Day Hike to Glymur Waterfall: A Guide

Glymur Waterfall Iceland

Iceland is a hiker’s paradise with its dramatic and otherworldly landscapes. Among many stunning destinations, Glymur waterfall stands out as one of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls. Nestled in Hvalfjörður fjord, this day hike offers adventurous souls an unforgettable trip through picturesque sceneries. In this guide we will explore everything you need to know before hiking up to Glymur waterfall. 

 

How to get to Glymur waterfall

The waterfall is located approximately 71,6 kilometres (444 mi) from Reykjavík city, making it an accessible day trip for those staying in the city. The trailhead is situated near the entrance to Hvalfjörður, and reaching it requires driving along Route 47. 

There are two options to get to the waterfall. You can either hike to the highest point, turn back around and follow the same trail back to the parking lot or you can cross the river above the highest point and hike in a circle. Either way the hike offers amazing views and both trails are fine for non experienced hikers. Just remember to be careful. 

 

Glymur hike

The hike is moderate-level with the round trip being around 7 kilometres (4,4 mi). The trail will take you through diverse landscapes, including moss-covered lava fields, rugged cliffs and tranquil riverside paths. It is advisable to budget a minimum of 4 hours to complete the hike, depending on the pace and time spent enjoying the scenery. 

Before embarking on your hike up to Glymur waterfall, make sure you check the weather forecast and trail conditions. Pack a backpack with a bottle of water, some snacks and a dry pair of socks. Always dress appropriately with layers and wear sturdy hiking boots. When reaching the top of the waterfall it is possible to cross the river and descend on the other side. To do so it might be advisable to bring waterproof sandals and a small towel to dry off your cold and wet feet after. 

Note: The hike is quite dangerous to do during the winter months and it is advised not to do the hike when ice and snow covers the ground. 

 

Highlights Along the Way:

As you venture on there are several noteworthy sights that await you. 

Hvalfell mountain
The hike begins with a gradual ascend through the picturesque valley, offering a stunning view of Hvalfell mountain. 

Botnsá river
Approximately within 30 minutes from setting out, you will encounter Botnsá river, which flows from Glymur´s cascading waters. The trail follows the riverbank, providing a peaceful backdrop of flowing waters. Soon you will reach a river crossing. When weather conditions permit (usually spring until autumn) a log is placed to assist hikers cross the river. 

The gorge views
One of the most beautiful sections of the hike is traversing a narrow gorge carved by Botnsá river. Bridges offer hikers a thrilling viewpoint from which you can admire the roaring waters below. 

Glymur waterfall
The absolute highlight of the hike is when Glymur waterfall comes into view as you near the end of the trail. Plunging 198 metres (650 ft) into the rugged canyon, Glymur captivates everyone with its raw power and beauty. When reaching the highest point you can now choose whether you turn around and follow the same trail back or you cross the river at the top. Here there are no cables or logs to assist but crossing it is easy enough as long as you´re careful. After crossing the river you can descend on the other side and admire the views from a different angle. 

 

A day hike to Glymur waterfall is a great adventure through Iceland´s mesmerising landscapes and is just one of the many options for day hikes close to Reykjavík city. From tranquil riverbanks and wide valleys to thundering waterfalls, every step of the way has something to behold. Whether you´re an experienced hiker or just a nature enthusiast, the hike to Glymur waterfall beckons with its unparalleled beauty and serenity.

So what are you waiting for? Lace up the hiking boots and prepare yourself to be awed by one of Iceland’s most magnificent natural wonders. 

 

Fimmvörðuháls: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide

A group of people by Skógafoss.

If you’re planning on a hike in the Highland while you’re in Iceland, Fimmvörðuháls is a great option. It’s one of the most popular day hikes in Iceland and for a good reason. Taking you past more than 20 waterfalls, through barren landscape, between two glaciers, and down into the lush natural paradise of Þórsmörk, it’s one of the most diverse routes you can take in the Icelandic wilderness within a day. This guide to hiking Fimmvörðuháls will tell you everything you need to know about how to get there, what to expect on the way, whether it’s suitable for children, and much more.

When can you make the Fimmvörðuháls hike?

