Are you in the capital looking for auroras? Here are some of our favorite paths for northern light discoveries.

Looking for the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik? Well, cities aren’t usually known for their outdoor activities, but Reykjavik is the epicenter of wild adventure! You can find countless things to do here, and nearly all of them pick up in town.

But what about hiking? Going for a stroll while you search the skies is a great way to get some fresh air and increase your chances away from the light pollution. Here are a few of our favorite local haunts- how many of these have you tried?

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: GLACIERS Photo)

1. Öskjuhlíð: Head to the hills!

Chances are you’ve seen the glistening dome of Perlan from your window on your way into town. Or perhaps it already caught your eye on a walk around town? It is on top of one of our highest hills, after all. Perlan rests on top of an area called Öskjuhlíð.

This area is home to some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, because not only is it directly in Reykjavik but it’s filled with charming forest paths. It’s also next to the Nauthólsvík beach, another great place to stroll or swim. (Don’t worry, it’s heated! Just.. Maybe come back after aurora season for this one.)

There are multiple trails to enjoy in Öskjuhlíð, and if you make it to the top you’re met with a sweeping view of the sparkling town below you. (You are still within the grip of city light pollution here, but on a good night, you can see past it. And it makes for great photos!)

Easily accessible on foot or by public transport from most of town, the paths here lead on to many of our other favorite Reyjavik walks- including the coastal road to the Grótta lighthouse, Fossvogur, and Elliðaárdalur, all the way down to the red rocks of Heiðmörk. No matter what time you visit, a walk in Reykjavik’s local forest is a beautiful experience.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Michael Held)

2. The Coastline path from Hafnarfjörður to Mosfellsbær

The wide arms of the capital region don’t stop at Reykjavik. They include the towns of Hafnarfjörður in the south and Mosfellsbær in the north. Nestled along the jagged coast, you can walk to and from all of these places using the Blá lykilleið (Blue main path), also known as the Strandleið (Coastline) walk.

You can ride or bike all the way to either end. While it might take you a while to complete, this connection gives you a huge amount of coastal path to tread. Depending on the cloud cover, you’ll find people populating the Reykjavik half of it often as they set cameras up for some aurora watching.

Looking towards Esja gives you a dark northerly view over the water, and helps to cancel out some of the city light. The further away from town that you go, the darker it’s likely to get- so an evening walk on these fine paved city paths may be a great spot for you.

You can see the lay of the walk here, and look at all the other options! This might not be the first thing you think of when you envision trekking, but after you’ve enjoyed it once you’ll see why we’re calling it some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jenean Newcomb)

3. The red hills of Heiðmörk

The nature reserve of Heiðmörk is a constantly evolving treasure of the city, and arguably some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik. Heiðmörk is a large area that actually encompasses some of our other favorite spots, so you’ll want to check out a map to see all of it quickly.

The city has been busy in Heiðmörk over recent years and has maintained and created multiple trails, recreation areas, and even some camping grounds. And the wonders here are countless.

From its moss-covered lava fields to the nearly Martian Rauðhólar pseudocraters, to the Christmas tree forest at Holmsheiði, this is an area that you’ll need a lot of time to discover. Because of its location on the edge of town, Heiðmörk is an ideal tangle of trails that you can walk in search of the lights.

The paths here are well cared for and fairly simple difficulty wise, so it’s a good spot for adventurers of varying abilities. It’s also accessible by local bus! But before you go, double check the schedule to make sure you know the time of the last ride out. It’s a long walk back into the city center!

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4. Elliðaárdalur: A city oasis

While hunting for the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, you are likely to hear about the Elliðaárdalur valley. Elliðaárdalur is a lush green space tucked away in the city, cradling the protected Elliðaár river.

After walking the concrete streets and paths of Reykjavik, Elliðaárdalur is like a rare portal into a fairy world. Punctuated by recreational trails and tiny waterfalls, Elliðaárdalur is home to a surprising amount of wildlife.

Watch out for all the mink and rabbits who call this place home, as you will likely see some on your journey. (And keep an eye out for salmon! They populate this crystal clear river, making it an important fishing spot close to town.)

