Are you ready for the hike of your life?
Deep inside the Icelandic Highlands lies a magical place. A place of awe and wonder. A place where volcanic ash and obsidian black rhyolite rocks dominate the landscape. Steam blows from the ground beneath your very feet, and large patches of snow cling to the far from extinct volcanoes. Meltwater rushes down from the surrounding glaciers, carving its way through rainbow-coloured mountains. It sounds like something from a different planet, but rest assured, we are still right here on Earth.
To find this otherworldly place, you have to enter the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Southern part of Iceland. If you are equipped with a 4×4, you can take a sharp turn onto the F-Roads, away from Road 1 and the coast, to travel where few tourists dare go. Most people are content with visiting the main sights alongside the 2-lane tarmac road referred to as the ring road, but not you. You are not most people. You are not afraid of working up a sweat, and you know that not all those who wander are lost.
Along the gravel road, the only living organisms you meet are a few stray sheep which have lost their way. There are no trees and no vegetation. Nothing grows out here, bar large patches of moss that attach to bare rock like some sort of blood-sucking parasite. It’s the middle of the day, but the sky is dark. The clouds form fantastic formations, rolling towards you like steam trains carrying a cargo of heavy rain. In combination with gale-force winds, the pounding rain on your windshield makes it feel like you are a captain at sea. The wipers struggle to keep up as you go deeper and deeper into the highlands. Eventually, the wind and the rain softens, and a magnificent view is slowly revealed. You have finally arrived at your destination.
You find yourself at Landmannalaugur, at the very edge of the massive Laugahraun lava field. You park your beast of a car and swap your wheels for pair of sturdy hiking boots. It’s time to be one with mother nature, in one of the harshest but most beautiful places on Planet Earth.
- The Laugavegur Hike
- The Laugavegur Trail Itinerary
- Add-on hike: Fimmvörðuháls
- Final remarks
The Laugavegur Hike
The Laugavegur hike starts in Landmannalaugur in the highlands of southern Iceland. It is 55 km of raw nature, beautiful volcano landscapes, glacier views, hot springs and lava fields. National Geographic and many others have classified this as one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. If you go, we doubt you’ll disagree. It will take you 4 days to conquer the trail, and it won’t be easy. You will have to carry everything with you, including food and your tent. But it will all be worth it. In this post we will prepare you as best we can, through our own experiences on the trail during the summer of 2019. Keep reading for a detailed overview of the trek, including our best tips and tricks for making this adventure one of the highlights of your life.
The trail starts in Landmannalaugur, moving south towards Hraftinhuskr, Alftavatn, Hvangil, and Emstrur before finally ending in Thorsmork – The Valley of Thor. It is possible to hike in the opposite direction, but we won’t recommend it. We will show you why later. It is also possible to join a group tour and have the tour operator transport your luggage between the huts. This means they will handle the cooking and you will likely be sleeping inside the comfortable mountain huts. The hike will be significantly easier if you choose this option, as you won’t have a big backpack weighing you down. You also won’t have to cook for yourself, outside with the elements raging around you.
However, to feel a true sense of adventure, we suggest you bring a tent and camp all the way. You will then be awarded with a highly satisfying sense of achievement upon arrival in Thorsmork. We are proud to have conquered the Laugavegur Trail, and that feeling will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Needless to say, it will be much cheaper this way as well!
Another option is to book a bed in the huts by yourself, instead of through a guided tour. You can do this online through FÍ (Ferðafélag Íslands) – the Iceland Touring Association. Note that huts fill up several months in advance, if not more. If you are hell-bent on sleeping inside, we suggest you book a YEAR before. Camping luckily doesn’t require reservations, and all though camp sites along the trail can be filled up quickly, the wardens are obliged to make room for you.
Our travel video
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to expect just by reading a few paragraphs and looking at someone else’s travel photos. So here’s a third medium for you.
