Find your tour

Hornstrandir Hike - IMG447

Backcountry backpacking at its best!

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: Contact us

  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

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

Departures: Only available for private groups upon request

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

    What is a Backpacking tour?

    Backpacking tours is a multi-day trips where required gear and food is carried on the back. The tour may at some point have support in the form of food supply mid-way. 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 camp wild, others use huts or a combination of huts and camping. 

    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. 

    Jacket with a good hood (wind and waterproof)


    ME Manaslu

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

    Hard shell pants (wind and waterproof)


    Ideally the hard-shell-pants should be lightweight – as they will be in your 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 disintegrate during the tour.  Gore-Tex or similar waterproof breathing membrane is appropriate. Good rain gear – tops and bottoms are mandatory on all IMG tours.

    Hiking pants


    Soft shell is strong and durable, wind resistant and quick drying – ideal for any outdoor activity. Some might consider a thin base-layer (long-johns) for extra insulation on colder days.  Jeans and other cotton pants are not advisable for any outdoor activity. 

    Base layer


    Bergans Merino

    The most popular thin base layer (next to skin) is made with merino wool because it is comfortable to wear for multiple days without the smell of synthetic materials. Most people should be fine with wearing the same merino shirt for 2 – 3 days on harder tours where weight matters. A thicker base-layer for colder days could also be a part of your adjustable layering.  We recommend packing short and long sleeve options to adjust to different weather conditions.  Women might want a sports bra as a part of their base layer. Cotton t-shirts are not advisable for any strenuous outdoor activity.

    Insulation layer

    A fleece jacket is a classic insulating layer material. Wool is also a good option. It is possible to layer up – two thin jackets or a jacket and a vest rather than one very thick jacket.

    Hands, feet and head:


    ME Knitted beanie

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

    Socks: Wool is the preferred material for skiing socks, and different blends are available. If you are prone to blisters or have new boots, you should consider wearing a thin liner sock underneath your socks in your ski boots. Make sure you have a few pairs of socks to use to keep your feet dry.

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

    Backpack and dry bags


    Love Alpine Kongur ND 65:75

    You will need a large backpack for most of our backpacking trips. Make sure that you have space for your personal gear, including extra clothes and a sleeping bag inside the pack. Most of your gear should fit into the main compartment of your pack and should be packed into one or more dry bags.  Dry bags, as the name suggests, keep wet and dry things separate. Do not count on only the backpack cover to keep your items dry. The size of the pack depends largely on your personal needs. Most people will use a 65 – 75L (4000 - 4600 cu in) or bigger. Make sure to have at least 20L (1200+ cu in) of space (about 1/3) left for communal gear and food. 

    Puffy Jacket


    ME Compressor Hooded Jacket PrimaLoft

    A light puffy is great during breaks. The insulation could be down or synthetic material (such as Primaloft). It should not be very big or bulky for summer time use. Synthetic insulation is preferred as it keeps most of its insulating properties when wet, but down is also a good option.  A puffy vest is a good option as well.

    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.


    A baseball cap or a comfortable hat with brim is great to have and is useful both in sunny and rainy weather. You should also have a nice pair of sunglasses and some sun-bloc – SPF 15-25 should be enough protection for most.  If you plan to be playing on snow covers summits you should bring a pair of quality sunglasses for mountaineering SPF 30 – 50 sunblock.  

    Sleeping Bag Hut

    The mountain-huts during the summer are usually warm, although most are 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 the best. 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 hut 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 huts.  

    Sleeping Bag Tent

    Camping in the arctic summer can be cold. A good quality sleeping bag is essential. Due to the favourable weight-to-warmth ratio down sleeping bags is most people’s choice. Consider a 3 season sleeping bag unless you are a very warm sleeper. Note that the pack volume of your sleeping bag should affect the size of your backpack.  Bear in mind also that temperature rating on sleeping bags are an inexact science, and you may need a heavier or lighter bag than the climate you are headed out to. Consider a liner bag for comfort, temperature regulation and to lengthen the lifetime of your sleeping bag. 

    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.

