if there’s one place you have to add to your Iceland itinerary right now, it’s Thakgil! This incredible place has flown under the radar for so far and I have absolutely no idea how that’s even possible!
Thakgil is made of spiky green canyons, icy rivers, black sand, volcanoes and glaciers. I mean, how can you not want to see this place for yourself?
Thakgil is a hidden gem in Southern Iceland close to the famous tourist attractions of Vik and Reynisfara. It’s a short 30 minute detour from the Ring Road but if you have the time I highly recommend spending at least 1 day here.
The drive towards Thakgil on its own is already worth it and the campground will leave you breathless!
In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know about visiting Thakgil. What you can do if you only have a short period of time here and a complete detailed retelling of the hiking trail that we choose to do.
The Best Thakgil Hiking Trail – Discover The Remundargil Canyon And Thakgil Campsite
Thakgil, also known in Icelandic as Þakgil, is a one of a kind place in the south of Iceland. Arriving here felt like a breath of fresh air after facing all of the crowded and more touristic places on the Ring Road close by.
Typical for Thakgil are the steep, mossy walls and the many canyons. And compared to the immensely popular Fjadragljufur canyon you can actually roam around freely here.
The same thing always seems to happen in Iceland. A place like theFjadragljufur canyon becomes extremely popular and you loose all freedom of exploring. Where before you could roam the edges, now the hiking trail is completely lined off with ropes and there’s even a man made viewing platform. It immediately makes a place feel super touristic and to me it loses a lot of its natural beauty because of that.
This is definitely not the case at Thakgil! So far this secluded place has managed to stay off the radar of most tourists and tourist companies! This means you can explore as much as your heart desires, as long as you stay on the hiking trails and off the Icelandic moss!
One of the things that makes Iceland truly special during the summer months is the green moss covering the many hills and mountains. This moss however is very fragile and once you step on it it takes years and years for it to grow back. For this reason one of the main rules of hiking in Iceland is “Don’t step on the moss!”.
How to reach Thakgil
One of the reasons that Thakgil is less frequently visited is because there’s no actual public transportation leading here. The easiest and cheapest way to reach this marvelous place is to self-drive. Otherwise you have to either take a bus from Reykjavik or Selfoss up until Vik and from there you’ll have to order a taxi to take you more inland.
So yes, the best way to reach Thakgil is to go by car! If you’re coming from Reykjavik you’ll have to drive about 180km on the Ring Road until you reach the cute little town of Vik. From there it’s another 5km east until you make a left onto the 214. If you put in Hotel Katla into your GPS you can’t miss it. Simply make a left onto the gravel road and drive past the hotel.
Now, you better prepare for a bumpy ride! I’ve seen people doing this drive with a regular car and camper van but then you have to go very slow! The road is very rocky and bumpy and if you drive too fast with a regular car, chances are high you’ll damage the bottom which is never part of the insurance!
My biggest advice to you if you’re exploring places like Thakgil is to rent a 4×4. My favorite company to work with in Iceland has always been Happy Campers. And with their 4×4 camper van the drive up to the Thakgil campground went very smooth and easy.
It’s a 15km drive on this gravel road but if you don’t have a 4×4 it can take you up to 40 minutes to reach the start of the hiking trails near the Thakgil campground.
Where to stay in Thakgil
One of the best parts of exploring Thakgil is its campsite! The Thakgil campsite is one of the most beautiful and idyllic ones in entire Iceland. It’s surrounded by green mossy cliffs which keep the wind away and provide a nice climate.
The Thakgil campsite has different facilities and is open until September 15th
- There are small cottages on site which are sleeping bag facilities with a double bunk bed, a toilet, a kitchen with a gas stove and refrigerator. The showers are part of the main facilities and shared with the people camping in the same area. The price for 1 night is 25.000ISK (€167).
- The campsite itself is rather spacious and it costs 2000ISK per night (€13) and includes 1 shower per night.
If you want to park your camper van or pitch down your tent you don’t need to make reservations from beforehand. But if you’re craving a little more luxury you’ll need to book one of these cabins from a while before. There’s only a couple of them on site and they tend to fill up fast in the summer months. You can book your accommodation here.
Another thing that makes the Thakgil campsite truly one of a kind is the giant natural cave which is used for dinner in the evening. Around 6pm it gets lit up and there’s a grill and even a fireplace.
We didn’t spend the night at the Thakgil campsite but drove all the way from the Skogar campsite to reach Thakgil in the early morning. If you do have the time in your itinerary I highly recommend spending a night here though. For us it just didn’t make sense in our itinerary and I also just wanted to wake up next to Skogafoss.
Make sure to bring your own meals and drinks cause Thakgil is pretty isolated and the nearest store is a 40 minute drive away.
If you’re not keen on camping you can also stay at a hotel in the area.
