Discover spectacular hiking trails and scenic coastline in Iceland, a land where the primeval forces of volcanoes and glaciers rule.
Iceland Hiking Tour Overview
Iceland is a land of extreme contrasts. Vast, desolate lava fields are interrupted by lush, moss-carpeted valleys. Giant cascading waterfalls give way to vibrantly colored rhyolite mountains. From the otherworldly landscapes of the south coast, to the mystical power of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the west, our overland expedition takes in the most beautiful and inspiring areas of Iceland.
Hikes on the south coast lead us through fairytale landscapes; past dramatic waterfalls, floating icebergs, and some of Europe’s largest glaciers. A zodiac boat trip, cultural connections, and optional activities such as a snowmobile excursion or a ride on an Icelandic horse round out our adventure. Along the way, we spend a day crossing the interior highlands of Landmannalaugar, soaking in hot streams, and hiking along colorful mountains – an experience not to be missed. Testaments to the constantly evolving earth are everywhere – lava fields, hot rivers, craters, and glaciers dominate our views. In the evenings, we return to comfortable accommodations and enjoy relaxing in “hot pots” (Icelandic hot tubs), or taking a nighttime stroll under the midnight sun.
Iceland Itinerary at a Glance
Day 1: Meet in Reykjavík, Iceland. Hike into the geothermal Grændalur valley, and behind Seljalandsfoss falls. Follow a trail to the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, and visit the Skogar Country Museum.
Day 2: Hike along Skóga River, past Skógafoss falls. Afternoon glacier exploration. Optional evening snowmobile adventure (at additional expense).
Day 3: Explore the desert-like landscape surrounding Hjörleifshöfði, and walk through scenic Fjaðrágljúfur Canyon.
Day 4: June through mid-August, ride a farm tractor to our trail head to hike past puffin nesting sites along the Atlantic. In September, view Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier, from one of our favorite trails. In the afternoon, explore an iceberg-filled lagoon by boat.
Day 5: Embark on an overland expedition through the fjallabak, or “route behind the mountains,” explore colorful rhyolite mountains, volcanic craters, and idyllic waterfalls.
Day 6: Visit Geysir and Gullfoss, two of Iceland’s best-known natural wonders. Learn about Iceland’s troll legends over lunch. In the afternoon, optional horseback riding (at additional expense) along the Grimsa River.
Day 7: Explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula, walking along the coast between fishing villages, and perhaps visiting a traditional shark museum.
Day 8: Return to Reykjavík and transfer to the airport in time for afternoon flights.
The Boundless Journeys Advantage
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world’s most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips, so that you can choose which works best for you.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small – for our staff to handle.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly – striving to preserve traditions and cultures around the world, and to protect fragile natural habitats.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Traveling to and from
Most Convenient Airport:
Keflavik International Airport, Keflavik, Iceland (airport code KEF)
Meeting Time and Place:
Your guide(s) will meet you on the first day of your trip at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Hotel Centrum in downtown Reykjavik.
Departure Time and Place:
Your guide(s) will provide drop-offs at your choice of downtown Reykjavik locations by noon or the Keflavik International Airport by 2:00 p.m. on the last day of the trip.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Boundless Journeys’ trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Hiking the Land of Fire and Ice is rated 2+, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The hikes on this trip are 2-5 hours long, on occasionally rough hiking trails with minimal vehicle support. On a few days there are elevations gains and losses of about 1,000 feet. Because of the nature of the trails, we sometimes hike out and back on the same path. There will likely be three days on this trip with options for more or less hiking.
Preparing for this Trip
It is very important that you realistically assess your physical condition with regard to the demands of this trip. The more well-prepared you are for the activities on this trip, the more you will enjoy yourself! Please engage in moderate aerobic activities (hiking, jogging, or cycling) for at least 30-45 minutes several times a week for 4-6 weeks before the trip. If you live in a flat area, try to incorporate some stairs into your workout, or use a treadmill with varying incline capability. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new fitness programs.
The Icelandic Horse
Riding is a favorite pastime of many Icelanders, and the Icelandic horse is an ideal breed for novice and experienced riders alike. The optional horseback ride takes place at a small horse farm near Fludir. The terrain is varied, and there are horses suitable for all levels. Your riding guide will ask you about your previous experience before choosing your horse. Helmets are provided and boots with a low, square heel are required (your hiking boots should suffice). Please discuss this with your guide early in the trip if you’d like to take part in this activity (at additional expense).
