One of The Best Days Ever – Hiking Up Mt. Esja
Standing almost 3,000 feet over Reykjavik, Mount Esja sees it all. It knows what is happening in the skies over the city before we do, it can feel what is happening in the sea surrounding Iceland’s capital, and chances are, it can probably see all that’s going on on these cheerful little streets of ours.
Between Harpa and the Sun Voyager, you can stare at this incredible mountain, and she will stare right back at you. Almost challenging you. She knows she is the stronger one, but still you’re curious, you want to see what it is she sees. And what it is she is so smug about.
So what do you do? Well, I will tell you. You take a short walk (15 mins or so depending on whereabouts in the city centre you are) down to Hlemmur bus station and you jump on the 15 bus to Háholt. Don’t have a big breakfast though because (or at least if you go on a Sunday like I did) you have to wait in this spot for a little over an hour. But there is a whole bunch of fast food restaurants to keep you occupied. Once you are back at the bus stop you get the number 57 to the Hiking Center, it’s only about 10 minutes from Háholt. We paid 420 ISK for the first part of the trip (Hlemmur to Háholt) but if you ask for a transfer ticket on the bus you can use that on the next bus if it’s within 70 minutes. The driver on the second bus didn’t charge anybody who was going to the Hiking Center again though because it was only a short distance – but I can’t guarantee you will get the same nice driver!
We arrived at the “Hiking Center”. We didn’t actually go in but it doesn’t look much more than a cafe, probably an info point in there, I guess. There’s a sign at the start of the track, but it’s pretty straight forward where to go. Before you set off though, you should decide how challenging (bloody difficult!) you want this hike to be. If you’re a beginner (like me!) then you should stick to the signs with 1 boot, and keep away from 3 boots which is for the more experienced.
The start of the trail is a slightly steeping hill, but you can already tell that it’s going to be gorgeous. After about 10 mins there’s little waterfalls trickling beside you, a wooden bridge (as in, planks of wood, perfectly safe though, just makes it all the more picturesque really), and a view ahead that will cover you with goosebumps! The way the fog clings to the mountaintop, forbidding you from seeing it until you’re closer, the forests and sea below you, and the rocks and slopes surrounding you, keeping you prisoner from the rest of the world. Although, I didn’t mind. I was loving every minute of it!
It’s hard to explain what it’s like up Esjan. It’s a cross between the Lord of The Rings and the kind of place a Disney villain lives. Which, now that I’ve written it, would explain where some of the magic comes from.
The majority of people (visitors / tourists) go as far as Steinn (the stone) because from there you can see Reykjavik. You finally get to see what Esja sees all day and all night long, what life is like through her eyes, and you can see why it is she is so pleased to have such a place to look out for.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the stone. There was a group of people blocking one of the signs and we ended up on the 2 boot trail (which explained why my thighs were seizing up!). It’s a pity we didn’t get to see my favourite city from here, but I was more than happy with the views we witnessed from the other side of this epic mountain range.
Oh yeah, one more thing – pay attention to the bus schedule. When we finally got down to the bottom again there wasn’t another bus for 2 hours. Maybe just don’t go on a Sunday! We ended up hitching a ride back to Reykjavik with 2 lovely German girls. Hitch-hiking is popular and fairly safe in Iceland but still, be careful!