    Water container / thermos flask

    In Iceland & Greenland, you can drink from any stream, no filters, no iodine and no chlorine needed! It is good to have a small water bottle at hand. A 1L bottle should be plenty, as water is easily found all over. If you prefer warm drinks, we are 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 favorite brand. Those who like cold drinks might like to bring their favorite powdered vitamin/energy drink. 

    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.



    Even though the summer night is bright, the inside of the hut/tent might not be. A headlamp is also useful for those that want to do some reading. There are plenty of options available for LED head lamps that are just perfect for reading and getting around. A small flashlight 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 fully charged battery will be enough for your trip.  

    Personal first-aid-kit

    All the guides on our tours will have a first-aid kit available. However, it is still nice to have some small items for minor injuries. Band-Aids, Compeed for blisters, pain killers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended personal first-aid kit items.  

    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 condition. Items for personal hygiene should also be included, having a small bar of soap handy or some liquid camping soap is a good idea. Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental-floss should be packed. Avoid liquid antiperspirant and glass containers due to risks of spilling and weight. 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.
    In most cases you are sharing sleeping facilities with one or more fellow travellers – so a pair of good ear-plugs can ensure a good night sleep – they are also helpful if the wind is howling. Contact lenses, lens liquid etc. as needed.  Think light-weight when packing your personal things on a backpacking trip – keeping clean is important, but the standard is very different than in your normal life.


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

    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 material is always a good idea. 

    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. 


    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 due to high winds– 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. Note that dry-bags were out and might not be as dry as they were when you first bought them. 


    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.

    Other cool things to have

    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 notebook – to write down your good memories from Iceland. Also, a pen or pencil

    Power-bank / extra battery for your 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 huts in the highlands often is not an option or will cost you extra. Make sure you have an adapter plug and/or a voltage converter for 220 V. 

    Playing cards and travel games – or other toys you might like and can travel. 

    Cash – showers in mountain huts normally cost about 500 ISK and take 100 ISK coins. 

    Travel pillow – if it is not very bulky. Otherwise, you can just use your clothes. 

    Powder drink mix – Good water is never a problem – but you might like a bit of variety. Some powders contain vitamins and minerals that help your body after a hard day.  

    Shorts - It does get warm enough to wear shorts on occasions. They are also nice for sleeping in, and can be worn if you need to get out of your sleeping accommodations at night. For hiking, it is nice to have some pockets to hold items that would normally be in the pockets of your pants. But any old pair of shorts will do.

    Gear shopping in Iceland

    Already in Iceland and need to grab some extra gear? No worries. There are a few shops in Reykjavík to go to (remember to ask for a VAT refund slip when you buy over 5000 ISK, which will save you 14%):

    Íslensku Alparnir:  this is where IMG gets its Mountain Equipment gear, much of with is featured on the pictures above – can’t go wrong there.

    GG-Sjósport: great products, but not in the downtown area.

    Laugavegur: the main shopping street downtown has a few stores, including some local brands like 66°North and Cintamani.

    Kringlan & Smáralind are the indoor shopping centers in Iceland – both have outdoor adventure equipment stores and are open on Sundays.

    For your own wellbeing and safety, we strongly suggest following the advice of our equipment list -  this includes having good quality rain-gear, tops and bottoms!  Also respect that cotton clothing is not appropriate for any strenuous outdoor activity – this includes jeans and t-shirts. Modern outdoor clothing is by far more comfortable and will greatly improve your experience.  Should you have any questions regarding this equipment list or the equipment on our tours, feel free to contact

    Aperitif of other heart-warming spirits

    Aperitif or 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. Additionally, limited opening hours prevent you from buying alcohol in most places unless you are staying in a hotel. Having a flask (preferably plastic or metal) to share with your fellow travellers in front of the camp fire (gas heater) can be a great way top off a good day. You can buy alcohol in the duty-free shops upon your arrival in Iceland. Just follow all the Icelanders on your flight – they will take you straight to duty-free! Also, there are government run alcohol stores in Reykjavík called Vínbuðin.  If time allows, you can purchase alcohol there but alcohol is much less expensive in the duty-free shops at the airport. 

    On trips to Greenland, you can buy alcohol in the duty-free shop on arrival in Iceland. Duty free in Kulusuk, Greenland does not sell high % spirits – but if you make it to the supermarket they will have beer. 

  • Map

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