The weather this past weekend was just absolutely stunning, and I knew that I had to take advantage of it because honestly, this could be the best weather I experience during my entire summer here. I had a day off from work on Sunday, and I decided that I wanted to spend it hiking Mt. Esja, the towering mountain across the harbor from Reykjavik. Mt. Esja is visible from almost every point in Reykjavik and it is easily one of the most recognizable city landmarks. When I learned about the popular trail up Esja, I immediately put it on my Reykjavik to do list, and so on my first beautiful free day, hiking Esja was the obvious choice.
I was planning on going with two new friends, one from France and one from Iceland, but one of them is taking care of her boss’s dog and the bus driver would not let us bring the dog on the bus so those plans were foiled. We spent the next few hours wandering around downtown Reykjavik and enjoying the warmth, and then at 3 pm I took the bus over to Mt. Esja (with the late daylight hours, a late departure doesn’t really matter here). It was amazingly easy to get there with only one quick bus change, and conveniently, the trail begins almost directly from the bus stop. I started hiking immediately and quickly found the trail to be very crowded, filled with young Icelanders and families enjoying an incredibly rare Sunday afternoon of sunshine.
The views were stunning from the very beginning of the hike, with beautiful views over the mountain as well as the greater Reykjavik area. Surprisingly, Iceland is filled with beautiful wildflowers, and fields of lupin covered the lower slopes of the hillsides. As I gained elevation, the flowers gave way to lush green rocky hillslopes. The trail quickly grew quite steep, but as I was determined to make it all the way to summit and back down in time to catch the last bus, I forced myself to maintain a fairly aggressive pace. Sweating in the strange Icelandic ‘heat’ (it was around 60 degrees Fahrenheit), I made it from sea level up to the viewpoint at 700 m in about an hour so it ended up being quite a good workout! From there it was a short but very steep trip up to Þvervellshorn, the main hiking summit, which involved some rock scrambling and the holding onto cables while traversing the side of the cliff. When I finally reached the top, I was rewarded with gorgeous views over Reykjavik and the surrounding mountains. Sitting on the mountaintop in a t-shirt and shorts under the blue sky and bright sun, I felt very far from Iceland and its notoriously cloudy and dreary weather. I took lots of photos (including some fun gopro selfies) and then returned back down the trail to catch the bus.
I really enjoyed getting out of the city on a hike and it was honestly exactly what I needed. Iceland as a student without a car or a lot of days off and on a serious budget can be very challenging, so I’m very grateful to know that there are some outdoor adventures options that are nearby and easily accessible by bus. Now that I know how convenient it is to access the hiking trails at Mt. Esja, I am sure that I will return somewhat frequently for a brief after work adventure. Plus it’s beautiful and a great workout!
Here‘s a cool webcam that broadcasts the view of Mt. Esja from Reykjavik harbor. It provides a great snapshot into what the weather looks like in Reykjavik at any given moment!