Laugavegar Trek (Laugavegurinn), Iceland

Route: Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk (or in the opposite direction)

Distance: 55km

Time: Typically the hike is 4 days (for 55km). It’s possible to do ‘double-days’ if you’re short on time- I ended up doing the 55km in 3 days which was long, but realistic given the long daylight hours that I experienced in July.

Difficulty: Moderate. (There are some river crossing- one of which can be thigh height if there have been recent heavy rains). Be careful when walking on snow, which can be thin (and melting) in the summer sun. In saying this, there were some children doing this hike with their parents and the route is well-marked. Doing this with a friend during the Icelandic summer, I carried between 15-18kg (however we had another week’s worth of food with us) but you could get away with less if you are hiking with more people.

Special Notes:

You can choose to do the track by staying in hut accommodation (which are generally large rooms with mattresses on the floor) or camping in the designated area around the huts. These are staffed during the main hiking season of late June to late August/early September. If you want to stay in the huts, you need to book months in advance to reserve your spot at each hut and it doesn’t come cheap (around about Ikr7500 per person per night). You may try your luck by just turning up (the earlier the better) and asking if there are any spare spots in the huts but it may cost you even more. To find out more about booking the hut accommodation visit: http://www.fi.is.

Camping is a more affordable and flexible option for hiking the trail (although can be annoying in bad weather). It is Ikr1800 per person per night, payable at the hut accommodation but doesn’t need to be pre-booked. Showers cost extra (Ikr500) on top of the price of hut and camping accommodation.

The water in Iceland is extremely clean so  you can get water from many streams along the way- make sure they are deep and/or flowing: for extra care boil the water for 3 minutes, use water treatment tablets or a water filter.

There is no food sold on the trail so come prepared with all your meals.

Getting There, Getting Away

You can drive yourself to both Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk (if you have two or more people, hiring a car can be an affordable way to travel), however because of the one-way nature of the hike, you can choose one of the many bus companies that have transfers at either end during the Summer season only.

Check out:

Reykjavík Excursions buses: re.is (Summer only)

Sterna Buses: sternatravel.com

Trex Travel Experiences:  trex.is

iceland-edit-103-of-6
Start of the hike in Landmannalaugar

When hiking the Laugavegur Trek in July 2016, my trip was as follows:

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker [12km, 3-5hrs]

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Hvanngil  [17 km 5-7 hrs]

Day 3: Hvanngil to Þórsmörk [26 km, 10-12 hrs ]

(I will be describing the walk as I completed it)

iceland-edit-110-of-2
Landmannalaugar: You can camp here the night before the hike to experience the hot springs. Otherwise you can have lunch here and head off to the first camping area (Hrafntinnusker)

The classic walk generally involves:

Day 1:  Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker [12km, 3-5hrs]

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Alftavatn  [12 km, 4-5 hrs]

Day 3: Alftavatn to Emstur [16km, 6-7hours ]

Day 4: Emstur to Þórsmörk [15 km, 6-7 hrs]

The Laugavegur Trail (or Laugavegurinn) is Iceland’s most famous multi-day hike, and literally means ‘The Hot Spring Road’.  You can see how the track gets its name, as you meander your way from Landmannalaugar’s lava fields and hot springs, across glacial rivers and mountainsides towards the nature reserve in Þórsmörk.

Completing this walk in July, I was extremely fortunate to be blessed with mostly clear weather: we did experience snow on the way to the first hut, but otherwise it was cool with light drizzle at times (and thankfully no storms!). As Iceland can be quite unpredictable it was important to prepare for all types of weather such as cold, rainy, snowy, stormy, muddy and windy.

iceland-edit-105-of-6
Yep, that is me hiking on Day 1 with snow coming down!

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

As with a lot of multi-day hikes, the first day is  challenging because your pack is at its heaviest. The track starts at GPS: N63°59.600 – W19°03.660 and passes over a rough lava field and you will smell the sulphurous air as you walk across the steamy grounds. You will then walk up to the plateau where you will greeted with a gorgeous view.

iceland-edit-111-of-2
The steamy grounds coupled with the iconic sulphur smell of Iceland
iceland-edit-40-of-75
A great view of the lava fields
iceland-edit-41-of-75
Caro hiking along the plateau

After 3 – 4 hours you arrive at “Stórihver”, a hot spring and almost the only green spot visible in the first day. Generally from here, the rest of the trail to the hut is covered with snow. Chances of fog are very high so even though the trail is clearly marked you must be careful. It snowed on our way up to the first hut, and for me (who is someone that doesn’t see snow very often) it made the walk slower- I felt like I was walking like a baby giraffe. About 2km before Hrafntinnusker there is a memorial of a solo Israeli hiker who died on the trail in 2005 after ignoring warnings- so take it easy!

