Looming on the horizon 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of Reykjavik, 2,999-foot (914-meter) Mount Esja offers a striking backdrop to the city and is an attraction in its own right. Mount Esja is a volcanic mountain range made up of basalt and tuff. From the top, you can see the entire city of Reykjavik, the bay, and beyond.
Within easy reach of the capital, Esja draws numerous hikers and climbers. A network of hiking trails traverse the peak, the most popular of which begins at Esjustofa Hiking Center, just north of the town of Mosfellsbaer. Most trails converge at Steinn, a rocky plateau and lookout point about 655 feet (200 meters) from the summit. From here, seasoned hikers can opt for the rocky, steep, and tricky climb to the very top, while less experienced walkers usually call it a day.
If you are not a hiker, you can join an off-road ATV tour that takes you through the rugged landscapes by the slopes of Mount Esja, offering great views. Alternatively, helicopter tours from Reykjavik’s domestic airport (located downtown) offer the opportunity to touch down on Esja’s flat summit (dependent upon weather conditions, of course).
Things to Know Before You Go
- Mt. Esja is a must-visit destination for lovers of adventure and the outdoors.
- Take care when climbing—it can be steep and the upper slopes are often covered in snow.
- Dress in waterproof clothing and wear good, sturdy walking shoes.
- Check the day’s weather forecast before heading out.
- The various hiking trails are marked with a number indicating their level of difficulty, ranging from one boot (easy) to three boots (difficult).
How to Get There
You can get to Esjustofa Hiking Center by bus no.15 from Reykjavik’s Hlemmur Bus Station. Get off at Haholt in Mosfellsbaer and then take the no. 57 bus to the foot of Esja at the hiking center. Alternatively, it’s a short drive north of Reykjavik.
When to Get There
Weather permitting (and with good equipment, including crampons), Mount Esja is accessible year-round. But, climbing the final part to the summit is really only advisable in the warmer months, as snow and ice can make the climbing hazardous.
Changing Colors of Esja
Some Icelanders say that Mount Esja never looks the same twice. It has a cap of pale rhyolite rock that appears to change hues with the sunlight, meaning it can appear to be any color at any time. The shifting movement of clouds, and snow, on its face also lend a chameleon effect.