When to visit Thakgil
Thakgil is one of those regions in Iceland that you have to explore during the summer months. The Thakgil campsite opens annually from June 1st and closes down on the 15th of September. Outside this period of time you can still check if the hiking trails are accessible but chances are high they’l be covered in snow.
Thakgil Hiking Trails
There are several beautiful hiking trails to be discovered in Thakgil. We completed two of them and I will share these in a more detailed part below. In this section you can find a short oversight of all the hikes that you can choose from!
There are 3 main hiking trails in Thakgil and 1 additional short one right next to the campground. It’s very important to state that you should always stay on the trail and not create your own. The trails in their own are absolutely spectacular and will lead you to some of the most beautiful vista’s.
Like I said before, the vibrant green moss that is so typical to the Icelandic landscape is very VERY fragile. So fragile that if you step on it chances are very high that it will die. And it takes years and years for it to grow back.
1. Easy Ravine Walk
Distance – 300m
Duration – 10 minutes
This is the short additional hike that is located straight next to the campground. It’s not very exciting but it’s a good way to start your Thakgil adventure. I strongly suggest you start with this one before you take on one of the longer hikes. Cause honestly by the time we were done my feet were so sore and tired that I wouldn’t even have had the energy to take a glimpse at this beautiful canyon.
2. Remundargil Ravine Loop (purple trail)
Distance – 12.5km
Duration – 3 to 5 hours
Elevation – 250 m
The Remundargil Ravine Loop is definitely one of the best one day hikes in Iceland! The route lies from Thakgil down the ravine, then up out of the ravine on the east side opposite Midfellshellir cave and over the ridge to the east in the direction of Remundargil ravine. Once you come down into the ravine, walk along it until you reach Remundargilsfoss waterfall. The return route is partly the same, but you exit the ravine in front of the Remundargilshofud headland. From here you’ll walk into a ravine between theRemundargilshofud headland and the Vatnsrasarhofud headland. Up in the pass there are stunning views of Kötlujökull glacier where it bursts fort from the Myrdalsjökull glacier. The return route is through Láguhvolar, in front of Hvolhöfud, and then follow the road into Thakgil.
3. Austurafréttur Range (yellow trail)
Distance – 17km
Duration – 6 to 8 hours
Elevation – 600m
The first part of the route starts like the route to Mælifell, to Midfellshellir cave and follow a dirt track, with Midfell on the right, up Midafrett range on the east of Midtunguil ravine, up to the Leynir waterfall. Then head north towards Sker, and then east to Rjúpnagilsbryr. FromRjúpnagilsbryr you’ll have a magnificent view ofKötlujökull glacier and nearly all South-eastern part of Iceland. From there, go down Austurafréttur range to Idrunarstandi, by Arnabotna and Vestureeggjar, and then down into Thakgil ravine – or take the track east of Hvolhöfud head.
4.Mælifell (red trail)
Distance – 13.5km
Duration – 4 to 5 hours
Elevation – 500m
The route lies down Thakgil toMidfellshellir cave where sheep herders used to stay during autumn. From here follow the track, with Midfell on your right, up Midafrétt range on the east side of Midtungugil ravinve, until you reach the waterfall Leynir. Then head south, up onto the peak of Mælifell, and then south along the eastern rim of Raufargil ravine to Bard. Descend here to a hut owned by Ferdafélag and from there back to Thakgil. You’ll probably have to cross a big river on the way back to Thakgil, depending on the state of the river.
My Experience on theRemundargil Ravine Loop
When we arrived to Thakgil people were slowly crawling out of their tents and stretching their legs from what could only have been a long strenuous hike the day before.
When I first did my research on Thakgil it was actually hard to find some decent information on these hiking trails and which one would be the most ideal for photography. I had heard about this stunning volcano called Mælifell, it’s vibrant green and surrounded by black sand and the only way to reach it is by Super Jeep. So when I first heard about thisMælifell hike I got super excited!
But just to be sure I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask some people about the hikes they did. Turns out it’s a completely differentMælifell and that hike turned out pretty scary and not all that impressive. Plus at the end of it they had to cross a raging river on foot.
So it was now down to either the purple or yellow trail. Since the last one was 5km longer I decided the purple trail would be our best bet since I still had a couple of others stops planned for that same day.
So after gearing up we made our way to the start of the hiking trail. To reach it you have to walk back out of the Thakgil campsite and walk a few hundred meters out of the canyon. At one point there will be a small arrow pointing to your left with Remundargil on it. This is the official start of theRemundargil Ravine Loop trail.
But to get to the start we first had to cross a small river. It wasn’t too wide but it took us a while to find a good spot to cross without getting our hiking shoes soaking wet.
At first we couldn’t see the next purple trail marker but turns out it was just hidden in the tall grass. The trail was leading us all the way up the ridge and damn it that incline looked steep. It’s safe to say that I was very pleased with myself that I brought my trekking poles with me cause I needed them for sure!
The first part of the hike involved a lot of switchbacks and due to my short legs a lot of climbing up but every time that I turned around to look where we started I got rewarded with some of the most amazing views!
