Laugavegur Hiking Trail - the ultimate guide

18.12.2018

The Laugavegur hiking trail is the most famous hiking trail in Iceland and one of the world’s best hiking trails according to National Geographic. And it’s no wonder! The trail has an abundance of unique views and landmarks to view and explore.

 

man with a backpack overlooking the highlands

To help you prepare as well as possible we have put together this blog as an overview of the trail along with an online Ultimate Guide to the Laugavegur Hiking Trail with practical information, safety guidelines and best practices.

This blog has a broad look of the Laugavegur trail but the Laugavegur Ultimate Guide has all the practical information such as day-by-day itineraries, GPS coordinates, a packing list and more. You can read the guide on our website or download it as a pdf right here.

In any case, we recommend that you start by reading this blog to answer the question Is the Laugavegur Hiking trail for me? and then move on to the online guide for more practical information. 

We hope you enjoy the read and find this information useful.  

In case you are ready to go, you can simply go ahead and book the Laugavegur Volcano Trail offer including accommodation and bus tickets, with just a couple of clicks.

Now, let's start this ultimate guide to hiking the Laugavegur trail.

On the Laugavegur trail, you'll get the perfect balance between the remote exploration of the highlands and social encounters with fellow travelers on the trail.

Just imagine standing on top of a hill, admiring the colors of the Icelandic highlands by yourself, listening to the silence and breathing the fresh air. But then, gathering in the evening with other hikers the at the lively base camps, under the midnight sun or huddling up in the rustic cabins along the trail. Maybe sharing a few drinks, life stories, and hiking tips.

Sights along the way include natural hot springs, black lava fields, colorful rhyolite mountains, volcanic craters, Þórsmörk Nature Reserve and the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. Each day of this hike brings new landscapes, as different as black arctic desserts to lush forested valleys. 

two people overlooking markárfljót river

The Laugavegur Hiking Trail is 55 kilometers long and connects Landmannalaugar and the Fjallabak Nature Reserve with Þórsmörk.

The best way to do the 4 day trek is to hike from North to South from Landmannalaugar, ending the trek in Þórsmörk or Skógar.

Huts and camping sites are located in three areas along the trail in addition to huts and campgrounds at the start and finish of the trail in Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk. Some people choose to extend the route and walk the Fimmvörðuháls trail from Þórsmörk to Skógar, ending at the base of the Skógafoss waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland.

No matter what your previous hiking experience is, this hike will be an adventure of a lifetime. Click here to read other people’s reviews, travel stories and experiences from the trek. 

If you’re unsure if this is the trail for you or if you have any other questions then please read on or contact us directly.

 

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The Laugavegur trail description

The Laugavegur is a mountainous hiking trail in the Southern highlands of Iceland connecting Landmannalaugar with the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve. Icelanders love the trail, and people from all over the world come to hike it every year.

This trail and surrounding areas have an abundance of natural wonders and each day offers a new and breathtaking scenery. 

The Laugavegur trail is not only a local favorite but also one of National Geographic's best hiking trails in the world.

 

screenshot from National Geographics website on best hiking trails

 

 

 

This hike has it all: mountainous highlands, deep valleys, highly active geothermal areas, black lava fields and colorful liparite mountains. 

Hikers have the option to spend the nights in huts or bring their tents and camp in designated camping sites along the trail.

We recommend taking 4 days to complete the trail to get the full experience and to have time for short stops and detours along the way.

For a detailed day-to-day itinerary click here.

We’re here to help and make your hiking trip a success, so don’t hesitate to contact us at any time for information and suggestions.

Finding your way on the Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur trail is fairly well marked with signs and way points and the trail itself is easily visible in most areas.

However, weather can dramatically decrease visibility and snowfall can cover up the trail so for safety reasons we always recommend bringing a map, compass and a GPS device for navigation.

The map gives you a better understanding of the land with a graphic display of all its contours, elevation and scale and with the compass you should always be able to know in which direction to go without running the risk of empty batteries in your GPS. The latest GPS devices are very accurate and user friendly with great features such as maps and tracking capabilities. However, they do come with the drawback of possibly running out of batteries.

