Mount Esja is the crown jewel in the mountain tiara surrounding Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital. For many, Esja is a natural workout station, with its steep slopes testing your strength in every step and its epic views making it all worthwhile. The mountain is the most popular day hiking area in Reykjavík and truly a must for any avid hiker spending some time in the city.
Esja is a flat-topped mountain, measured 914 meters high located only 10 kilometers from the capital. It is a part of a mountain range which frames in the Kjalarnes area and the views from the top reach as far as the brim of Reykjanes peninsula. On a clear day, you can even see the next peninsula, Snæfellsnes, and its towering glacier volcano Snaefellsjokull.
The hiking paths leading up to the Esja’s top are all carefully marked and in the way up you will be greeted by informative signs helping you choose the right paths for you. Each path is marked with a fitness level so you can easily choose an easier path or challenge yourself in the course hills. Any way you choose to go, stay on marked paths. It is not only to keep you safe but also to protect the vegetation and flora.
Esjustofa “the house of Esja” is a cozy restaurant and café located right at the foothills of the mountain. It is a fantastic stop to make after a good hike up the mountain or for some of the less active members of the group to wait out the adventures of the others. This family-friendly place offers yummy meals in a relaxing setting with serene views.
Fun Facts about Esja
- You can fill your water bottle along the way as a river flows down the mountain.
- Even though most commonly spoken of Esja is in reality not actually a mountain but a volcanic range.
- Esja is one of the few mountains in Iceland named with a female name.
- There are signs marked with a difficulty level grading system ranging from 1-3, making the mountain doable for any hiker.
- Concerts have been held at the top of mt Esja, with artist flying in via a helicopter and fans flocking up the mountain to enjoy the music.
- The Esja Ultra is a demanding trail runner’s marathon hosted every year. You can choose from three distances: 14k (2 loops), Mt. Esja Marathon (very demanding 45k course) and Mt. Esja Ultra Xtreme 77k (11 loops).
Where is Esja located?
Esja is located 10 kilometers from Reykjavík right above Mosfellsbaer. It can easily be reached by car or bus and is the most popular hiking recreation near the capital. You can easily park your car for free at the parking lot at the start of the hiking trails. It is well marked.
How to get to Esja?
Driving from Reykjavík to Esja
Esja is hard to miss its presence in the Reykjavík skyline is evident and you will see the mountain the whole way as you follow road 1 out of town in a northerly direction. The mountain can easily be put into google maps if you wish to follow a map.
Public Bus to Esja
You can easily get to Esja by public bus, taking the one number 15 from Hlemmur Bus Station. Getting off at Háholt in Mosfellsbær, then take the bus number 57 which will take you to the foothills of the mountain.
Another exciting way to explore the mountain is via helicopter, but you can take a Helicopter Tour from Reykjavík!
Different ways to hike Esja
One of the best things about mt Esja is that you don’t necessarily need to be an experienced hiker or even used to a lot of exercise to explore the mountain. There are different ways of exploring the mountains, designed to meet the needs of hikers at all stages.
All the way you will find signs which give an indication of the difficulty levels of each route with a grading system or 1 to 3. Experienced climbers can, therefore, choose to do the one rated the most challenging or number 3 and those who are most interested in a stroll in nature the one marked 1. The path is divided into two sections, there is Þverfellshorn which goes straight up on the left-hand side and then there is Kerhólakambur more on the right-hand side.
The first two signs are meet by all hikers but at the third one, you can choose which path you will follow. At this point more experienced hikers will often choose the left route, going a steep trail directly to the top but other will make a right turn an follow the more gradual path.
After about 6,6 kilometers of walking and 597 meters in altitude gain, you will encounter the famous big rock called Steinn. This is where many like to stop and takes photos, proof that they victoriously climbed Esjan but other continue all the way to the top up a steep rocky hill. This last part is only advised for athletic hikers so at this point inexperienced climbers often choose to turn around.
You will very seldom have the mountain to yourself so if you feel like you might be going the wrong way or just have any questions don’t hesitate to ask one of the hikers. They are often keen on helping!
Where to eat near Esja?
- Esjustofa – a cozy family friendly restaurant and café at the foothills of the mountain.
- Mosfellsbakarí – a lovely café/bakery where you can get good coffee and Icelandic baked goods.
- Blik Bistro and Grill at the Golf Course – a delightful restaurant with some grand views.
Where to stay near Esja?
- Hotel Laxnes
- Iceland Wellness
Guesthouses, B&Bs and Farmstays
- Fitjar Guesthouse
- Minna Mosfell-Guesthouse
- Lundur Guesthouse
- Álafoss Apartments
Cabins and Cottages
Esja in winter
Mount Esja is as stunning in winter as it is in any season but its paths can get quite hazardous during the coldest periods. If you have sturdy boots, ice spikes for your shoes, a good GPS and maybe even accompanied by someone experiences with the mountain you are well qualified to do the hike but if not you might want to reconsider or possibly choose an easier version.