If you only have a week in Iceland, consider this compact and well-timed tour. Bookended by two days in Reykjavik — one to get ready and one to relax and recover — the tour takes the best advantage of a limited schedule, while also showing you plenty of unforgettable natural wonders, including glaciers, mountains, valleys and an iconic waterfall.

Highlights

  • Traverse miles of ice to cross Skeiðarárjökull glacier
  • Camp on the Sléttur lava field, in view of Iceland's highest mountain
  • See waterfalls like Tvílitihylur, Svartifoss, and many in the Núpsstaðarskógar valley
  • Track floating icebergs in  Grænalón glacier lagoon and Vatnajökull National Park

Overview

Winding its way through some of Iceland's most impressive terrain, this backpacking tour is one of the country's classic treks. Remarkably, it's also relatively uncrowded. A memorable 5-day journey, the tour will take you along the canyons of the Núpsá river and up to the Grænalón glacier lagoon, across the Skeiðarárjökull glacier, and into the stunning Norðurdalur Valley. Finally, you'll journey across the beautiful Skaftafell Mountains, over to the Morsárdalur glacier valley and into Vatnajökull National Park.

This tour is packed with exciting natural wonders that will give you a comprehensive picture of Iceland in minimal time. Overnight camping means you can sleep surrounded by the wilderness, then wake up refreshed and ready to put on your pack again immediately, with no extra travel time to slow down the experience.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Reykjavík – Núpstaðarskógar Valley Núpsstaðarskógar Valley camp
Day 2 Núpsá canyon - Tvílitihylur waterfalls - Sléttur plains Sléttur lava field
Day 3 Sléttur – Grænalón lagoon - Skeiðarárjökull Grænalón glacier lagoon
Day 4 Skeiðarárjökull crossing - Norðurdalur Vatnajökull National Park
Day 5 Morsárdalur – Skaftafell National park – Reykjavik Reykjavik (self-arranged)

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Reykjavík to Núpstaðarskógar Valley

Approaching the looming cliffs of the Núpstaðarskógar Valley

You'll begin early in Reykjavik, traveling to the tiny village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. From here, you'll be transported across the river into the beautiful Núpsstaðarskógar Valley, where moss-covered rocks and waterfalls make for a sublime atmosphere that looks something like paradise. Here's where you'll camp for the first night.

Day 2: Núpsá Canyon via Tvílitihylur Waterfalls to Sléttur Plains

Gazing out at the epic Sléttur lava field

Climbing up from the bottom of the valley, you'll come across the thundering waterfalls of Tvílitihylur, then follow the neatly sculpted canyons of the lower part of the Núpsá river. After another short climb, you'll approach the most impressive part of the river canyons, where the rock walls are up to 655 feet high. You'll spend a memorable night camping on the otherworldly Sléttur lava field.

Hiking distance: 9-12 miles
Hiking duration: 6-7 hours

Day 3: Sléttur to the Grænalón Lagoon and Skeiðarárjökull

This hike is packed full of astonishing scenery

In the morning, you'll traverse open plains full of pink Arctic River beauty flowers, and begin your climb towards the Grænalón glacier lagoon, which translates loosely to "green lagoon" for its beautiful and eerie color. An ascent into the Eggjar hills will give you the best view of the lagoon, which is tucked in between mountains and epic floating icebergs. North of the lagoon, you'll set up camp for the night, in view of the massive glacier tongue of Skeiðarárjökull as it makes its endless crawl down toward the plains.

Hiking distance: 11-14 miles
Hiking duration: 6-7 hours

Day 4: Skeiðarárjökull Crossing to Norðurdalur

It takes an entire day to cross the ice of Skeiðarárjökull

Reserve your energy, because you'll be spending an entire day traversing the nearly 10 miles of ice it takes to cross Skeiðarárjökull, going from Grænafjall Mountain to the Norðurdalur Valley. You'll pass through an area surrounded by ice and high mountain ridges, then hit solid ground again in the Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park. Here's where you'll camp for the night, in one of the most majestic settings yet, with a view over glacial lakes marked with floating icebergs and backed by colorful rhyolite mountains made of volcanic rock. Just think of it as your reward for a hike well done.

Hiking distance: 11-14 miles
Hiking duration: 7-8 hours

Day 5: Morsárdalur to Skaftafell National Park, Return to Reykjavik

Svartifoss waterfall, with its geometric columns of rock, is one of Skaftafell's highlights

On your last day, you'll climb a narrow mountain ridge. Once at the top, take in the view of the yellowish rhyolite Kjós valley on the other side and gaze at Hvannadalshnúkur, Iceland's tallest mountain. As you descend into Morsárdalur valley, you'll notice the vegetation becoming thicker and lusher. You'll pass through the beautiful Arctic birch forest of Bæjarstaðarskógur before heading on towards the main campsite in Skaftafell National Park. Finally, at the end of your journey, you'll ride the bus back to Reykjavík in time to reach your hotel for a celebratory meal and a good night's sleep.

Hiking distance: 12-16 miles   
Hiking duration: 7-8 hours

Map

Map of Núpsstaðarskógar to Skaftafell Trek - 5 Days
Map of Núpsstaðarskógar to Skaftafell Trek - 5 Days