The higher we climbed the more surreal the landscape became. By now we were standing at the edge of theRemundargil Ravine and it was time to hike down. Again, I was very happy at this point that I had my trekking poles with me cause damn this decline was steep!
Once we made our way into the ravine we had two options: go left or go right. I highly recommend going left first! This part of the trail will lead you through the Remundargil ravine and end up at the Remundargilsfoss Waterfall. It’s only 20 minutes walking towards this hidden gem and afterwards you simply head back and follow the trail that will lead you out of the ravine.
TIP 💡 – It’s actually possible to skip the first part of this hike completely. There’s a small parking lot at the start of the Remundargil Ravine. To get here you have to drive your car/van out of the Thakgil ravine and take a left at the crossroads. You’ll drive alongside the entire canyon and don’t have to do that first hike up. I only recommend doing this if you’re really short on time or if you’re traveling with small kids cause you’ll miss a lot of the best views.
After exiting the Remundargil ravine we took a left and kept on following the purple trail markers. They led us straight to a landscape that I can only describe as otherworldly. Two green mossy mountains were towering before us, surrounded by icy rivers and black sand. I had to pinch myself a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Luckily the steep and steady climb that followed afterwards quickly made me realize that I was in fact wide awake. I never could have imagined sweating in Iceland. But there I was, hiking up a mountain in a t-shirt in Iceland. Good thing I brought my sunscreen or otherwise my face would have had the same color as my sweater.
And yes, my photos may tell a different story but I simply put on my sweater cause my shirt was all wet and sweaty and the wool hat is to cover my greasy hair :p.
After resting a little at the top and drinking a liter of water we took a good look around and there to the left we could see the Kötlujökull glacier. The hiking trail kept on winding around the mountain but I only recommend completing this part if you are very sure footed and don’t have a fear of heights. The trail gets very narrow at times and it’s a sheer drop down.
This is also where the loop trail ends and to get back to the campsite simply follow your way back down in the the ravine. From here you can choose to either hike back up and down the ravine or take the longer but less strenuous route that will take you all around the ravine alongside the gravel road. Don’t be fooled, it’s not a short walk and at times I really had to drag one foot in front of the other but we made it back to the campground in one piece!
It was time to take a much needed shower at the Thakgil Campsite and continue our journey through Iceland.
Iceland Hiking Packing List
A lot of people come to Iceland unprepared for the cold, especially during the Summer months. While it can get warm on a sunny day you also need to be prepared for the cold and typical Icelandic wind. For instance, when we were hiking up this mountain I was sweating a lot but the wind was so cold and so harsh that I had to wear a bonnet to keep my ears warm and pain free.
Below are some items that you definitely want to bring with you if you’re planning an adventurous trip to Iceland.
Hiking shoes – You will definitely need a pair of these. Even that some attractions are located right next to a parking lot you’ll pretty much always have to hike over a rocky terrain. I love my Meindl Mountain Trail Boots for longer hikes and my Danner Mountain Light Boots for daily wear and shorter distances.
Wind Proof Jacket – Never go. toIceland without one! The Icelandic wind can be brutal and extremely cold when not properly prepared. I wore my Fjallraven Vidda Jacket during the entire trip and was super happy that I brought it with me.
Woolen cap – The perfect accessory to protect your ears from the cold and to cover your hair after a few days without a shower.
Trekking poles – These will especially come in handy if you’re hiking in some of the more remote areas in Iceland.
Headlamp – It’s very popular to visit the eruption site in the late evening. When it gets darker the lava lits up the sky and you can see it glistening and burning even more. To ensure your safety it’s best to carry a headlamp with you. This way you can keep your hands free and you can see where you’re walking in the dark. I love this one by PETZL, it’s not too expensive and does the trick.
Back Pack – You’ll want to bring a back pack with you to carry your camera, some snacks and your refillable water bottle. I love the Kanken No. 2 back pack from Fjallraven and pretty much take it with me everywhere I go.
Refillable Water Bottle – The water in Iceland is some of the freshet in the entire world so there’s no need at all to buy plastic bottles. Simply find the nearest stream to fill up your bottle and you’re good to go.
More Iceland Blog Posts
I have visited the land of ice and fire 3 times in 3 years and I loved adventuring and driving around the country. On my blog you can find a ton of free resources to help you plan the perfect trip to this beautiful country.
Below are some of my favorite articles and there’s a lot more to come so keep an eye on this space!
- The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland – A list of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland that I visited myself, divided by region.
- The perfect winter road trip in Iceland – A day by day guide and retelling of my first time visiting this beautiful country.
- Hidden Gems in Iceland – Of the beaten path places that haven’t been discovered by mass tourism.
- Fagradalsfjall Hiking Trail – How To Visit The Active Volcano in Grindavik Iceland
- Landmannalaugar day hike – The Mount Blahnukur Hiking Trail