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Few places in the world exhibit the astounding interplay of natural phenomena quite like Iceland. Walks in Iceland are life-affirming, placing you amongst sensational scenery that is in equal parts uplifting and humbling.
Forged from the violence of volcanic eruptions, this young land of fire and ice is one of the most geologically active in the world. Its location is unique; it straddles both the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and sits just south of the Arctic Circle. Gigantic glaciers cloak entire mountain ranges. Majestic geysers erupt in front of you. Melting snow unleashes spectacular roaring rivers. Iceland is an amazingly dynamic wonderland.Hikes in Iceland are as remarkably diverse as the landscapes they explore. Experience rambling alongside thundering waterfalls; fall in love with jagged mountain peaks; trek across vast sprawls of black sand and marvel at otherworldly, steaming lava fields. When night falls, you might just be lucky enough to witness that most magical of sights: the Aurora Borealis.
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Walks in Iceland encompass some of the most unforgettable adventures imaginable. The landscape is incredibly varied. Desolate tundra, lava fields and gigantic glaciers contrast sharply with the verdant greenery of the lowlands. World-famous trails allow you to discover gorgeous glacial lagoons, intriguingly colourful mountain landscapes and steaming hot springs. The ornithologist in you will revel in the puffins, skuas and kittiwakes nesting on cliffs during your coastal rambles.
Some of the best hiking trails in Iceland explore its three national parks. By far the largest is Vatnajökull, which boasts a vast array of astonishing landscapes from towering volcanoes to majestic mountain chains and surging glacial rivers. With a surface area of 5,033 square miles (8,100 km2), the glacier that dominates its centre is the largest in Europe. Other treasures include Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, as well as Iceland’s highest mountain: Hvannadalshnúkur at 6,920 feet (2,110 m).
On the western arm of the dramatic Snæfellness Peninsula is the Snæfellsjökull National Park, named after the awesome, glacier-capped stratovolcano at its heart. A paradise for photographers, trails provide staggering views over the peninsula.
Thingvellir National Park is where the Eurasian and North American plates meet. Amazingly, you can walk with one foot on each plate. The faults, torrents and waterfalls of this unique hiking ground are an absolute delight.
Planning hikes in Iceland can seem daunting at first. This vast country is the most sparsely populated in Europe and its elemental landscapes can be intimidating to the uninitiated. Due to this, guided walks and tours are understandably popular. But with the right preparation, there’s no reason you can’t experience Iceland on your own terms.
Severe conditions, short daylight hours and freezing temperatures mean that most highland routes and roads are closed during the winter months. The main hiking season generally runs from late June to early September, but there is slight variation from region to region. During this time, mountain huts are open on the main trails and are worth booking in advance. If going unguided, always ensure someone is aware of your itinerary. The weather can be unpredictable and can change without warning. Pack accordingly and always check the forecast before setting out.
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