What better place to go hiking than the beautiful, volcanic formation that is Iceland. From beginner to advance, this country has something for everyone. I definitely consider myself an adventurous traveler, but I do have a limited level of experience. The Laugavegur Trail and the Kjalvegur trail were my two choices as they had relatively short completion time and were easily accessible by public transport. This is a guide to hiking the second of them, the Kjalvegur (or Kjolur) Trail.
Keep reading for everything you should know in order to plan your very own Icelandic hiking adventure on the Kjalvegur trail! Make sure you don't miss our hiking guide to The Laugavegur Trail here as well.
This trail, I’ve seen it spelt Kjalvegur and Kjolur, is more secluded and much less famous than the Laugavegur trail. So, this is the one to take if you don’t like the idea of meeting many other hikers along the way. The trail runs from Hveravellir to Hvítánes, covering almost 40kms of terrain; with no extreme ascent or decent in elevation.
Of course you can do it in the opposite direction, ending in Hveravellir means you can explore the area’s hot springs and other geothermal features after you've completed the 40 kms which in my opinion is a great way to end!
Day 1: Hveravellir – Þjófadalir
As mentioned above, Hveravellir has many geothermal features that should be checked out prior to getting on the trail. The above picture being one of them!
Once leaving Hveravellir, you’ll be able to follow one of two trails; one trail goes south toward a volcano crater called Strýtur, the other southwest through a lava field. In either case, the trail is marked with stakes or cairns and covers approximately 12kms. Eventually you end in the valley of Þjófadalir, which has a peaceful river flowing through it and a small cabin for sleeping!
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Day 2: Þjófadalir - Þverbrekknamúli
From here you leave the valley; the trail is flanked by a lava field on one side and the river Fúlakvísl on the other. Following the river, you’ll see mount Hrútfell which is covered in glaciers and a great spot for some of that Instagram photography.
This leg of the trail also has two options. first, you can take a small foot bridge which crosses the Fúlakvísl; from here you can climb relatively small hills and then eventually down towards the cabin. Second, you can continue to hike next to the river and cross at another bridge. This leg of the hike is approximately 14kms and can take 5-6 hours to complete, depending on the option you take.
Day 3: Þverbrekknamúli-Hvítánes
You start this leg by heading east and eventually crossing a foot bridge (the one from the second option on the previous leg). Again, most of the trail runs alongside the Fúlakvísl river and is relatively easy to navigate.
There is a second option on this leg as well, but I don’t recommend it as it requires many river crossings (actually, it’s all the Fúlakvísl river, but it as it reaches lake Hvítárvatn, it becomes divided into many streams).
The lake itself is a must see, it’s a lake that is fed by a massive glacier and is so cold nothing can live in it. There is a cabin and tenting area in Hvítánes, but many people just take some time to explore and then continue to the main road for transportation back to Reykjavik.
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How to get there?
Since I couldn’t afford to rent a car I decided to opt for an "Iceland on your own" bus pass instead. There are some practical reasons renting a car doesn’t work when hiking. First and foremost, renting a car when hiking isn’t the greatest idea unless the trail happens to go in a circle; second, many Iceland trails are so remote that only 4x4 type vehicles are able to reach them. Your best solution is a bus!
Similar to the Laugavegur, the best way to get there is by a six hour bus ride. However, since this trail is even more remote, it is pretty much the only way to get there. Unfortunately there is no passport option for this trail, you have to purchase a one way ticket to Hveravellir and a one way from Hvítánes.
There are a few companies to choose from, but once again I went with Iceland on your own. I preferred this one because the drive to Hveravellir was a tour in itself, as the bus makes a few tourist stops to break up the journey. Our first stop was at the geyser responsible for naming all others, Geysir. Geysir is the first geyser described in recorded history and that's why we now call them geysers. The second stop is at the famous Gullfoss waterfall for some picturesque views. And finally the last stop is at the Kerlingarfjöll cabins for a quick rest stop before getting to the start of the trail.
Hiking Iceland on your own is easy if you stick to the well marked trails, common hikes and relatively easy terrain. Whether you get a group together, or go on your own, make sure to let someone know of your intentions in case anything happens.
Don't forget to share our guides to hiking Iceland with your friends, you just might convince them to tag along!
Wondering what you should be bringing? Check out Part 1 of our Iceland hiking guide - The Laugavegur Trail here!
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