We do NOT recommend using mobile phones for navigation as short battery life, moisture and a weak signal can dramatically reduce the dependability of the device. A mobile phone can be a great asset and an important safety device but should not be the only solution for navigation and safety! 

Remember, it is not enough to pack the map, compass and GPS, you also have to know how to use it! There are some great videos with information about how to use these things out in the field. This is also a good place to start.

A map of the Laugavegur trail 

 

Screenshot from Google maps to show the Laugavegur trail

 

Getting to and from the Laugavegur hiking trail

You can get to the Laugavegur hiking trail by bus from Reykjavík. A bus pass including a ticket to the trailhead in Landmannalaugar and then back again from the end of the trail in Þórsmörk or Skógar is included in our Laugavegur Volcano Trail offer.

During summer there is a daily bus that runs from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar with two departures every day and three departures from Þórsmörk back to Reykjavík. We recommend taking the earliest bus to Landmannalaugar to get an early start on the trail. 

Take a bus to and from the Laugavegur trail

 

a highland bus crossing the river to Þórsmörk valley

 

Buses leave every day during the summer for Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk from the BSI Bus Terminal. You can also hop on the bus at various stops along the way. 

The standard Laugavegur trail offer includes a highland bus ticket to the start of the trail and then back to Reykjavik from the end of the trail in Þórsmörk or Skógar for those that plan to hike across the Fimmvörðuháls trail.

Accommodation and services on the Laugavegur hiking trail

Accommodation along the Laugavegur trail is available in rustic mountain huts and campsites on the trail. 

  • Landmannalaugar / Trailhead / Pass through
    • Bus stop
    • Mountain huts
    • Camping
  • Hrafntinnusker / First night
    • Mountain hut
    • Camping on a very exposed and rugged campsite
  • Álftavatn & Hvanngil / Second night
    • Mountain hut
    • Camping
    • Restaurant
  • Emstrur / Third night
    • Mountain hut
    • Camping
  • Þórsmörk Húsadalur / fourth night
    • Private rooms, cottages, glamping, mountain huts, camping,
    • Restaurant
    • Bus stop

The huts on the trail are quite rustic with basic facilities and offer sleeping bag accommodation in bunk beds. You will have to bring your own sleeping bag and tent if you plan to camp.

The huts have kitchen areas with basic utensils and gas burning stoves. You will have to share the facilities with other guests so keep in mind that you might have to wait your turn and always remember to clean up after yourself. 

Toilets and showers are available but please note that you will have to pay for use of the showers. The first hut on the trail in Hrafntinnusker has an outhouse but no showers. 

Camping is allowed in designated campsites next to the mountain huts along the way. Conditions in these locations vary from exposed and rocky grounds and high altitude to sheltered grounds in woodlands with nice turf grass to pitch your tent on.

Campers have access to cold running water and toilets and can pay for use of showers where available. Campers do not have access to indoor facilities to cook or lounge in except in Þórsmörk at the end of the trail.

Please do not camp outside designated areas as the vegetation in the highlands is very fragile and is easily damaged by traffic!

 

a collage of a man camping and cooking oatmeal

 

Picture by Alastair Humphreys

If you need help with planning the Laugavegur trail, get in touch! 

 

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Ending the Laugavegur trail in Þórsmörk

 

a glamping tent in Þórsmörk, fully furnished

 

After a long trek where only the most basic comforts are met, it is nice to know that you will be arriving to the Volcano Huts in Húsadalur Þórsmörk where you can have a hot meal, a glass of cold beer or wine and even choose from a variation of comfortable accommodation options. 

At the Volcano Huts you can choose between staying in mountain huts, private bedrooms, cottages, or luxurious glamping tents. 

The Laugavegur Volcano Trail offer includes accommodation in mountain huts in Þórsmörk on the last night of the trail but when you have booked you can request an upgrade to a more comfortable private accommodation, depending on availability. 

The latest addition to the accommodations in Þórsmörk Nature Reserve is glamping (“glamorous camping”) whith fully furnished and stylishly rustic tents.