The Glacier Walk
A half-day glacier walk is included, weather permitting. All necessary equipment is provided, including crampons and ice axes. Boots are available for rental although your hiking boots should suffice. The Icelandic mountain guides we will hike with are experienced mountaineers with a great deal of knowledge about glaciers and safety procedures. After being fitted with gear and a safety briefing, we head onto the ice itself for a unique perspective on the importance and beauty of glaciers. If the weather makes this adventure unsafe, a traditional hike will be offered instead.
With thousands of acres of year-round snow, Iceland is well suited for snowmobiling. On Day 2, there is the option of an evening snowmobile adventure for those who want more time on the glaciers. Please discuss this with your guide early in the trip if you’d like to take part in this activity (at additional expense).
Although Iceland is a relatively small country, the distances from one place to another are sometimes long, due to actual miles covered or, in some cases, the conditions of the road. We have tried to strike a balance between the importance of experiencing certain unique places – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the interior highlands of Landmannalaugar, and the bucolic Snaefellsnes Peninsula – and the importance of taking time out of the vehicle to hike, explore, and immerse ourselves in the country’s diverse landscapes. On a few days, there may be total driving times of up to five hours; but rest assured that they are well broken up with opportunities to explore, and that both the drives, and the destinations, are well worth the effort.
When to Go
Summer in Iceland is short, and the best weather is generally from June through September. Early summer brings vibrant greens, 24-hour daylight, and the greatest concentrations of migratory birds. Mid-summer brings wildflowers, and later in the summer the low-growing plants covering the hillside begin to change colors in a display that rivals New England foliage. While it is often bright and sunny, cool, wet weather is possible any time of year.
Trip participants have certain responsibilities to both Boundless Journeys and your fellow travelers. This includes understanding the conditions described in the trip itinerary and making sure it is appropriate for your interests and abilities, based on a review of the trip ratings, consultation with Boundless Journeys’ staff, and perhaps your doctor. In addition, trip participants are responsible for preparing for a trip by undertaking the proper fitness training. At the guide’s discretion, a participant may be asked to leave the trip if the guide feels that the person’s further participation may be detrimental to the individual or to other trip participants. If you have any questions about the difficulty level of the trip you have chosen, please contact Boundless Journeys to speak with one of our Destination Managers.
Small Group Travel
Small group travel affords us the opportunity to seek out the most remote and exotic destinations on the planet. Often we are exploring these locales with just 6-12 guests. The nature of active group travel is such that not all participants have the same ability level or interests. Traveling at a pace that is comfortable for the entire group, with a spirit of flexibility and adventure are all part of this intimate experience.
Overview: Comfortable, modern small hotels, all with private baths. Accommodations in Iceland’s countryside are scarce, and ours are chosen for charm and location, rather than extensive amenities.
Nights 1 & 2: Hotel Skógar
A small, charming hotel near the base of one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls, with a great outdoor hot tub and sauna.
Nights 3 & 4: Hotel Laki
Nestled between the mountains and the sea at the base of the Kaldbakur range, Hotel Laki offers both modern-style hotel rooms and traditional cottages.
Night 5: Hotel Fludir
A comfortable 32-room hotel with spectacular views across the south coast plain and a restaurant serving locally-produced fare.
Nights 6 & 7: Hotel Egilsen
Standing over the harbor, Hotel Egilsen is set in a newly converted historic house in the heart of Stykkisholmur. This boutique hotel preserves its classic heritage while enhancing it with the best of modern design.
A Boundless Moment in Iceland...
As our small, amphibious craft slipped from shore into the deep, icy waters, we stared across the mirror-like surface of Jökulsárlón Lagoon. The icebergs were everywhere, dwarfing us; jagged, ancient towers that seemed to reflect a deep blue color one minute, and white and grey the next.
ICELAND DETAILED ITINERARY
Hike – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours on hiking trails; approximately 5 miles.
Upon meeting our guide in Reykjavík, we head southeast to the town of Hveragerði, approximately 30 minutes from Reykjavík. Hveragerði sits on top of a highly active geothermal field, which provides heat for hundreds of greenhouses. Nationally, the town is famous for its horticultural college and naturopathic clinic.