This area is connected to many other green spaces and is great for pedestrian adventuring. You can link up to other walking and cyclings paths through Fossvogsdalur, and even as far as Heiðmörk.

Elliðaárdalur borders many popular Reykjavik neighborhoods and is a great spot to visit if you happen to be spending most of your time in town, but still want to get a glimpse of Icelandic nature.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Yeo Khee)

5. Vífilsfell and the Blue Mounatins

Vífilsfell is a possible option for those that have wheels and are used to winter trekking. There are many mountain paths that are popular hiking in the capital area that we’ve left off of this list, primarily because they are maybe not the easiest options for nighttime winter adventuring.

Vífilsfell on the other hand is a gorgeous choice if you’re surefooted and looking for some big views outside of the immediate grasp of town. Nestled within the Bláfjöll (Blue Mountains), this area is popular for trekkers and winter sport enthusiasts alike.

The road up to the Bláfjöll ski area passes right by, and other trails in the area populate the zone as well. This is a quiet part of town just off the route 1 highway, so you may want to save this trek for a time that you have access to a vehicle.

And don’t fret! If you’re not feeling up to a mountain hike, this is a great spot just for hanging out or checking out the slopes. The best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik doesn’t even require hiking, you can see it just fine from the parking lot at Litla Kaffistofan across the street.

Even if you only drive through Bláfjöll on your aurora hunt, it’s worth it just to see the sudden majesty of snow-covered volcanic peaks rising out of the earth right after exiting the glowing city. The peace here is vast, colorful, and lonely- and a great first look at the wild country beyond the manicured city streets.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Tim Foster)

6. Grafarholt and Úlfarsárdalur in the shadow of Úlfar’s Mountain

Another hidden-away escape are the vast meadows of Grafarholt and Úlfarsárdalur, peacefully wrapped around the mountain Úlfarsfell. This is a residential area and outdoor recreational spot just north of the quiet neighborhood of Grafarholt.

In the summer, this place is absolutely flush with purple lupin flowers and gentle meadow grasses- at least, in between the sprawling lava fields. Curled around the river Úlfarsá, this is another place where you’ll find copious bird life and salmon. (And maybe even a few horses! Many of them call this area home.)

The trails in this area are family-friendly and accessible, and you can access this zone via public transport. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, Úlfarsfell is likely one of the more reasonable winter mountain hikes available. (..You guessed it! We’re going so far as to call it one of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik!)

In all seriousness, the highest point on Úlfarsfell is around 307 m. (1007 ft.) and is accessible via a fairly even and wide path. There are great views of Reykjavik and the sea from the summit, and it only takes around 2.5 hours to complete. As far as vistas go, this is a great place to catch the lights, and you are likely to have the whole thing to yourself.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Pedro Netto)

TIP: This mountain is near Esja, one of Reykjavik’s most famous landmarks. It goes without saying that Esja is some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, but it is also some of the most challenging.

While these paths are steep in good conditions, braving them at night in high winter is not recommended for most trekkers. You can try for an Esja hike in the autumn, but otherwise, seeing her from nearby Úlfarsfell is a great compromise.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Elijah Chen)

7. Viðey: The island’s island

Looking for an island getaway from your island getaway? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a closer option than nearby Viðey. Once the home of a monastery, Viðey is the home of Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower, and countless trails.

There is a lot of history on this little island, and some of the oldest rock in the Reykjavik area. In fact, nearly 2 million years ago, it was a volcano! (Considering where we are, this may not come as much of a surprise to you.)

These days, however, we have to say it’s some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, not to mention one of the most exclusive city spots to watch the northern lights. But how does one get there?

In the summertime, the ferry runs pretty regularly. But in the wintertime, the ferry only runs from the harbor Skarfabakki on weekends. There are however aurora boat tours available that can land on Viðey for a portion of the tour, giving you a chance to grab some solid ground to plant your tripod in for a lucky northern lights shot.

However you manage to get there, hopefully, you’ll get to take advantage of some of these historical trails. This place has seen and housed invaders, paupers, politicians, farmers, and more puffins than you’d expect. But today, it is protected and allowed to finally thrive. A true shoo-in for the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik.