The 5 best mountains to hike around Reykjavik

The 5 Best Mountains to Hike around Reykjavik

The mountain view from Reykjavík is simply stunning. The capital is surrounded by mountains you can hike from nearly all sides—Mt. Esja and the legendary Snæfellsjökull glacier...

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Nína Þorkelsdóttir

23. August 2017

The mountain view from Reykjavík is simply stunning. The capital is surrounded by mountains from nearly all sides—Mt. Esja and the legendary Snæfellsjökull glacier watch over the city from the north and if you look to the southwest, there is the mountain range of the Reykjanes peninsula. Bláfjöll ski resort is on your southeast and you can catch a glimpse of the low mountains of Mosfellssveit when you look to the northeast.

Some of these mountains are popular hiking destinations, especially those that are close to the city. We chose five mountains within an hour’s drive from Reykjavík that in our opinion are the best ones to hike. Happy hiking!

1. Esja

Reykjavik, Iceland, with Mt. Esja in the background. Wonderguide/iStockphoto

Mt. Esja is one of the most iconic mountains in Iceland and it is hard not to notice this graceful mountain while visiting Reykjavík. The inhabitants of Reykjavík are extremely fond of mount Esja and pay a great deal higher price for real estate that have a nice view of the mountain.

But it’s not just the beauty of Mt. Esja that attracts. The mountain is in fact a very popular place to go hiking, especially amongst people living in the capital area. There are several paths you can choose from, differing in length and difficulty. Hiking Mt. Esja is a nice half­day trip and it’s ideal to go there if you want to view Reykjavík city from a mountain top.

Highest peak: ​914 m (2,999 ft)

Difficulty: ​Medium

Duration: ​2–5 hours, depending on the route

Gear:​ Good hiking boots, clothes according to weather

How to get there:

  • By car: ​If you have your own car you drive Route 1 (the Ring Road) through the town of Mosfellsbær. When you approach the mountain, look out for the parking lot and exit there. Driving to Mt. Esja from downtown Reykjavik takes about 30 minutes.
  • By bus: ​You can go by bus from Reykjavik to Mt. Esja. Take bus No. 5 (eastbound) to Ártún. At Ártún, take bus No. 57 (eastbound) which takes you straight to the mountain. Going by bus to Mt. Esja from downtown Reykjavík takes 45 minutes.

2. Helgafell in Hafnarfjörður

Mt. Helgafell in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland. Wonderguide/Flickr: Axel Kristinsson

Helgafell is located in Hafnarfjörður, a small town in the vicinity of Reykjavík. It is not a very tall mountain, it’s peak is only 1,108 feet above see level. The hike is short and easy and should therefore be suitable for most people, regardless of their age and fitness. From the mountain top you’ll get a great view of the capital and the Reykjanes peninsula.

Highest peak: ​338 m (1,108 ft)

Difficulty: ​ Easy

Duration: ​1–1.5 hours

Gear: ​Hiking boots, clothes according to weather

How to get there:

  • By car: ​From Reykjavík, drive Hafnarfjarðarvegur road southbound. When you’ve just passed the town of Garðabær, turn left on Fjarðarhraun road. After driving for 5 minutes, the name of the road changes to Reykjanesbraut. After driving through a roundabout you’ll come across the intersection where you exit to the right. Right after that there is a roundabout, take the second exit (Kaldárselsvegur road). Drive to the end of that road and park your car. Exit the parking lot to the right and walk alongside a fence until you see the path up Helgafell mountain. Driving to Helgafell from downtown Reykjavík takes a little less then half an hour.
  • By bus: ​There is no bus that takes you straight to the mountain. You can take bus no. 1 from Hlemmur bus station to Fjörður bus station in Hafnarfjörður. From there you can take bus No. 44 and exit on Kaldárselsvegur station. It is possible to walk from there to the mountain but it would take you a long time since one way is at least 4 miles. If you choose to go by bus and then walk to the mountain the whole journey will take at least 2 hours.

3. Öskjuhlíð

Perlan in Oskjuhlid, Reykjavik. Wonderguide/iStockphoto

Öskjuhlíð made it to the list despite being only 200 ft. above sea level. Technically, it’s not a mountain but much rather a hill, located in central Reykjavík. On top of Öskjuhlíð hill sits one of Reykjavík’s most iconic buildings, Perlan. This unique building was built in 1991 and can be described as a huge glass dome sitting on top of six hot water storage tanks. Most tourists drive straight up to Perlan but it is actually much nicer to go there on foot or even by bike. The hike will take you less than half an hour, even if you walk at a leisurely pace.

In Öskjuhlíð you can find one of very few reminiscents of World War II. These are ruins of forts, located on the northwest side of the hill. There is a nice little forest in the hills of Öskjuhlíð that mostly consists of lush birch trees and evergreen pine. It is also one of the few places in Iceland where you can spot rabbits, so be one the watch!

Highest peak: ​61 m (200 ft)

Difficulty: ​Easy

Duration: ​Less than 30 minutes

Gear: ​No hiking shoes required, clothes according to weather

4. Skálafell

A cabin on a snowy ground, Mt. Skalafell. Wonderguide/Flickr: Henrik Moltke

Skálafell is a ski resort during the coldest months but it is also a popular hike, especially during the spring and summertime. The view from the top is stunning as the mountain towers over Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn, and the Þingvellir national park.

Highest peak: ​774 m (2,540 ft)

Difficulty: ​Easy to medium

Duration: ​3–4 hours

Gear: ​Hiking boots, clothes according to weather

How to get there:

By car: ​From Reykjavík, drive Route 1 (the Ring Road) through the town of Mosfellsbær. As soon as you have passed Mosfellsbær, you’ll come across a roundabout where you take the second exit (the road is called Þingvallavegur). Drive straight for 12 miles and then turn to the left on Skálafellsvegur, which leads you straight to the mountain. Driving from downtown Reykjavík to Skálafell takes about 40 minutes.

By bus: ​Unfortunately there is no bus that goes straight to Skálafell.

5. Úlfarsfell

A man hiking Mt. Ulfarsfell, Reykjavik. Wonderguide/Flickr: Aaron Toth

Úlfarsfell in Mosfellssveit is visible from Reykjavík, although it is actually quite small. Hiking Úlfarsfell is ideal if you want to get a nice mountain top view of the capital without having to climb Mt. Esja. The hike is relatively easy and there are several paths you can choose from going up the mountain. After the hike, it is a good idea to reward yourself by relaxing in a nearby swimming pool, called Lágafellslaug.

Highest peak: ​195 m (649 ft)

Difficulty: ​Easy

Duration: ​1–1.5 hours

Gear: ​Hiking boots or running shoes if you prefer. Clothes according to weather.

How to get there:

  • By car: ​Drive Route 1 towards the town of Mosfellsbær. The mountain is by the roadside, just before you arrive in Mosfellsbær. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from downtown Reykjavík to Úlfarsfell.
  • By bus: ​From downtown Reykjavík, board bus No. 15 going NE­bound. Exit at a bus stop called Skálatún. Then walk south for ten minutes until you reach Úlfarsfell. The bus ride from Hlemmur bus station takes only 25 minutes.