Our walk takes us into the Grændalur valley, where geothermal activity is unusually varied. Fumaroles are especially common, but there are also mudpots, hot springs, and small streams that meander down the slopes.
After our hike, and possibly a restorative soak, we continue toward our hotel. Along the way, we may choose to stop for a 15-minute walk to Seljavallalaug, the oldest remaining swimming pool in Iceland. Built in 1923, and tucked into a beautiful valley, the mountains provide a perfect backdrop for this rustic, geothermal pool.
Our next stop is Seljalandsfoss falls, where we take a short footpath behind the cascades for a unique look through a veil of thundering water.
Early this evening, if time allows, we may visit the Skogasafn Folk Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of historic farming and fishing tools, as well as folk crafts spanning hundreds of years. The museum’s curator is a national treasure himself, and often offers a personal tour of his collection. This is also one of the few places in the country to explore authentic sod houses, the primary form of shelter for many Icelanders until the 20th century.
At day’s end, we arrive at our country hotel in the Skógar area.
Hotel Skógar, Hvolsvöllur
Skógafoss Waterfall and Glacier Exploration
Optional morning hike – moderate, up to 2 hours on hiking trails, with approximate elevation gain and loss of 1,500’; up to 4 or 5 miles. Afternoon glacier walk – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours.; approximately 1 mile.
This morning, you may choose to explore the grounds surrounding our hotel, including the impressive Skógafoss, a 200-foot-high cascade that often produces rainbows in its mist. For those in the mood for a more substantial hike, we can ascend a short, steep staircase to the top of the falls, and continue along the Skogá River. We pass many beautiful waterfalls and, on a clear day, we can see the coastline and Eyjafjallajökull and Myrdalsjökull glaciers in the distance. This is true Icelandic wilderness on the heath.
Later on, we drive a short distance to the Eyjafjallajökull massif. From the eastern face, the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue extends down from its parent glacier, Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth largest. Here, we meet our Icelandic mountain guide, who equips us with the proper tools (crampons and ice axes) for an adventure on an active glacier. After instruction on the proper use of our equipment, we traverse the glacier onto an ice field, where a wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges, and deep crevasses await our discovery.
This evening finds us back at our country hotel, perhaps enjoying the late evening sun from the outdoor hot pots or, for those looking for more adventure, an optional snowmobile ride on a nearby glacier can be arranged (at additional expense; please discuss with your guide on Day 1 or early on Day 2 if you would like to participate).
Hotel Skógar, Hvolsvöllur
Hjörleifshöfði and Fjaðrágljúfur Canyon
Hike – easy to moderate, total of 3.5 hours on hiking trails, with possible river crossings; 5-6 miles.
Our drive this morning takes us through a desert-like landscape, past icecaps and active volcanoes, to the start of our hike at Hjörleifshöfði. When Iceland’s first official settler, Ingólfur Arnarsson, arrived in Iceland in 874, his half-brother Hjörleifur Hrodmarsson wintered on the east side of this headland that bears his name. It was here that Hrodmarsson was slain by his Irish slaves, who then fled to the islands named for them, the ‘Westman Islands’. The farmland at Hjörleifshöfði was used only until the 1930s, but the ruins exude an air of timelessness. This former island is now completely surrounded by sands washed from the glaciers, especially during the eruptions of nearby Mt. Katla.
This afternoon, we hike along Fjadrárgljúfur canyon, hollowed out over millions of years by the Fjaðrá River. We follow the eastern edge, offering stunning views of the plains and glacial brooks below, before descending to the floor of the canyon, through moss-covered rock formations and past a flowing river.
After our hike we travel to our hotel, immersed in the spectacular scenery we have been enjoying throughout our journey.
Hotel Laki, Kirkjubaejarklaustur
Ingólfshöfði and Jökulsárlón Boat Trip
Hike – easy to moderate, about 2 hours on hiking trails, and up a steep, sandy slope; approximately 3 miles.
After breakfast, we drive across Skeiðarársandur, a vast river delta formed by runoff from nearby glaciers. Catastrophic flooding occurs here regularly, as geothermal activity melts the glaciers, causing a tremendous amount of water to flood the plain. Across the delta is Skaftafell National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, whose presence lords over the surrounding landscape.
