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The geysers and fjords of Iceland, Reykjavik

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lindamura's pictureby lindamura review
added on 6th of March, 2008
Iceland The following content has been contributed by Trausti Tomasson - Please visit his galleries here: and you will see what a beautiful country it is!

The North

MYVATN: Myvatn lies in the northeast of Iceland on the western edge of the volcanic active zone that runs across the country from southwest to northeast. Mývatn is 37 square kilometers in area and 278 m above sea level. The lake is shallow with about 50 small islands. The vegetation in the Mývatn area and along the river Laxá is luxuriant and varied. Mývatn gets its name from the multitude of midges that thrive on the rich supply of nutrients in the lake. Mývatn is one of the best fishing lakes in Iceland and the bird life in the Mývatn area is world-famous.

ASBYRGI: Asbyrgi certainly is one of nature’s wonders. It is a 3½ km long canyon with up to 100 m high walls occupied by fulmars during the breeding season. It is the northernmost part of the National Park Jokulsargljufur under the management of the Forestry Service.

The well vegetated area between the canyon walls is a very popular recreation area, especially among families and local festivals are celebrated there. In its middle is a freestanding and precipitous rock called "The Island". The canyon is partly wooded, mainly with birch, willow, larch and fur. It was created by two catastrophic flood waves from the icecap Vatnajokull far in the south, the first one about 8-10 thousand and the second about 3000 years ago.

Siglufjordur (population 1800) is a good starting place for several hiking routes. I hiked the route Kálfsdalur - Nesdalur - Siglunes (10-14 hrs. or 2x6 hrs.) in late June 2003 and took these photos while doing so. This is a beautiful area which not so many people visit.

Here is a brief description of 7 different hiking trails crossing the mountains and valleys of the Siglufjördur area:

The pass Siglufjardarskard (5-7 hrs.) Skollaskál and the eastern part of Siglufjördur (5-7 hrs.) Skarddalur - Hafnarfjall - Hvanneyrarskál (5-7 hrs.) Dalaskard - Úlfsdalir (3-6 hrs.) Kálfsdalur - Nesdalur - Siglunes (10-14 hrs) To Hédinsfjördur via Hestskard (10-14 hrs) To Hvanndalir (10-12 hrs.)

Hiking Siglufjordur-Hedinsfjordur-Hvanndalir-Olafsfjordur (Informations obtained from There are two routes walkers can follow to Hedinsfjordur from Siglufjordur, the pass Holsskard (620 m) leading eastward from Holsdalsbotn, and Hestskard, east from Skutudalur. Although Hestskard pass (590 m) is steep and quite difficult to travel, it is also the shortest route to Hedinsfjordur and the one most people follow even today. The journey can be expected to last 5-6 hours.

Hedinsfjordur is somewhat shorter than Siglufjordur (measured from the innermost coastal ridge). A large lake named for the same fjord, some 2.5 km in length, is located just beyond the top of the coastal ridge.

At the beginning of 20th century there were some 50 people living in Hedinsfjordur on five farms: the most northerly was Vik, then Vatnsendi, Grundarkot, Modruvellir and Ama.

There is heavy snowfall here most winters and through the centuries avalanches have threatened human settlement in the area.

The last residents of Hedinsfjordur moved away in 1951. There is now an emergency shelter in Vik. People are attracted here each summer by the trout fishing and berry picking. Hedinsfjordur is certainly a fine sight on a fair summer day and the unique view of this deserted fjord leaves no one unmoved.

A number of routes can be chosen to leave Hedinsfjordur. The routes to Siglufjordur have already been mentioned. There are three mountain routes to choose from to reach Olafsfjordur, all of them ascending to around 600 m above sea level or higher: through Vikurdalur, through Rauduskord (570 m) and down through Ardalur; across Modruvallaskal (690 m), then the so-called Fossabrekkur down through Sydriardalur; and, finally, across Modruvallahals (650 m) near the inner end of Hedinsfjordur and down through Skeggjabrekkudalur. From this route one can walk across the pass Sandskard towards Fljot.

There is also the route which as many people as possible should elect to follow if they have any way of doing so: the sea route. This is a very pleasant sail in good weather, especially if the boat passes close under the mountains Hestur or Hvanndalabjarg.

