Walking Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls Trail – from Skógar to Þórsmörk

Trekking and camping for almost a week with a full pack and in what will likely be cold and wet weather is definitely not everyone’s idea of a holiday! It is ours, though, and we came to Iceland to walk 🙂 We were excited to be trekking one of Iceland’s most famous walks – the 55 km, 3 to 4 day Laugavegur Trail – and had decided to walk north from Þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar so we finished at a natural hot spring.

Whilst researching the route, we realised that we could walk in to Þórsmörk from Skógar along the Fimmvörðuháls trail (25km) … so that’s what we did as we couldn’t turn down the opportunity for an extra hike!

After a fun day exploring Reykjavik in the sun, it was an early start the following morning with a 7 am pick-up from outside the campsite. The bus kindly detoured to the Seljalandafoss waterfall for 30 minutes before dropping us promptly at 11 at the base of Skógafoss waterfall.

Setting off from the Skógafoss waterfall

We set off under a blue sky, climbing the wooden stairs to the top of the beautiful falls where we admired our first rainbow. The long tops were quickly off and we continued alongside the river that ran through a deep gorge with the terrain being far greener than I’d imagined.  We had the ocean behind us, a number of mountains in view and we could see a glacier that seemed to permanently hide beneath a dark cloud.

Completing the stunning views were the waterfalls … so many waterfalls! We walked past 22 I would later read, although I lost count! They varied in size, power and noise levels and when you couldn’t hear one, and the wind dropped, the silence really added to the walk’s beauty.

It was an especially tough undulating first hour with our heavy packs as we were carrying everything we needed for six days. Slowly our bodies settled in to the walk and after 2.5 hours we reached the bridge and crossed the river for a very welcome lunch.

Thinking we would camp halfway at the Baldavinskalli hut (12.5 km), we took this last opportunity to fill up both our water bottles and our 4l dromedary pack. The scenery changed after lunch with the green landscape becoming rocky and barren while the sun disappeared and the first bit of rain joined us. There were still glaciers in view and amazingly there was even a rainbow that seemed to come from nowhere out of the rock.

It wasn’t the best stretch of walking on a very uneven gravel road and as we neared the hut with our heavy packs the wind really picked up. The hut was completely exposed and with a nasty storm due to hit the following day, the warden strongly advised we either return to Skógar or push on to Þórsmörk. This was no place to pitch a tent!

Crossing our 1st glacier

So on we went, into a strong wind and driving rain. We walked over the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and scrambled out of it on the other side up a sandy slope as the clouds rolled in and our visibility all but disappeared. We were now crossing the black sand of the expansive  Fimmvörðuháls pass and with the rain, mist and wind were reminded of our walk across the Sanetti Plateau in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains. This time, thankfully, we weren’t lost with the large yellow stakes providing an easy to follow trail. We got the feeling this kind of weather makes frequent appearances in Iceland!

The weather soon cleared and the scenery started to become surreal as we turned a corner and crossed a lava field at the base of Magni and Mooi, the two new craters formed by the eruption at Fimmvörduhálsn in 2010 (Magni and Mooi are the sons of Thor, the Norse god of thunder). The view was a mix of black, red and moss- covered rock and imposing glaciers. It was now sunny and blue sky and after being soaked just a little while ago we were soon dry.


It was amazing to think we were standing in a volcano, and our minds wandered back to Africa where we had climbed active volcanos in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Africa’s most active volcano).

 We continued over another glacier and climbed up to the summit for a magnificent view – more moss-covered peaks of different shapes and sizes in the foreground were framed by mountains in the distance with glaciers and a waterfall to one side. This past hour’s scenery was why we had come to Iceland, and we really felt very small walking through it.

The path is visible to the right of this picture

It was a steep descent from this summit of 1,000 m but thankfully it was dry and calm when we nervously descended down the stretch known as ‘Cat’s Spine’. It was now flat across Morinsheioi with the clouds rolling in and then disappearing. The rain never materialised, but we kept our jackets on nonetheless as it’s quite hard to keep up with this weather!

We dropped steeply into the valley and it was immediately green again with lots of wild flowers and trees. By now we were both pretty tired and a delicious hummus sandwich on a perfectly positioned bench provided a final burst of energy as we continued descending into Þórsmörk.

Sunset views heading into Þórsmörk

We eventually made it down to the river and after 25 kms and 8 hours, were done for the day! We started walking the 600m to the Básar Hut but en route spotted a lovely patch of grass where we decided to pitch our tent. We enjoyed dinner in the fading light and were soon in bed and fast asleep after a long, tough and spectacular day’s walking.

Practical Information

Accommodation

In Reykjavik we camped at Reykjavik Campsite, around 30 minutes walk from town. It’s a lovely patch of grass and the facilities are good.

There’s also a pool complex next door with a number of different hot pools and an awesome slide!

 

In Þórsmörk we camped at Volcano Huts – it’s not a great campsite in the rain (it was waterlogged so we found a spot near the huts) but the facilities are good, including a lovely warm kitchen, and there’s a sauna.

Transport

There are two bus companies operating at the airport – the price is similar, so go with the one that’s leaving next. We bought our tickets on arrival. The machine is slightly less than the counter.

There’s one bus a day from Reykjavik to Skógar – https://www.icelandbybus.is/

Costs (£1 = ISK 152 on Aug 23rd, 2019)

  • Bus from the airport – 4,299 ISK / person
  • Bus to Skógar – 5,400 ISK / person
  • Reykjavik Campsite – 2,160 ISK / person (it’s 10% cheaper to book online)
  • Volcano Huts – 2,600 ISK  / person

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