Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

An Independent Guide To Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls Hike


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Brina Holder



Welcome to Iceland, the land of fire and ice, where breathtaking landscapes and epic adventures await at every turn. If you’re a nature lover and crave thrilling outdoor experiences, then Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls hike should be on your bucket list.


Fimmvörðuháls, which translates to “Five Cairns Pass,” is a renowned hiking trail located in the picturesque southern highlands of Iceland. This 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) trek takes you through a diverse range of terrains, from roaring waterfalls and moss-covered valleys to volcanic craters and snow-capped peaks.


What makes this hike truly extraordinary is the juxtaposition of natural wonders along the trail. You’ll be awe-struck as you witness the raw power of Skógafoss, one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, and the ethereal beauty of Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) valley, nestled at the foot of the mighty Eyjafjallajökull volcano.


But this adventure isn’t for the faint of heart. The Fimmvörðuháls hike is challenging, with steep ascents, rugged terrain, and unpredictable weather conditions. However, for those willing to tackle the trail, the rewards are immeasurable. You’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of glaciers, mountains, and vast expanses of untouched wilderness, leaving you with memories that will last a lifetime.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of the Fimmvörðuháls hike. From how to get there and the trail’s highlights to essential gear and safety considerations, we’ll equip you with all the information you need to plan your epic adventure. So grab your hiking boots and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through some of Iceland’s most breathtaking landscapes.


Background of Fimmvörðuháls Hike

The Fimmvörðuháls hike is steeped in both geological and historical significance. This remote trail traces its roots back to the volcanic eruptions that took place in 2010, when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, captivating the world’s attention.


The eruption created a new, rugged landscape that attracts adventurous hikers from all over the globe. The trail follows the path between two glaciers – Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, offering a unique opportunity to witness the aftermath of the volcanic activity.


Aside from its geological significance, the Fimmvörðuháls hike also holds historical importance. In the past, it served as a vital communication route between north and south Iceland. The path was used by travelers and their horses to transport goods and traverse between villages.


Today, the Fimmvörðuháls hike is a popular trail for outdoor enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in Iceland’s captivating wilderness. It offers a challenging yet rewarding experience, showcasing the country’s extraordinary natural beauty and geological wonders.


It’s worth noting that the Fimmvörðuháls hike can be completed in either direction – from Skógar (south) to Þórsmörk (north) or vice versa. Each direction offers its own unique perspective on the trail, showcasing diverse landscapes and showcasing different highlights.


Whether you choose to hike from Skógar to Þórsmörk or the other way around, you’re in for an unforgettable adventure that will leave you awestruck and yearning for more. Now that you have a background understanding of the Fimmvörðuháls hike, let’s delve into the logistics of getting there and the trail’s overview.


Getting to Fimmvörðuháls

Reaching the starting point of the Fimmvörðuháls hike requires some logistical planning, but the effort is well worth it once you set foot on the trail. Here are a few options for getting to Fimmvörðuháls:

  1. Reykjavik to Skógar: If you’re starting the hike from Skógar, which is the more common route, the best way to get there is by taking a bus from Reykjavik. Several bus companies operate daily routes between Reykjavik and Skógar, with a journey duration of approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. The buses typically depart from the city’s main bus terminal, BSI, and drop you off near the iconic Skógafoss waterfall, where the trail begins.
  2. Reykjavik to Þórsmörk: If you prefer to hike from Þórsmörk to Skógar (or vice versa), you’ll need to arrange transportation to Þórsmörk. The most common way to reach Þórsmörk is by taking a bus. Buses depart from Reykjavik and make their way to the Þórsmörk area, usually with a stop at the BSI Bus Terminal. The journey takes around 2-3 hours, depending on the road conditions.
  3. Self-Drive: Another option for reaching Fimmvörðuháls is by renting a car and driving yourself to either Skógar or Þórsmörk. Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and allows for more flexibility in your itinerary. However, it’s important to note that the road leading to Þórsmörk can be challenging, with river crossings and rough terrain. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended for this route.

Regardless of the transportation option you choose, it’s essential to check weather and road conditions before embarking on your journey. Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, and road closures or difficult conditions can affect your plans. Make sure to stay informed and plan accordingly.


Now that you know how to get to Fimmvörðuháls, let’s move on to the trail overview, where we’ll delve into the specifics of this incredible hike.


Trail Overview

The Fimmvörðuháls trail is a 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) trek that takes you through some of Iceland’s most stunning and diverse landscapes. It rewards hikers with breathtaking views of glaciers, waterfalls, volcanic craters, lush valleys, and rugged mountains.