We have tried to capture the essence of the trail in a short inspirational travel video, hoping it will motivate you to start planning your own Laugavegur hike. We had an absolutely amazing trip and we wish you to have the same experience!
Watch the video for a boost of travel inspiration and then keep on reading to start planning. Remember to watch it in HD and to turn on the sound!
For more videos, remember to follow our YouTube channel!
Aside from carrying all your equipment on your back, the trail offers a few extra complications. We want to stress that this is nothing to be concerned about, everyone, even novice hikers, can manage the Laugavegur Trail. But you should come prepared.
First and foremost, you should expect adverse weather conditions. It is the rule, more than it’s the exception, that the weather is acting up. Expect a bit of snow, expect wind, expect rain and expect fog. The latter is the worst, as it will completely obstruct the beautiful views and lead you to lose track of the trail. For this reason, as an extra safety precaution, we advise that you bring a phone with a GPS signal, a map and a compass. And you should have knowledge of how to use it. In general, the trail is very well marked, and if the weather is just okay, you will easily be able to follow it. We didn’t experience heavy fog on our trek, aside from one morning, which lifted quickly. We can easily imagine that heavy fog will make it very hard to follow the trail markers. Luckily there are many other people on the trail, so you shouldn’t be all alone in the wilderness in any case.
Again, this is just a word of caution. Anyone can handle the hike! Don’t be too concerned, just remember to speak with the wardens at each hut, to check the weather forecast as well as bring a first aid kit, a compass and travel insurance. The main challenge you will face is likely the weather. As mentioned, it can be quite extreme and can change very quickly. Be prepared by bringing layers, including waterproof and windproof clothing.
Also, do expect a few river crossings. When we went, we had heard whispers about river crossings, but we still thought someone would have put up a small bridge, or perhaps strategically positioned a few rocks so that we could find our way across with dry feet. That’s a big no on that though. You will meet not one, not two, not three, but four rivers that you need to cross, with your shoes off. There’s absolutely no way you get across without wet (and cold) feet. The worst of them went all the way to Nick’s crotch… and he is 182 cm tall. Okay, he didn’t cross at the best place, so the rest of us managed only to get soaked just above the knees, but still. We recommend bringing along a pair of water shoes, or at least some flip flops. You don’t want wet hiking boots.
In terms of trail difficulty, it is not too bad. There isn’t a whole lot of elevation change, even though it may sometimes feel like there is. For us, the biggest challenge was carrying the heavy backpacks that we are not used to. In fact, Nick was carrying 23 kg on his back, which is WAY too much. We had a week in Iceland before our hike, and somehow we had managed to bring too much stuff. We should have gotten some of it stashed in Reykjavik during our hike, but didn’t manage to do that. We regretted that extra weight for the whole trip. In our defence, this was our first long hike where we had to carry both tents and food supplies, so we lacked the experience. We won’t make the same mistake next time. We need to cut at least 5, if not 10 kg. It’s worth remembering that we are travel bloggers and so we were carrying a bit of “work” equipment, including a drone. Hopefully, you won’t have to carry along that kind of extra weight.
The trail can be quite steep in places, but not more than other hiking routes in Europe, North America or in the Himalayas. It is also a rather short trail, with fairly short days, averaging around 13 km per day. On top of that, the sun is shining until midnight at least, so you won’t be caught out by darkness at any time. You have plenty of time to reach your camp site every day, even if you are extremely slow.
Lack of camping facilities
A final thing worth mentioning is, in case you camp like us, you are only allowed to use the toilet at the huts. You cannot use the kitchen facilities. This can be a problem if it is windy and raining. As you can imagine, it will then be very challenging to cook outside. No matter the weather, the warden won’t let you in. Be prepared for that. Only a few of the huts have any sort of shelter for you outside. Actually, this is only the case in Landmannalaugur and Thorsmork at the very start and end of the trail, as well as in Emstrur.