Technically, Fimmvörðuháls is open all year round, but mid-June to the end of August is the ideal time, especially if you’re going without a guide. It’s the time you’ll be most likely to get decent weather and good trail conditions, which will make your journey both more enjoyable and safe. During the off-season, conditions can be difficult due to storms and heavy snow on the ground, and planning transportation to and from the trail will be hard. You should only hike Fimmvörðuháls during the off-season if you’re an experienced hiker or with a guide. The video below will give you an idea of what the conditions are like during the hiking season.

Guided or unguided

During the hiking season, the Fimmvörðuháls hike can be done on your own. This might be the better option for photographers wanting to capture the unique Icelandic landscape or those who just want to take some extra time to enjoy the Highland, as it allows you complete freedom of speed. If you choose to go unguided, make sure to familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand and bring a GPS device and/or a map and a compass.

For less experienced hikers, those who don’t feel confident making the trip on their own, or social butterflies who want to hike with a larger group, there are plenty of guided tours available from May to September.

What to wear on your hike

Don’t underestimate the weather. Even if the forecast is great for Skógar and Þórsmörk, your starting and ending points, the conditions can be completely different and rapidly changing once you’re higher up.

To maximize your safety and comfort, it’s recommended to wear three layers on your journey:

  • A base layer of wool or synthetic thermal underwear.
  • A middle layer for insulation, wool or synthetics.
  • A wind and water-resistant, but breathable, outer layer.

Leave your cotton clothes at home. They won’t keep you warm when they get moist from sweat or wet from snow and rain. If you tend to get easily cold, or if the forecast is particularly grim, an extra sweater in the backpack is a good idea.

Additionally, you should have thermal gloves and headwear, socks made from wool or synthetics, and waterproof hiking boots, such as those on the image below. These are crucial, as there will be snow on the way. If you don’t have the proper equipment or space in your luggage to bring it, you can make use of a hiking and camping equipment rental.

Sturdy hiking boots.
Photo: Matti Blume, Wikimedia. Sturdy hiking boots.

What to bring – and what to leave on the bus

Although Iceland is known for its many rivers, there are none for a good deal of the Fimmvörðuháls trail. This means that you’ll have to bring water for the whole day in your backpack. It’s also a good idea to have hot water, hot chocolate, coffee or tea.

Assuming you’ve already had breakfast, you should bring lunch, dinner and plenty of snacks. An example of food for the day would be as follows:

  • Snacks – a pack of biscuits, a bag of nuts, raisins and chocolate, a granola bar, an apple, and a package of Icelandic fish jerky.
  • Lunch – a sandwich or two with hummus and vegetables or ham and cheese, a package of instant soup, and a snack.
  • Dinner – pasta with cream sauce or a package of freeze-dried food, a hot drink, and a snack.

Other than food, you should bring:

  • A first-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • An extra pair of socks
  • Blister plasters or tape
  • A GPS and/or map and compass.

Those planning to stay the night in Þórsmörk do not have to carry additional things with them on the hike. You can leave your tents, sleeping bags and anything else you won’t need during the day on the bus, and the driver will drop them off at your accommodations. To do this, you’ll just have to make sure that the bus you choose is actually going there, have your things clearly labelled, and let the driver know.

Which direction to hike in

Since the hike is a point-to-point, there are, of course, two ways to do it. The most popular way is to start from Skógar and make your way into Þórsmörk. That means you’ll be facing the 20-plus waterfalls of the hike on the way up, have a slow but long inclination and the beautiful sight of Þórsmörk coming down. However, it’s entirely possible to do it the other way around. Many mountain runners prefer that, for example, as starting from Þórsmörk gives you a steeper but shorter inclination.

A group of people by Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar.
A group of people by Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar.

What to expect on the hike

While the hike is not the most difficult you can take, it is challenging and not suitable for those with poor physical health. Be sure to get some training in if you’re not used to hiking.

The trail itself is 24 km [15 miles] from Skógar to Básar (or the other way around) and has about 1000 metres [0.6 miles] ascent. On average, it takes eight to ten hours to complete. However, this is highly dependent on your physical form, how often and long you stop to admire the surrounding nature, and whether you struggle with heights. Some people take less than seven hours, while others take 14. Where you’re going to sleep once you get down to Þórsmörk is also a factor, but we’ll get to that further down in the guide.

