After a spectacular day walking Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls Trail from Skógar to Þórsmörk, we were excited to continue on the 55km Laugavegur Trail to Landmannalaugar. Situated in the south of the country, the Laugavegur is one of Iceland’s most famous walks with many people choosing to walk in the opposite direction. I’m not sure why this is the case, though, especially when walking the direction we did means you end the hike at a natural hot spring!.
Despite it being summer, we were expecting our share of bad weather and those expectations were spot on as heavy rain put us in Þórsmörk for two days (it turns out we had been incredibly lucky to make it over the pass before the storm hit because for the next few days people were advised not to walk over). With a number of short trails around the area, a heated kitchen, sauna and a large room to play cards in, there are certainly worse places to wait out some bad weather. We had initially thought to walk the 55 km in four days but with the bad weather, that would now be shortened to three in order to make our bus back to Reykjavik.
After the worst of the storm had passed, we decided to push on. We set off under heavy clouds and a light rain and within an hour had our first river crossing. It was toe-numbingly cold but thankfully only knee deep so not as bad as we’d feared given all the rain.
The scenery was vast and expansive with lots of ash and black rock as well as moss-covered peaks of different shapes and sizes. For most of the morning it was easy walking alongside the deep canyon before we turned the corner and headed past a glacier and over the river to camp.
The rain continued all morning but it was raining from behind and not in our faces so as things go we’ll take that! The rain finally stopped once we got to camp and post lunch it cleared into a beautifully sunny late afternoon as we took a stroll to the massive ‘Green Canyon’.
We devoured our yummy treat FirePot dinner (one of those camping meals where you just add water) and had a wonderful night’s sleep at the perfectly flat campsite.
We set off early the next day as we had a lot of ground to cover given we were combining two days in one. It was a very easy flat morning’s walk through an enormous sandy and rocky valley filled with moss covered mountains of all shapes and sizes.
We had another two unbridged rivers to cross, both of which were freezing burn thankfully no higher than our knees, and arrived at the beautiful Álftavatn lake where we had lunch.
Post lunch, the morning’s scenery continued with the lake providing a lovely backdrop to the many peaks we could see. We crossed another river, climbed up steeply to the glacier with stunning views back over the valley and then had a complete change of scenery. The green disappeared and it was multi coloured rocks, bubbling hot springs, the smell of sulphur in the air, walking over glaciers and climbing up and down over many rocky mounds.
The weather had also turned – a variable morning of wind, a little rain and sunshine turned into solid rain for hours and we were completely soaked when we wearily made it into camp. It had certainly been a day of two halves – an easy morning followed by a tough afternoon that was hard work in wet, cold, muddy and slippery conditions.
Thankfully the dry bags held so we had dry clothes to change into and dry sleeping bags to climb into. It was an early dinner and into our warm beds! It was still raining when we woke up and with only 12 kms to cover and our bus at 6 pm, we had a leisurely breakfast (albeit slightly slim pickings down to our final packets of oats!) while we dried our jackets as best we could using our non-insulated water bottle as a radiator!
The weather improved the further away from camp we got and as we started to approach Landmannalaugar we were blown away by yet another change of scenery with stunning multi – coloured mountains now appearing in all directions. There were different shades of green, a blue we hadn’t seen before, reds, black … all the colours! We covered the first 9 km in 2 hours and then took 90 minutes for the final 3 kms as we approached Landmannalaugar, stopping for lunch and enjoying the amazing views in the magnificent sunshine (see cover picture).
One of the reasons we’d chosen to walk south to north was because of Landmannalaugar’s natural hot springs and what better way to end a few days of trekking than with an ice cold Viking beer in a wonderfully warm pool. Fittingly it started raining as we were getting out and we quickly hopped on our bus back to Reykjavik. It had been an unbelievable few days of trekking with stunningly beautiful and dramatically varied landscape.
When to Go Hiking
The season runs from late June until early September – we were walking in the last week of August so very much at the tail-end and if you could go a few weeks earlier, that would probably be best. The weather is unpredictable and varied so be prepared for 4 seasons in a day. Make sure you’re prepared for lots of rain too – we carry our sleeping bags in dry bags and we keep warm sleeping gear in the middle of our backpack, which has a rain cover. Valuables are kept in a dry bag too.
Day 1 –
- Volcano Huts to Emstrur (Botnar Hut) – 15 km, 8.5 hours, 1 unbridged river
- Perfectly flat campsite and a marquee to cook / eat / sit in.
Day 2 –
- Emstrur to Álftavatn – 16 km, 4.5 hours, 2 unbridged rivers
- Álftavatn to Hoskuldsskali – 12 km, 4h45, 1 unbridged river
- There was a small tent to cook in and they had created stone walls round the tent pitches to block the wind.
Day 3 –
- Hoskuldsskali to Landmannalaugar – 12 km, 3.5 hrs
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.
Costs (£1 = ISK 152 on Aug 23rd, 2019)
- Camping at the huts on the trail – 2,000 ISK / person
- Bus from Reykjavik to the airport – 4,299 ISK / person