Each spacious tent comes with a twin or double bed, comfortable chairs and tables to hold your luggage.

Just a few steps away are bathrooms, restaurant, sauna, and a small pool.

Recommended day-to-day itinerary for the Laugavegur trail

We recommend doing the Laugavegur trail in four stages as that allows for the best hiking experience with moderate distances covered each day and ample time to enjoy the hike:

Day 1.  Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (12 km).

Day 2. Hrafntinnusker - Álftavatn (12 km).

Day 3. Álftavatn - Emstrur (16 km)

Day 4. Emstrur-Þórsmörk (15 km)

Click here to read our full itinerary with a description of each day of the trek included. 

Landmarks on the Laugavegur trail

Landmannalaugar

 

group of people hiking the highlands

 

Many Icelanders consider Landmannalaugar to be the crown jewel of the Icelandic highlands.

The area attracts visitors for the colourful rhyolite mountains with their bright shades of pink, blue, green and yellow in stark contrast to the black lava fields surrounding the area.

Landmannalaugar is rich in geothermal activity and is a popular area for bathing natural hot springs. The small river that runs through Landmannalaugar mixes with the hot water from nearby hot springs creating ideal natural circumstances for bathing. The name Landmannalaugar or “the people’s pools.” in English, derives from this and suggests that early settlers in Iceland appreciated the warm pools as much as the modern tourists. 

The stunning location and impressive panoramic view of Landmannalaugar is a always a powerful experience.

Hrafntinnusker

 

Hrafntinnusker

 

Picture by Alastair Humphreys

Hrafntinnusker is a mountain rich in obsidian or Hrafntinna in Icelandic as the name suggests. The Laugavegur Trail leads you up to Hrafntinnusker from Landmannalaugar with hot springs and impressive sights of the colourful Fjallabak mountains on the way. Arriving in Hrafntinnusker you will see a clear shift in the scenery as the landscape suddenly turns to shades of grey and black with shimmering obsidian rock covering the ground.  

The dark rock and volcanic soil with the reflective obsidian gives the area it's distinctive look. 

Hrafntinnusker is the highest point of the Laugavegur trail with its mountain hut placed 1.050 meters above sea level. As a result this area can have severe weather conditions which should be taken into account when planning the trek.

 

Hrafntinnusker

 

Picture by Alastair Humphreys

Álftavatn

 

Álftavatn lake and the cabin

Picture from www.south.is

Álftavatn lake or "Swan lake" in English is set in a beautiful valley between two volcanic mountain ridges. The serene and scenic place is where you will find the second hut and campsite on the Laugavegur Trail.

Surrounded by mountains in every direction, Álftavatn is an oasis on the trail as it is also the only place until Þórsmörk, that has a restaurant where you can get a hot meal and a cold drink served within 30 kilometre radius. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks from the bar. There you will often find a lively atmosphere with guitar playing and people singing well into the night. 

Þórsmörk

Two people overlooking Þórsmörk. Valahjúkur in the distance

 

Þórsmörk Nature Reserve is a unique all year round destination in the southern highlands of Iceland.

This area is nestled below the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano and is surrounded by breathtaking scenery to all directions.

Þórsmörk translates to "the woods of Thor" in English named after the Norse god of thunder. Many landmarks within the area are also named after folklore and old beliefs based in superstition about elves, trolls and the hidden world. 

Þórsmörk has one of the largest original birch woods in Iceland and its mountains are covered in moss and vegetation, far higher than the surrounding areas due to favorable weather conditions.

The valley lies sheltered by the surrounding glaciers from the prevailing southern winds and the cold winter storms from the North. As a result the area is lush with trees, colorful moss and grasses in contrast to the more barren highlands around the area. 

Þórsmörk is one of the best hiking destinations in Iceland with endless trails and landmarks to explore. It is an important connection point for the Laugavegur trail and the Fimmvörðuháls trails.

When to go? The best time to hike Laugavegur trail

The Laugavegur trail is usually open from the end of June until mid September. The opening and closing dates can vary as weather, snow and other conditions dictate when and how long the trail stays open.