From May through mid-August, a former farm turned nature reserve located at Ingólfshöfði is known for its incredible birdlife, and especially its puffins. These comical waterbirds are a delight to watch, and the farmer gives us a ride on his tractor to an isolated headland, where we can hike in their midst. This remote cape, surrounded by black sand beaches, is also the place where Iceland’s first settler, Ingolfur Arnarson, spent his first winter in Iceland in 874 A.D.
If your tour takes place later in the summer, when the puffins have left Ingólfshöfði, we’ll instead visit Skaftafell National Park for a hike at the base of Europe’s largest glacier. Our walk begins from the park’s visitor center and steadily climbs up through birch forest to a plateau. Here, the landscape turns into tundra, and the views are magnificent in all directions.
After our morning activities, we continue to Jökulsárlón, perhaps stopping along the way to enjoy our packed lunch at the base of a glacier. At Jökulsárlón, we take a short walk to a nearby beach, before boarding a zodiac to venture into the ice-filled lagoon, where we are dwarfed by dozens of floating icebergs.
Hotel Laki, Kirkjubaejarklaustur
Hiking – easy to moderate, total of about 3.5 hours; up to 5.5 miles. Optional horseback riding – easy to moderate, about 1 hour.
Today we venture into the Icelandic highlands for a day of hiking. The highland roads are unpaved, and if conditions permit, we take the fjallabak (literally, “route behind the mountains”) to Landmannalaugar, an area of multicolored rhyolite mountains and hot springs. Along the way, there may be time to hike into the volcanic rift of Eldgjá, through a landscape of moss-covered boulders to the Ófærufoss waterfall. At Landmannalaugar, we find one of the largest geothermal fields in Iceland.
From here, we may choose to hike to the crater lakes of Frostastaoavatn and Ljotipollur, or perhaps from the adandoned farmstead, Stöng, to the valley Gjáin, where two river channels cascade over waterfalls and lava formations.
After a full day in the Highlands, we arrive at our hotel with time to freshen up, before a relaxing dinner of Icelandic specialities.
Hotel Fludir, Fludir
Gullfoss and Geysir; transfer to Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Morning exploration – easy, about 1 hour, over mostly flat trails; approximately 1 mile.
This morning we explore some of Iceland’s most well known sites. The “Great Geysir” is believed to have been created around the end of the 13th century when a series of strong earthquakes shook the Haukadalur Valley. While it is often called the “Old Faithful” of Iceland, there is an argument to be made that the name, Old Faithful, should belong to North America’s most famous geysir.
From “Great Geysir” we continue on a short drive to Gullfoss, or the “golden falls”. This impressive cascade drops over a series of tiers into the Hvitá canyon, and its volume of water makes it one of the largest falls in Iceland.
We then make our way along a mountain road to a farm and cultural center on the banks of the Grimsa River, where we stop for lunch and take some time to learn about the influence of trolls in Icelandic history. Here we have the option to ride Icelandic horses (please note horseback riding is not included in the price). These friendly horses have been selectively bred for centuries to produce an animal that is even-tempered and strong, with great endurance. They also have a very smooth gait – the tölt – which makes riding them a wonderfully comfortable, experience even for beginners. Those who prefer to hike can take a trail to nearby Eldborg, for a glimpse of an immense crater created in an eruption more than 5,000 years ago.
Upon arrival at the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, we check into our hotel, located in a traditional fishing village along the coast. This evening, we enjoy traditional Icelandic fare at a favorite local restaurant.
Hotel Egilsen, Stykkisholmur
Hike – easy to moderate, 2-3 hours; approximately 4 miles.
Today, we depart our hotel for a visit of the farmstead at Bjarnarhöfn – a must-see for every traveler with a taste for adventure (literally). The farm is the region’s leading producer of hákarl (putrid shark meat), a traditional Icelandic dish. We are offered a taste of this so-called delicacy, and visit the on-site museum, before continuing our loop around the Peninsula.
Our next stop is the beach near the abandoned farm of Ytri Tunga, well known for its seal colony, most commonly seen in June and July. We then continue to the small fishing hamlet of Arnarstapi for a scenic hike along the coast to the town of Hellnar. In early summer, abundant bird colonies populate this area. There are numerous kittiwakes and puffins, but this is also one of the few places in Iceland to find the White-tailed eagle, a rare bird (once nearly extinct) with a wingspan of up to eight feet.