Thordarhofdi (Þórðarhöfði) I highly recommend hiking around Thordarhofdi. To hike around it will take around 4-5 hours. From Thordarhofdi you will have an excellent view towards Drangey and Malmey. Thordarhofdi looks like an island but is attached to the mainland by two thin gravel banks which surround the lake Hofdavatn, near Hofsos. The cape is a former volcano with a crater at the top. Thordarhofdi rises 202 meters from the sea and the view from the cape is magnificent. There are a number of pleasant walks around the point but beware not to disturb the elves and the hidden people who live there. Three tuff rocks are said to be their alter, shop and house.

Hrisey - the Pearl of Eyjafjordur Hrisey lies in the outward reaches of Eyjafjordur and is the second largest island in Iceland, coming after Heimaey. It also comes second to Heimaey in its number of inhabitants.

On Hrisey there are three mapped walking routes all of which are easily traversed and everyone should be able to find something to suit themselves.Along the way, signs have been posted giving information on various points of interest regarding wildlife, plants and geology besides touching on the history of the island.

The Icelandic Emigration Center at Hofsos, a non-profit organization, is a highly recommended place to visit. Across the bridge by the harbour are two imposing buildings devoted to the memory of the Icelandic emigrants and their descendants.

Grimsey an independent administrative borough, is the islandnearest to Iceland, and the Arctic Circle runs straight through it. The island is 5.3 km² in size and lies about 70 km from the coast. It is only possible to approach Grimsey from the south. The island is covered with vegetation, and at its highest point reaches 105 m above sea-level.

There are many places of interest in northwest Iceland. This sparsely populated part of Iceland covers three districts and one eighth of the country in terms of square kilometers, but the population is only about ten thousand. The landscape varies enormously: mountains, fields, lakes, rivers, marshes, and lava fields.

Recommended hiking in this area would be, to hike between Siglufjordur and Olafsfjordur, via Heðinsfjordur.

Hiking the Maelifell 1140meters is a pleasant 4 hours walk.

Ólafsfjordur village. In the vicinity of Olafsfjordur are some excellent backcountry areas. For spring skiing a recommended day tour would be to ski from Olafsfjordur to Hedinsfjordur and back to Olafsfjordur. Also possible pending on weather and snow conditions would be to ski from Olafsfjordur south of Hedinsfjordur and follow the mountain ridge to the town of Siglufjordur. To do these trips on skis would require full equipments such as skins, ice ax and crampons. This route called "Botnaleid " is also highly recommended in the summer. As a place to stay in Olafsfjordur I can recommend Brimnes Hotel and Cabins, a friendly place with a very nice staff.

The East

LANGANES is a large and long peninsula to the east of the Thistilfiord Bay. The undulating landscape, 200-400 m high, gradually narrows to a sharp point called Fontur. The highest mountain, Mt. Gunnolfsvikurfjall, dominates the landscape on the Gunnolf's Cove. On top of that mountain the NATO forces built a radar station, and operated it between 1954 and 1969. Its ruins commemorate Iceland's part in the history of the Cold War period. Another radar facility was built there and started operation in 1989.

Borgarfjorður Eystri. Probably one of the most spectacular and interesting place on the east part of Iceland is the area around Borgarfjordu Eystri, a small village surounded by fascinating landscape and mystic stories.

The Door Mountains (Dyrfjoll) tower over the plain and coast, which both build on sand from black basalt. Huge blocks of tuff from a former volcanic depression, or caldera, have collapsed from between the glacier-flanked peaks, covering the protected valley Storurd (Stórurð). marked hiking trails.

In recent years, natives have started to call the extended hiking region between the inhabited fjords of Seydisfjordur and Borgarfjordur Viknaslodir, "trails of the coastal inlets."

Here there are plenty of hideaways for the hiker, along with mountains, streams and seabirds. Many hillsides include colourful rhyolite and beautiful rocks.

This rocky hill, right next to Bakkagerði, is source of the fjord's name. Acknowledged home to the fairies, it is said to be the dwelling-place of their queen in Iceland. An easy path leads to the top, where there is a panoramic viewpoint, set up by a society of the fjord's descendants now living in Reykjavík. Álfaborg and environs are protected national property. Directly to their west lies the village campground.

HERDUBREID. A table-mountain, regular in form and 1677 m high, dominating the surrounding area in the eastern part of the lava field Odadahraun. Herdubreid is commonly referred to as the "queen of Icelandic mountains".

MJOIFJORDUR. Probably one of the best kept secret amongst the eastern fjords is Mjoifjordur. The small friendly village in Mjóifjörður is called Brekkuþorp. A road exits over Mjóafjarðarheiði heath and Slenjudalur valley to Fljósdalshérað. There are hiking trails from Mjóifjörður to both of the next fjords, Seyðisfjörður and Norðfjörður.

