Autumn in Iceland is officially over, and the first flurries of snowflakes are already swirling down into the streets of Reykjavík. But even so, there are some wonderful walks to do at this time of year to make the most of the seasonal colours and shortening days.
Heiðmörk is one such place: a large tract of wild, forested parkland on the edge of Garðabær. It was established as a conservation area in 1950, and over four million trees have been planted since then, making it the biggest forest in the capital region. Heiðmörk also contains two lakes, some dramatic red rock formations called Rauðhólar, and various patches of heathland and lava.
On the day we went to visit, late in the afternoon, our first stop was Vifilsstaðavatn, a small lake that was completely frozen over, with the ice churned into eerie, organic patterns. A walking path led past a charming bandstand and down to a little pier, with the hills in the background lit bright red by the beginning of a fiery sunset.
The road onwards through Heiðmörk weaves up and down through some hillocks, with various nooks along the way to park the car, and several picnic spots, marked hiking trails and viewpoints. We stopped several times to see the sun catch the trees and distant mountains as the afternoon gave way to evening, also taking short walks into the snowy woods.
After a while, the road wound back around towards the city, and as the sun dropped below the horizon, we saw a dramatic full moon rise in front of us. It was already dark as we passed the silhouetted Rauðhólar rock formations, joining route one shortly after to head back into the capital.
For anyone visiting Reykjavík with not quite enough time for a longer road trip, Heiðmörk is a great option. As well as being a beautiful place to visit, it’s just a 30 minute drive (or a slightly longer bus ride, using routes 5, 19 and 28) from the downtown area. With a wide variety of terrain and topography and not many people around, Heiðmörk feels a little off the tourist trail, making it something of a hidden gem.
Find more information on visiting Heiðmörk here.