The trail can be divided into two main sections: Skógar to Fimmvörðuháls Pass and Fimmvörðuháls Pass to Þórsmörk. Each section offers its own unique challenges and highlights.


The first part of the trail, from Skógar to Fimmvörðuháls Pass, starts near the iconic Skógafoss waterfall. It involves a steep ascent, with around 900 meters (2,950 feet) of elevation gain. As you climb, you’ll pass by a series of stunning waterfalls, including the majestic Skógafoss and the hidden gem, Kvernufoss. The trail then takes you through the magnificent Skógá River canyon, where you’ll witness mesmerizing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.


Once you reach the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, you’ll be greeted with a dramatic landscape of volcanic craters and remnants of the 2010 eruption. This area is known for its surreal beauty, with steaming vents and colorful rhyolite formations. You’ll also have a clear view of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.


The second part of the trail, from Fimmvörðuháls Pass to Þórsmörk, takes you through diverse terrain as you descend into the picturesque Þórsmörk valley. This section offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, including the famous Tindfjallajökull glacier. You’ll cross rivers and walk through lush valleys adorned with vibrant Arctic birch trees. The trail culminates with a final river crossing before arriving at your destination, Þórsmörk, a hidden gem nestled between glaciers and mountains.


The entire Fimmvörðuháls hike typically takes two days to complete for most hikers, but it can be done in one long day for those seeking a challenge. It is important to note that while the trail does not require technical climbing skills, it is a physically demanding hike that requires a good level of fitness. Being prepared with proper gear, sufficient water, and food is essential.


Now that you have an overview of the trail, let’s dive into the details of each day’s hike, starting with day one: Skógar to Fimmvörðuháls Pass.


Day 1: Skógar to Fimmvörðuháls Pass

Your adventure on the Fimmvörðuháls hike begins in the quaint village of Skógar, located on the southern coast of Iceland. Day one of the hike is intense and challenging, as you make your way from Skógar to the Fimmvörðuháls Pass.


The start of the trail is marked by the magnificent Skógafoss waterfall, a true spectacle of nature. After taking a moment to admire its power and beauty, you’ll begin your ascent, climbing a series of steep stairs that lead you up the mountain.


As you hike higher, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Skógá River cascading down the gorge, surrounded by towering cliffs. Keep your camera ready as there are numerous picturesque viewpoints along the way, offering opportunities to capture unforgettable moments.


One of the highlights on day one is the hidden gem, Kvernufoss waterfall. A short detour off the main trail will lead you to this lesser-known waterfall tucked away in a magical canyon. It’s a peaceful and serene spot, perfect for a rest and some memorable photos.


Continuing on, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging, with sections of loose rocks and uneven terrain. It’s important to take your time, watch your step, and be mindful of your surroundings.


As you approach the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, the landscape transforms into a surreal world of volcanic activity. You’ll encounter volcanic craters, steaming vents, and vibrant rhyolite formations, remnants of the 2010 eruption. The views from the pass are simply awe-inspiring, with panoramic vistas of the surrounding glaciers and mountains.


At the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, you’ll find a cozy mountain hut where you can rest, refuel, and enjoy the stunning surroundings. It’s a perfect spot to take in the vastness of the Icelandic wilderness.


After a well-deserved break, you’ll continue your journey towards the Fimmvörðuháls Hut, your accommodation for the night. The hut is nestled in a picturesque setting, providing a warm and comfortable refuge amidst the rugged terrain.


Day one of the Fimmvörðuháls hike is physically demanding, but the sense of achievement and the breathtaking views make it all worthwhile. Remember to pack enough water, snacks, and a warm layer, as weather conditions can change rapidly in this exposed mountainous area.


As the day comes to an end, take some time to relax and prepare for day two, where you’ll embark on the second part of the journey, from Fimmvörðuháls Pass to Þórsmörk, exploring more of Iceland’s stunning vistas and natural wonders.


Day 2: Fimmvörðuháls Pass to Þórsmörk

On day two of the Fimmvörðuháls hike, you’ll continue your journey from the Fimmvörðuháls Pass to the picturesque Þórsmörk valley. This section of the trail offers a diverse range of landscapes, from panoramic mountain views to lush valleys adorned with Arctic birch trees.


The trail begins with a descent from the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, leading you through a rocky and rugged terrain. As you make your way down, you’ll be surrounded by incredible views of the surrounding mountains, including the magnificent Tindfjallajökull glacier.


Soon, the terrain transitions into a gentle slope, and you’ll find yourself walking through rolling hills and moss-covered landscapes. Keep an eye out for the vibrant yellow and purple hues of the Arctic birch trees that dot the valley, adding a pop of color to the scenery.