Clean water availability
On a more positive note, water is readily available along most of the trail. You can drink the tap water all over Iceland, and there will be tap water at all the huts. Besides, you can drink water from natural sources as well, as long as the water is running clear. We didn’t have any problems with that out on the trail. Usually, we took our lunch near running water, so we could use water from there to cook our food and fill up our bottles afterwards.
When to go
The trek is only open between late June and early September. Be mindful of those shoulder months though, it might be better to plan between mid-July and end of August. Before or after that, the weather can all too quickly turn to s***. Of course, this is also the time of year with most people on the trail.
You start the trek in Landmannalaugur. Forget trying to pronounce that, or any other Icelandic place for that matter. It is located right next to the Laugahraun lava field, which is apparently rather small for such ones. It sure looks huge, though. It was formed during an eruption in 1477, and we have never seen anything quite like it. Good start to the trip.
Let’s get deeper into the important, practical, stuff now.
How to get there
You can drive in your own 4×4 or take a bus. Since you will be hiking one-way, it’s probably a good idea to take the bus. There are two companies to choose from here. Details found below.
Trex is the company we chose. Specifically, we booked the Hikers Bus Pass. It is essentially a return bus ticket taking you from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugur and bringing you back from Thorsmork or vice versa. The outward journey runs twice daily at 07:30 and 12:30 (arriving in Landmannalaugur at 13:00 and 18:00 respectively). The main stops from Reykjavik are at City Hall, Reykjavik Campsite and Kringlan Shopping Mall. We noticed that it also stops a few hours outside Reykjavik in the small town of Hella. Just contact Trex, and they can accommodate you from there.
The price will be around 15,000 ISK, which is more than fair considering the length of the journey. It is worth noting that we had to change our ticket slightly the day before, and Trex were happy to accommodate us.
For Reykjavik Excursions, you can also book a hikers pass. They too depart twice daily, at 08:00 and at 13:00. In fact, there is not a whole lot differentiating the two companies. The price is similar too. We actually overheard our driver from Trex talk to a colleague, mentioning that they had overbooked the bus a bit and had to call Reykjavik Excursions to accommodate a passenger. They work so closely together, it seems it doesn’t really matter which company you go with. One little note is that it appeared to us that the Trex bus was always full, whereas the Reykjavik Excursion bus had plenty of empty seats. Not sure if that is the typical situation, though.
The bus drives for a few hours along the ring road in Southern Iceland. After a short toilet/coffee break around Hella, it will turn off the comfy tarmac and start bumping along a gravel road for about 1.5 hours. Don’t expect much sleep or being able to read here. Luckily, the landscape is already stunning. The bus will drop you off at Landmannalaugur at 13:00 at the earliest. Realistically, you won’t have time to start the Laugavegur Trail on this day. It is better to set up camp, go speak with the wardens and consider a short dayhike in the surrounding area. We’ll “walk” you through those further below (pun intended) but first, let’s tell you a little bit about the facilities at Landmannalaugur.
Landmannalaugur features a large campsite. However, you will quickly find that the ground isn’t exactly soft. It is near impossible to drive the tent pegs into the volcanic ground. Instead, you find a few big rocks and use these to tie your tent down. It was surprisingly simple to do, even though we had never tried that before. Like almost all the other huts and campsites on the trail, Landmannalaugur is operated by FÍ (Ferðafélag Íslands) – the Iceland Touring Association. Price of camping will be 2,000 ISK per person. If you manage to book a bed in the hut, you’ll have to pay 9,000 ISK. You may also choose to take a hot shower. This will cost you 500 ISK for 5 minutes. You receive a QR code that you scan in the shower. Quite high tech stuff actually. Be aware that the timer starts as soon as you scan – so you better be ready. This concept is the same all along the route – and you can get hot showers at all the campsites for the same price.
