Hornstrandir Hike - IMG447

Photo:  Gréta S. Guðjónsdóttir
Photo:  Gréta S. Guðjónsdóttir
Photo:  Gréta S. Guðjónsdóttir

Tour type: Backpacking trek with camping and staying in huts




Price from:  

Adult: 179.000

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What's included: Guide, food for 5 days, transportation, boat transfer, tents and hut fees

Duration: 5 days

Accommodation: Mountain huts and tents

Meeting point: Starts and ends at the domestic airport in Reykjavik

Group size: Min 4, Max 12

Language: English

Walking per day: 3-7 hours

  • Tour Description

    Highlights of the Tour

    • Immense cliffs
    • Remote wilderness
    • Arctic flora and foxes

    Rugged mountains and endless number of jagged cliffs shaped by weather and wind are what distinguishes the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the northern part of the Westfjords. The area has been mostly uninhabited since the mid-20th century and today it is an untouched wilderness where the arctic fox roams freely and the cliffs are home to millions of seabirds. This area has been a hiker’s paradise for a long time, the views from the sheer cliffs that rise straight from the ocean and the fragile fauna make you feel like you have made your way to the edge of the world. Sometimes banks of clouds create unique spectacles when they hang at the cliffs´ edges. On this tour we hike from the beautiful village of Hesteyri to the bays of the northern coast along cliffs and over mountain passes. One of our destinations is Hornbjarg cliff, the northern most tip of the Vestfirðir peninsula and one of the biggest bird colonies in Iceland. This tour takes you to an area that is remote, mystical and mostly untouched. Backcountry backpacking at its best! 

    Included: Guide, breakfast (4), lunch (5), dinner (4). Transport. Boat transfer to Hesteyri and from Veiðileysufjörður. Accommodation: Tents and huts. Flights: Reykjavik - Ísafjörður - Reykjavik

    In the summer of 2017 this tour will not be on fixed dates, only available on demand for groups. Contact us for more information.


  • Tour Itinerary

    Day 1: Reykjavik-Ísafjörður-Hesteyri-Hlöðuvík
    You meet your guide in the morning at the domestic airport in Reykjavik. The flight to Ísafjörður in the Westfjords takes 35 minutes.. We are transferred to the harbor where we hop on to the boat which takes us over the Ísafjarðardjúp to the fjord of Hesteyri (approx. 60 minutes ride). On the way we have a good chance to spot whales. In the abandoned village of Hesteyri we start our hike to Hlöðuvík.  Hesteyri used to be a lively village due to the whale station in its vicinity. The last inhabitant however left the isolated place in 1950. We start our hike along the fjord and up to the pass of Kjaranvíkurskarð. We enjoy the view back towards the Hesteyrarfjord and soon enough towards the bay of Hlöðuvík . We descend towards the shore at Kjaransvík where we turn east and continue past the mountain Álfsfell. We have to ford one river before we reach the houses of Hlöðuvík. Here we spend our next two nights.

    Hiking: 5 -7 hrs total, distance ~14 km. Ascent: 400m, descent: 425m 

    Day 2: Hlöðuvík – Hælavíkurbjarg - Hlöðuvík
    We start our hike from Hælavík start to climb the local mountain of Skálakambur (327 m). From there we descend down to Hælavík bay, where we can see the ruins of an old farm.  We hike along Mávatjörn (the pond of the seagulls) and then turn uphill untill we reach the top. By then we have reached the cliffs of Hælavíkurbjarg, one of the biggest colonies of seabirds in Iceland. We hike alongt the cliff, turn for a moment up to the hills of Axlir and then continue along this massif cliffs. Every now and then we stop and carefully look over the edge... We reach the cliffs highest point, Festaskaðatind (530 m) before we turn back down towards Skálakambur and back down to Hlöðuvík.

    Hiking: 8-10 hrs total, distance: 15km, ascent: 510m, descent: 530m 

    Day 3: Hlöðuvík – Hornvík
    Today we start to climb up to Skálakambur (327m). After a zick-zack climb we put down our backpacks and enjoy the view over the Hælavík bay, the surrounding mountains and the hut where we stayed. We continue towards Atlaskarð where we find a cairn, called Atladys. It is very important that everybody puts 3 stones into the cairn, so Atli doesn´t get furious and to insure a good continuation of our trip. If the weather allows we take a detour to Hvannadalur. We leave the bags behind and go along a small path to a narrow ridge Langikambur which reaches down into the sea and where we can enjoy the view over to Hornbjarg. We take the same path back to our rucksacks and continue down to the ruins of the house in Rekavik. We pass by the impressive formations of Stapi in Tröllakambur and finally reach our next camp in Höfn in Hornvík bay. It is a very remote place and often there is a good chance to see wild foxes in this area. 

