Hiking the Laugavegur in Iceland

Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice, where volcanic forces have met the ice to create an island with a landscape as desolate as it is beautiful. Glistening glaciers, vast tundra and waterfalls, among other things, are the wonders of the Icelandic wilderness. The best way to discover the extremes of the enchanting landscape is to take a long walk in the heart of the island, on the famous Laugavegur trail. This trail is 55 kilometers long and runs from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk and it is the most famous hiking trail in the country. The four-day trek takes you past colorful mountains, warm hot springs and deep ravines as you walk through the landscape in southeastern Iceland. The trail attracts a steady stream of hikers throughout the season (June through August), but it is long enough that you can leave some space between other hikers and yourself. This way you can still experience the environment on a personal level if that is what you want. The route is marked with posts. Some rivers have been bridged, but there are also others that have to be forded on foot.

What are you taking with you?

Almost every meter of the trail offers an opportunity to take a beautiful photo, and if you bring a camera you will probably struggle to store it during the hike. Consider taking a camera that is waterproof and can take panoramic photos to capture the mesmerizing sweeping vistas in weather that could turn to fog at any moment. The trail is challenging and demands your endurance with long climbs, steep paths and rocky sections waiting for the hikers to take on the challenge. Although the trail is only open in summer, don’t expect four days of nothing but sunshine; The weather in Iceland can be unstable and can quickly change from sunshine to thick fog and rain.
Make sure that your clothing is suitable for this trip. Important: comfortable walking shoes, a waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers, thermal gloves and hat and sunglasses. Make sure your equipment is of good quality and consult an outdoor clothing specialist before you go.
The trail is very well marked, the posts are clearly visible when the weather is good. But the weather is not always good and can change quickly so it may be a good idea to take a detailed map of the area with you. It is also recommended to take a compass and a GPS with you because visibility can be hampered by fog.

Stay overnight

The walk takes several days and there are two options for staying overnight. The first and most comfortable option is to book a bed in one of the six huts located along the trail in Landmannalaugar, Hraftinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil, Emstrur/Botnar and Langidalur in Thórsmörk . The second is camping on the camping pitches located at each hut, you do not have to book these in advance. Each cabin has beds, running water and heating, offering a simple but comfortable night’s sleep. Due to the high demand in the season, many visitors book a package to ensure a place to sleep in the desired huts and transportation to and from the trail.

The route

Once you have set up the tent or found your place in the hut, you can take an evening walk if you want. There are several short routes that you can walk at each overnight stay. Ask the hut operator about this.

Day 1: Landmannalaugar – Hraftinnusker

  • 12 kilometers, 4-5 hours
  • Height difference: 470 meters

The starting point is the hut in Landmannalaugar. From here it is an easy walk through the Laugahraun lava field to the colorful mountains. There the climb over the hills and mountains starts, offering several beautiful views and a wide spectrum of colors. After 3-4 hours you arrive in Stórihver, a geothermal area with a hot spring (too hot for bathing). Approximately two-thirds of the route there is a chance of snow until late summer. At an altitude of about 1000 meters, fog can suddenly form without warning or signs. The trail is well marked but hikers should be careful here. Hraftinnusker’s hut will appear unexpectedly and suddenly, about 2 kilometers after the memorial for an Israeli man who died of hypothermia on the trail.

Day 2: Hraftinnusker – Álftavatn

  • 12 kilometers, 4-5 hours
  • Height difference: 490 meters

The first part takes you through a valley with a few small ravines but be careful as there may be snow. A short steep climb leads to the highest point of this part of the tour. Then the trail leaves the colorful mountains and heads to an area with dark mountains and glaciers. You will also see an increase in vegetation. In places the trail is very steep and you must be very careful where you descend. The last kilometers to the huts at Lake Álftavatn are very flat.

Day 3: Álftavatn – Emstrur (Botnar)

  • 15 kilometers, 6-7 hours
  • Height difference: 40 meters

The trail runs over a ridge towards the Hvangill ravine, following a narrow river. In Hvangill there are two huts, one built for sheep herders and another for tourists. Álftavatn and Hvangill are only 5 kilometers apart, Hvangill can be used as an alternative location to spend the night. As you leave Hvangill you will come across a bridge to cross a river. After the bridge there is a junction, one branch runs towards road F210, and the other towards Emstrur, you must choose the latter. Then you’ll soon come across another river to wade through. The trail runs along a road for a few kilometers after which it enters the wilderness again. It is also possible to continue walking along the road, you will automatically come across a sign indicating the way to the Emstrur hut. After another bridge over a river, the trail runs over a flat landscape and you will soon see the huts in Emstrur.

Day 4: Emstrur (Botnar) – Thórsmörk

  • 15 kilometers, 6-7 hours
  • Height difference: 300 meters

After about 45 minutes on the trail, a steep path leads you to a gorge that can be crossed with a spectacular bridge. A rope will help you take the steep last part so be careful. Most of the route runs through a hilly area. Towards the end there is a river that you have to wade through, this is the deepest river on the trail. When wading, it is good to hold hands and walk with the current or use sticks to keep your balance. After this river changes the landscape and vegetation, about a 30 minute walk from the river you will pass through a small forest at the foot of a hill. Here are signs to the various huts in Thórsmörk.
The Laugavegur trail offers a beautiful but challenging opportunity to explore the wilderness of Iceland. The vast landscapes and mountains can enchant you for hours while you walk. If you would like to challenge yourself physically and at the same time be rewarded with the wonders that the landscape has to offer, the Laugavegur trail is recommended for hiking.

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