The facilities at Landmannalaugur are the best you’ll see for the next 4 days. There is a big tent you can use for shelter, you can buy alcohol and a wide range of snacks, and most importantly, there are natural hot springs you can soak in. We recommend jumping in the hot springs in the evening after your day hike to relax before the big trip starts. There might be a lot of people having the same idea, and in that case, you can just jump in early morning the day after instead. They will be completely empty there. That’s exactly what Nick did, and he thought it was glorious.
Landmannalaugur day hikes
You have arrived, set up camp, spoken with the wardens and are ready to go explore the area. You’ve got yourself a good 3-4 hours before it’s time for dinner, so better tighten your hiking boots and get on with it.
Laugahringur circle: 4.3 km – 2 hours.
This is the shortest and easiest of the day hikes. It goes from the Landmannalaugur hut along the beginning of the Laugavegur trail on a smooth path through the lava field. When it gets out on the other side, it loops around, coming back through a different, rougher, part of the lava field. You walk in between the odd rhyolite rock formations for a good while, until the path moves towards a small river and follows that all the way back to the hut. This is a very gentle start to your week in the highlands. You will pass through some impressive landscape, but we don’t recommend it. The reason is simply that for half of the loop you will be walking precisely the same stretch as you start out on, on the Laugavegur Trail the next morning. No need to see the same stuff twice.
Bláhnjúkur mountain: 5.7 km – 3.5 hours – 400m ascend, 400m descend
Bláhnjúkur mountain – often referred to as Blue Peak in English. This is the hike we chose ourselves, and the one we recommend. It might be the toughest and steepest of all the day hikes, but it is doable by everyone. It isn’t very long, so it will only take you around 3 – 3.5 hours. It starts out very steep, zigzagging up the lower slopes of the Bláhnjúkur mountain through some very loose gravel. You need to stay alert through that section. However, when you finally get to the top, you are rewarded with some fantastic views of the entire Landmannalaugur area. If you are lucky with the weather, you will be able to see some massive glaciers in the distance. If you aren’t lucky with the weather, you won’t be able to see a thing. That’s why we only recommend this hike in case of clear weather. It is okay with a bit of rain, but if you have fog or heavy rain, you won’t be rewarded with any views whatsoever at the top. That would make the hike meaningless. So make sure to speak with the warden before going, to ask what kind of view you can expect on the day. The day we hiked up the weather wasn’t very good. However, the views were still acceptable as far as we are concerned. You can judge for yourself below.
It is possible to walk down the same way you came up. This will make for a shorter trip, and could probably cut more than an hour from the hike. However, we had time to do a small loop instead, so we chose to walk down on the opposite side of the mountain. Like the ascend, the way down was quite steep, still offering lots of rewarding vistas. When you get down from the mountain, you have to cross a small river where you may get wet feet if you aren’t careful. We were wearing hiking boots, but if you are in sneakers, you should probably take them off before crossing. Then the trail continues through the rough part of the lava field, similarly to the Laugahringur hike mentioned above. The warden we spoke to mentioned that we might not want to do the Bláhnjúkur hike because it would take us through a similar landscape as we would be passing through the next morning. However, in our experience, that wasn’t entirely true. The two trails do not cross, and on the Laugavegur Trail, you will only pass through the smooth part of the lava field, which is not as stunning.
In addition to Bláhnjúkur, there are two other mountains which can be relatively easily summited called Suðurnámur and Brennisteinsalda.
The Brennisteinsalda hike is 6.5 km while Suðurnámur is 8.5 km. If you have a full day, it would be tough, but possible, to take two, or even all three, mountains together.
The rest of the day hikes in the area are longer, between 13-17 km. Always ask the wardens before going on any hike. Just check the weather with them as well as any potential problems on the route.
You can google the routes mentioned above and see if they appeal to you. If you have the time, it is perfectly okay to spend an extra day in Landmannalaugur to try out those day hikes. Personally, we thought Landmannalaugur was the most beautiful place on the entire trek. It had a bit of everything. It is easy to justify a few extra day hikes here, and contrary to when you arrive in Thorsmork, you aren’t yet tired from the “real” hike. We only hiked Bláhnjúkur, and it was absolutely beautiful. We can easily imagine that the rest of the hikes are so as well. In fact, we spoke with the warden, and he said that his favourite route is Suðurnámur. We kind of regret we didn’t get a chance to check that out!
