Trails: Laugavegur

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Hálendið
Laugavegur

Description

The hiking trail between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland. National Geographic listed it as one of the most beautiful trails in the world.

It is unusual to find so much variety in the landscape. The trail goes through incredibly colourful rhyolite mountains, black obsidian lava, wheezing hot springs, lakes clear as a mirror, black sandy desert and ends in a lush forested area.

Besides allowing for plenty of time to enjoy the hike itself, it is strongly recommended that hikers use the opportunity and stay some time in Langidalur in Þórsmörk at the end of the hike. Þórsmörk is a veritable hikers paradise with great many beautiful hikes, both long and short. Hut wardens will provide all necessary information.

Many choose also to end the trek with a hike over the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls and end up in Skógar.

Below you will find all necessary information about the hike and detailed description of each hiking day. Note that at the bottom of this page you will find a map detailing the route, a list of all the huts along the way and some photographs.

How do I get there?

During summer it is possible to drive 4x4 jeeps to Landmannalaugar along the roads Fjallabaksleið nyrðri (F208) or Dómadalsleið (F225). Similarily one needs a 4x4 jeeps to drive into Þórsmörk (F249). It is entirely up to the Icelandic Road Authority to decide when these roads open depending on snow conditions and how the roads are holding up after the winter.

Those who choose to complement the Laugavegur trail by hiking the Fimmvörðuháls trail, end up in Skógar, that lies on the Icelandic Ringroad / Highway One. Skógar is accessible for all cars, all year round.

Several bus companies offer scheduled bus fares to Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk during summer time, for example Trex, Kynnisferðir og Sterna. The buses stop right outside the huts and the camp sites.

The bus companies also offer so-called Hikers' bus pass / passport that is valid for a single transfer from Reykjavík to the starting point of choice (Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk or Skógar) and back to Reykjavík again from the finishing point (Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk og Skógar).

When is it open?

Access and passage on the trail varies from year to year depending on weather, snow conditions and when the Icelandic Road Authority opens the roads to Landmannalaugar and other huts along the way (F208/F225/F210).

On average one can assume that the trail is open from June 25 to September 15.

During winter time the trail should only be undertaken by highly skilled hikers, accustomed to winter travel and carrying 5 season equipment. Note that in winter there are no buses, neither to Landmannalaugar nor Þórsmörk.

How long does it take?

The traveling schedule depends on what suits the hikers. Many use the sleeping bag accommodations found in the huts along the trail while other choose stay in tents.

Similarily, some run the length of the trail in a single leg, while other use at least four days to enjoy all the fantastic and beautiful spots along the trail.

It is highly recommended to take ample time for the hike, or at least three to four days, plus two to three days in Langadal in Þórsmörk at the end of the hike, to enjoy the multiple hiking possibilities there. If hiking the Fimmvörðuháls trail as well, you need to add at least one extra day.

Waymarks and rivers

The whole trail is well marked and has enough traffic that the danger of getting lost is minimal. However, in bad weather and fog, when visibility is close to zero, everything will change. This is especially true during the first two parts of the trail, from Landmannalaugar up to Hrafntinnusker and then down to the lake Álftavatn. This part of the way sees a lot of fog and bad weather and early summer this area can also be covered with snow.

The hikers must keep in mind that they are in the middle of the Icelandic highlands, reaching altitude of more than 1200 meters. You must be prepared for every type of weather, even snowstorm in the middle of July.

While some rivers on the way have footbridge, at least three rivers have to be waded. Generally, they are not difficult to cross but they can grow without a moments notice in rain and ablation. Be extra careful and always let the current help you get across.

Mobile connection on the trail is sketchy but there is a connection in and around all the huts. Hikers can also charge their phones for a minimal fee in the huts.

In which direction?

It is fair to say that almost all Icelanders who hike Laugavegur take the north to south route, from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk, as the trail slopes down in that direction. In addition, the view that suddenly opens across the southern part of the trail, Álftavatn and the southern glacier from Jökultungur, is pure magic and sits forever in the memory of those who have experienced it.

Due to the popularity of the route, many are pressing for a one-way trail and it is highly recommended, especially during the midst of summer, to hike the Laugavegur, the traditional way i.e. from Landmannalaugar south to Þórsmörk.

Huts and camping

There are six cabins and camping grounds along the way, all owned by Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association, FÍ). See the hut tab at the bottom of this page where all the cabins and camping on the trail are listed. There you will also find detailed description of each hut.