One of the highlights of day two is passing through the incredible Stakkholtsgjá canyon. This narrow and dramatic gorge is a sight to behold, with towering cliffs and a crystal-clear stream flowing through it. It’s worth taking the time to explore the canyon, but be prepared to scramble over rocks and potentially get wet feet if there’s water in the stream.


As you continue on, you’ll encounter several river crossings, adding an adventurous element to your hike. While some crossings may be relatively easy, others might require careful foot placement and balance. It’s important to assess the water’s depth and current before crossing and consider using trekking poles for stability.


As you approach Þórsmörk, the landscape becomes greener and more vibrant. The valley is named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder, and it’s easy to see why. The lush vegetation and towering mountains create a magical atmosphere, making Þórsmörk a true oasis amidst the rugged Icelandic highlands.


Upon reaching Þórsmörk, you’ll find various accommodation options, including campsites and mountain huts. Settle into your chosen accommodation, take a moment to relax, and soak in the beauty of this remarkable valley.


After a rewarding day of hiking, you may choose to explore the surrounding area, go for a refreshing dip in one of the glacial rivers, or simply unwind in nature’s embrace. The peacefulness and tranquility of Þórsmörk will leave you feeling rejuvenated and grateful for this unforgettable hiking adventure.


As your journey on the Fimmvörðuháls hike comes to an end, take a moment to reflect on the incredible landscapes you’ve traversed and the challenges you’ve overcome. The memories created during these two days will stay with you for a lifetime, and the Fimmvörðuháls hike will forever hold a special place in your heart.


Difficulty and Safety Considerations

The Fimmvörðuháls hike is a challenging trek that requires a good level of fitness and outdoor experience. It’s important to be aware of the difficulty and safety considerations before embarking on this adventure.


The trail is marked and well-maintained, but it traverses varying terrains, including steep ascents, rocky slopes, river crossings, and potentially unpredictable weather conditions. Proper preparation and caution are essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.


Physical Fitness: The Fimmvörðuháls hike involves significant elevation gain and can be physically demanding. Prepare for the trek by engaging in regular exercise and building your endurance through hiking or other aerobic activities. Strengthening your leg muscles will also help with the challenging terrain.


Weather: Iceland’s weather can be highly changeable, and conditions along the Fimmvörðuháls hike can shift rapidly. Be prepared for rain, wind, fog, and even snow, regardless of the time of year. Dress in layers, carry waterproof gear, and be attentive to weather forecasts before and during your hike.


Navigation and Safety: While the trail is marked, it is still important to navigate with caution, especially in areas with loose rocks or tricky river crossings. Pay attention to trail markers, follow any safety signs or warnings, and utilize a map and compass or a GPS device to ensure you stay on track.


Emergency Services and Communication: In case of emergencies, it’s crucial to have a means of communication. Carry a fully charged mobile phone but note that there may not be cell phone reception throughout the entire trail. It’s recommended to have a backup plan, such as a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB), in case of emergencies.


Water and Food: Stay hydrated by carrying sufficient drinking water for the duration of your hike. There are natural water sources along the trail, but it’s essential to filter or treat the water before consuming it. Pack high-energy snacks and meals to sustain your energy levels throughout the hike.


Camping and Accommodation: If you plan to camp along the trail, be aware of the designated camping areas and follow Leave No Trace principles. Consider staying in mountain huts or guesthouses for added comfort and convenience, but make advanced reservations, as availability can be limited.


Travel Insurance: It is highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers outdoor activities and emergency medical treatment. Ensure that your policy covers hiking and associated risks, including search and rescue expenses, if needed.


Hiking with a Guide: If you’re new to hiking or unfamiliar with the Icelandic terrain, consider joining a guided hiking tour. Experienced guides can provide insight into the trail, enhance safety, and offer valuable knowledge about the local environment and culture.


By understanding and acknowledging the difficulty and safety considerations, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the Fimmvörðuháls hike responsibly and safely. Remember, the preservation of the natural environment and your own well-being should always be prioritized during your adventure.


