Icelandic nature is beautiful and going hiking is the best way to enjoy it! Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to be in the middle of nature. If you want to go hiking in Reykjavík, there are a couple of magnificent areas to choose from!
Reykjavík is a sparsely populated city, so even though it covers a large area, there’s still plenty of room to breathe. The green spaces in the city allow residents to wander through nature, hike, or bike their way along the coastline or through the woods. Many of them are even interconnected, so you can travel on foot from the lighthouse at the northernmost tip all the way through to the lava fields south of the city without ever leaving your walking path. It would make for a pretty long walk, though!
Elliðaárdalur valley is a lush recreational area, popular with walkers and cyclists alike. It’s one of the largest green spaces within the city limits, a natural oasis in a sea of concrete, almost like Reykjavík’s homegrown version of New York’s Central Park. Even though the valley is located within the city limits of Reykjavík, the wild environment is sure to make you feel at one with nature. The flora and fauna of Elliðaárdalur are almost completely untouched, but the proximity to the city has resulted in one addition. The valley is now populated with furry little rabbits, descendants of escaped pets. They might not be native to Iceland, but they sure are cute!
A fishing river runs through the valley, populated with arctic char, salmon, and brown trout. Fishing licenses are available during the summer fishing season, which is opened annually by the mayor of Reykjavík on June 1. The season ends on August 31. Note that it’s also possible to fish in the nearby Elliðavatn lake and Reynisvatn lake.
Heiðmörk Nature Reserve
Situated on the southeast outskirts of Reykjavík City is Heiðmörk – a wonderful recreational area with hiking trails leading through a vast expanse of bushy vegetation and lava rock formations. Some of the park’s most notable features are Rauðhólar (Red Hills) – the remnants of a cluster of pseudocraters in the Elliðaárhraun lava field. Heiðmörk is a favourite with locals, especially for sports enthusiasts, those with children, and couples looking for a romantic retreat!
Heiðmörk became a conservation area in 1950. More than four million trees have been planted there since then and the already existing vegetation has thrived since the area was fenced off. The most prominent of the 26 species of trees planted, is the Sitka spruce. Bird-watchers will be pleased to discover that 30 species of breeding birds have also been spotted.
Öskjuhlíð is a beautiful woodland area surrounding Perlan (The Pearl) – one of Reykjavík’s stunning landmark buildings. Conveniently located right in the heart of the city, this sylvan retreat makes for a popular getaway from city life, where visitors can cycle or walk on paths that weave through a dense forest of pines and birch trees.
The paths around Öskjuhlíð join an extensive network of well-maintained footpaths in Reykjavík, leading down to the scenic shores of Nauthólsvík and around the coastline to Seltjarnarnes. Another option is to take the southeast trail to the recreational areas and valleys of Fossvogsdalur and Elliðaárdalur, and even farther on to the Heiðmörk Nature Reserve.
The northernmost tip of the Reykjavík peninsula is known as Grótta, named after the farm that used to be there before the city grew to its current size. Surrounded by sea on all sides and even sporting a tall white lighthouse, the Grótta area has some beautiful and photogenic views. The name Grótta actually refers to an island just off the coast of Reykjavík. It’s connected to land by a strip of sand, but it can only be reached when the tide is out, so don’t try to cross over to it. In winter, the Grótta area is a great spot to view the northern lights if you can’t get out of the city.
Grótta is protected because of the rich birdlife and beautiful nature in the area. A walk around Grótta is highly recommended for bird-watchers as well as anyone who appreciates long walks with beautiful ocean views.