In a country whose scenery is so iconic, and whose historical events are inextricably wrapped up with its landscape, the only real way to get to grips with Iceland is to get outdoors. It’s where many Icelanders choose to spend their free time, too, though they often seem to have a fearless disregard for the weather, geological events and other natural hazards that foreigners take sensible precautions against.

Iceland’s hiking trails are easy to get to, yet feel wonderfully remote and wild: on some of them it’s possible to walk for days and not see anyone. The country is also small enough that it’s feasible to simply pick two points on a map and walk between them – assuming, of course, that you’re suitably equipped for any natural hazards along the way – though there are also many well-marked trails heading off across the landscape. After a hike, take the plunge in one of Iceland’s many naturally heated outdoor “hot pots”, often in stunningly scenic locations, where you can peel off your clothes and soak any aches away while admiring the surrounding mountains, volcanoes and seascapes. The top three spots for an outdoor soak are Landmannalaugar in southwestern Iceland, Grettislaug in the northwest and Krossneslaug in the West Fjords. And if you prefer more formal arrangements, just about every settlement across the country has its own geothermally heated swimming pool, too.

Icelandic hikes: six of the best

Laugavegur

An epic four-day hike over snowfields, moorland and desert between hot springs at Landmannalaugar and the highland valley of Þórsmörk.

Jökulsárgljúfur

Straightforward though lengthy trails follow a glacier river canyon down to Europe’s largest waterfall.

Hornstrandir

You can spend days hiking across this totally unpopulated peninsula, which is probably the wildest, most remote corner of Iceland that is still accessible.

Þórsmörk

Isolated glacier valley in the southwest, covered in dwarf birch and wildflowers, with almost limitless hiking potential.

Skaftafell

Easily reached moorland plateau between two glaciers, with plenty of well-marked trails of up to a day’s duration.

Skógar to Þórsmörk

Relatively straightforward 25km hike over mountains and snowfields, passing solidified lava from the 2010 eruption.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Iceland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

An outdoor soak is an essential part of the Icelandic experience – a surreal way to spend a dark winter's day, or to unkink those muscles after a long day's h…

26 Sep 2017 • David Leffman insert_drive_file Article
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
The best places to visit in Iceland this summer

The best places to visit in Iceland this summer

Iceland is famous for majestic glaciers and snow-covered houses, for the Northern Lights and blue-lit ice caves. But visit in summer and it can feel like a tot…

20 Jun 2017 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook