On my way home from Scotland this past summer, I met up with my good friend, Candy, in Iceland to hike Iceland’s most famous long distance trail – The Laugavegur Hiking Trail. This 55 kilometer trail is located in the southern highlands of Iceland, north of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. It starts in Landmannalaugar and takes 3 – 5 days to trek to Þórsmörk . The scenery is beautiful, unique, and varied. Every day has different views from black rock lava fields, to fields of flourescent green moss, to fields of snow. Volcanic mountains and mountains displaying a variety of colors delight the trekker. Ice caves, glaciers, and even natural hot springs are found along this trek.
The trail is challenging requiring a decent level of fitness, yet the scenery you will see is well worth the extra training. The trek can quickly become more challenging with poor weather conditions, such as whipping wind, snow, fog, freezing rain and more. Your best chances for good weather are from mid-July to the end of August. However you could experience poor weather during these two months, it’s the Icelandic mountains after all!
Below is a map of Iceland with the trail marked in red from Landmannalaugar to Porsmork. (Map found at http://www.mountainguides.is)
Below: Candy and Sheri on two different parts of the Laugavegur trek day one of our adventure.
Our original itinerary for the trek is shown below, however we decided to skip staying the night at Emstrur, due to very windy conditions, and continued hiking that day till Basar in Porsmork.
Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (12Km) 4-5 hour hike
Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Alftavatn or to Hvanngil (16K) 6-8 hours
Day 3: Alftavatn to Emstrur (16km) 6-7 hours
Day 4: Emstrur to Basar in Porsmork (15K) 5-7 hours, take bus back to Reykavik
Finding your way on the Laugavegur trail: The trail is very well marked with three different types of way markers. You will see wooden posts with the tops painted red or blue throughout the trail marking the way. Larger wooden posts with metal signs at the top have locations and distances carved out of them to also show the way. The last type of sign you will see are wooden rectangular signs with the name of the campsites written on them.
Accommodations along the way: Huts and camping sites along the Laugavegur trail are usually open from the end of June until the end of August, depending on snow and trail conditions. The Volcano Huts in Þórsmörk open earlier in the spring and stay open longer into the fall due to the location and better weather conditions. In order to use the huts, you will need to reserve many months in advanced. You may even need to reserve a full year in advanced depending on group size. Candy and I camped as we did not make reservations early enough.
The photo shown below was taken at the Landmannalaugar hut and camping site. This is where many people are dropped off every day to start their trek or to do a day hike, hence all the buses parked behind the tents. People also come to camp for one night allowing them to do a day hike and enjoy the natural hot springs found in this area.
Challenges along the trail: The Laugavegar trek has many challenges to keep the adventurous trekker entertained such as; steep ascents made up of soft dirt and rocks causing you to slide a bit with every step up the hill, steep descents that force you to shuffle sideways down the hill, fog that will keep you alert and focused on finding the next way marker, freezing whipping wind and rain that will have you diving into your tent for shelter, fast moving rivers that will challenge your balance, and more! Be sure to bring your hiking poles and layers of clothing on this challenging adventure!
A well populated trek: We met many people along the way. Some were with organized groups and some with a few friends. We didn’t meet any solo travelers. At times it felt like there were too many people on the trail and other times where it was just us.
Traversing rivers and streams: The water way you see in this photo was rather narrow and shallow compared to others that were wide, fast moving, and up to mid-thigh. Bring water proof foot-wear to change into to cross these streams and rivers. When crossing the rivers, remember to cross with the current not against it, an important lesson Candy taught me. Poles are needed on several river crossings to keep you from falling.
Transportation to and from the trail: Daily scheduled busses drive between Reykjavík and the starting and end points of the trail in Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk. The bus stop in Þórsmörk is at the Volcano Huts in Husadalur Valley. The bus in the photo below was taking us back to Reykjavik, but first we had to cross through a fast moving river!
Below are some photos I took along this trek that show the varied and diverse land of this region of Iceland. Enjoy!
I know many of you reading this blog may think a 55 kilometer trail is just not long enough for you. 🙂 If this is how you feel you are in luck! The 24 – 30 kilometer long Fimmvörðuháls & Eyjafjallajökull hiking trail can be added to this trek, connecting the Laugavegur Trail with Skógar, on the south coast of Iceland. While Candy and I did not hike along this extension, we met many who were extending their adventure. Whatever you decide you will surely love walking this varied, beautiful land.
To help you prepare further for you adventure, check out this great blog (Note that most prices the author lists in the blog have increased, for example camping is now $20 per person, not $10 dollars per person.): How to Plan For The Laugavegur Trek in Iceland
The only downfall about Iceland – Everything is very expensive, but that is another blog! Three quick suggestion to save you money…
- Ride in buses not taxi’s.
- Bring you own gear, don’t rent.
- Bring as much food for the trip as you can (REI has great dried camping food).