We enjoy lunch in the town of Hellnar before heading to Djúpalónsandur, a black cobblestone beach where we may find remnants of a trawler that was shipwrecked there in 1948. A short walk here provides a poignant reminder of the challenge of living so closely tied to the sea.
Tonight, we enjoy a final celebratory dinner and toast our adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice.
Hotel Egilsen, Stykkisholmur
Return to Reykjavík and Departure
Early this morning, we depart the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, arriving to Keflavík International Airport in time for your flight home.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary to take advantage of weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these should the need arise.
- Jun 14–21, 2015
- Jul 12–19, 2015
- Aug 09–16, 2015
- Aug 23–30, 2015
2015 Land Cost
$5,295 per person
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
- Expert leadership
- All accommodations
- All meals except dinner on Day 6 and lunch on Day 8
- All transportation during the tour
- Park fees
- Activities as noted in the itinerary (some optional activities are available at an additional expense and are noted as such)
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Rakel Jonsdottir: For over a decade, Rakel has been introducing visitors to the many wonders of her homeland of Iceland. A well-rounded person, who has lived at times in California and France, Rakel’s background is as varied as the country she grew up in. Her main university studies were in philosophy, but she was also a classical vocalist in one of the country´s best known choirs, and more recently has added artistic design to her studies. Finally, as part of the tourism continuing education faculty at the University of Iceland, she spends time actively shaping the skills of the next generation of guides. Rakel’s enjoyment of a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and riding, make her an ideal companion for exploring the wild nature of Iceland.
Ingimundur Thorsteinsson: For over 25 years, Ingimundur has been leading explorers through the mountains, glaciers, and coastal areas of his native Iceland. During this time, his own adventures have included a transit of Greenland’s icecap in 1999, and organizing adventure tours for his countrymen to the southern reaches of South America. Ingimundur’s approach to guiding is not as a job, but as a mission to make each traveler’s experience unique, infusing his love for the nature of Iceland into every experience he creates.
Snorri Ingason: Snorri has been traveling in Iceland since he was a young boy, as his parents loved camping and hiking. He had a career in marketing and sales for 25 years before getting his Bachelor’s degree in tourism and becoming a guide. Snorri has a passion for traveling and hiking, and the unspoiled nature of his homeland. He also has a great interest in the geology and history of Iceland, as well as a knack for storytelling. Last, but definately not least, Snorri is a family man, with four children and one grandson. Snorri’s knowledge, enthusiasm, and diverse background, make him a delightful traveling companion!
What other guests have said about our guides in Iceland:
“Experience Iceland by seeing it through the eyes of Icelandic guides, whose roots go back centuries, whose families occupied the turf houses and built the churches, and who knew the taste of cod, lamb, shark & moss.” – P.W., Rochester, MN
“We thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The beauty of the country was everything we expected and then some. Our guides were fun, interesting, and informative. We enjoyed their sense of humor.” – G.S., Limerick. PA
“He was a better guide than I would have known to ask for. He loves his country and language and goes to great lengths to share them both - always reading the interest and energy level of the group well. His attention to detail, relaxed manner and thorough preparation are exemplary, as are his competence hiking and driving and ability to manage a group.” – J.S., Phoenix, AZ
“I'm sure you get this feedback a lot, but I'll add my voice to the others praising our guide. His extensive knowledge of pretty much all things Icelandic, his skilled leadership and smooth management of practical matters, and his energy and good humor played key roles in making this a fantastic trip.” – J. D. Chapel Hill, NC
“The guides were truly outstanding. Their deep familiarity with the local history, geology, and flora and fauna of the areas we visited, along with their personalities, made all the difference to me.” – J.T., Manchester, NH
"I cannot overemphasize our guide. By far, she is the best I have ever encountered!" – L.F., Decatur, AL
Picture Yourself Here:
Hike through dramatic and unusual scenery, including hot rivers, active volcanoes, and Europe’s largest glaciers
Zodiac boat excursion past calving glaciers and massive icebergs
Overland adventure into the interior highlands
Icelandic culture past and present: fascinating Viking history, folklore, and fishing communities
- Jun 14–21, 2015
- Jul 12–19, 2015
- Aug 09–16, 2015
- Aug 23–30, 2015
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What others have said...
"Our deep thanks to you for putting this Iceland walking and hiking tour together and putting us in Stefan's hands. He made this trip an experience we will always remember."
- B & D Lowe, Charlottesville, VA
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