There are several places where you’ll need to swallow your fear of heights if you have it. There are a couple of steep hills to climb up and down and some places where the path gets very narrow. For a few meters, you’ll have to hold on to a rope to get across a ledge.

There will be snow – maybe even a lot – and the importance of wearing proper hiking boots cannot be stressed enough. Don’t head off wearing sandals or trainers. You’ll end up with wet shoes, cold feet, and a far less enjoyable journey.

Fimmvörðuháls during summer, covered in snow.
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. Fimmvörðuháls during summer, covered in snow.

If you’re starting from Skógar, you’ll head into the barren landscape after you pass the last stretch of the waterfalls and river. This part can feel rather tedious compared to the first, but we promise it will all be well and truly worth it. The views coming down into Þórsmörk in the last leg of the journey are beyond this world.

Should you spend the night in Þórsmörk?

Many people drive out, do the hike, and head back on the same day, but if you have time, Þórsmörk is an amazing place to spend it in. You should also keep in mind that you’re most likely dependent on the highland bus to get out of Þórsmörk. This means that if you don’t spend the night, the bus schedule will restrict your time for things going wrong on the way or exploring the area once you’re down. The last bus usually leaves at 8 PM, and assuming you took the bus to Skógar, you will have started the hike around 11 AM, giving you just about nine hours to complete it. Having sleeping arrangements allows you to take your time on the hike without having to worry about missing the bus.

You can book a sleeping space in a cabin in Básar, Langidalur or Húsadalur, or you could bring a tent. For those wanting a bit of luxury or romance after a long and tiring day, there’s also glamping available, but beware that this is located in Húsadalur. Of the three places you can sleep in, Húsadalur is the furthest away from the end of the hiking trail and getting there will add about 2-3 hours to your journey. Básar is the nearest and, thus, the most popular amongst hikers. Langidalur lies in between the two, adding two kilometres [1.2 miles] to your trip. These all have their unique characteristics, and should you want to experience all of them, you can always plan to stay a few days. Keep in mind that there are limited sleeping spaces, so book yours in advance!

The view from Valahnúkur mountain in Þórsmörk, a popular hike amongst those staying there.
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. The view from Valahnúkur mountain in Þórsmörk, a popular hike amongst those staying there.

If 24 km [15 miles] in a day is not your jam, you can make the hike into a two-day trip and stay a night in either Fimmvörðuskáli or Baldvinsskáli. They are conveniently situated about midway through. You can also choose to hike the trail for a few kilometres and turn back the same way, making it a round-trip of any length you desire. From either end of it, you’ll have epic scenery along the way: the long trail of waterfalls alongside the path from Skógar or the breathtaking view of Þórsmörk below as you hike up the trail and back down again. You could even bring a blanket and some food and set up a picnic along the way. Lastly, there’s the option of seeing Fimmvörðuháls from above on a helecopter tour, in case you’re not able to or don’t want to hike.

Is Fimmvörðuháls suitable for children?

It depends on their hiking experience, physical capability, and enthusiasm. Most companies offering guided tours require a minimum age of 12 or 13 years. This is also a good guideline for families going on their own, but of course, you know your child/children best and will be able to assess their ability based on previous experiences. If you’ve never hiked with them before, doing a test hike is a good idea, and keep in mind that Fimmvörðuháls will probably be a bit more challenging. If you’re worried about it being too hard for them, the suggestions above, making it a two-day hike or only doing part of it, are excellent options.

On the last stretch of the waterfall part of Fimmvörðuháls.
Photo: Erik Pomrenke. On the last stretch of the waterfall part of Fimmvörðuháls.

Getting to and from Fimmvörðuháls

Since the Fimmvörðuháls trail is a point-to-point hike, not a circle, and because of how the highland buses are scheduled, this will probably be the trickiest part of your planning. The fact that you need a 4×4 and experience with river crossing to get in and out of Þórsmörk also restricts your options somewhat. There are several ways you can do this.

