Backpack the Laugavegur Trail: Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk
Iceland › Landmannalaugar
Added by Greg Balkin
This 3-4 day trek travels through some of the most beautiful land Iceland has to offer. You'll have a chance to experience the Northern Lights, take in snow caps, volcanic rock, cross rivers and enjoy hot springs.
First things first - catch one of the buses to the trailhead at Landmannalaugar. We chose to leave from a small hostel in Hella and ended up riding for just over two hours to reach our destination. If anything is going to give you a taste of what's to come, it'll be driving through the volcanic landscape in a monstrous coach bus, fording rivers and virtually anything in it's path.
Day 1 // Part 1 - Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (7.5 miles, +1,500ft gain) The trail starts out over some rough terrain, winding you through small hills of volcanic rock until you reach a bit of a clearing. From there you'll make you're way uphill to a plateau that offers views of the small tents dotting Landmannalaugar and the painted hills in front of you. After a few hours of walking (and stopping every 5 feet to take pictures), you'll reach a little hot spring with a powerful smell. If you're feeling a bit cold, I definitely recommend holding your breath and standing in the steam to warm up real quick. From then on out, it's time for snow crossing until you reach the first hut at Hrafntinnusker. You've worked hard to make it here, so take a break for lunch and chill for a bit.
Day 1 // Part 2 - Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (7.5 miles, -1,600ft loss). Within a few hours of leaving the hut and crossing the end of the snow field, you'll make your way up one final hill to (in my opinion) the best view on the whole trail. On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles throughout this valley filled with rivers, the lake where you'll sleep, and the mountainous landscapes. After some solid photo ops and a quick break, you quickly descend upon your first major river crossing - at least the first where you'll most likely need to take your boots off. The water is cold (obviously), but man it feels good. Luckily for you, it's pretty flat from here on out until you reach the huts at Álftavatn. There's plenty of open space to pitch your tent, although the bugs can be worse by the stream. If you're up for a quick sunrise walk, cross the stream and head up the small hill for some more epic views.
Day 2 - Álftavatn to Botnar (9.3 miles, -130ft loss) Not too long after starting your day, the boots will have to come off for a fairly wide stream crossing (be prepared for a few more today). The trail continues, relatively flat and unchanging, until you hit a few small huts at Hvanngil - a good bathroom break. At this point the landscape is changing again and the shades of green fades into the black volcanic rock. Once you've walked another 30 minutes or so, you'll reach a massive river with a wide bridge built for hikers. We stopped here for lunch and soaked in the views of the muddy waterfall and mist spraying up. On the other side of the bridge, the road splits - we followed the sign straight towards Emstrur (not F210). Luckily from here on out, the trail is nice and flat until you round the final corner to views of Botnar and the massive glacier out in the distance. The nice protected spots get snagged early here, so it's a good idea to get an early start and beat some of the crowd.
Day 3 - Botnar to Þórsmörk (9.3 miles, -980ft loss) Once you're up and over the hill to get out of Botnar, you head steeply back down another valley to a bridge crossing the canyon. It's an awesome view with a large drop below, so definitely make sure to stop and snap some photos. As you make your way out of the valley, things start to open up and the expansive views return. There's one final river crossing separating you and Þórsmörk, but it definitely seemed like the deepest and strongest current, so be careful. Across the river, the trail enters a grove of trees (first on the trail!) and remains in the forest until the end. At one point you'll hit a sign with a few enticing accommodations pointing towards the right. Although it was tempting, we headed uphill to the left, which finally brought us to the small hut waiving the Icelandic flag. Chill out here until the bus returns, then hop on for another fun ride across this beautiful land.
A quick note about the huts - they're available to stay in if you plan your trip out well in advance, but be prepared to pay a decent amount. If you choose to camp along the way like we did, don't expect to use the huts for shelter or eating inside.
- Bus reservation to Landmannalaugar (start) & from þórsmörk (finish) - trex.is
- 40-65L backpack
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Full rain gear (jacket + pants + pack cover)
- Trekking poles
- Warm sleeping bag
- Jetboil for warm coffee + food rehydration
- Camera + Tripod
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography
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Favorite stop in Iceland
Landmannalaugar was my Favorite stop in Iceland. The Rainbow Mountains are simply stunning. I wish I had more time to hike there and would love to go back some day. Thanks for the info.
This hike left us speechless and your pictures bring back fantastic memories. Definitely will do it again!
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