Keep in mind that it is absolutely prohibited to pitch a tent outside designated areas inside the Nature Reserve. All the huts along the way have camping grounds.

In Landmannalaugar there are great facilities and sleeping bag accommodations for 78 people. In Hrafntinnusker 52 can sleep and 72 in the cabins in Álftavatn. In Hvanngil there is room for 60 people and the same number in the Botnar cabin in Emstrur. Þórsmörk offers a large and spacious chalet with room for 75 people.

Equipment, supplies and food

The Laugavegur trail can be challenging. It lies in the Icelandic highlands, far away from all villages or farmhouses. The terrain is very varied and the weather is totally unpredictable. Thus it is not uncommon to be snowed upon in the middle of summer.

Please keep these facts in mind when preparing yourself for the hike and only bring good and sturdy hiking gear, good hiking boots (please, no sneakers) and wind and waterproof clothing. Preparation is key to safe travel in Iceland so read all the information you can come across before you leave.

All the huts along the trail sell some supplies, such as backpacking dried food, soda and candy bars as well as stoves and gas. Only in Langadal in Þórsmörk is it possible to buy beer and wine.

Please note that it is not possible to buy hot, ready made meal in our huts along the trail so all hikes must carry their food along with them. The water in rivers and streams along the trail is in most cases potable so there is no need to carry water.

Sanitation and garbage

All the huts have toilets and running water and everywhere, except in Hrafntinnusker, can hikers take a hot shower for a fee.

It is absolutely forbidden to throw away and leave garbage, including toilet paper and leftover foods out in the open nature. You must bring it with you to the next cabin and dispose of it in propper garbage bins.

Please note that no garbage can be left in the hut in Hrafntinnusker. From there you have to carry your trash along to Álftavatn.

Respect the nature

Those who hike Laugavegurinn do so to experience the spectacular nature along the trail. The Icelandic environment is very fragile and all hikers must exercise great care and respect for the nature.

Please stay on the trail, only pitch your tent in designated camping grounds, avoid stepping on the fragile moss or leave marks or trails where there are none. It only takes one set of footprints for many more to follow.

We emphasize that nothing can be left in the nature, neither organic leftover food nor toilet paper. The general rule is to leave nothing but footprints on the trail and take nothing but pictures and memories.

Additional information

The guide booklet Laugavegur Hiking Trail offers good hiking tips and describes each leg of the way plus suggesting some interesting evening hikes from each of the huts along the way. 

Fjallabak Nature Reserve is a 160 page book, mainly about the area surrounding Landmannalaugar.

Several maps cover the entire hiking trail, including the special map Þórsmörk Landmannalaugar which is in the scale 1:100 000.

In addition the Landmannalaugar Hiking Map is a detailed, drawn map for those who want to hike around Landmannalaugar. 

All of these books and maps can be bought at the FÍ online store, at the offices of FÍ, Mörkinni 6 in Reykjavík and in the hut in Landmannalaugar. The booklet Laugavegur Hiking Trail and the special map Þórsmörk Landmannalaugar is also available for purchase in other huts on the Laugavegur trail.

Landmannalaugar-Þórsmörk

Below is a detailed description of the classic Laugavegur hiking trail, i.e. from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. The trail is divided into four hiking days. Everyone hiking the Laugavegur trail for the first time should allow plenty of time to finish the hike and thus being able to enjoy the varied trekking plus the many hiking possibilities along the way.

Landmannalaugar-Hrafntinnusker
12 km. 4-5 hrs. Ascent 470m

This first part of the route is the shortest in kilometres, but as the accumulated elevation is close to 500m and this is the first day of the hike, many people find this part a little strenuous. The weather is unstable in these areas, and it is often necessary to walk in snow, which further increases the difficulty. The reality is that hikers may need all the energy they have, to get through this first part of the trail.

The first part leads up to the lava field of Laugahraun, crosses it, then heads downhill before heading up again to the plateau, just below Brennisteinsalda. It is a good idea to stop here and look around at the stunning views, flora, mountains and gorges in all colours of the rainbow.

The trail then continues further up on to the plateau, where small ravines cut into the landscape as the rivers shape the soft mountain. The way ahead is all uphill, but it not extremely steep.

