Mælifell Volcano Hike, Highlands, Iceland

Like most of the isolated peaks deep in the highlands of Iceland, the hike to the top of the Mælifell Volcano is one that offers unforgettable views. Yes, not only it is a very beautiful mountain in itself, but also the views from the top are breathtaking. On a clear day, you can enjoy the beauty of the Icelandic highlands as far as the eye can see.

Hiker on top of the Mælifell volcano with the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the background

Hiker on top of Mælifell

Sure, most have seen photos of this beautiful mountain, rising with its green slopes from the dark, volcanic sands of the Mælifellssandur plains.

But how is the actual hike? Can you even hike up there? Turns out yes, there is an unmarked trail to the top. Whether you are passing by on Road f210 or Road F232, the hike to the top is absolutely worth a short-stop hike to the top of Mount Mælifell.

Hiker gazing at the outlwash plains of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier on a hike to Maelifell

Watching the amazing landscape from the trail.



Table of Contents


Overview of the Mælifell Volcano Hike

This is a rather short hike. It took me about 40 minutes to get to the top at a relatively slow pace while taking photos. However, it took me just 15 minutes to get back down.

The elevation gain is small, but the trail is steep all the way to the top, with a few moderately exposed areas.

Max Altitude  791 m
Distance  1.42 KM
Elevation gain  270 m ↑ / 270m ↓
Hike time  00:45/  1:00 Hours
Hike Difficulty  Easy, but steep and moderately exposed

Road f210 in the highlands of iceland with Mount Mælifell in the background.

Road f210 with Mælifell in the background.


How to get to the Mælifell Volcano and Parking

This is a hard-to-get-to location. The drive will take about one hour and a half in each direction as a detour from Road 1, or the Ring Road.

On a good day, the drive should be feasible in any F-road-approved vehicle but makes sure you can actually cross the rivers before attempting it. As you know, no rental company covers water damage to the engine, and you definitely do not want to get stranded out there. Also, practice caution on rough parts of the roads, so as to not damage the undercarriage.

Bláfjallafoss river crossing

Bláfjallafoss, a river crossing on road f232.

Also note: as of 2023 Google Maps will not show you directions via road f0232 but only via f210, which is a much more dangerous road because it will require you to cross the Hólmsá river, a large and deep river, not to be attempted in smaller 4wd vehicles.

  • Driving Directions: the best way to get to Mount Maelifell is through road F232 Öldufellsleið, out and back. The road is only suitable for F-roads vehicles only. It is a rough road and there are a few small rivers crossing, the biggest of which is Blafjállafoss, on the Bláfjallakvísl river. After this last river crossing, there may be sandy areas on the track.
  • Parking:  there are a few, small pullout areas next to Mount Mælifell. Just make sure to make on those and not randomly on the side of the road, as that would be considered illegal off-road driving.
  • Public Transport: no public transport is available, but if you prefer a guided tour, there are some available on GetYourGuide and Viator.

Tip: It’s best to do this hike in the morning. The Mælifellssandur plains can get rather swampy in the afternoon as they are crossed by small glacial streams.

The outwash plains of Mælifellssandur viewed from Mælifell during a hike to the top of the mountain.

The outwash plains of Mælifellssandur.


The Mælifell Volcano Trail

Once you parked the car, you’d need to locate the hiking trail as it is not marked. This is not super easy and you should avoid walking randomly on the mountain to not damage the existing vegetation.

I actually almost did not find it and was about to give up the hike. I did not want to walk on the grass and the moss, so I was ready to give up the hike unless I could locate a trail.

But after having spent about 20 minutes walking around the mountain, I finally located a track on the west side of the Mountain. However, once you find the track, it is quite easy to follow.

Green mountain on Iceland with a blue sky background

Can you see the trail? It’s only visible from halfway up.

Maelifell volcano photo of the hiking trail taken during a hike.

the trail is quite visible and easy to follow once you are on it.

The trail is quite steep although not overly so. Still, it is relentlessly steep to the top. I guess you can figure that out by looking at the mountain as it appears almost like a perfect cone.

