It is hard to imagine that you are in the middle of a city when you are running, what is without doubt, the most beautiful and peaceful 10km running route in Reykjavik.
Elliðaárdalur valley bears the name of the beautiful river Elliðaá, said to be the only salmon fishing river in the world that flows through a capital city.
The valley is an outdoor paradise, a green recreational area popular with walkers, cyclists and runners. It divides the city of Reykjavik into two parts, west and east of Elliðaá.
Horses and salmons
We recommend that you start your run at the Árbær swimming pool, keeping the river to your right. For the first two kilometers you are running by the fields of the local horse riding club Fákur, before crossing an old bridge and heading up the hill towards the Breiðholt neighborhood. From here on you can choose whether to stay on the asphalt path or head into the woodlands for some softer paths. The asphalt path is clearly marked, but even if it wasn’t it would be hard to get lost as the path goes in a circle around the valley.
After about 5km’s run you will pass the old dam which will be on your right hand side and shortly after a long downhill run awaits you. Enjoy the rest and try not to worry about the uphill when you return on the other side of the river.
The first bridge across the river was built in 1883, but today they are more than 20, mostly only for pedestrians. If you stand on top of one of the many bridges in the valley you can often see salmons jumping or resting in the water below after jumping up the waterfalls. There are a few waterfalls to admire, the biggest ones being Selfoss and Stórifoss just below the dam.
The King of Denmark owned exclusive rights to fish salmon in the Elliðaá river for 300 years, but the city of Reykjavik bought the rights in 1906.
At the bottom of the valley the route takes you past a small but very picturesque waterfall before crossing the river again and running towards the hill known to Icelandic runners as “Rafstöðvarbrekkan” (named after an old hydroelectric power plant).
Near the top of the hill are the old houses of Arbær Museum, and from there you can see the swimming pool only 1 km away.
If you are in the mood you can walk to the river by the pool and dip your toes into the cold water, but be careful not to wade too far. The perfect end to this day is of course to soak in the new favorite feature of the Árbær swimming pool, a hot tub with a great view over the valley.
There are many other options for running the valley, but our suggestion is to start from Arbær swimming pool and head south.