The next destination is Stórihver, a beautiful vegetation spot right next to a whizzing geyser where you can stop, rest your legs and get a bite from the provision box. It is approximately an hour walk from here, up to the hut Höskuldsskáli at Hrafntinnusker. This part of the trail is often covered with snow. Here is also the greatest risk of fog. It must be stressed that hikers must be careful and follow the waymarks.

Hrafntinnusker-Álftavatn
12 km. 4-5 hrs. Descend 490m

The path from Hrafntinnusker runs along the slopes of Reykjafjöll. The area is a valley bottom which is mostly flat, but there are a few ravines that should be crossed extra carefully, since they are often half-full of snow. Next, the direction is taken to the west of Kaldaklofsfjöll and up to the spine (GPS N63°55.123 '- V19°09.208') between them and Jökulgil.

If weather and visibility is good, it is recommended to take the extra hike up to Háskerðingur, the highest mountain in the area, 1281m. The hike takes about 1-1,5 hours. Tread carefully, there are often crevasses in the ice just below the peak. The peak however is usually snowless during summer.

The trail now goes up and down through few ravines until it reaches the edge of Jökultungur, with incomparable views over the whole trail and the three glaciers Tindfjallajökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull.

The road down Jökultungur is quite steep and rocky, so be careful. At the bottom of Jökultungur the Grashagakvísl river awaits and can in some cases be crossed on a snow bridge. If not, you need to ford by wading on foot. The water in Grashagakvísl has fresh and good water to drink. From there is an easy route southwest to the hut in Álftavatn lake.

Álftavatn-Emstrur
16 km. 6-7 hrs. Descend 40m

From Álftavatn, the trail goes in an easterly direction over Brattháls and continues east to Hvanngil. The Bratthálskvísl river is without a bridge and needs to be forded by foot which in most cases is relatively easy. From the hill above Hvanngil the view is magnificent.

In Hvanngil hikers can use the toilet facilities. Some hikers prefer to stay there instead of Álftavatn. From Hvanngil, there is a short walk to the river Kaldaklofskvísl, which can be crossed on a footbridge. Just south, is another river, Bláfjallakvísl without a bridge. In most cases, it is not so difficult to cross but care is needed, especially during heavy rain when the river can grow fast.

Now the route lies mostly on the main road until the river Innri Emstruá is reached. It has a bridge. Occasionally you have to tread through some water as there is an overflow that bypasses the bridge. Just south of it, the trail turns from the main road to the left and south to Emstrur, where the land is practically without vegetation. If the weather is dry, with strong wind, especially from north, the sand can drift. The trail lies between two mountains called Útigönguhöfðar and in about an hour the Botnar huts in Emstrur is reached. The cabins are not visible until you are almost completely next to them.

Emstrur-Þórsmörk
15 km. 6-7 hrs. Descend 300m

The trail heads towards the east from the huts in Botnar. Shortly, the bridge over the river Syðri-Emstruá is reached. The river flows into a narrow deep canyon that reaches most of the way to Entujökull. People with vertigo sometimes struggle to get to and across the bridge. From there, the path lies along Langháls and towards the junction of the rivers Markarfljót and Syðri-Emstruá. It is recommended to walk to the edge of the gorge where the rivers meet, before hiking south through Almenningar.

Soon the trail runs through two small ravines, Slyppugil and Bjórgil. In each of them there is a little creek with drinkable water, making this an excellent spot to rest and have lunch. After hiking up from the latter ravine, Bjórgil, the trail leads to Fauskatorfur and gradually to an area with more vegetation. It is called Úthólmar. The hill upwards from the river Ljósá is called Kápa or Coat, and is the last steep on the trail.

When the trails comes down from Kápa, hikers have to ford the river Þröngá which in most cases is not difficult but can be quite rocky. The river marks the boundary of Þórsmörk and now there is only a bit more than half an hour hike through the pleasant woodland Hamraskógar until you arrive at the Skagfjörðsskáli cabin in Langidalur, Þórsmörk.

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Suðurland

Álftavatn

Ferðafélag Íslands
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Suðurland

Emstrur

Ferðafélag Íslands
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Suðurland

Hrafntinnusker

Ferðafélag Íslands
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Suðurland

Hvanngil

Ferðafélag Íslands
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Suðurland

Landmannalaugar

Ferðafélag Íslands
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Suðurland

Þórsmörk / Langidalur

Ferðafélag Íslands
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