You’ll have to cross or hike around a few rocky areas toward the top. The views will get better and better as you go. Once you get to the top you’ll enjoy spectacular 360 degrees panoramic views all around you.

Mælifell Volcano view from a hike to the top

View from the top of the Mælifell toward the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.


The Mælifell Volcano Hike Photos and Photography Tips

Well, not much to say about Mælifell itself. It is one of the most photographed, remote mountains in the highlands of Iceland.

As such it is best photographed from afar, either from the road on with a drone. When you get close to it, it’s not as impressive as from afar. It’s too big to be a meaningful subject when you are standing at its feet. You can get good shots of it from road f210.

Maelifell mountain from road f210

Maelifell, from Road 210.

When you get on top though, a whole world of photo opportunities opens up. The Mýrdalsjökull glacier and its water streaming down on the Mælifellssandur outwash plains, the Fjallabak mountains in the distance, strange rock formations… there definitely isn’t a lack of subjects.

Fjallabak mountains in the highlands of Iceland.

Some of the colourful mountains in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. Landmannalaugar is behind those mountains. 200mm shot.

Road f210 crossing the sandy Maelifelssandur plains.

Road f210 and the immense landscape around it

Details of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier

Details of Mýrdalsjökull

Mountain in the black Maelifelssandur plains next to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier

Another detail of Mýrdalsjökull

You’d really need a telephoto lens to capture most of it. I’ve mostly used a telephoto up to 200mm. Generally speaking, I did not find much use for an ultra-wide lens up there as the surrounding landscape would appear rather small at 14mm. So for the rest, I’ve used my 24-70 and that was more than enough.

green moss on black volcanic sands in the highlands of Iceland

Some of the amazing rock formations scattered around Maelifelssandur are only noticeable from higher up

Black sands in the Maelifelssandur plains

A high circular pattern emerges from the sands.

Glacier and Mýrdalsjökull meltwater

Rivers from the Mýrdalsjökull meltwater

Glacial rivers and Mýrdalsjökull meltwater

Yet another one of Mýrdalsjökull, 200mm

Landscape in the highlands of Iceland around Mælifell

More of the vast landscape. 70mm shot.

Mælifell Volcano view from a hike to the top

View from the top of the Mælifell toward the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. 24mm shot.

If you are getting here via road f232, you’ll also want to stop at the very scenic Bláfjallafoss.

Bláfjallafoss waterfall on a foggy day

Bláfjallafoss, 14mm.

Video of the Hike

Here is a video of the hike, including some parts of the drive to get there, and a final drone clip.

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Map of the Mælifell Volcano Hike

Here is the GPs track of my hike. You can download the GPS file from the Komoot activity by clicking on it.

Where to stay

The only nearby location where you could stay/camp is the Strútur hut. There also is Hólaskjól Highlands Center, but that would require crossing the Hólmsá River on road f210, which I don’t recommend unless you exactly know what you are doing.

Additional Resources

  • For a similar experience, I can definitely recommend also checking out the Sveinstindur Hike, on road F235
  • Check out more Photo Hikes in Iceland here.
  • Discover the best hiking books and guides on Iceland.
  • Car or Camper Van Rentals

    I can definitely recommend two companies here:

    • Cars: Blue Car Rental, which is the largest Car rental company in Iceland, and for good reasons. Free Cancellation, Unlimited mileage, 24-hour breakdown assistance, SCDW, CDW, TP, and GP insurance are included in the price. Blue Car Rental is also located within walking distance of the Keflavik Airport, so you can be on your way to explore Iceland right away. I’ve always been happy with my rentals there, which is why I’m happy to recommend their services here on my blog.
    • Camper Vans: CampEasy. With CampEasy, you can rent 2WD or 4×4 campers alike. With a raised Chassis, larger tires, and extra insurance with reduced liability for river crossing, their 4X4 campers are the best choice for your trip into the Highlands. Their Website also provides extensive information about roads you can take and instructions on river crossings. Perfect choice for a hiking holiday in the highlands!

    These are my two favorite companies in each respective rental area, which I why I am happy to recommend both here. If you also like this blog, booking through them is a great way to support it. I’ll get a small commission fee at no additional cost, so you can essentially support the running costs of this blog for free too.