Dalatangi Is the outermost point between Mjóifjörður and Seyðisfjörður fjords. There is a farm there, along with a lighthouse first built in 1895. The Eastern Fjords. The boundaries of the East are drawn between the towns Bakkafiord to The National Park Skaftafell. There are 15 fjords with small towns in the east. These fjords are surrounded my mountains and one can find many places for hiking, camping, and mountain climbing in this area. All these villages have good camping grounds and other forms of accommodations.

The South

Hiking the coast. Hiking the coast from Hafnarfjordur to the village Hafnir which is located on west coast of Reykjanes, is done in 7 stages. Each stage is around 15 km. The hike takes us through Vatnsleysustrond (literally "Meltwater Beach").


Close to Reykjavik is a popular hiking trail called Reykjavegur.The Reykjavegur hiking trail is divided into a few easy stages and at the end of this suggested program, it is easy to add more stages. This program starts at the lighthouse on Reykjanes and ends at the geothermal power station Nesjavellir.

1. The Reykjanes lighthouse – The Blue Lagoon 19 km.

2. The Blue Lagoon – The Leirdalur Valley 13 km.

3. The Leirdalur Valley – Lake Djupavatn 14 km.

4. Lake Djupavatn – Summer Camp Kaldarsel 18 km.

5. Kaldarsel – The Blue Mountains (ski resort) 16 km.

6. The Blue Mountains – The Hamragil Gorge 20 km.

7. Hamragil – Nesjavellir (power station) 14 km.

The terrain en route is mainly tufted meadows, mossy lava fields, barren sands, and hillocks. This is probably the longest, marked hiking trail of the country and at the end of each stage, drinking water and toilets are available, but it is recommended always to carry sufficient supplies of water for each leg.

There are many interesting hiking places on the southern part of Iceland. I will guide you through some of the most popular.

The Mountain Ok elevation 1200 meters. To ski Mountain Ok is a lot of fun. To get there you drive the Kaldidalur route (The Cold Valley) which lies between the Mountain Ok and The Long Glacier and its highest elevation is 727 m. Usually it is passable for most types of vehicles three to five months of the year.

Fimmvorðuhals Fimmvörduhals is between the glaciers of Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull at 1.100 meters above sea level. The Eyjafjoll Mountains are a large and jagged range in south Iceland whose name, "Island Mountains," refers to the nearby Westman Islands. Their top is a volcanic cone, capped by a glacier. This east-west range measures 25 to 30 km long and half that distance wide.

The Eyjafjallajokull Glacier and the mountains it rests on are one of the most impressive sights in south Iceland. Covering an area of 78 km(2), the glacier tends to thin out towards its rims, except to the north where its tongues Gigjokull and Steinholtsjokull creep down onto the lowlands facing the Thorsmork nature reserve.

A popular trail goes through the region from Skógar to Básar. At Skogar you can see the beautiful waterfall Skogarfoss. Utivist offers organized trips through Fimmvörðuháls all weekends during the summer. Many enjoy taking two days for this route, staying at Utivist's Fimmvörðu-hals cabin at the highest elevation on the journey.

Basar: Basar in Godaland is an outdoor paradise, in the area known as Thorsmork. At Basar, Utivist hiking club operates a campsite and two large cabins which can accommodate a total of 90 people. These cabins are available for use by individuals or groups during shorter or longer periods over the entire year, according to space availability. During summer months an attendant/supervisor is on hand. Those planning to use the cabins must make advance reservation through the Utivist office. At Utivist you can obtain an excellent map of hiking trails with descriptions of the area in both English and Icelandic. Útivist operates organized tours to Basar every weekend of the summer. There are also scheduled general trips to Basar on other days of the week. See trips at Helgarferðir (Weekend tours).

THE MOUNTAIN HEKLA: An active volcano for centuries, the mountain Hekla is one of the most famous in the world. Old tales tell of the belief that the souls of the condemned traveled through Hekla's crater on their way to hell. The whole mountain ridge of Hekla is about 40 km long. The fissure which splits the mountain ridge is about 5,5 km long. The mountain is about 1491 m high. It is thought that Hekla has had at least twenty eruptions since the settlement of Iceland. The biggest eruption was in 1104. Hekla has erupted four times in the 20th century, the last time in 1991.

