Hiking Iceland: Hverfjall

For a relatively short hike, the trail from Reykjahlíð to Dimmuborgir via the rim of Hverfjall offers up a great mix of scenery. Highlights include the opportunity to look down into a massive tuff ring volcano crater and the panoramic view of Mývatn studded with lava pillars and pseudocraters. Rising over 300 m from the surrounding landscape and stretching more than a km wide, Hverfjall is a “can’t miss” landmark in the Mývatn region.

From Reykjahlíð, Mr. GeoK and I walked through a lava field softened by mosses, grasses and shrubs. Thanks to a run of metal stairs we descended to the bottom of a shallow canyon where we came across a large pool in a lava cave (possibly Stóragjá, a watery fissure that was once a popular swimming spot but, due to cooling water temperatures and the growth of potentially harmful algae mean it’s no longer safe to swim in the cave). Our sons had taken a different branch of the braided trail system and they were way ahead of us, so we carried without taking a single photograph.

The trail smoothed out by the time we caught up with the boys. The sky was overcast, but as we walked the relatively straight path to Hverfjell, a pool of sunlight illuminated one end of the cone.

There are some small lava caves and fissures in the area, including Grjótagjá. There were a few groups hiking here, but the water-filled cave was pretty quiet. K made a good photo that didn’t show the trash left behind by uncaring visitors.

As we approached Hverfjall, we couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of people making their way up the easy track that leads from the parking lot at the northwestern end to the summit. We wondered how many tour buses we’d see in the parking lot (a few)!

Fortunately for us, many sightseers go up to the rim, turn around to take in the 360 degree view and head back down. By the time we’d hiked about 100 meters along the rim trail, we were pretty much on our own.


The rim trail goes about two-thirds of the way around the crater in a clockwise direction. There were great views of the crater itself and the surrounding landscape.


Mr. Geok walked all the way to the south end of the path to photograph the lake while the boys and I started on the steep descent. Prior experience scree running was useful here!


Only a few people followed us down the switchbacks so there weren’t many people around until we were well into the jagged lava field at Dimmuborgir (literally “Dark Castles”). A series of easy, colour-coded walking trails runs through the easily anthropomorphised landscape. We stuck to the path marked in red, which turned out to be really busy. We were happy to reach the crowded parking lot, where our driver / photo guide was waiting.


We retrieved our lunch supplies from the super truck and settled in at one of the picnic tables adjacent to the parking area to eat a late our well-earned late lunch.

Total distance = 10.8 km
Elevation gain = 302 m total / 20 m net
Time = 3 hours 45 m minutes including 1 hour 30 minutes stopped for photography / enjoying the view

To do this hike one way requires a shuttle arrangement. Other options would be to park at the Hverfjall parking lot while hiking up and back and then driving to Dimmuborgir for another short walk.

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