The Laugavegur Trail Itinerary
So you had a wonderful day hike yesterday, managed to relax in the soothing natural hot springs, and maybe you had a celebratory beer or two for making it all the way into the fabled Icelandic highlands. For sure this was followed by a good nights sleep. Now you wake up early, in eager anticipation of starting the Laugavegur hike for real.
Here is the bad news though. The first day on the trail is by far the toughest. You can probably tell why from the elevation profile we have created below.
Notice how the first day is just up, up, up. Considering this will also be your first day of hiking with the heavy backpack on, you will be exhausted on arrival. The good news is, it’s all downhill from there. Or so it seems. We would classify it as being “mountain-flat”. You will still see some steep ascends that’s for sure.
You can probably also tell why we suggest you go from Landmannalaugur towards Thorsmork and not the other way around. You will get rid of the toughest part first when you have the most energy. It will also mean that you walk south towards the coast. This just seems more intuitive to us and was the original way of doing it back in the day. Descending slightly in that direction each day will open up the best views straight in front of you. You will especially benefit from this on day 2 looking towards Alftavatn as well as on day 4 when some great glacier views over the Thorsmork valley start to present themselves.
It’s time to strap on the hiking boots and start walking! Let’s go through the itinerary day by day. In the coming few sections, we will also refer to the graph above, as let’s face it, it took some effort to create so we need to use it.
Day 1: Landmannalaugur to Hrafntinnusker
12 km – 5 hours – 600m ascend – 200m descend
You start at Landmannalaugur at an elevation of about 600 meters. Today is 12 km uphill. Your goal is to pass through the highest point of the entire trail, before descending slightly to reach Hrafntinnusker at 1.100 meters. We wouldn’t try to pronounce that one either. The start of the hike takes you through the Laugahraun lava field, which you have probably already seen the day before. You’ll find it’s still impressive the second time around. As soon as you exit the lava field, the first steep ascend presents itself. On the way up you are treated to some awesome boiling water splashing out from the ground itself. Unfortunately, the glorious sight is accompanied by a strong sulphurous stench. Mmhm, nothing like the smell of rotten eggs in the morning. Unsurprisingly, the aroma doesn’t help you climb any faster.
Although this is a tough day, the views make you half forget that. The colourful mountains, the hot springs, the large patches of snow and the volcanic rock, all looks breathtakingly beautiful throughout the entire day. Eventually, you approach 1.200 meters, and you will start seeing more and more snow on the trail. Soon you walk exclusively on the hardpacked white stuff. You walk like this for a couple of kilometres thinking to yourself whether it really is summer. You suddenly reach the final peak and can gaze down upon Hrafntinnusker. What a welcome sight. Congratulations, you made it through day 1.
At Hrafntinnusker, you won’t be finding much shelter. Some people before you have set up stones to shield their tents a little bit from the wind, and you might be able to find a cosy one of these to secure your own tent to. Because this is the highest camp site on the trail, it is the coldest. It doesn’t even have any shelter, so if you are cooking, you better hope the wind is forgiving. It is also worth noting that you cannot leave any trash here. You need to carry all your trash with you, except for toilet paper, to the next camp.
All in all, we had a great stay, though, as we were relatively lucky with the weather. We went to bed early, because hey, what else to do. We were also super tired from the day’s struggles, so that didn’t bother us the least.
Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn
12 km – 6 hours – 200m ascend – 600m descend
We woke up early, but refreshed, as we had gone to bed much earlier than usual. Unfortunately, some fog had rolled in and was pretty much covering the whole campsite. In our minds, we were preparing ourselves for a long day on the trail with no visibility. Luckily, by the time we had eaten our breakfast and had our coffee, the fog had lifted, and we were joyfully on our way.
