25 Tips for Hiking the Volcanic Trails in Iceland as a Solo Female Traveller
My earliest memory of a volcanic trail in Iceland is reading about it in my Geography textbook. When the time arrived for hiking the trail during my solo trip to Iceland, I could not imagine the textbook moment was coming alive!
If you are on a solo trip to Iceland, it is most likely that you will want to experience the best of adventures in ‘the Land of Fire and Ice.’ But the excitement of setting out on what will probably be the most exhilarating experience of your life can also bog you down from paying attention to the small details while planning it!
I feel you will be able to benefit the most from hiking volcanic trails if you are well prepared for the adventure. Or the small glitches can come in the way of making the most of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure for you!
Let’s cover a few basics before you hit the trails!
1. Keep an eye on the weather forecast
When it comes to the weather, Iceland can play some tricks with you. So I suggest that you keep an eye on the weather forecast, and it will help you plan for the trail better! Trust me on this one—you would not want to be caught by surprises by being less prepared at the weather front!
2. Wear and pack the right clothing
Do consider layered clothing for hiking the volcanic trails in Iceland during your solo travel. The surprising turn of weather, even on sunny days, can catch you off guard! Be it the bottoms or the top—it is best to carry layered clothing for both. Do make sure that you dress in a way that it is not difficult to add or do away with the clothing depending on how warm or cool it gets as you advance on your hiking trail! Hiking bottoms and hiking shirts are ‘must-have’ items for this trip. Last but not least—do not forget to add the rain jacket to your list of clothing. Whichever season you are venturing out on, it is a saviour!
3. Throw in a hat and a pair of gloves
You may be tempted to leave your hat and gloves behind for fear of them adding to the baggage during your hike. You may actually underestimate the value of these in the summer months. But these are absolute essentials once you reach the top of the mountain! The strong wind currents may leave you uncomfortable otherwise!
4. Carry snacks and water bottle
Hiking is an intense exercise, and carrying some snacks is never a bad idea! I would suggest carrying some protein bars and assorted nut pouches to munch on during the hike. Carrying a water bottle is a must, and do not forget to sip on it from time to time during your hike. The last thing that you would want is to be dehydrated on this hike! I am extra careful when it comes to hiking on solo trips as I do not have my family or friends to bank on!
5. Add equipment to hike like a pro!
Headlamps, hiking poles, and gas masks are types of equipment that will help you hike like a professional while on your solo trip. While headlamps come in handy if you are planning to see the volcanoes in the evenings, the hiking poles are super helpful for the rough terrain! The gas masks are a safe addition to your bag lest there be any emergency situation during your visit to the volcano!
6. Consider a professional guide
A hike to the volcano trail is considered moderate to high when it comes to the difficulty level. It is highly recommended that you take the help of a professional guide if you are hiking solo. Not only can the terrain get difficult, but you may find it difficult to get around without proper signages!
7. Do not walk on the lava
Wear safety as your armour while on a volcano trail. Make sure you do not step on the lava or crater even if you are tempted to! The fact that you cannot see it from the outside does not mean that there is no activity inside! It is also best that you stay on hills and ridges and keep away from the valleys and low-lying areas to be safe!
8. Book yourself a guided tour
When on solo trips, we often end up avoiding guided tours. We fear guided tours may not be spontaneous enough!
But a long hike can be an isolating experience. You may also find yourself struggling for long hours, which can dampen your experience. Instead, you can choose from a range of guided tours that will even customise the package for you! This way, you will have some flexibility with the hiking trail and some company! The best part about the guided tours while on your solo trip to Iceland is you will have an expert tour guide who not only knows the routes well but also have plenty of local insights that you can enjoy! The other thing that I found rewarding is the company of other fellow travellers during this long hike! The ones with experience will keep guiding you on the hikes and have plenty of funny anecdotes to share!
9. Read up about volcanoes
This probably seems like an unusual piece of advice but reading up a bit about volcanoes is not a bad idea before visiting them! Let’s do a quick quiz to see if you are ready for this hike!
For example, did you know the latest volcanic eruption was in March 2021 in the Reykjanes peninsula? Molten lava was found flowing out to the valley! Before this, the last eruption was of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010.
You do not need to worry if you have not been keeping up with the latest updates! The guides will fill you in. But I always find reading up a bit fun as it helps me connect with the trail better!
10. Are you worried about safety?
It is usually considered safe to visit the spot of the latest eruption of Fagradalsfjall volcano, which made its way down to Geldingadalur valley! The research will tell you that the eruption was not a threat to human visits to the area! But I will advise you to check with your family doctor before you set out on this hike. For those of you who may have respiratory conditions, it may be advised that you stay away from this volcano. For others, it is advisable that you carry a gas mask. As I mentioned earlier, it will add to your safety! However, this area is made out of bounds for tourists in case of gas emissions! So you have nothing to worry about.
