Iceland walking holidays travel guide


2 MINUTE SUMMARY

The ‘huldufólk’, or ‘hidden people’ play an important role in Iceland’s mythological history and, for many historians, they very much represent the innate Icelandic tie with the natural environment. In the past, they were about fearing the power of volcanoes, avalanches, earthquakes and the sea, and somehow personifying this power. When you go on a walking holiday in Iceland, you explore landscapes that are so remote that you can only stay in mountain huts or go wild camping, and you start to get a feeling of how these wild places must have felt hundreds of years ago. How stories evolved, and how people had to believe in magic. Most unbelievably, after negotiating crowds of tourists in and around Reykjavik, you will wake up somewhere glorious like Westfjords and ask yourself, where are all the people? Because you can walk for days and hardly meet a soul. The answer is, of course – they are hidden.

Read our Iceland walking guide for more details
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Is an Iceland walking holiday for you?


Responsible Travel recommends

Go on an Iceland walking holiday if…


…you enjoy the challenge of long distance hiking trails, sleeping in mountain huts along the way. The Laugavegur is one of the most famous in the world. And deservedly so.

… you love wild camping. There are plenty of opportunities for this, in both mountainous and coastal terrain.

… you want to discover fjords, but your land legs are much stronger than your sea ones.

….you want to immerse yourself in Iceland’s volcanic virtuosity, but stay well clear of the crowds.

Don’t go on an Iceland walking holiday if...


… hotels with fluffy robes are high on your list. Small rural guesthouses, mountain huts and tents are what it’s all about in Iceland.

… you don’t respect the power of nature. This is a landscape of hot springs and boiling mud, remote marshlands and dangerous cliffs. And trolls.

… you want guaranteed sunshine. You need layers and more layers for walking here, where the weather can change every five minutes.

… you want to party. These walking holidays are ‘far out’ in a very different way.

Best time to go on an Iceland walking holiday


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

Most walking holidays take place between June and August as the weather is better for staying in remote hiking huts or wild camping. And the days are longer, of course. Temperatures vary from north to south. In Fjallabak Nature Reserve, for example, the average temperature is 1°C, but can be 5-14°C in July and August. So, no matter what time of year, layer up. There are winter trips available too in January and February, when you can hope to see the Northern Lights as well as walk on glaciers. But hotels will replace huts.

WHEN TO GO ON AN ICELAND WALKING HOLIDAY & WHEN NOT TO


A MONTH BY MONTH GUIDE

Winter in Iceland can be beautiful, but it’s cold! Temperatures can drop as low as -30°C, particularly in the north, with December, January and February the iciest months. Wind chill makes things feel even colder so thermal gear is absolutely essential. Access to more remote parts of the island can be tricky, too, because of winter road closures. By late January, there is daylight for about seven hours.

There are winter trips available too in January and February, when you can hope to see the Northern Lights as well as take short walks on glaciers. By the end of February, Iceland gets some 10 hours of daylight.

Winter is dark, too. Late November through December and into January are seriously lacking in daylight – by the shortest day, Iceland only experiences four hours of daylight. It’s not an issue for aurora seekers, but it’s not possible to do an in-depth trekking holiday.

The Northern Lights appear from September until April, but February and March are two of the best months for seeing them at their most dramatic (September and October are also excellent for the Aurora) and holidays to Iceland now are about spotting the Aurora not hiking the trails.

April can still be snowy, with average temperatures around 3°C, but by May the days are stretching, from almost 17 hours of daylight at the start of the month, to 20 hours by the end.

Some walking holidays run in May, most take place between June and September as the weather is warmer and drier, so it’s better for staying in remote hiking huts or wild camping, plus the days are seemingly endless.
 
Summer temperatures vary from north to south. In Fjallabak Nature Reserve, for example, the average temperature is 1°C, but can be 5-14°C in July and August. So, no matter what time of year, layer up.
Photo credits: [topbox: Ben Husmann] [Temp chart: Axel Kristinsson] [Helpdesk: Ben Husmann]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Moyan Brenn]
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