    Hiking: 5-7 hrs total, distance: 10km, ascent: 510m, descent: 530m 

    Day 4: Hornvík – Hornbjarg – Hornvík
    Today we explore the Hornvík area and hike to the most northern part to the Hornbjarg.

    Hornbjarg is one of the largest bird cliffs in the world. We find different species of auk family (Alcidae) like the puffin (disambiguation), Brünnich´s guillemot (Uria lomvia), common guillemot (Uria aalge) and other related birds. We hike along the bay to the North where we can peek down into the high cliffs and listen to the screams of millions of birds. We hike to the peak of Miðfell through lush vegetation and continue towards Múlinn. We hike along the cliffs and finally turn back to our camp by passing another waterfall. 

    Hiking: 5-6 hrs total, distance: 15 km, ascent: 580m, descent: 580m 

    Day 5: Hornvík-Veiðileysufjörður-Isafjördur-Reykjavik
    Today we leave the Nature Reserve of Hornstrandir. We hike South and soon start our climb towards the pass of Hafnarskarð (519m). We enjoy the fantastic views back over the valley and the Hornbjarg. We follow the cairns down to the Veiðileysufjord. There used to be three farms and a whale station was built by Norwegians in 1897. The station was moved to the Feroe Islands in 1903. Here we are picked up by our boat and brought back to Ísafjörður. Again we can enjoy the views over the fjords, partly covered with snow. The boat ride takes a little bit more than 1 hour. From Ísafjörður we take the plane back to Reykjavík where the tour ends at the domestic airport. 

    Hiking: 4-5 hrs total, distance: 12 km, ascent: 570m, descent: 570m


  • Gear Lexicon

    Backpacking Tours

    Backpacking tour - definition

    Backpacking tour is a multi-day trip where all gear and food is carried on the back. The tour may at some point have support in the form of a food drop off or food supply in huts. Participants will need to be prepared to carry both their personal gear as well as a share of the team´s food and communal gear (tents, stoves, pots).  On most backpacking tours you will sleep in tents in the wilderness, on a couple of tours we use only huts.

    Hiking Boots


    Scarpa Hekla

    Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support. Leather or synthetic with a waterproof membrane, e.g. Gore-Tex. Make sure they are a good fit, leaving some space for your toes – and wear them in, even if it is just by light hiking in the city.

    Long sleeve- / T-shirt (thermal underwear)


    Bergans Merino

    A thin base layer (next to skin). The most popular is merino wool – comfortable to wear for multiple days without the smell of synthetic materials. Most people should be fine with the same merino shirt on for 2 – 3 days. Having short and long sleeve is great for adjusting to different weather conditions. A sleeveless shirt (merino wool) can also be a good addition for a base layer as well as a sports bra for the women.

    Light wool or fleece sweater

    This is your regular insulation layer for hiking during the day. Options from Merino wool are available as well as the standard fleece jacket. Not too thick for summertime use, but consider layering with two jackets or a jacket and a vest – that way you will be prepared for any type of weather.

    Trousers – softshell


    Soft shell is strong and durable, wind resistant and quick drying. Perfect for hiking pants. Some might consider a thin base-layer for extra insulation on colder days. If you have a thinner trousers consider having long-johns handy for cold days.

    Jacket with a good hood (wind and waterproof)


    ME Manaslu

    A good “hard-shell” jacket with a large protective hood. Gore-Tex membrane or similar to keep you dry. Make sure it is not too tight and that you can fit insulation underneath. Note that a soft-shell jacket is a great addition but will not replace a good waterproof hard-shell when you really, really need one! Good rain gear – tops and bottoms are mandatory on all our tours. 

    Rain trousers – wind and waterproof


    Good rain pants are absolutely compulsory in Iceland. They should be lightweight – as they are in the backpack most of the time. If they have zip-up legs to ease getting into it is a big bonus. Make sure they are breathable and strong enough to take some abuse from walking.  We often see cheap rain pants come apart on the seams. Gore-Tex or similar waterproof breathing membrane is appropriate. Good rain gear – tops and bottoms are mandatory on all our tours.


