Backpacking in Lónsöræfi Nature Reserve: Remote Hiking at it’s Best

Mountain view of Lónsöræfi
Ellert Grétrasson

What do you want out of a hiking trip in Iceland? Allow us to have a guess: you would you like to see very few people; hike in, around and through some remarkable landscape and by the end have an amazing story to keep with you forever and tell others?

Did we get that right? Well, we think we may have just the ticket: hiking in the Lónsöræfi Nature Reserve, right in the shadow (figuratively as well as literally) of the Vatnajökull Glacier.

The Lónsöræfi Nature Reserve is an incredibly remote hiking area, and offers a unique experience of the rugged landscapes to the east of the Vatnajokull Glacier

Looking over a river running though sandy area in Lónsöræfi with mountains in the background.
Ellert Grétarsson

In the shadow of the Vatnajökull glacier

Everything that is here, is here because of the glacier: the landscape occurs in the wake thereof. It’s a remarkable thing to see this glaciological trace everywhere, from the actual impact of the ice, through to the valleys, canyons and gullies that arise from the runoff.

People hiking through snow on a summer day with a white cloud in the middle of the sky
Ellert Grétarsson

Geese galore!

Do you think you would expect to find wildlife in a barren, desolate place like this? Well, believe or not, there is a unique oasis lying at a very hike-able altitude of 650 m. Here, you will find a huge colony of migratory Pink-Footed Geese in Eyjabakkar. The geese come to Iceland to breed and shed their feathers.

Goose in an Icelandic landscape

Details about the hike in the Lónsöræfi Nature Reserve

Total Walking Distance: 50 km (33 mi)
Altitude: 100 - 800 m (330 - 2600 ft)
Maximum Ascent: 250 m (820 ft)

A woman standing on a cliff looking over Lónsöræfi on a tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides.
Ellert Grétarsson

Classification: Challenging

This hike falls under level of our 1 - 5 difficulty rating scale. We define this as:

Suites those that are physically active and have some background in basic traveling in mountainous terrain with a backpack. 6 - 7 hrs walks per day.

Icelandic Mountain Guides

If you like a challenging hike, this will be perfect for you!

Trail map

Even in a barren, desolate wilderness, there are mountains huts; such is the hiking and mountaineering tradition in Iceland! The trail in and around the Lónsöræfi Nature Reserve is punctuated with well-equipped mountain huts and supported (by us) with logistics which means that you can travel light: you will need only carry your daily hiking essential, not amounting to more than 7 - 10 kg (15 - 22 lbs). Here’s a challenge: Make it as light as possible! Your body will thank you, there is always this bizarre tendency to take items that you think you will need, but end up not needing. Have you ever experienced that? We are willing to bet that you have!

If you are interested in exploring east Iceland further and want to get a feel for the coastal scenery, you can hike at the end of the world, the very edge fjords of Iceland; abounding with incredible peaks, views out to the sea and lots and lots of puffins!

Ellert Grétarsson

East is Best

It is easy to overlook the east of Iceland since it is often overshadowed by the popularity of the south, with it’s many attractions. The east has a tremendous amount to offer; it’s a remarkable landscape where few have trodden. You could easily be one of those few that make it to the Lónsöræfi Nature Reserve over the summer. With your determined feet and our knowledge of the terrain, we will go far indeed.

About the Author

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Hailing from London and born into a British/Brazilian/Italian household, Joseph came to Iceland originally to complete a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Iceland: the rest is history.

Reader’s Comments