Skaftafell National Park. The national park was established the 15th of September 1967 and is one of two national parks in the country according to laws of nature-protection. The park is a masterpiece of seemingly impossible contrasts of nature. Towering mountains, like Kristinartindar imposing glaciers, gulches with clear brooks and beautiful waterfalls, birch woods, a wealth of wild flowers and lush vegetation. Places to explore on hikes include Svartifoss, Sjonarsker for a commanding view and Morsárdalur valley with its fine birch forest Baejarstadaskogur. Insect life is very varied and many bird species. The Park is run by the Icelandic Nature Conservation Council. There is a visitor's center with permanent exposition on the Park's main natural and historical characteristics, basic tourist services such as grocery shop, restaurant, a camping area, organized hiking tours and activities for children. Open from June 1st to August 31st. At other times please contact the park wardens.

Many people think that this is the most beautiful place in Iceland. Here you have the opportunity to hike and camp in one of Iceland's best kept secret. In the park is Vatnajokull the biggest glacier in Europe, with Hvannadalshnukur being the highest mountain in Iceland 2119 meters.

In the park is the waterfall Svartifoss The route from the campsite to Svartifoss is one of the most trodden in the park and it takes about an hour or hour and a half to walk to the fall and return to the campsite, a journey well worth taking. You can also hike into Morsárdal where Bæjarstaðaskógur is, but there you can find the highest fur trees in Iceland. Around 30 kilometers further east is Jökulsarlon, which displays huge ice rocks on their way to the sea.

Jokulsarlon:Jokulsarlon is around 50 km east of Skaftafell. Jokulsarlon (glacier lagoon) is a deep lake clustered with ice floes, between the Breidamerkurjökull glacier and a ridge of glacial till. The glacial lagoon began to form around 1950. before this, the Jokulsa river flowed from under the glacier directly out to sea, swiftly and dangerously. Today the Jokulsarlon lagoon is popular with visitors, who can during summertime cruise on the water among majestic ice floes.

Strutsstigur: This 3 days hike is becoming popular amongst hikers. The first day is from Eldgjá to Alftavatnskrok, where the hiking club Utivist has an excellent Hut. The second day is hiking across the Eldgja ridges and into Strutslaug where one can have a bath in a natural hot spring. The third and last day we continue to the hut at Hvanngilsskala.

The West

Thingvellir National Park: The South Thingvellir National Park. NO single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Tingvallavatn is the largest natural lake in Iceland, with a surface area of 83 km2. The Tingvellir area forms part of the volcanic fissure zone running right through Iceland. In turn, this zone is part of the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extend the length of the Atlantic from north to south. The Lake Tingvallavatn biosphere clearly testifies to the fact that it straddles the border between the continents of Europe and America. The greatest biological wonder at Þingvallavatn, however, is its fish population. No other lake in the world supports four separate species of Arctic charr. The most common species is the small planktivorous charr. The piscivorous charr keeps to greater depths and generally weighs 1-3 lbs but can reach 15 lbs. The benthyvorous charr, typically 2-4 lbs, is a favourite with anglers. Dwarf charr live especially in fissures. Large numbers of stickleback are found in the shallows.

ONE of the most popular mountains near Reykjavik is Esja mountain 851 meters. This mountain is only 15 minutes drive from Reykjavik and is very popular amongst hikers.

Hvalfjordur. (Whale Bay) The beautiful Hvalfjordur (Whale Bay) branches into the mountainous landscapes between the points Akranes and Kjalarnes. It is about 30 km (20 miles) long, 4-5 km wide, and quite deep (84m). The innermost part is framed with steep mountains, dropping almost straight into the sea, but further west are extended lowland areas.

The waterfall Glymur is the highest waterfall of the country, 200 metres (660 feet). From the edge of the deep and short canyon, it cannot be observed wholly. The only way to do that is to wade upriver into the canyon, which is not recommendable for everyone. Mountain Hvalfell and Lake Hvalvatn are derived from the legend about the red headed whale “Raudhofdi” (Redhead).

Lake Hvalvatn has an area of 4,1 km², it reaches a depth of 180meters and lies 378 m above mean sea level. It is the second deepest lake of the country. Its discharge is Botnsa, which spills into the Bay of Whales (Hvalfiord). The lake's surroundings are beautiful.

