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HIKING ICELAND LAUGAVEGUR: NOW EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur is one of the most exciting hikes you can take on the island of Iceland. Crossing the mountains east and south of Reykjavik is a trip through hardened lava fields and snow-covered peaks, along gurgling rivers that smell like rotten eggs, and over tussock meadows with ancient rock formations.

National Geographic called it one of the best hikes on Earth because there is so much to visit and many great things about it.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

Where is the Hiking Iceland Laugavegur?

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur Trek goes through a part of Iceland’s southern region. It goes from the Landmannalaugar hot springs to the Thorsmork (órsmork) glacial valley. The trailhead is close enough to Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, that getting there is easy.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

How the Laugavegur Trail came to be

This well-trodden path is the longest and one of Iceland’s most popular hiking trails. It’s not new, though. It has several huts trekkers have used as rest stops since at least the 1960s.

They can help you appreciate a landscape that has been changing for millions of years. Yes, the rhyolite mountains, hot springs, and lava fields are all the result of geological changes over thousands of years.

How long is the Hiking Iceland Laugavegur?

Most people take three nights and four days to hike the Laugavegur. You can take more time if you want, but four days of hiking is usually enough to go at a pretty slow pace.

Many people also make it a five- or a six-night trip to climb and descend Fimmvoruháls, which is a great way to end the trip. That looks like it will be a real show, with images of deep gorges and close-up glaciers.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

What do I require to bring with me to the Hiking Iceland Laugavegur?

For the Hiking Iceland Laugavegur, you need to bring many different things. That’s mainly because the weather is so unpredictable. You’ll need gear to protect you from torrential rain and thermals to keep you warm in snowstorms.

Also, you can’t avoid that by traveling in the middle of summer. The weather in this part of Iceland is so unpredictable that blizzards can happen even in August.

At the very least, we’d suggest a strong underlayer that keeps heat in, fleece layers for your upper, waterproof (essential) outer layers, a hat, and gloves. During the summer, most hikers can get by with trail running shoes, but during wetter times, they need thicker walking boots with a high rise and spikes and crampons if there is snow.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

You will also need to bring at least a sleeping bag. This is for the tiny houses along the way (more on those later). If you want to go out for camping, you will need a lightweight trekking tent, a sleeping mat, and a warmer sleeping bag. But if you go to the Laugavegur with us, we can help you with this gear.

When To Visit Iceland Laugavegur

There isn’t a lot of time to Hiking Iceland Laugavegur. And even smaller if you want to avoid the melting snow in early summer and the crowds at the height of summer.

From about the middle of June to the center of September, there are bus rides to the starting point at Landmannalaugar (weather dependent). At other times of the year, it’s impossible to get to the highlands by car.

The busiest times are from mid-June to mid-August. This is happening simultaneously as the weather is getting a little bit warmer and getting close to being light all the time.

But during this busy time, the huts may be complete, so it’s best to book ahead. You don’t need to book if you’re camping, which is what we like to do. However, the campsites near the huts can get full during peak season.

Best To Visit Iceland Laugavegur

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

The nights get colder and darker from about the middle of August, but people start to spread out. You might get an early snowfall or snowstorm, and from about mid-September, the huts are no longer serviced (although camping is still a viable option). But because fewer people are on the trail in the second half of August, this is our favorite time to hike.

Don’t forget that the weather in the Icelandic highlands is known to change quickly. Even in the “high season” of summer, you could get caught in a whiteout or storm. That could mean a hike that isn’t very exciting and could be uncomfortable. So, when you travel, keep an open mind and remember that nature doesn’t make any promises.

Laugavegur to Hrafntinnusker

On the first day of Hiking Iceland Laugavegur, everything goes up. The trail is marked so that you won’t get lost. But the gradual uphill and two very steep sections make the day seem long. The temperature also drops as the landscape changes from geothermal vents with red, green, and orange rocks to snow-capped mountains. When I got to the hut, I was told that a storm was coming and that I should leave early the following day.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

The first part of the Hiking Iceland Laugavegur goes through a wide area with little valleys where snow stays until late summer. The course goes right through these ravines, so there are a lot of steep short climbs and descents. I suggest going cross-country about 400m to the east to avoid these steep climbs and descents that aren’t necessary.

If the weather is clear, walking to the top of “Háskeringur” mountain (1281 m) will give you a view that will take your breath away. Soon, we will leave the colorful rhyolite mountains and go down a steep slope into an area with dark palagonite mountains and glaciers. As you lose elevation, you will also see a significant change in the plants around you.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

The path down “Jokultungur” is pretty steep, but it leads to a friendly oasis on the banks of the “Grashagakvsl” river, which is an excellent place to stop. The path to the two huts by the lake “lftavatn” is on the flat, early-season-wet ground.