  • The most hassle-free option is to book a guided tour that includes transportation. You will need to make no other arrangements than getting to the meeting point. This might be particularly enticing for families with children, but it is also one of the more expensive ways.
  • If you don’t want a guided tour, the next best option would be to have a designated driver who drops you off at the starting point and picks you up at the end. This is a great solution if only part of the group you’re travelling with is doing the hike, and it’s by far the cheapest one. You’ll only need to buy a ticket to or from Þórsmörk to Brú Base Camp, Seljalandsfoss, or Hvolsvöllur, depending on the bus company.
  • A similar situation can be worked out if you have two cars. This will allow you to leave one car at Skógar and one at whichever bus stop you choose to get on/off the bus to or from Þórsmörk. This means that you can drive all the way to Skógar in the morning, hike to Þórsmörk, take the bus to a chosen bus stop and drive back to Skógar to pick up the second car (or the other way around).
  • A fourth option is to get a ticket with one of the highland buses from Reykjavík: A one-way ticket to your starting point, Skógar or Básar (if you’re starting in Þórsmörk, don’t choose Langidalur or Húsadalur!), and a one-way ticket back to Reykjavík from your ending point. Make sure that if your ending point is Þórsmörk, you pick the correct hut for pick-up: Básar, Langidalur or Húsadalur. Each bus company only goes to one or two of the three. If your ticket just says ‘Þórsmörk’, check with the company you bought it from. Those staying the night in Þórsmörk don’t have to worry too much about the timetable, but if you’re planning a one-day trip, make sure that a) you book your ticket back from Básar and b) you know the time you have to be down by.
  • Similarly, if you’re already on the South Coast and got there by car, you can hop on the bus somewhere along the way between Reykjavík and your starting point. This could be in Selfoss, Hella, or Hvolsvöllur, but the stops will be slightly different between bus companies. Just make sure that the bus you take on your way back stops at the same place you left your car. Note that there is no bus that runs from Þórsmörk to Skógar, so leaving your car there at the start of your hike is not a great option. If you do this, you’ll have to take a taxi once you’re out of Þórsmörk to get back to it, which will be very expensive.

Below is the trail on Google Maps with some of its waterfalls and landmarks marked in. The estimated travel time is quite optimistic, so don’t use it as a benchmark!

Exploring the Wilderness of Iceland in a Day: The Best Day Hikes Near Reykjavík

Landmannalaugar tourist

Iceland, with its dramatic landscapes and untouched wilderness, is the perfect spot for outdoor and hiking enthusiasts to visit. The land is known for glaciers, volcanoes, captivating cliff sides and breathtaking panoramic sceneries, making it an ideal destination for those seeking the perfect hiking experience. Hiking in Reykjavík and around the capital could be the perfect option for those wanting to explore the wilderness in close proximity. 

Though Icelandic nature is packed with hiking trails and treks countrywide, there is no need to go far, as many stunning day-hikes can be enjoyed in and near Reykjavík. So, for those with limited time or those who want to spend their time enjoying the vicinity of the capital area, there are numerous possibilities to explore the raw nature of Iceland within reach. 

Below, we will delve into hiking in Reykjavík and the best day hikes in and near the city. 

Glymur Waterfall Iceland hiking near Reykjavík
Photo: Berglind – Glymur Waterfall

 

Best day hikes in Reykjavík city

Hiking in Reykjavík is a popular attraction for travellers and locals. Hikers and explorers can find trails to journey over and find a bit of nature’s peace and quiet within the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Úlfarsfell Mountain Hike Reykjavík

Úlfarsfell Mountain is in Reykjavík, located about 15-minute drive from the city’s centre making it a perfect hiking adventure in Reykjavík. The hike is relatively easy, with ascent only about 160 m [524 ft]. The total trail is a loop, about 3.9 km [2.4 mil] long and takes about an average of 1.5 hours to complete. The Úlfarsfell mountain trail is open all year and is very popular, where visitors can choose to hike, bike or run.

Below you can find the parking lot for Úlfarsfell mountain.

 

Viðey Island Hike in Reykjavík

The cultural and historically rich island of Viðey is located just off the coast of Reykjavík’s centre, only about a 5-20 minute boat ride away. The island is only about 1.7 km² [0.65 mi²] large but is a popular destination for travellers and locals due to its combination of art, history and nature.

