Iceland: Running Highlights

Iceland: Unique Running Experiences

Author photo

It’s a given that practically anywhere you run in Iceland will be beautiful, especially if the weather cooperates. But what’s especially interesting is the ability to experience some unique, one-of-a-kind runs in Iceland. Here’s our list!

Run a volcano. There are many volcanoes that are great for hiking, but a couple are quite runnable. Our favorite is the walk up the Eldfell volcano on the island of Heimaey. About 2 km of gradual path, to the 200 meter summit. Full information.

Run Where Two Tectonic Plates Meet. Thingvellir National Park, about 25 km from Reykjavik, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many running opportunities here on the hiking trails, which are generally flat and are a good surface. Among the highlights is the trail along the Almannagjá fault! Other good running on trails around the abandoned farms of Hrauntún, Skógarkot and Vatnskot, and the well-signed ~2 km path to the Öxarárfoss Waterfall.

Run to a Natural River Hot Spring. A wonderful hike/run is along the Reykjadalur in Hveragerdi. A couple of steeper spots, but runnable on this wide path that sits between mountain ranges, with hot springs billowing in the breeze. Your reward is a soak in natural river hot springs. Or, walk up, take a soak, and run all the way to the village. Full information.

Run Around a Crater. There are several hikes in Iceland that allow for crater viewing. One of the most impressive is Víti Maar, in the Krafla area of Lake Mývatn. A flat, ~1 km leads path around the summit, with great views into the crater.

Run In the Lava Fields. Desolate and bleak in a uniquely beautiful way. There’s no shortage of lava fields in Iceland. Your best bet for a run is to find a lava field with a well worn path. A favorite is the Krafla Lava Fields, in the Lake Mývatn area. Combine with the Víti crater (above)!

Run on Top or Bottom of a Canyon. Volcanoes and glaciers have helped create numerous impressive canyons. For running, we recommend the Eyjan Hill, a path along a canyon in Vatnajökull National Park, or Trail A-3 at the bottom of the same canyon. Full info.

Run Along a Black Sand Beach. There are spectacular beaches all over Iceland, but you won’t find too many swimmers or sunbathers…  For a unique beach running experience, try one of Iceland’s black sand beaches. Among the most spectacular is Reynisfjara Beach, near the southern town of Vik. Enormous basalt stacks, roaring waves and stunning panoramas.

Run the Midnight Sun. For about a month, the sun barely sets in parts of Iceland. It’s sort of a treat to run at 11 pm. The light is unique, and your running app will do a double take at the late night start. For a special treat, the Midnight Sun Run takes place in Reykjavik around the Solstice. Half Marathon, 10k, and 5k distances start at 21:00 (9pm!), and the race is followed by a midnight dip in the Laugardalslaug Geothermal Pool.

Run in Really Bad Weather. There are lots of places that are colder and snowier than Iceland. But if you get a really bad day — wind, snow, mist, cold, blowing dust — you can have a run that the Tough Mudder folks could only dream of!  Better yet, do it near the winter Solstice, either in the dark or during the ~4 hours of daylight. A good opportunity to give your Yak-Traks and cold weather/waterproof gear a workout.

Run on a Glacier. No, just kidding. Iceland’s glaciers are best conquered with crampons, a good guide, and a baby waddle walk.