Today is also 12 km, but in stark contrast to the day before, it is mostly downhill. Looking at the elevation profile we presented earlier, this should be a very easy day. As you can probably hear on the tone, it wasn’t quite so. This was a surprisingly tough day, for some reason. We are not sure whether it is because the elevation profile lies, or because of our expectations, but we were definitely surprised by how strenuous it was. All the steep descends were tough on the legs and the knees and by the time we got to Alftavatn, we were already quite tired. We are getting a little ahead of ourselves, though. Before reaching Alftavatn, as you can see on our map, there is a small river crossing to navigate.
We are almost ashamed to say this, but we were not prepared for the river crossings. We had somehow managed to overlook the fact that you have to cross several rivers on the Laugavegur Trail, and so half of our party didn’t bring any water shoes or flip flops. That was definitely a mistake. On this occasion, we walked up and down the river for a while, hoping we could find a better place to cross. Maybe we could jump across on some stones to keep our feet dry. Then we noticed all the people sitting on the opposite side, drying their feet with towels and changing clothes. Eventually, we had to give in. We said ‘to hell with it’, dropped our shoes and crossed barefoot. Viking style. It was SO cold. The water must’ve been just above freezing because you lose all feeling in your feet. Except for pain. The small stones in the river felt like a million pieces of lego scattered across the floor. Good thing we had a pair of sneakers packed that we could use on all subsequent river crossings.
When you finally reach Alftavatn, you have a decision to make. You can either camp for the night or you can move on 3-4 km to the next camp called Hvangil. We had been advised to continue to the next camp, so that is what we did. The reasons were that there is more shelter in Hvangil, fewer people and that it was still early in the afternoon. In hindsight, this was probably the wrong decision. Instead, we would recommend that you stay in Alftavatn. We say this because:
- there is actually a restaurant where you can get a hot meal and a drink
- the day after will be very easy even if you have to walk an extra few kilometres
- The campsite is located at a beautiful lake, which seemed great, so we would have loved to spend a night there
- There is a trash can. You will be carrying your trash from the previous camp, so make sure to drop that off here even if you decide to push further on. In Hvangil, there is no trash can. We forgot to unload here and so had to carry our trash for almost the entire trail.
Day 3: Álftavatn to Hvangil
4km – 2.25 h – 100m ascend – 100m descend
We presume you follow our recommendations and sleep at Alftavatn. In that case, you have an extra 4 kilometres of walking on day 3 to compensate. Luckily, today is a very flat and easy day. We were literally walking like a steam train, almost 1.5x the speed compared to day 1 and 2.
After about 1 km, you start the day with a lovely river crossing. For some reason, this one didn’t feel quite as cold as the others. You definitely still have the worst crossing to come. Because you have descended quite a lot since Hraftinnusker, more and more vegetation is starting to show up. The scenery truly is beautiful here.
Soon you reach Hvangil. It is an interesting campsite because it is located smack in the middle of a lava field. That’s one of the reasons why it offers more shelter compared to Alftavatn, and why we were actually not so sad, we ended up staying there. It really is a unique experience to camp in between all that lava rock.
Since you aren’t sleeping here, you can just borrow the toilet (facility fee of 500 ISK probably applies) and get on with it.
Day 3 continued: Hvangil to Emstrur
12km – 4.25 hours – 100m ascend – 160m descend
From Hvangil to the Botnar hut in Emstrur, you are looking at a 12km flat hike. For much of the way, it is incredibly flat. It was so flat, in fact, that we were worried the altimeter on our Suunto watch had stopped working. Before you really get going though, it is time for another river crossing. This one was pretty tough and very cold. It is not like it is dangerous to cross the river, it just feels very extreme to have ice cold water with such a strong current trying to push you and your backpack over. Of course, all went without any drama, and you will be perfectly fine.