If you plan to do the trail towards the start of the season then you have to make sure you are flexible in dates as the opening will not be announced until a few days prior.

Also if you plan to go towards the end of the season then make sure the bus schedule is still in operation and the huts are open. By the end of September the trail is considered closed and no service on the trail.

However, and this is important: You can access Þórsmörk all year round! In fact, it’s one of the few places in the Icelandic highlands which you can visit at any time during the year. Spring, fall and winter in Þórsmörk are all equally wonderful as the summer time.

 

Þórsmörk in winter

 

The Volcano Huts in Þórsmörk are open all year long and if you do not have a chance to visit during summer when the Laugavegur trail is open we do recommend visiting Þórsmörk as you will be able to hike and view parts of the Laugavegur trail from Þórsmörk.

In the springtime, some parts of the Laugavegur Hiking Trail can be covered in snow while other parts might be wet and muddy, as the ground starts to thaw. Signs and waypoints might be under snow or may have washed away in floods during the spring melt.

During the summer you are most likely to have good weather conditions, and you will experience 24 hours of daylight. During the period between the second weekend of July and the second weekend of August, you will have most traffic on the trail.

 

a selfie of a persons legs sitting near a cliff

 

In the fall the huts along the trail are not serviced, but camping is permitted.

In good conditions, the fall is a very nice time to do the Laugavegur trek with fewer people on the trail. Dusk starts to creep in around midnight in the second half of July and by September the nights are pitch black and no lights in sight in the highlands so you might want to bring some lights with you.

During fall you can expect to see the Northern Lights dancing above the trail if conditions are right. 

The climate starts to get cold by the end of August, and you may experience frosty conditions with temperatures dropping well below zero °C.

Weather, terrain and safety on the Laugavegur trail

Staying safe should be at the top of any checklist for any outdoors person.  

Weather in the Icelandic highlands can be unpredictable. Very strong winds with heavy rain, hail and even snow can occur with little warning. Temperatures can drop from warm or temperate to very cold with chances of frost in a single day. Make sure to protect yourself from the windchill factor as it can dramatically increase the cold. 

Always check the weather forecast and make sure your equipment and clothes stay dry in your pack.

We recommend registering your plan on the SafeTravel site. They give your weather forecast, road conditions and what to do in case you experience bad weather, get lost or injured. 

Is the Laugavegur Trail overcrowded? 

Even with around 12.000 hikers setting out onto the trail each year and although some areas where people come together have reached their capacity, the trail itself is not crowded by any means. Landmannalaugar can sometimes be very crowded and the huts along the way are usually fully booked long in advance.

However, as soon as you are out on the trail you will see less and less people. You can easily lose any crowd by heading out a bit early or by taking your time in the mornings and leave after everyone else has gone.

The Laugavegur trail is definitely popular and you can be sure to meet a lot of people on your journey but you can also set your pace to fit your need for social encounters or aim for the more remote feeling of solitude in the highlands. 

Things to do on the Laugavegur trail

The Laugavegur hiking trail really is the hikers dream!

There are valleys, waterfalls, geothermal areas, colorful liparite mountains and ice caves to explore and different sceneries and landscapes every day.

At the end of your hike, when you reach Þórsmörk valley, you can relax in the sauna room and the pool. There is really no better way to end your trek off the highlands.

 

man soaking in a warm pool with just his face and toes peaking out

 

If you are more of a social bug, this is a much better place to meet people than the local pub. The Laugavegur trail is one of the most popular hikes with Icelanders, and many walk the trail every year. Strike up a conversation and learn their stories.

 

the natural pool at Husadalur

 

To some people, hiking is a way to get to know themselves. Stretching your limits, trying something new and spending some quality time with #1.

If you feel like doing some good you can't go wrong with bringing an extra plastic bag and pick up some litter along the way. Even though most people are considerate towards nature, there are always black sheep in every herd. Be the cool, considerate person and leave the Laugavegur trail a little bit cleaner than when she arrived. 

 

Remember, if you want to download this whole guide and a map as a PDF document, click the link below.

Laugavegur Ultimate Guide PDF

 

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