On the island, there are several hiking trails, each of them well-marked, where visitors can enjoy the rugged and beautiful landscape of Viðey. Different difficulty levels are available, ranging from slower, easier walks to more challenging hikes. However, hikers should be able to tread most of the paths easily. 

On Viðey Island is the Imagine Peace Tower, created by Yoko Ono as a memorial to John Lennon, first lit in 2007. One of the island’s most popular hiking trails is the one leading to the Peace Tower memorial site. Hikers walk through beautiful scenic landscapes and get to learn more about the island’s history and the story of the peace tower. 

The Reykjavík Imagine Peace Tower Tour can be booked here

To hike at Viðey Island, you can take the ferry that drives from the Old Harbour over the summer months but from the Skarfabakki Pier over the winter months. You can see the full ferry schedule here. 

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland by night - Hiking Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. The Imagine Peace Tower hike Reykjavík

 

Elliðaárdalur Valley Hiking in Reykjavík

Elliðaárdalur valley is located just at Reykjavík’s edge and offers lovely walking and biking paths. You can find forested areas, slow rivers, waterfalls, and even a cafe in the valley. Elliðaárdalur is the perfect spot for a calm nature walk near the city. You can end the trip with a hot cup of coffee at the cafe Á Bistro or walk to Árbæjarlaug swimming pool for a dip in the hot tub while overlooking the valley. 

Below you can find parking in Elliðárdalur valley. It is also possible to park in front of Á Bistro.

 

Best day hikes near Reykjavík city

Near Reykjavík, there are several breathtaking hikes, which can be accessed easily by car and some by public transport.

 

Helgafell Mountain

Helgafell Mountain is located in Hafnarfjörður on the Reykjanes peninsula. The hike is generally considered a moderately challenging one with an elevation gain of about 292 m [958 ft] and is approximately 6.1 km [3.8 mil] long. In Iceland, other mountains possess the same name, as Helgafell is directly translated to “Holy Mountain”, so do not get confused with Helgafell, located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula as it is a bit further from Reykjavík. 

The hike usually takes about 2 hours to finish, and hikers walk through gorgeous, rugged landscapes with a mix of flora and fauna. Hikers can, for instance, see moss-covered lava rocks and experience Icelandic bird life. Once reaching the summit, the panoramic views of Hafnarfjörður reward tired hikers, making the experience worth the challenge.

Below you can find the parking lot for Helgafell Mountain.

 

Esja Mountain 

Located about 10 km [6.2 mil] from Reykjavík’s centre is Esja mountain, a very popular hike, especially in the summertime. The trail’s total length is about 7.7 km [4.8 mil] with 731 m [2400 ft] elevation gain and is usually considered a challenging route. However, most people only walk up to what is called “Steinn”, which means rock, where you reach 600 m [1970 ft] in elevation gain. The route up to there is considered a moderate one, where people of all ages hike up. 

Hiking up to Esja Mountain is an experience characterised by the contrasts of volcanic rocks, lush flora and panoramic views. The trail can be quite uneven at points, so wearing sturdy hiking boots is recommended. 

The mountain’s proximity to the capital makes it an accessible and rewarding destination for both locals and tourists.

Below you can find the parking lot for Esja Mountain.

Esja mountain hike seen from Reykjavík
Photo: Golli – Esja mountain seen from Reykjavík

 

Heiðmörk 

Heiðmörk is a national forest and a municipal conservation area offering multiple hiking routes for visitors. Situated just east of Reykjavík is the vast nature reserve that displays diverse nature, such as lava fields, woodlands and calm lakes. 

One of the most popular routes in Heiðmörk is the Brandskriki Loop, a 4 km [2.5 mil] route with 76 m [250 ft] elevation, making it an excellent running or walking path. 

Another popular hike in Heiðmörk is Búrfell volcano. The hike is a moderately easy one, about 6.6 km [4.1 mil] and has about 127 m [416 ft] elevation gain. The average time it takes to finish the hike is about 1.5 hours, depending on which route is chosen. The final destination offers stunning views from the top of the volcano’s crater over the beautiful surrounding area. 