Near Borgarnes is the mountain Hafnarfjall which is a very worthwhile mountain to climb. It is 845 meters high.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The Glacier Snaefellsjokull is 1446 meters (over 4800 feet) above sea level and one of the world's best-known glaciers. Many people, all around the world, claim it to be one of the earth's seven energy centers. It has been a prominent theme of authors and inspired the composition of impressive works of literature. Worthy of mention is the story written by Nobel-prize winning author Halldor Laxness, "Christianity Under the Glacier," which describes the special way of living here in the past. Also, the well-known story, "Journey to the Center of the Earth," by French author, Jules Verne, describes the glacier as the entry used by his characters to travel to the center of the earth. A drive up on the glacier, on Snow-mobiles or snow cats, between snow mounds, to about 1410 meters (over 4,600 feet) above sea level is fantastic.

Hiking and camping in Snaefellsnes peninsula is exciting. After a days walk on the glacier, there are several camping grounds like Budir and at Arnarstapi, both on the southern part of Snaefellsnes.The coast between Arnarstapi and Hellnar is noted for its bizarre rock formations and its huge bird population, the most noticeable being Kittiwakes and Arctic Terns. From the cliffs an occasional Razor-billed Auk may be seen off-shore, and beneath the cliffs Harlequin Ducks, while Red-necked Phalaropes inhabit small ponds. A short distance beyond Hellnar is the bird cliff of Þúfubjarg, the remainder of a volcanic crater, and south of Hellissandur one can take the route to Ondverdarnes to enjoy the bird cliffs there.

Highly recommended is to walk by the south coast from Budir to Skardsvik on the western part of the peninsula. On this walk interesting places like Budarhraun, Hellnar, Breidavik Arnarstapi, Malarrif, and Dritvik are a must see places. The photos on this page are from these places that I have described.

On Snaefellsnes peninsula there are many mineral springs, with the best known ones being at Olkelda and Raudamelsolkelda.

Latrabjarg Cliff on Breidafjordur is Europe's western outpost, ending at Bjargtangar at a longitude of 24°32'0" W. For fishermen, Latrabjarg can provide shelter from northerly storms, but the infamous Latrarost current stretching out from it also instills fear, with its swirling waters for miles on end.Formed by the confluence of strong currents, it plays a role in maintaining the marine food chain by stirring up nutrients in the sea.

The Westford's. This is probably the most exciting part of Iceland when it comes to experience Iceland at its best. Some call it the Wild-West, because of its pure and unspoiled nature. The area is still the most remote area of Iceland and probably the most exciting.Virtually separated from the rest of Iceland, this region remained in may ways "a world apart". Sparsely populated the regions nature is as wild as it was a hundred years ago. Majestic mountains, deep blue fjords, millions of birds, seal and air like champagne - all these attributes characterize the Westford's and local people still have a deep understanding for the nature they live in. The "natural" silence is the most impressing event for many travelers visiting the Westford's. The Westford's are a paradise for nature enthusiasts as for those who simply want to enjoy the pleasure of experiencing a place of complete silence.

The Osvör Maritime Museum. A rebuilt fisherman's hut, along with an open-split shed for the drying of fish, a six-man rowboat, a boat pulley, drying grounds for salted fish and various sheds. Objects and tools from the era of rowboats are to be found both inside and outside the museum premises.

Land and culture. Geographically the Westford's are divided up into 4 areas: the southern and northern fjords, Hornstrandir nature reserve and the Strandir area. The north of the Westford's consists of the area from the northern part of Arnarfjordur through to the bottom of the "Djup" including the Hornstrandir area. Several fishing villages lie along the coast but for the large area it is very sparsely populated. The region of Hornstrandir nature reserve, accessible only by boat, is a birdwatchers and hikes paradise. The area has been completely uninhabited from the 1950's. The northern part of the Westford's offers tourists a wide range of services, hotels, guesthouses, camping grounds as well as tours and excursions, boat tours and ferries. The coastal region of Strandir is traditionally associated with magic and mystery and was formerly known as a place where outlaws sought refuge from the authorities. All this is reflected in the rugged coastline and the mountains which make it easy to believe in elves, trolls and other supernatural beings. For further information's on tours through the Westford's contact West Tours

Bardastrond. The Bardastrond area is a fascinating place to visit. When traveling on the road, you are driving the seashore most of the time. There are endless possibilities for outdoor activities in this region. One can start by stopping at the farm in Djupadalur where there is a swimming pool and a farm guesthouse. From there you can hike up the Djupadals river with its many waterfalls amongst others there is one called Gullfoss. Click HERE to see photos from this place.


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