    A light pair of fleece or wool gloves or mittens does the job. You can also take a pair of ski-gloves or other wind and waterproof shell gloves. Having an extra pair is recommended, and then of different thickness.


    Wool is definitely the preferred material for hiking socks. Different blends are available. If you are prone to blisters or have new boots you might consider wearing a thin liner sock underneath your hiking socks. Make sure you have a few pairs of socks to keep your feet dry and in good conditions.

    Warm hat


    ME Knitted beanie

    A normal ski-hat/beanie is perfect. You could also use a thick buff. As an extra a buff is also nice to have, you can use it to protect your neck and face when needed or as a thinner option for a hat.



    Love Alpine Kongur ND 65:75

    You will need a large backpack for most of our trips, make sure that you have space for your personal gear, including extra clothes and a sleepingbag inside the pack. Most of your gear should fit into the main compartment of your pack and should be packed into one or more drybags. Idealy pack all overnight gear into one dry bag and all gear that you might need access to into anouther one that can be kept accesseble during the day. Sleepingmat, rivershoes and items that are light and bulky or packed wet can be packed on the outside of the pack given there are good straps availible – but getting the weight as close to your centre of gravity as possible will make carrying the pack more comfortable. Pack raingear and cold weather gear so that it can be accessed quickly during the day.  The size of the pack depends largely on your personal needs and the pack size of your sleeping bag.  Women generally should get away with a 50 – 60L pack and mean 60 – 75L. This size should leave enough space, about 20L, for communal gear and food.  A modern pack has good padding, a stiff adjustable frame system (internal frame) and a few different compartments for storing smaller items and items that you will need to access during the day.

    River shoes


    Keen Newport Sandal

    An old pair of running shoes will do just fine. Closed hiking sandals or neoprene kayaking shoes will also work great.  Any quick drying shoe with a good sole that can be securely attached to the foot will do. Loose slippers, flip-flops etc. are not acceptable.
    A good addition to your river crossing shoes are neoprene socks – see Neoprene socks.

    Neoprene Socks


    Neoprene socks

    A good addition to your river crossing shoes are neoprene socks – they should go well above the ankles and the best once have welded seams. You will be able to do most of your river crossings without them, but it is just so much nicer with them. They should be a tight fit, but not too tight to get one when wet.

    Sleeping bag

    The mountain-huts during the summer are usually warm, although not heated during the night. Any old sleeping bag will therefore do, unless you get cold easily. For temperature control having a full length zipper is great. A liner bag is also a very nice addition and will improve your ability to regulate your head during the night.  If you are doing a winter trip or summer camping a 3 season sleeping bag would be sufficient. All the huts we use have mattresses on the beds so no need to bring your own for hut trips.

    Sleeping mattress

    Most will use a self-inflating mattress.  A modern model is amazingly light and comfortable and will pack down to the size of a water bottle. A classical foam mattress is also a good option – but bulky and less comfortable. If you choose to store the mattress on the outside of your pack it will need to be in a separate waterproof bag.


    To save weight and bulk, a light weight microfiber towel is ideal. You might like a big one for drying off after a swim and a small one for drying your feet after river crossings.

    Sunglasses and sun protection

    Believe it or not, you will need those things in Iceland. There are no big issues with sun, so a high SPF rating for sun block is not an issue unless you plan to be on a glacier or on snow. You should have a small bottle to save weight in your pack. Likewise; any pair if sunglasses would be sufficient – but make sure you pack them. If you plan to be in snow or on ice a pair of glasses with a high UV (close to 100%) and/or cat (3 – 4) rating and side shields will be appropriate.

    Changes of clothes

    On a backpacking trip weight is everything so you should limit very much the amount of extra clothes your carry. You should still have a change of clothes so that at least a set of long underwear stays dry in your pack during the day. But there is no need for more than one pair of pants or a fresh t-shirt for every day.

    Water container / thermos flask

    In Iceland you can drink from the stream, no filters, not iodine or chlorine! It is good to have a small water bottle at hand. For most days a 0,5 – 1L bottle should be plenty as water is easily found all over. If you are a warm drinker we will be happy to fill up your thermos in the morning and a selection of teas will be available (very dedicated tea drinkers often bring an emergency stash of their favourite brand).



