Fimmvörðuháls one of Iceland's most popular hiking trail
Updated: Apr 3
Fimmvörðuháls, or 'The Five Cairn Ridge’, is one of Iceland's most popular hiking trails. Although the trail is quite challenging and can even be dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors hike this 22 km trail at up to 1000 meters in elevation every summer. The main reason, of course, is its stunning landscapes. It is simply a spectacular hike with spectacular views of many natural wonders: waterfalls, craters, canyons, glaciers, and a breathtaking view of the mountains of the Highland. The track runs in between two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, and part of it is on snow. The track also goes through a crater, and, in 2010, a small eruption occurred at the track's most challenging section.
The track between two glaciers
Most of the hikers walk from the well-known waterfall Skógafoss to Þórsmörk. From Skógafoss, you walk through fascinating landscapes with many small waterfalls on your left side of the river Skógá. The elevation is a bit steep all the way to a hut at the top. From there, it is more or less downhill all the way to Þórsmörk. Some hikers prefer to do the hike in one day, while others choose to stay at the hut and finish the hike in two days. At the peak, the track has a view of the east side of Eyjafjallajökull glacier and the west side of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Both glaciers house powerful volcanos that can erupt at short notice. Even the most notorious volcano in Iceland's cultural and geological history, Katla in Mýrdalsjökull, has been due to erupt since 2018, as it does every 100 years. Fimmvörðuháls is also often considered to be an extension of our famous Laugavegur hike, and many hikers finish their hike from Landmannalaugar at Skógafoss waterfall, adding the extra 22 kilometers to the 54 kilometer Laugavegur hike.
Hiking Fimmvörðuháls requires caution
In 1970, a group of eleven hikers started the trail in good weather from Skógafoss, determined to walk to Þórsmörk. There was nothing exceptionally unusual about the weather or the conditions. At the top, near Heljarkambur, severe weather hit the mountain, and three hikers became exhausted and died within hours. The rest of the group made it to Básar in Þórsmörk with enormous hardship and difficulty. The story constantly reminds us of the unpredictable weather that the two glaciers can produce. It is also a reminder of the necessity of preparing thoroughly before hiking over Fimmvörðuháls and taking all possible precautions. The track is only accessible from late May until September and is only for highly trained and experienced hikers at any other time of the year.