Depending on the weather conditions, you can be fortunate to see an amazing panorama of mountains at the first hut (GPS 63°55.840 – 19°09.700).

There is an overall increase in elevation of about 470m but all-in-all, the first day of the hike is challenging but steady walk.

iceland-edit-44-of-75
Hrafntinnusker Hut (and camping ground behind)
iceland-edit-42-of-75
Iceland ROCKS: Just a short walk up from the hut you can get some great views of the mountains.
iceland-edit-43-of-75
The Land of Fire and Ice

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Hvanngil

The start of the trail continues across the brown and white rhyolite mountains and steadily heads up to a ridgeline where you can have an expansive view back over the mountains. If the visibility is good, you can leave your bag and to the top of Háskerðingur mountain (1281 m) for even greater views (although we were not lucky enough to do this). Soon you the scenery will change to dark palagonite mountains and glaciers and more vegetation. As you descend Jökultungur mountain, you will be met by the Grashagakvísl river which is a warmer place to take a rest.

iceland-edit-45-of-75
Amazing rhyolite mountain views: There is a bit of a hill to climb at the start of day two but after that, it is fairly smooth sailing…
iceland-edit-114-of-3
The scenery changes to palagonite mountains
iceland-edit-115-of-3
More vegetation and pretty alpine flowers.
iceland-edit-116-of-3
Descending Jökultungur
iceland-edit-46-of-75
There are a few small river crossings! Be careful of the thin snow.

iceland-edit-47-of-75

From there, you will continue on a generally flat plain to the huts on the “Álftavatn” lake (which means Swan Lake). You can stay for another rest or continue for around an hour over the Brattháls ridge and across the Bratthálskvísl river to Hvanngil (GPS 64°50.026 – 19°12.507 which is about 5km away). This is a quieter spot to camp and stay with flushable toilets (and showers if you want to pay an additional cost)

There is an overall increase in elevation of about 480m.

iceland-edit-48-of-75
Alfatavatn: A great stop by a huge lake- we stopped here for lunch and continued a little longer to the smaller and quieter Hvanngil Hut

Day 3:  Hvanngil to Þórsmörk

This day is generally pretty flat and easy, especially to Emstur. The trail starts by crossing the Kaldaklofskvísl River. On the other side of the river the trail branches into a 4WD track and the trail marked to Emstur/ Þórsmörk. Follow this second trail. Less than one kilometre from here there will be a river that needs to be waded across (This was the highest river crossing we had to do without a bridge) and you will follow a flat mountain road for about 4km until you come to another river (Nyrðri Emstruá) which has a bridge to cross it. After crossing the bridge you continue on flat ground for a few kilometres on flat ground until you descend to the Botnar huts in Emstrur (GPS 63°45.980 – 19°22.480).

iceland-edit-123-of-1
This was the deepest river we had to wade across
iceland-edit-49-of-75
Flat as a tack, following the mountain road to Emstur.

iceland-edit-50-of-75

iceland-edit-51-of-75
The Nyrðri Emstruá river
iceland-edit-117-of-5
Descending into Emstur

From Emstur, you start by going around the Syðri – Emstruá river and after approximately 45 minutes you will reach a very steep path down to the bridge that crosses the river. There was a rope to hold onto, to help lower us down- but be careful at this point. The track undulates through a hilly area known as Almenningar and after this area you will need to wade the Þröngá River (which was probably the widest on the Laugavegur Trail). After crossing this area, you will notice that you have entered a forested area which marks the beginning of Þórsmörk and you will see pretty flowers lining the walk. Follow the path to an intersection with signs that show directions to different huts in Þórsmörk (GPS 63°40.960 – 19°30.890). From there you should reach the various huts in 30 minutes. We camped around the Langidalur hut.

iceland-edit-107-of-6
Caro finding out what to do in the event of an eruption
iceland-edit-108-of-6
Lowering myself down by the rope

iceland-edit-52-of-75

iceland-edit-119-of-5
Entering the forested area of Þórsmörk
iceland-edit-120-of-5
Colour everywhere!
iceland-edit-121-of-5
Almost there!
iceland-edit-53-of-75
We did it! Caro walking towards the Langidalur hut

There is an overall decrease in elevation of about 330m. A long day, but relatively moderate terrain.

For more information on the Laugavegur Trail visit:

www.fi.is

volcanohuts.com/laugavegur/itinerary/

frugalfrolicker.com/iceland-laugavegur-trek