8 Reasons Why Iceland is the Ultimate Trail Running Destinationby Inga Fanney Sigurðardóttir
Iceland is ideal for running, as the trails are plentiful and the scenery is spectacular. Running is a popular sport here and many people come from all over the world to enjoy Iceland’s pristine beauty and unique environment, shaped by ancient and current volcanic activity and other natural forces.
I took up trail running after starting a family and had less free time for hiking and spending time in the mountains of my Northern Icelandic home. Here are my top eight reasons why Iceland is an amazing trail running destination:
1. Temperatures are ideal for running.
The weather is rarely too warm and almost always very refreshing. Iceland’s average temperature in summer is 10°C and often with a cool breeze. This is because Iceland is situated by the Arctic circle (between 62° and 66° north) yet isn’t entirely glaciated (despite our country’s name) except for in the Highlands in the center of Iceland.
2. Our water is uncontaminated and safe to drink anywhere.
Iceland tap water comes directly from the mountains and isn’t treated. And when you’re in the backcountry, it’s not necessary to purify the water before you drink; rather, you can safely drink directly from the streams along any running route.
Iceland’s environment is very clean and we even heat our houses with clean energy resources.
For example, most Iceland homes, swimming pools and greenhouses are heated with geothermal water pumped directly from underground, where it is naturally heated. As Icelanders, we take great pride in our eco-friendly practices and place great importance on protecting our island home’s vulnerable landscape, which is why we have three large national parks, one of which is Vatnajökull National Park, which covers 13% of the country and many protected areas and nature reserves.
3. Rejuvenating natural hot springs are abundant.
There is a lot of water in Iceland, and you may be surprised to learn that much of it is steaming hot. This is because one Iceland sits atop one the planet’s six geothermal “hot spots.”
The hot spot heats up all this water and gives us natural hot pools to soak in after our runs. The geothermal water comes directly from the earth and the ground underneath us to the surface, sometimes boiling hot.
In areas such as the Westfjords, Icelanders form small bathing pools from natural materials such as rocks and moss. The geothermal water bubbling up from underground is mineral rich and nourishing for the skin and body.
4. Explore truly untamed wilderness.
Very little of Iceland is inhabited by people. Which means that while trail running you, you rarely see any sign of human impact on the landscape.
One of our trail running tours takes us to Europe’s most powerful waterfall called Dettifoss. Other top trails for running take us around ancient or active volcanoes, such as Hekla, which erupts approximately every 10 years.
And one of Iceland’s most adventurous singletrack trails, Fimmvörðuháls, spans the distance between two glaciers covering two volcanoes, one of which erupted in 2010 and disrupted flight traffic around the world for days.
5. Iceland has no pests or predators.
It may sound like a dream to be able to run anywhere in a whole country without worry about mosquitoes, bears or rattlesnakes. But it is possible in Iceland.
Apart from the occasional small midge, there is no wildlife here that can bite you. While Mosquitoes lurk on both East and West coast of Greenland, Norway, the UK, they don’t settle in Iceland.
You can also have peace of mind there there are no ants cockroaches, snakes, bears or lions in our country.
6. No two running trails are alike.
Every part of Iceland is different, thanks to being continuously pounded and shaped by nature’s most powerful forces including relentless winds, pounding waves, sputtering lava and powerful geysers. As glaciers scraping over the land and raging rivers cutting deep valleys, every part of the country has unique characteristics.
Enjoy the sound of the trail running shoe hitting different surface, such as fresh lava from recent volcanic eruptions, pumice from older volcanic eruptions, snow that doesn’t melt in summer time, vegetation such as grass and moss that has managed to cover older terrain, stones and birch-tree branches and black-sand beaches.
7. 24 hours of daylight
Feel like running all day? In Iceland you can, thanks to the persistent daylight during the summer solstice. Or for the entire month of June, in fact.
Since you have all day –and all night– there’s no need to rush your pace. You know the feeling of being inspired on your run and you feel like running all day? Let the abundant daylight fuel adventurous runs during which you explore off trail and where ever your curiosity may take you.