After you dry your feet, you can start walking across a vast ash-black plain, which looks like it could have been the bottom of a lake once. You make good progress here, and soon, it is time for lunch. It felt like every time we had our lunch, it started raining. It was quite uncanny actually. It’s just one of those things. We were boiling water to eat dehydrated meals, but we actually think you are better off with a bar, or something, that doesn’t require heating. It is just too much effort to cook anything, and if the weather starts acting up, then you are in for a world of pain. Better save your energy and prepare a proper meal in the evening. That’s our opinion at least.
Sooner than you expect, you reach Emstrur. It is a cosy little place, nestled in between some mountains close to a small river. The warden here asked us to camp very tighly, and so we wasted no space for our tents. You could tell that there was not quite enough room, but we got a good spot close to the water. Or so we thought. During the night it turned out that there was a strong sulphurous odour coming from the water, keeping us awake. And so we had the worst sleep of the trip. On a positive note, we were so full of energy that we took a little 1-hour hike to a nearby cliff with great views of the surrounding area. If you have a lot of energy, always remember to ask the wardens for evening/night hike advice – there are some available at every hut.
Day 4: Emstrur to Thorsmork
16km – 7 hours – 400m ascend – 600m descend
On the small cliff excursion, we went on the day before, we had a great view over a beautiful lush valley. Today, it turns out, we would be walking down inside that same valley. It would be our final day on the trail, and we were feeling good. That’s lucky because the day would be 16 km long and quite strenuous.
The first interesting place of the day was a canyon to be crossed by an old bridge with a roaring river below. We were glad we didn’t have to traverse that using our own two feet! On the other side of the bridge, the path was steep and narrow, so there are chains to help you ascend. If you suffer from vertigo, you may need to take a deep breath here. All was good though, and to comfort you a little bit, there really aren’t too many such places on the trek.
As we slowly progressed, everything became greener and greener. There is a lot of meltwater from the nearby glacier which trickles down many different paths. This is probably what feeds the increasing amounts of vegetation. Towards the end of the day, all that water has merged to a bigger stream and eventually, you need to get to the other side of it. This was without a doubt the worst river crossing of the trek. It wasn’t the coldest, but it sure was the deepest. It is hard to predict where the water level is at it’s lowest, but depending on your luck (and your height), it will probably fall somewhere in the region between your knees and your crotch. Don’t despair, everyone has to cross, and it is perfectly fine to hang around until someone else decides to brave the current and then follow them. It wasn’t dangerous at any point, just a bit (or a lot) uncomfortable for some.
When you have made it across the river, you are almost at your destination. For the final part of the trek, you walk through a dense forest. One of the few forests you will see in Iceland and the only one on the trek. Frustratingly, there are quite a few uphill sections here, and at this point, you are just very eager to reach your hut.
Speaking of huts, you have a choice of 3 different ones in Thorsmork. About 1.5 km before the end of the Laugavegur hike, you will meet a sign asking you to go left for the FI hut in Langidalur, or right for Volcano Huts at Husadalur. If you go left, you will get to Langidalur first, and can then decide to move 1.5 km further to get to the Utivist hut in Basar. If you go right, you can sleep at Volcano Huts where they have so-called “Glamping” opportunities as well as a small buffet restaurant and a bar. You will find no such fancy things at Langidalur, but you will be able to purchase a real beer if you like. We didn’t visit the Utivist hut in Basar but can imagine it will be good if you decide to move on to the Fimmvorduhals hike (more about that later).
This picture is from Langidalur.
All the huts mentioned above are technically located in Thorsmork. The main advantage of Volcano Huts is the restaurant and the bar. However, you can walk there in about 20 minutes from Langidalur, so it is not strictly necessary to camp there. The main advantage of Langidalur is that this is where most of the busses back to Reykjavik stop. It is also the “original” FI hut, like the rest of the huts on the trek, so it is the natural end to the Laugavegur hike.