    Even though the summer night is bright the inside of the hut might not be. A headlamp is also useful for a bit of reading. There are plenty of options available for LED head lamps that are just perfect for reading and getting around the hut. A small flash-light will also do the job. Most LED headlamps have more than enough light for our purposes and the battery life is so good that one set will do for your Iceland trip.

    Personal first-aid-kit

    The guides on our tours will have a first aid kit available. It is still nice to have some small items to be self-sufficient with minor things. Band-Aid, Compeed for blisters, pain killers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs.

    Personal items


    Make sure to have all your prescription medication with you, if you have any medical condition that could in any way affect you during the trip make sure to let your guide know. For those suffering from allergies having antihistamine is advisable – or any other medication that works for your conditions. Items for personal hygiene should also be included, having a small bar of soap handy or some liquid hand soap is a good idea. Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental-floss should be packed. Pack shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in small plastic bottles that close tight. Avoid liquid antiperspirant and glass containers due to risks of spilling. Feminine products like pads, tampons etc. should also be packed if needed. If you take vitamins or other supplements you should continue to do so during your holiday.
    A bit of toilet-paper in a plastic bag along with a lighter to burn it after use is the way to go in Iceland. In most cases you are sharing a room with a few fellow travellers – so a pair of good ear-plugs can ensure a good night sleep. Those not used to the bright summer might also like to bring an eye mask.  Contact lenses, lens liquid etc.

    Swim suit

    Bathing in the natural hot-pools will be one of the highlights of your trip in Iceland. Make sure you come dressed for the occasion. There are no specific rules, written or unwritten on how to dress or not to dress; board shorts, speedos, bikinis or bathing suits – anything goes. Quick drying is good.

    Trekking pole(s)


    Black Diamond Trekking / hiking poles

    One or two poles are nice to have. Some trekkers like to use them all the time, other use them only during river crossings or on steep ups and downs. If you like them, make sure that they are foldable and light weight. A small basket is also nice.


    For summer time use you should normally not need gaiters as they are designed to keep snow from getting into your boots. Some like them also for scree slopes. Keep in mind that the volcanic soil in Iceland is very abrasive so you will want to be able to remove the strap that goes under your boot sole to keep it from getting trashed.

    Sun/rain hat or Cap

    A baseball cap or a comfortable hat with brim is great to have. If it is a bite water and weather proof that is a great addition. It will keep the rain from running down your face and into your layering.  Be prepared to take it off if the wind picks up.


    It does get warm enough in Iceland to wear shorts. They are also nice for sleeping in, in case you need to get out in the night. For hiking it is nice to have some pockets, for the items that other ways would be in the pockets of you pants. But any old pair of shorts will do.

    Puffy Jacket


    ME Compressor Hooded Jacket PrimaLoft

    A nice light puffy is great during brakes. The insulation could be down or synthetics (Primaloft). It should not be very big or bulky – Iceland is not that cold. Synthetic insulation is preferred in Iceland as it keeps most of its insulating properties also when wet. A puffy vest would also be a good option.


    There are plenty of different products available for storing your equipment inside your pack and keeping it dry. A rain cover over your pack often has limited use in Iceland due to the wind – a safer option is to pack whatever needs to be kept dry into dry-bags inside your back-pack. It is also a great way to organize the inside of your pack. One bag for electronics (camera and phone) and one bag for extra clothing, as an example.

    Aperitif of other heart-warming spirits

    Liquor laws in Iceland prohibit the sale of alcohol in most places you come by on your trip in the highlands and limited opening hours stop you from buying any most other places. So having a flask (preferably plastic or metal) to share with your fellow travels in front of the camp fire (gas heater) can be the crowning of a good day. You can take care of this in the duty-free up on arrival in Iceland if you like. Just follow all the Icelanders on your flight – they will take you straight to duty-free!

    Other cool things to have when backpacking

    Book – to read during the evenings.
    Music - and head phones. Some of our guides also have speakers with them to share Icelandic music.
    Diary or note-book – to write down your good memories from Iceland. Also a pen or pencil.
    Power-bank / extra battery for you electronics – small solar cells usually do not work that well in Iceland so a pre charged power bank is a better option.  Charging your electronics in the highlands often is not an option or will cost you extra. Having converters adapters for 220 V and/or USB will help.


  • Map

For availability and more information about this tour please contact us.

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