It might not get a lot of love as a runners’ destination, but Iceland offers a lot to like. Varying terrain for trail runners. Long, sweeping paths that stretch for miles for endurance aficionados. And incredible scenery in nearly every direction. While I didn’t get to do much running while I toured around the country, I took a few great hikes and enjoyed exploring Reykjavik by foot on a windy day.
I visited Iceland during a shoulder month, when the main scenic attractions were less busy, but some of the trails and viewpoints were closed for the year. I was still able to check out some great trails. There are two trails that I highly recommend to trail runners, even though I only got to do short hikes on each.
First, Skogafoss is a well-known, beautiful waterfall located just off the ring road in the south of the country. If you climb the steps to the top of the waterfall, you’ll find a small ladder that takes you over a sheep fence. From there, you’ll find a spectacular trail that winds along a beautiful river and waterfalls that never seem to end. Every turn and hill crest rewards runners and hikers with a new surprise. We saw hikers, runner, and mountain bikers. We made a short hike out of it, but you can extend it to 55km via the Laugavegur Trail. This trail was the best part of the entire 10-day trip for me. Check out the Strava data for this hike.
The next trail begins at Dettifoss, a mind-bending, powerful waterfall that will make you feel very small. You can take the trail on the west side of the falls more than 30km to Ásbyrgi in the north. While we were able to do a small loop here, we were rebuffed due to the seasonal trail closure and didn’t get to run this spectacular river trail. There are some great views and beautiful waterfalls on this trail. If you go in summertime, take advantage of it.
Finally, I got a run in on the second to last day of the trip, while staying in Reykjavik. The wind in Iceland can really get whipping sometimes, and this was one of the windier days of the trip. I was staying in downtown on the main strip, Laugavegur. From there, I was able to make a short jog to the waterfront. Despite the wind, it was a beautifully sunny day. I ran along the water and soaked in the sights of the fishing and trading boats that line the docks. There is a path along the water. I ran it nearly to the lighthouse on the far West tip of Reykjavik before returning on pretty much the same route. The city opens up to the North Atlantic Ocean here and the views are striking. Mountains across the water on another peninsula, seabirds, the city that seems to rise up out of nowhere amongst the harsh landscape. Strava GPS is here.
On a final note, if you’re looking for gluten-free food in Iceland, you can do pretty well in just about any restaurant. They understand gluten intolerance and I ate so much amazing seafood. There is a chain called Joe and the Juice. There are two locations at the airport and one in downtown. I’m sure there are more, but those were the three I came across. Try the spicy tuna panini sandwich. For finer Italian eating, try Rossopomodoro. Sure it’s touristy, but the gluten-free pasta was very well done. I encountered several restaurants, especially pizzerias, who advertised gluten-free online, but had no idea what I was talking about when I called or visited. If you’re really hard-up, there are a couple Domino’s locations. On Route 41 on the waterfront, look for Icelandic Fish & Chips, where you can enjoy a reasonably priced fish soup. Finally, if you’re looking for gluten-free beer, good luck. The only place I found it was a great little underground place called Micro Bar. As luck would have it, they had two gluten-free beers I’d never had before from Mikkeller and Brewdog.
If you’d like to see more of Iceland, have a look at the video below and see if you’re inspired to plan a running vacation.