We were suggested to stay a few days in Thorsmork for the various day hikes (it doesn’t matter much which campsite you choose in terms of day hikes in the area). This might have been good advice if the weather was great. It wasn’t though. We were wet and tired, so all we wanted to do was go back home to Reykjavik, for a day of relaxation. Luckily, we could change our ticket with Trex very easily. We still managed a small hike to the top of Valahnúkur, which was about a 1.5-hour loop. It was very steep but easy enough in that it was so short. It had exceptional 360-degree views of the entire Thorsmork valley. We walked it from Langidalur and back, but you can also walk it as a loop where you ascend from Langidalur and descend towards Volcano Huts. You can easily see the hut from the summit, so the route is simple to follow. We didn’t do this, because we had already walked the flat stretch between Volcano Huts and Langidalur the evening before when dining in the restaurant.
Amongst other possible day hikes, we heard great things about the Tindfjöll circle. A 4-6 hour loop which is supposedly quite tough but unbelieavably beautiful. Well, perhaps next time. If you google it, you will find plenty of information, but as usual, please make sure to speak with the hut wardens about current conditions.
Instead, we grabbed the first bus at 14:00 and were back in Reykjavik by 18:00. Oh, how nice dinner tasted on this occasion!
Add-on hike: Fimmvörðuháls
If you have got more time and energy after the Laugavegur trail, there is another epic hike you can embark on from Thorsmork. Notably, it passes in between the magnificent icecaps of Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull. Although you probably can’t pronounce its name, you may be familiar with the latter. It was the volcano under this massive icecap that erupted in 2010 causing major, week-long, disruption to European air traffic. You will very much get up and close to that if you decide to go on this hike. You will also be getting close to another famous volcano called Katla. As if that wasn’t enough, along the route you’ll pass by 26 water falls, before you end up at Skogafoss – one of the most famous water falls in all of Iceland. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the Fimmvörðuháls hike ourselves. We went to Iceland with some friends and weren’t sure they were up for extra days of hiking. Next time, we will be there for sure. Do expect a significant challenge, though. This is a tough hike with 1000 meters of ascent and 1000 meters of descent in some of the most challenging conditions an amateur hiker can face. The weather can be extreme, even in summer. Make sure you are a bit more prepared for this one. There is a lot of information available about the trek, so we suggest you google around as well as speak with the hut warden at Langidalur about current conditions. But don’t worry – of course, you can do it!
If you go on this trek, it might be a good idea to stay at the Utivist hut in Basar. That would cut a few kilometres of the trek, which could make a world of difference.
- You can use your credit card along the entire route, no need for cash. Unless of course there is a problem with the power or something. We would thus recommend carrying a bit in reserve.
- You will only be able to recharge your phone, and other electronics, along the route if the sun has been shining. And it doesn’t seem to shine too often. You better bring a power bank if you need frequent charging.
- You can buy alcohol in Landmannalaugur, in Alfavatn and in Thorsmork only.
- You can get hot food in Alfavatn and in Thorsmork only.
- You can call the bus company to change your return trip timings. We ended up going home a day early.
- Don’t be too depressed by weather forecasts. We had rain on the forecast all day every day, but it only rained sporadically!
- All the camps cost 2000 ISK per person if sleeping in a tent, and 9000 ISK per person if sleeping in the huts. All showers are 500 ISK. There is not a whole lot else you can spend money on here. It is possible to buy a pack of crisps etc. but the selection is minimal.
- The restaurant at Volcano Huts in Husadalur serves a burger with fries for lunch, but only buffet food for dinner. It is also quite pricy, at about 4.500 ISK per person. However, we found that we really needed a hot meal after our hike and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
- In terms of views, the Laugavegur hike easily rivalled our trip to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. It really is that good. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed, even if you are unlucky with the weather. So just put on your best hiking shoes and get on the trail. Maybe we’ll see you up there in the highlands.
GOOD LUCK ON YOUR HIKE!