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While most hiking enthusiasts flock to the Laugavegur Trek, there is an alternative long-distance volcanic trail through Iceland’s wild interior that offers a less crowded path past ice caps, lava fields and volcanoes. The route between Mount Sveinstindur and the Hvanngil Valley (the Volcanic Trail), is a challenging hut-to-hut hiking experience that rewards hikers with full immersion in Iceland’s untamed volcanic wilderness.
An explorer taking a picture of the landscape in Hvannagil, Iceland.

Exploring Iceland’s Volcano Hiking Trail

How to get to the Volcanic Trail in Iceland

Taking in breathtaking landscapes like Eldgjá, Hvanngil, Mount Strútur and the summit of the towering Mount Sveinstindur, the Volcanic Trail Tour runs through the remote interior of Iceland. It’s around a five-hour drive from Reykjavík to the beginning of the trail, following some of the narrow, challenging F-roads into the centre of the island.

Since this isn't a loop hike, driving yourself isn't advisable. You'd end up at a different location from where you started, requiring a ride back to your car. Given that public transport doesn't serve this area, your options are to book a guided tour or arrange private transfers to drop you off at the trailhead and pick you up at the end of your trek.

The most convenient way to experience this hut-to-hut, long-distance trek is by joining a guided tour with transfers to and from Reykjavík. On an organised tour, you don’t have to worry about booking your place in the mountain huts or mapping out the itinerary – all of this is taken care of.

The Volcanic Trails Tour vs the Laugavegur Trek

While many hikers flocks to the Laugavegur Trek through Iceland’s highlands, you’ll find a quieter route on the Volcanic Trail Tour from Mount Sveinstindur and the Hvanngil Valley, ending with a day on the Laugavegur-adjacent trails. The Volcanic Trails Tour takes in Iceland’s wild, volcanic scenery from jet-black valleys streaked with moss at Eldgjá to an other-worldly lava forest at Skælingar and the summit of Mount Sveinstindur for endless views over the beguiling scenery.

Both the Volcanic Trails Tour and the Laugavegur Trek are hut-to-hut treks through Iceland’s uninhabited middle where you spend 6 to 8 hours a day hiking the trail and stay overnight in rustic mountain huts with very basic facilities. The huts on the Laugavegur Trek are very popular and book up fast in advance, so you need to be quick in getting your accommodation sorted. While the Volcanic Trail follows a less-trodden path, it does share some of the same huts at the Laugavegur Trek towards the end of the route, so booking in advance is still a good idea. Better yet, you can leave all the booking and organisation to someone else by joining a guided Volcano Trails Tour.

What to pack for the Volcanic Trails Tour

You will be carrying everything you take with you (including any rubbish you create) on your Volcano Trails Tour, so you’ll want to stick to the essentials. A sturdy, waterproof pair of hiking boots are essential along with several pairs of protective hiking socks, blister plasters and a small first aid kit. The mountain huts have beds in a shared dorm setup, but you need to bring your own sleeping bag, food and drinks. If you bring a water bottle, you can fill it up along the way as a large section of the trail follows the Syðri Ófæra River and Iceland’s glacial river water is perfectly safe to drink.

Despite the trail only being open in summer, a waterproof jacket and fleece combination is the way to go as the Icelandic weather can be extremely unpredictable throughout the year. Several sports t-shirts and trousers that dry quickly are a good idea as it can get hot walking uphill and sudden downpours can happen at any time. Not all the huts have shower facilities, so dry shampoo is your friend. Some, but not all, hiking huts have electricity so a power pack to charge electronics is essential as you’ll want to snap endless photos of the incredible landscape along the way.

All About Volcanic Trails in Iceland

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