11. Assess your fitness level
The last thing you would want to do is to underestimate the hiking trail. It is important that you assess your fitness level before you book your hiking tour! You would not want to reach the trail and realise that your fitness level is not up to the mark. Another small tip—do take the return journey into consideration while considering the trail. You can do small hikes with different difficulty levels before you hit the final trail! A good exercise regime for a month ahead of a major hike is always recommended.
12. Always carry a map
I am sure that you would not forget to do this one, but I have ended up on a couple of hikes without a map (you can laugh your heart out reading this)! Whether you are on a guided tour or not, a map of the volcanic trail is a must as a solo traveller. This way, you will know what to expect on your hike and how difficult the terrain can get. It will also give you an idea about the major attractions of your hike.
13. Know the emergency service number
It is important that you are aware of Iceland’s emergency service number before you undertake the hiking tour. You can keep the number 112 handy in order to reach the police, rescue forces, and fire departments.
14. Always tell someone close about your plan
You may wonder the point of taking a solo trip if you have to loop in people about your plans! But never take your safety with a pinch of salt before hitting the trail! I always make sure I tell a family member or a friend about the total duration of the hike and when I am likely to be back. I typically say they should not call me, and if they do not hear from me beyond a specified time after the hike ends, they should call up the accommodation to ask for me. If you are not comfortable looping in your friends or family members, leave your tour details and phone number with the reception of your hostel.
15. Double and triple check your rucksack
This may come across as the most obvious thing to do, but you would be surprised to know how many people just rush to the trails with enthusiasm without the right essentials. So it is important that you double and, in fact, triple check your rucksack to tick off items from your list before you put on your hiking boots.
16. Watch videos to know what to expect
There are plenty of videos that you can watch to know what to expect on a hiking trail. The videos will introduce you to the different elements of the tour and help you prepare well. They will also educate you on the hidden trails which you tend to miss while on the trip!
17. Research the trails
Know the major trails while you are planning your hike. An estimate of the time will help you pick the right one for you. If you are keen on it, you can book yourself a week-long hike which will give you the most thrilling time of your life!
18. Consider a hike to the Geldingadalsgos volcano site
This site hike is of moderate difficulty level and is a total of 4 miles (round-trip). This is one of the most breathtaking experiences with the eruption beginning this year (2021). This site is only a 45-minute drive from the mainland of Reykjavik. In fact, Iceland tourism has seen a spike in tourists since the beginning of the eruption. Week after week, tourists are returning to the site to track this geographical miracle! So if you are planning a trip to Iceland, do not miss this nature’s marvel. Go and take this hike!
19. Catch the beauty of the Laugavegur hiking trail
National Geographic has described this as one of the best treks in the world. Considered as one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Iceland, this connects the Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk Nature Reserves. You can also see a range of different landscapes during the walk. Be it in a group or as an individual hiker—you will be blown away by the gorgeous backdrops of the trail. Usually, it takes people three to five days to trek 55 kilometre-long Laugavegur hiking trail.
20. Þórsmörk volcanic trail – another marvellous hike
This is a trail you can do at your pace! This 22 kilometre-long circles the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve. You can split the trails in shorter bursts or with longer excursions. Be it for running or hiking—the trail is a super popular one!
21. Challenge yourself with the Fimmvörðuháls volcano trail
This trail is a challenging one! The hiking trail spanning over 25 km gives you the opportunity to hike while catching glimpses of the South Coast of Iceland and the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve.
22. Photograph along the trail
Be it on your smartphone or your high-end digital camera, do not forget to photograph as you move along the way! Some of you may be firm believers of being in the moment and not capturing it on the lens! I understand this sentiment. But you would not want to miss capturing nature’s marvel on this once-in-a-lifetime hiking trail. You would want to look at the photographs on your return and relive the blissful hiking days!
23. Carry a first aid box
This is a must-have for your solo hiking trail! Do not feel weary of adding some extra burden to your rucksack! The first aid box will come in handy—be it for you or your fellow travellers!
24. Maintain a journal
I find it difficult to maintain a physical journal while on a hike, but e-entries are a must for me! I often end up mixing names of mountains and trails when I narrate stories on my return to my home country. Maintain a journal and take quick notes if you want to entertain your friends with your stories from the trip or blog about your thrilling experiences of hiking volcanic trails!
25. Keep in touch with family & friends
It may be alluring to completely disconnect yourself from your social circle while you are in the middle of this thrilling experience. But try to refrain from it! Sometimes when you are hiking for days on guided tours and are in the company of strangers, it may be exciting in the beginning! But few days down the line, you may start feeling lonely! To maintain a fine balance, connect with your close ones virtually once in a while!
Have fun hiking in Iceland!
That list looks pretty exhaustive, isn’t it? Now that you are ready to soak into the most exotic experience of your life, glance through your checklist once again. You are all set! I cannot wait for you to live your dream in the dreamland!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.