usually takes about five days to complete, the Golden Circle will bring you to Gullfoss (the famous double waterfall), Pingvellir National Park, and then Strokkur geyser. This loop is the best way to see Iceland’s most recognizable natural attractions.
The loop begins in Reykjavik and covers more than 150 miles of incredible terrain.
Hesteyri to Kogur Loop
Hesteyri to Kogur is for backpackers looking to escape the crowds and dive into Iceland’s more remote wilderness. The loop takes you along the Hornstrandir Peninsula which juts out from Iceland’s northwestern coast.
In three to five days of hiking, you’ll see fjord views you simply can’t imagine. On top of that, you’ll be far from all the crowds. This is our adventurer’s pick.
A quick, but challenging ascent up to the top of Mt. Esja is an excellent day hike for adventurers staying in Reykjavik. The logistics are easy and the views from the top are rewarding. Not to mention, you’ll get some solid exercise on the way up.
Laugahraun Lava Field
We talked about lava fields in the intro and that was for good reason. You’ll likely get a “Lord of the Rings feeling” as you move through the hardened lava rocks and catch the smells of the steam rising out of Mt. Brennisteinsalda.
The Blue Peak
The Blue Peak loop is like stepping inside a painting. You’ll look out on steep inclines covered with volcanic ash at their peak but made up of different color stone on the way down. The greys, greens, and browns mix in a way you’ve most likely never seen before.
What to Bring
Expect plenty of rain. Getting caught without waterproof gear to protect you and your stuff will quickly derail an awesome trek.
They’re lightweight, durable and big enough to carry all the gear you’ll need for the longer, overnight loops.
The maps may be excellent and the trail may be marked, but Iceland is likely new territory and getting lost is always possible. A GPS can be treated as emergency equipment, but it’s a must-have.
Winter Sleeping Bag
This may sound obvious but expect severe temperature drops. You need rest to tackle the more challenging loops. Don’t let the cold keep you up all night.
Backpacking Iceland can be adjusted to meet the needs of all types of trekkers. For those looking for intermediate day hikes, there are plenty of options. For those looking for multi-day, challenging loops out in the wilderness, you may as well be in heaven.