The mountain range known as Esja is the impressive backdrop of Reykjavik City, often featured in pictures, postcards and countless travel guides. With its network of fantastic trails it provides a peaceful destination for an easy walk or, for those who love a difficult challenge, an ultra mountain marathon. It’s particularly popular with the locals, who are encountered at regular intervals cheerfully expressing the greeting ‘Góðan daginn’—pronounced: go-than-die-in, which means ‘good day’.
Way back when, before hiking around Esja came with instructions, I used to simply follow a well-worn trail as far as my little legs would take me. Nowadays there’s plenty of signage indicating the difficulty of trails with a grade system ranging from “1 boot (easy) to 3 boots (challenging)”. I’ve still not seen the view from the top, but I can confirm that the view from a place called Steinn, which is around 200 metres below the summit, is wonderful.
If you’re new in town and planning a trip to the top, know that the trails beyond Steinn are more difficult and can be steep in places; the fitter amongst you will have no problem reaching the 914m peak though. During the winter months it’s advised to stay on the lower trails and if you can’t see the trails because they are thick with snow, don’t bother—not unless you are (or you are with) an experienced mountain climber. Tempting though it looks on a sunny day (or night) in July, it’s still really important to check the conditions before you set off—when the clouds descend, they do so rapidly. I’ve heard of people getting lost on top as a result of a sudden weather change and another story of someone having to inch his way back down on his backside because the visibility was so bad.
Most of the time the conditions are great, and I must say, browsing through these wonderful pictures is certainly getting me in the ‘two-boot’ mood; I wonder if I’ll ever be in the “three boot” mood and finally make it to the top!
Directions and transport: Take the number 15 bus from Hlemmur bus station in Reykjavík City Centre. Get off at Háholt in Mosfellsbaer, then take the number 57 which stops at Esjustofa: Esja Hiking Centre.