Álftavatn to Emstrur

Day 3 is also known as “crossing the river day.” The third day goes downhill again, most of it on volcanic ground. The land is empty and without life, but it is quiet. On the way to Emstrur Hiking Iceland Laugavegur, you must cross two rivers. The first one was only up to my ankles, so I had to take off my shoes. The second one is deeper and colder and can get you up to your knees.

So, as you might guess, there are times when you have to cross without pants. The wind strengthened as I got closer to Emstrur, and another storm came in. Even though it wasn’t as strong as the day before, I was glad I had a strong tent.

Emstrur to Þórsmork

First, we have to go around the “Syri-Emstruá” canyon, with a steep, sandy track down to the bridge. Then, a walk through the “Almenningar” area includes crossing the “rongá” river, which is fed by glaciers but is only about knee-deep at the crossing point.

After crossing “Þröngá,” a 40-minute hike up and over a lower ridge brings us to the hut “Langidalur” in “Porsmork.” During this last section, the land and plants change quickly. Birchwood and many different plants start to grow, a welcome change from the desert we just left.

Porsmork to Skogar

This is presumably the most popular Hiking Iceland Laugavegur in Iceland because it is short and easy. However, it can be hazardous because the weather can change quickly at any time of year. It can be calm and refined on the lowland, but climbing up to 1000 meters can get heavy winds, pitch-black fog, or even a snowstorm from the hut at Porsmork, hike downstream to the bridge over the glacier-fed river.

Walk south until you reach a road, then walk east up the valley on the road until you reach the hut Eystrihattur. You can also follow the wooden posts with blue tips across the gravel if you like twisting your ankles. Once you’ve crossed the creek that flows out of Strakagil Canyon, you can climb steeply.

Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

The trail briefly flattens out on a rocky plateau before going back up steeply to the “Fimmvorouhals” pass, which you will still cover in the snow early in the season. Between the glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Mrdalsjokull is the pass. A 1-km-long trail leads to a hut on top of the key.

A small emergency hut is just beyond and slightly below this side trail. Follow the wooden posts cross-country or the road downhill, depending on the weather and how you feel. When you reach the Skóga river, don’t go down the road. Instead, follow the river. This beautiful canyon has green walls that go on forever and beautiful waterfalls. You’ll end up right at the 60m-high Skógafoss waterfall.

Advice on how to Hiking Iceland Laugavegur

  • If you want to sleep inside, book the huts ahead of time. They will fill up. The heated houses consist of single or double bunks with a common area. Bathrooms, drinking water, and a small store with snacks and gear are available at each hut, and the four leading houses along the route will cost about $80 per night. It’s also important to note that they only book places for hikers moving north to south during high season. Many tent sites are close by if you don’t get a spot in one of the huts.
  • Bring money for a beer, snacks, a hot cooked meal, or even a hot shower at a few huts (running water for cooking and filling your water bottle is available and accessible).
  • Get bus tickets from a local bus company to and from Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork for easy travel between Reykjavk and the highlands.
  • For a more leisurely hike, start in Landmannalaugar and walk north to south (during the high season, this is the only direction you can hike in).
  • The first day from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker is the most challenging uphill day, with 1,500 feet of vert. You will gain the last 4,000 feet over the next three days as you go up and down hills.
  • If you want to see more, take an extra day and go 15 miles further along the Fimmvoruháls Trail past Thorsmork. This long hike ends at the famous Skógafoss Waterfall on the southern Ring Road.
  • For short day hikes, look for the small side trails around the huts. Just a mile or two off the main path, we found substantial ice caves, river gorges a thousand feet deep, and more.

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FAQs

Can I buy food while I’m traveling?

You can buy the things you need along the way. Each mountain hut has a small store that sells stuff like boil-in-a-bag meals, chocolate, energy bars, and other basic supplies. But it’s essential to bring your food for the Laugavegur Trail. Just in case, you should always have some emergency supplies in your backpack.

Where can I go to the bathroom on the Hiking Iceland Laugavegur?

At each hut and campsite, there are simple drop toilets or latrines. You can’t permanently hide behind a tree or bush when you have to go to the bathroom on the trail. So, there’s not much else to do but get off the path and enjoy the fresh air!

How about a shower?

Most mountain cabins and campgrounds do have showers. For 5 minutes of warm water, you’ll have to pay 500 ISK, which is about €3.40. Be aware that there are no showers at Hrafntinnusker hut.

Do I need hiking poles?

This comes down primarily to what you like. Some hikers are delighted to have their hiking poles, especially when crossing rivers. Some people don’t want to carry them. We take them with us and find that they help when the terrain is rough, but we don’t use them very often. They are easy to store because they are light and small.

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