Our adventure travel reporter, Liz Forster, is once again on the trail and filed this trip report from London. Find out about the next big thing in adventure travel – Iceland backpacking.
1. It’s an outdoorsperson’s paradise. Iceland backpacking is known for its wealth of outdoor activities and sightseeing opportunities. Once you drive out of Reykjavik, you have access to and views of volcanoes, glaciers, natural hot springs, lush mountainsides, canyons, black sand beaches, lakes, waterfalls, and geysers. No matter what your preferred outdoor pursuit (scuba diving anyone?), Iceland has it.
2. Some parts feel like an Old Faithful attraction. But many do not. The Golden Circle is a famous loop of attractions- Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall, and Geysir- where every tour bus, camping van, and tourist will go to take a selfie. The attractions on the loop are worth a stop, especially because of the proximity to Reykjavik and the magnificent views provided. But many of the less popular attractions are just as stunning and can be enjoyed without the crowds. Most tourists will not walk further than a half mile from the parking lot, so any longer and you’ll be away from any crowd.
3. Hikers will never get bored. From half-day and day hikes to five day backpack trips; Iceland backpacking has it all and none will disappoint. If you rent a car, be sure to check out the Snaefellness and Skaftafell National Parks, and Seljandafoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. Although Seljandafoss and Skogafoss are quick stops, an avid hiker can spend two or three days hiking in the Snaefellness and Skaftafell National Parks. Some bus packages (and of course hitchhiking!) will also take you there.
For hikers looking to backpack, the Laugavegur trail is the most famous backpacking route in Iceland, and many Icelanders regard it as a rite of passage. Traditionally, the backpack trip is four days, starting in the lush Thorsmork valley, through giant volcanic canyons, glacial rivers, seemingly endless mountain valleys, and ending in Landmannalaugar. In total, this route is about 35 miles. There is also an option to add another 16 miles and go over Fimmvörðuháls pass to Skógar. Around 80 percent of people hike the route north to south, but many of the hut wardens along the way say south to north is the way to go!
If you want to truly go off the beaten path, drive to the West Fjords in northwestern Iceland. They are largely untouched by tourists and Icelanders alike.
4. You don’t go there for good weather. During the summer in Iceland, it is generally overcast, raining, and between 30 and 60 degrees. Make sure to bring rain gear and plenty of layers.
5. Other than hypothermia, there are very few hazards in the backcountry. Iceland travel has none of the dangerous predators found in the United States and much of the water is giardia-free because it is a product of glacial melt. This makes backcountry hazards manageable as long as you bring plenty of warm layers and rain gear, have a map and a GPS (a must-have item for the Laugavegur trail), and be sure to check the weather report before heading out.
Tourism is increasing in Iceland backpacking, so get there now!