Essential Gear and Packing List

When embarking on the Fimmvörðuháls hike, it’s crucial to have the right gear and equipment to ensure your safety, comfort, and enjoyment along the trail. Here’s a list of essential items to pack:

  • Hiking Boots: Invest in sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with ankle support to navigate the rugged terrain.
  • Backpack: Choose a comfortable backpack with a capacity of at least 30 liters to carry your gear.
  • Waterproof Layers: Pack a waterproof jacket and pants to protect yourself from rain and wind. Choose breathable materials to prevent overheating.
  • Layered Clothing: Wear moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a warm, windproof outer layer. Pack extra socks and underwear.
  • Hat and Gloves: Protect yourself from the elements with a warm hat and gloves. Consider bringing a buff or neck gaiter for added versatility.
  • Sun Protection: Pack sunglasses, sunscreen with a high SPF, and a hat with a brim to shield yourself from the sun’s rays, which can be intense in Iceland.
  • Trekking Poles: Consider using trekking poles for added stability, especially during river crossings, steep descents, and ascents.
  • Navigation Tools: Carry a detailed map of the trail, a compass or GPS device, and a waterproof map case to ensure you stay on track.
  • First Aid Kit: Pack a basic first aid kit with essentials such as adhesive bandages, pain relievers, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medication you may need.
  • Water and Water Filtration: Carry at least two liters of water or a water bladder, and pack a water filtration or purification system to refill along the trail.
  • Food and Snacks: Bring high-energy, lightweight food such as trail mix, energy bars, and dehydrated meals. Don’t forget utensils and a lightweight stove if planning to cook.
  • Headlamp: A reliable headlamp is essential for nighttime use in the mountains or if you find yourself hiking in low light conditions.
  • Emergency Essentials: Include a whistle, a lightweight emergency blanket, a fire starter, and a small knife or multi-tool.
  • Camping Gear (if applicable): If camping, bring a lightweight tent, a sleeping bag suitable for the season, a sleeping pad for insulation, and cooking equipment.

Remember to pack your gear strategically, keeping heavier items close to your back and distributing weight evenly. Test and familiarize yourself with your gear before the hike to ensure everything is in working order.


By packing the right gear, you’ll be prepared for the conditions along the Fimmvörðuháls hike and can enjoy your adventure with peace of mind.


Camping and Accommodation Options

When planning your Fimmvörðuháls hike, it’s important to consider your camping or accommodation options along the trail. Whether you prefer the simplicity of camping or the comfort of a mountain hut, there are various choices to suit different preferences and budgets.




If you choose to camp along the Fimmvörðuháls trail, be aware of designated camping areas. These sites provide basic facilities such as toilets and sometimes even cooking shelters. It’s important to follow Leave No Trace principles and leave the campsite as you found it.


When camping, make sure to bring a lightweight and durable tent, a sleeping bag suitable for the season, a sleeping pad for insulation, and cooking equipment if you plan to prepare your own meals. Remember to store food properly to avoid attracting wildlife.


Mountain Huts:


For those seeking a bit more comfort and convenience, mountain huts are available along the Fimmvörðuháls trail. These huts offer a place to rest, cook, and socialize with other hikers.


It’s important to note that the huts can be popular, especially during peak hiking season, so it’s recommended to make advanced reservations. Some huts provide meals, but it’s advisable to bring your own food as a backup, as availability may vary.


Staying in mountain huts allows you to lighten your load, as you won’t need to carry camping equipment. However, it’s still important to pack essentials such as a sleeping bag liner, toiletries, and any personal items you may need.




If you prefer a more comfortable and luxurious experience, guesthouses are available in Þórsmörk and Skógar. These accommodations provide a cozy and warm environment, perfect for relaxing after a day of hiking.


Guesthouses often offer amenities such as private rooms, hot showers, and communal areas where you can socialize with fellow hikers. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance, especially during the peak travel season, to secure your preferred accommodation.


Regardless of the accommodation option you choose, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared. Check availability, make reservations early, and familiarize yourself with the facilities and rules of your chosen camping site or accommodation.


Whichever option you select, camping or staying in a mountain hut or guesthouse, you’ll find a comfortable spot to rest and rejuvenate, ready for the next day’s adventure on the Fimmvörðuháls trail.


Recommended Itinerary

When it comes to planning your Fimmvörðuháls hike, having a well-thought-out itinerary ensures that you can make the most of your time on the trail and experience the highlights along the way. Here’s a recommended itinerary to help you plan your adventure:


Day 1: Skógar to Fimmvörðuháls Pass


Start your journey from the base of the majestic Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar. Take your time exploring this natural wonder before ascending the steep stairs that lead up the mountain. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Skógá River and the surrounding mountains as you make your way to the Fimmvörðuháls Pass. Take breaks to rest and admire the stunning landscapes along the trail. After reaching the pass, find accommodation at the Fimmvörðuháls Hut to rest and rejuvenate for the next day’s hike.