Below you can find parking lot in Heiðmörk.

 

Vífilsfell Mountain

Vífilsfell mountain is an easy but beautiful hike, situated just outside of Reykjavík, in the Kópavogur district. The hike is 3.1 km [1.9 mil] long and has about 474 m [1555 ft] elevation gain. The views from the top display the panoramic scenery over the capital area and the nearby Bláfjöll mountains, which is a popular skiing destination during the winter. 

Below you can find parking lot for Vífilsfell Mountain.

 

Reykjadalur Valley Hot Springs

The hike in Reykjadalur Valley offers a different reward for hikers, apart from the scenic views, due to the hot springs situated at the trail’s end. The hike is located close to the town of Hveragerði, 50 km [31 mil] from Reykjavík, about a 45-minute drive. Therefore, hikers should remember to pack their most flattering bathing suit and a towel so they can lie and bathe in the hot thermal river water. 

The hike is about 8 km [5 mil] long with 340 m [1115 ft] elevation, but is considered a moderately easy hike suitable for most levels.

Below you can find parking lot for the Reykjadalur hot spring hike.

Two people enjoying Reykjadalur hot river in Iceland's winter, hiking near Reykjavík
Photo: Reykjadalur Hot Spring

 

Go inside of Þríhnúkagígur Volcano 

As Iceland is a volcanic island, many volcanoes are found there. However, not many of them offer the possibility of actually walking inside a volcano! In fact, Þríhnúkagígur Volcano is the only place on earth where you can descend into a gigantic lava crater and explore the magic. 

The tour to Þríhnúkagígur Volcano starts with a moderately easy hike for about 45-50 minutes, offering breathtaking sceneries of the surrounding area. Subsequently, hikers are descended about 120 m [400 ft] into the volcano in an open cable lift. This is truly a unique experience unlike any other, as it quite literally can not be done anywhere else in the world. 

The hiking tour can only be booked during the summer season. 

The tour to Þríhnúkagígur Volcano can be booked here.

 

Glymur waterfall

The hike to Glymur waterfall is a beautiful one, about 6.6 km [4.1 mil] with 340 m [1270 ft] elevation gain located in Hvalfjörður fjord. It is usually considered a moderately challenging one, whereas hikers should expect to spend half a day on the hike, but it takes about 3-4 hours on average. 

The hiking adventure takes you through beautiful landscapes where parts of the route can be quite challenging. As you approach the waterfall, hikers must go over rocks and cross a narrow log bridge over a river canyon. As you arrive, you are treated with the sight of the second-highest waterfall in Iceland: Glymur. 

Note that the hike can be very dangerous and should be undertaken with caution and appropriate hiking gear. The hike is best to embark on during the summer due to the pathway turning icy and slippery during winter.

Below you can find parking lot for the Glymur waterfall hike.

 

What Do I Need to Keep in Mind when Hiking in Iceland?

Timing can be a crucial factor when planning a hiking adventure in Iceland. The summer period from June to September offers the best conditions for hiking as the days are longer and the weather conditions are better. Nonetheless, the unpredictableness of the Icelandic weather is part of the charm, so hikers should be prepared for changes. 

So when hiking in Reykjavík, whether during summer or winter, being prepared for the weather is crucial. Hikers should dress in layers, wear solid footwear and bring appropriate hiking gear.

Another thing to keep in mind is to bring enough water and food to keep the energy up whilst exploring the astonishing views of Icelandic nature. 

Lastly, hikers should be mindful of the environment and leave no trace when visiting hiking sites. Respecting nature is crucial for preserving the beauty and the raw wilderness of Iceland.

 

What is the closest mountain to Reykjavík?

The closest mountain to hike in Reykjavík is Esja Mountain, which elegantly hovers over the city. The drive from Reykjavík’s centre is about 25 minutes, making it an accessible and attractive day hike option.

 

Is it safe to hike alone in Iceland?

Hiking in Reykjavík or Iceland alone is generally considered a safe option. However, hikers must keep in mind to have appropriate hiking gear, such as proper hiking boots, layering clothes, and to have enough water and food at hand. When hiking alone, it is also recommended to hike during the longest daylight hours, between June to September.