As photographers we are fortunate to be able to travel to the most beautiful natural places to do our work. We’ve just returned from our third work trip to Iceland, a destination we chose for the work. The landscape, the colors and the absolute stunning & unique qualities are what brought us back not once, but twice. A photo gallery will be linked below.
Arguably the most famous hiking tour in Iceland is the Laugavegur Tour. Traditionally done north to south, the trek begins at a drop off point called Landmannalaugar. This tiny launch pad is a destination in its own right, in fact I would argue that it is the single most beautiful place I have ever been. The area consists of one small hut (sleeps 80), a large campground for trekkers, a small building with sinks, toilets and showers, a covered eating area, an old school bus turned store, and the most coveted of all… a large natural hot spring that serves as swimming pool, meeting place, bath, warming room and of course bar.
Luckily the Laugavegur Tour is good enough to motivate one to leave Landmannalaugar, but only just barely. For those not wanting to do the tour, a stay of 3 or 4 days in Landmannalaugar will keep you both busy and fascinated. But for those doing the Laugavegur, be sure to allow for at least 2 days to explore the Landmannalaugar area.
The Laugavegur Tour
The Laugavegur tour is 4 – 6 days long if sticking to the traditional program. Huts are reached each night where one may sleep inside (if you have a reservation), or camp in the nearby camping area. Food is not available, bring all your food, even if staying in the huts. Inside the huts are kitchens with everything you’ll need, but only for those staying in the huts, campers are on their own.
On the fourth night one arrives to Thorsmork where many people call the tour finished, but the 5th day from Thorsmork south to Fimmvorouhals is superb and should not be missed. If nothing else, do it as an out and back from Thorsmork, this is what we did as the weather was terrible to continue south. Thorsmork is in some ways a natural ending as there is bus service to the hut that returns hikers to Reykjavik.
The full 6 day tour is about 85 kilometers while the Thorsmork finish keeps it at about 55 kilometers. It is mostly flat and rolling terrain, there are no real climbs with the exception of the 5th day which climbs a pass to 1112 meters from about 150 meters. Expect to walk in some summer hardpack snow. Hikers should be reasonably fit and used to carrying heavy packs. Consider this: There is a running race from Thorsmorrk to Landmannalaugar on the same trail, the best time is 4:10…
Landmannalaugar (590m) – Hrafntinnusker (1100m)
An unforgettable day of walking through a landscape like no other. Thermal vents, boiling mud pits, lava flows, and colors never seen in the natural world will all be trailside. There is a massive ice cave in a nearby small glacier that serves as a short side trip from the hut at Hrafntinnusker.
Hrafntinnusker (1100m) – Álftavatn (530m)
From Álftavatn it’s another spectacular day with some river crossings, be prepared to get wet. If there has been a lot of rain, ask the hut keeper about water levels. Distant views to the massive glaciers will come into sight.
Álftavatn (530m) – Emstrur (500m)
The landscape will begin to change this day and becomes more open and stark. Massive wide open, black sand covered scenery and a large river are passed before reaching Emstrur.
The trail follows a river valley out to Thorsmörk where the landscape turns back to green. The giant glacier of Myrdalsjokull will be on the left side throughout the day and several small rivers must be crossed, all with ice cold glacier melt water.
Thorsmörk (200m) – Brattafonn Pass (1116m)
From Thorsmork the trail immediately begins to climb to a huge flat plateau. From here the Myrdalsjokull Glacier will be immediately in front of you. Continue climbing to 1100 meters where the trail traverses a gap between two massive ice fields. Once on the Brattafonn Pass the last hut is a few kilometers below. Care should be taken to only attempt this day in good weather. Poor visibility or snowfall can quickly ruin the fun. Check in at the campground or hut for full weather reports.
Fimmvorouhals – Skoga (sea level)
A road is descended from the Fimmvorouhals hut to Skogafoss and the village of Skoga where buses may be taken to Reykjavik.
Hut Reservations: Full list of huts with phone numbers for reservations. Huts are about 3300 Icelandic Krona per person. Camping is 900 and Showers 400.
Bus Info: Iceland’s Bus Service is superb, buses run daily from Rekjavik to Landmannalaugar. One does NOT need a car in Iceland, impressive given how remote some areas are.
Check in with www.re.is for all info.
Time of Year: Depending on weather, the huts will be open from June to sometime in September. Buses stop running on 13 September. It is possible to do the tour outside this time frame but the logistics of transportation becomes an issue. Landmannalaugar offers plenty of day trips. Check in with Iceland Tourism for all info.
What to Take: Standard backpacking camping gear including:
Durable tent for wind.
Nights are not too cold, but a sleeping bag comfortable to -10 celsius will be appreciated.
Good rain gear, waterproof and breathable. Gore-Tex is your friend, you may well spend the whole day in it.
Gore-Tex footwear. Expect mud and stream crossings.
Many people take a pair of lightweight Teva like sandals to wear for the river crossings.
Trekking poles are good for the rivers as well, also for the heavy packs.
Rain covers for the packs.
Eye covers for the all night light.
Cellphones are handy for calling ahead to huts, there is cell and data service almost everywhere.
Food: One of the unfortunate aspects of Iceland, especially from our coming from Italy, is the food. Iceland’s cuisine seems to be inspired by the American midwest diner – greasy burgers, overcooked everything and little in the way of veggies. While one can find fantastic food in Reykjavik’s restaurants, it is difficult to eat anything healthy outside the city. Stores offer lots of white, processed sugary food – be prepared or bring your own. Remember, nearly everything in stores is shipped to Iceland, and the island is a long way from anything. In Landmannalaugar there is some food available at an old school bus turned into store, they have a surprising variety including lake caught Char, fresh bread is delivered daily. Yes, beer is sold as well.
Weather: It wouldn’t be Iceland if it didn’t get cloudy and rain each day. Just be prepared for some wet weather. Wind is the real enemy if it is combined with the rain. When it blows, it rages. Temps during the day should be about 8-16 Celsius. We have also seen 21 but as an average, it is more like 14.
Language: Iceland natives all speak perfect English and are some of the friendliest people we have met anywhere. They are great fun and love to party, it is a very welcoming country for visitors, no problems.
Summary: Landmannalaugar is really a life list kind of destination, it is that good and that special. The Laugavegur Tour is icing on the Landmannalaugar cake. While Iceland has experienced economic woes in the last year, tourists have benefited. What were once shockingly high prices for everything have become much closer to what the rest of the world is used to. Now is the time to go and deals are to be found from both Europe and North America. Iceland wants your business and you’ll be glad you went, a win win.
DolomiteSport is run by PatitucciPhoto – or, Dan & Janine Patitucci, professional commercial photographers specializing in mountain sports. It is our goal to motivate people to experience wonderful places, such as Iceland. We do so through our trip reports, but more so through our images. This photo gallery is a collection of images from areas in and around Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork, including the National Park Jokulsargljufur.
Iceland Photo Gallery
–we welcome all comments and additional trip info from readers. Thanks.