Icelandic Language Blog

5 points to hiking in Iceland. Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 in Icelandic culture


Iceland is a wonderful country for hiking, especially from the spring to early autumn. The scenes are out of this world and can be surprisingly near you, the routes are well-kept and clean and often offer many levels of difficulty all based on the hiker’s experience and skills. In fact you don’t always even need much experience and skills as some trails are super easy… Here’s a few points to keep in mind when planning a hike in Iceland.


Fog on Esjan.

Check the weather forecast

Before you head out into the nature you’ll want to know what the weather’s going to throw at you. The weather may change very quickly so keep checking it, never trust a week-early forecast. Take into account the route you’re going to hike: cloudy weather may not stop you from enjoying a particular route to hot springs but it will make some mountain hikes useless and possibly dangerous. If the weather forecast says there’s a storm on the way hole up indoors and wait for it to blow over. Similarly if the locals tell you the weather’s too bad for what you’re going to attempt, listen to them (link).

Dress up well

Always be prepared, especially on longer trails such as Laugavegur but also on short hikes like Esjan. At worst it may be a question of life or death, and even when things don’t come to such extremes you’ll still feel much better in comfortable clothes.

Forget immediately about looking good, and if you’re told you’re not wearing enough, take heart because failing that may have resulted in at least one sad ending. What you want is layers, natural fibers and good watertight shoes that are good for walking. There’s no situation where fashion would beat function, safety, health and comfort always come first.


Make a plan B. Make a plan C as well.

Iceland is eternally unpredictable, especially when weather is concerned. Bad weather will only be overcome by good planning, so always have some kind of an extra idea in your backpocket if it turns out that your original idea won’t work after all. Never just go and attempt original idea in bad weather please, that’s how we get dead tourists… but that doesn’t mean you should sit indoors and bore yourself to death either. There’s always something interesting elsewhere so if the skies turn black you turn your back and follow the sun instead.

Make sure that any plan won’t backfire too badly

Save the Icelandic emergency number 112 to your phone well in advance is the most important part of course, but there are other things you should also do. Always let someone know where you’re going to go, when you’re going to leave and when you’re planning to arrive to your decided location, if something happens and you never arrive they know to send help your way. If your plans change along the way keep the contact person informed so they know you’re ok. Check also the road conditions in the area you’re planning to go to, especially in the winter some roads may even be closed.

If you’re headed to an area that’s known to have something dangerous in it, f.ex. Katla volcano nearby, find out in advance what kind of an alarm system is in use for emergencies. Most likely you’ll never need to know them, but if you do they may save your life. Katla’s eruption emergency signal is five flares and five maroons by the way, if you notice that it’s time to follow your emergency evacuation route and seek higher ground. More info on Katla’s nearby areas here.


Keep calm and þetta reddast

When something goes wrong and you’re in a strange country the first thing you should do is take a deep breath. Concentrate on the immediate problem. Are you lost? Sit down, eat something, think, alert help. If you’re sure you know where you came from you can try backtracking your steps but the best option would be to stop moving around. If someone needs to find you they’ll find you easier if you stay put.

If you suddenly get swamped by a fog, do the same. Sit down and eat something, pass the time and wait for the weather to clear up. On mountains sudden mists can even be lazy clouds that flop their bellyside on top of the mountain on their way over, they may blow away just as fast as they arrived.

If you injure yourself, calling for help is the first step of course. Try to keep yourself warm while waiting, don’t move around unless you spot a good shelter. Eating something is always a good option because it lifts your spirits and helps you calm down, thinking is easier with a bit of energy.

Whatever the surprising situation that has caused you trouble, don’t panic – the best thing you can pack on a hike in Iceland is a cool head.


Do you love to hike? Is there something that you feel should be on my list that wasn’t there? Please share your tips in the comments!

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!