Day 2: Fimmvörðuháls Pass to Þórsmörk


Continue your journey from the Fimmvörðuháls Pass, taking in the otherworldly terrain of volcanic craters and steaming vents. Descend through rolling hills and moss-covered landscapes, enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the Tindfjallajökull glacier. Pass through the impressive Stakkholtsgjá canyon and navigate river crossings as you make your way to the lush Þórsmörk valley. Reward yourself with a comfortable stay at a mountain hut or guesthouse, reveling in the tranquility and beauty of this stunning oasis.


Optional: Explore Þórsmörk


If you have an additional day to spare, consider spending it exploring the wonders of Þórsmörk. This valley offers a plethora of hiking trails, allowing you to further immerse yourself in the beauty of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and birch forests. You can also enjoy shorter walks to breathtaking viewpoints or simply relax and soak in the serenity of this picturesque location. Take this opportunity to connect with nature and experience the unique flora and fauna that thrive in Þórsmörk’s lush environment.


Remember, this is just a suggested itinerary, and you can customize it based on your own preferences and hiking abilities. Take into consideration factors such as weather conditions and your fitness level when planning your daily distances and accommodations. It’s always a good idea to have a buffer day in case of unforeseen circumstances.


With this recommended itinerary, you can embark on a memorable journey through the stunning landscapes of the Fimmvörðuháls hike, embracing the challenges and marveling at the natural wonders along the way.


Tips for a Successful Hike

Embarking on the Fimmvörðuháls hike is an incredible adventure that requires proper preparation and planning. Here are some tips to help you have a successful and enjoyable hiking experience:

  • Research and Plan Ahead: Familiarize yourself with the trail, including the distance, elevation changes, and potential challenges. Create a schedule that aligns with your fitness level and desired pace.
  • Check Weather and Conditions: Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, so monitor the forecast and trail conditions before and during your hike. Adjust your plans if necessary to ensure your safety.
  • Train and Build Stamina: Prior to the hike, engage in regular exercise to improve your fitness level and build stamina. Focus on activities that strengthen your legs and improve endurance.
  • Pack Light and Smart: Take only the essential gear and pack strategically to distribute weight evenly. Consider the time of year and potential weather conditions when packing clothing layers and gear.
  • Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished: Drink plenty of water and carry enough food to keep your energy levels sustained throughout the hike. Snack frequently and eat nutrient-rich meals to replenish your body.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect the environment by adhering to Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash and dispose of waste properly. Be mindful of the fragile ecosystem and avoid damaging flora and fauna.
  • Stay on the Trail: Stick to the designated trail to protect both yourself and the natural surroundings. Straying from the path can lead to dangerous situations and cause disruption to delicate ecosystems.
  • Be Water Wise: Utilize water sources along the trail, but ensure you filter or treat the water before consuming it. Carry enough water to stay hydrated between water sources.
  • Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid disturbing or feeding any animals. Maintain a safe distance, especially when encountering larger mammals such as reindeer or foxes.
  • Take Breaks and Rest: Listen to your body and take regular breaks to rest, hydrate, and refuel. Pace yourself throughout the hike to avoid exhaustion or overexertion.
  • Stay Informed and Alert: Keep informed about potential hazards, such as river crossings or weather changes. Watch for signs and warnings along the trail, and always prioritize your safety.

Remember, the Fimmvörðuháls hike is a challenging adventure that requires a responsible and mindful approach. By following these tips, you can ensure a successful and memorable journey through Iceland’s spectacular landscapes.



The Fimmvörðuháls hike is a truly unforgettable adventure that allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Iceland’s southern highlands. From the roaring waterfalls of Skógar to the ethereal landscapes of the Fimmvörðuháls Pass and the lush Þórsmörk valley, this trail offers a diverse range of natural wonders.


While the hike presents challenges, such as steep ascents, rugged terrain, and unpredictable weather, with proper preparation and a sense of adventure, it is a journey that is well worth the effort. The captivating scenery, the sense of accomplishment, and the opportunity to connect with Iceland’s raw wilderness make the Fimmvörðuháls hike an experience of a lifetime.


Remember to plan ahead, pack wisely, and prioritize safety throughout your journey. Respect the environment and leave no trace, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same pristine landscapes. Take your time to fully embrace the natural wonders along the trail, whether it’s the cascading waterfalls, the volcanic formations, or the vibrant birch forests.


As you hike through this diverse and awe-inspiring landscape, allow yourself to be taken by the magnificence of Iceland’s nature. Let the challenges of the trail strengthen your spirit and awaken your sense of adventure. The memories you create on the Fimmvörðuháls hike will stay with you forever, serving as a reminder of the indomitable beauty and power of nature.


So lace up your boots, prepare your gear, and embark on this remarkable journey through Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls. Your heart will be filled with wonder and your spirit will soar as you traverse this extraordinary trail.