The Explorer’s Guide to The Laugavegur Trail

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Game of Thrones, the sweeping, otherworldly vistas are often from mythical Iceland. Iceland is simply magical. A volcanic hotspot of activity, Iceland is known for its sand and lava fields, multi-colored mountains, and glaciers. For those looking for a bit of adventure there is one trek where people from across the globe come for, The Laugavegur Trail. If you have not yet ventured on The Laugavegur Trail you need to add it to your bucket list. It is one great treks on the planet. 

The Explorer’s Guide to The Laugavegur Trail contains everything you need to know on The Laugavegur Trail. This guide is full of information and tips to help you plan your trip. 

Guide Topic Summary

  • Getting to Iceland
  • About Reykjavik
  • About the Laugavegur Trail
  • Popularity
  • History of the Laugavegur Trail
  • Where is the Laugavegur Trail
  • Traveling to the Laugavegur Trail
  • Mountain Huts on the Laugavegur Trail
  • Best time of the year to Visit the Laugavegur Trail
  • Weather
  • Laugavegur Trail Elevation
  • Laugavegur Trail Terrain
  • Key Sections of the Laugavegur Trail
  • Laugavegur Trail Routes
  • Laugavegur Trail Wildlife
  • Laugavegur Trail Folklore

Getting to Iceland

There are a few options for travel to this remote European nation. By air, travel to Reykjavik through Keflavík International Airport. It is the main international transit point. It is located 30 miles southwest of the capital. For domestic transfer or access to and from Greenland, Reykjavík Domestic Airport is located in the center of the capital.

One of the more popular international air carrier services is Icelandair. Air Iceland services domestic, Greenland, and Faroe Islands routes. For low cost travel, WOW Air flies from a growing number of destinations across Europe and North America.

If flying isn’t for you, there are other options on how to go to Iceland. Traveling on water is your next best option. The Smyril Line can get pricey, but operates a weekly ferry called the Norröna from Hirtshals in Denmark, through Tórshavn (Faroe Islands) to Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland. However, the journey from Hirtshals to Seyðisfjörður takes 47 hours, and the prices vary greatly according to when you travel! Winter travel is weather dependant, so be aware of potential delays before you book in the winter months.

 

About Reykjavik

Reykjavik is thought to be the first settlement in Iceland, established in 874 AD. The city itself was founded in 1786, growing and transforming into a center of commerce, government and political activity.

The capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, is home to two-thirds of the population and presents a pleasant starting point to explore the natural beauty of the country beyond. Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital city, located on the southern shores of the nation on Faxa Bay. It is among the best places to go in Iceland. Reykjavik tourism is on the rise as the city is a hub of cultural, economic, and government activity, Reykjavik is one of the cleanest, greenest, and most friendly cities on earth. 

 

About the Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trail is one of the most famous trekking routes on the planet. It is one of the top attractions in Iceland. Along this trail, there are a variety of magnificent landscapes – diverse in color and texture. It can be completed over the course of 2 to 4 days, with stops available at several mountain huts.

You can extend the route by combining it with the Fimmvörðuháls route, which goes over the pass from Thorsmork (Þórsmörk in Icelandic) to Skógar. This adds 15 miles to the trek, or two days.  

 

Popularity

The Laugavegur Trek is popular precisely because of the incredible landscapes that it passes through. Over the course of a few hours you will see steaming volcano ridges and rich green moss, hear boiling mud pots, cross glacial rivers, and feel the heat of steaming geothermal rivers. Discover this untouched beauty in all its richly colored variety! As far as attractions in Iceland go, the Laugavegur trail is at the top of the list and it is one of the best hikes in Iceland. 

 

History of the Laugavegur Trail

This well-trodden path is the longest hiking trail in Iceland, and also one of the most popular as it offers incredible Iceland sights. These paths include a variety of huts that have emerged since the 1960s, helping you to enjoy a landscape that has been millions of years in the making. The rhyolite mountains, hot springs, and lava fields have been evolving for over a millennia, forming into what you see today – true miracles of nature.

The northern most point is Landmannalaugar, a very alpine location at an elevation of roughly 1,960 feet. The Landmannalaugar Trek portion is stunning. From here, it is 34 miles to Thorsmork (Þórsmörk), where many trekkers stop. There are additional sites, however, and you can extend the trail as you wish.

 

Where is the Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trek covers the area in South-West Iceland, stretching between the hot springs at Landmannalaugar to the glacial valley of Thorsmork (Þórsmörk). It is located within an easy-to-travel distance of the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.

 

Traveling to the Laugavegur Trail

You can reach the trail by taking the Reykjavik Excursions bus from the BSI terminal in the capital. It’s also possible to drive to the site, but taking the bus is a good alternative with regular departures. In just a few hours, you can be amongst some of the most varied landscapes on Earth. The most beautiful places in Iceland await you.

 

Mountain Huts on the Laugavegur Trail

The Mountain Huts on the trail generally offer a warm, dry place to rest for the evening, on your way through the Icelandic terrain. They tend to include a large sleeping hall, kitchen, warden’s quarters, and storage, and each come equipped with gas stoves, utensils, and cold running water. For those who’d prefer the outdoor experience, many of the huts have a campsite. Bathroom and showering facilities are often in a separate house.  Generally, the warden of each hut is present only during the summer, so the rest of the year, you are required to be respectful and make use of the site appropriately and responsibly. They offer the experience of true Iceland lodging.

 

Hut Landmannalaugar

The current hut on this site was built in 1969, holds 75 people, and is located approximately 1,960 feet above sea level. It sits right at the edge of the Laugahraun lava field. As only lodging in Iceland can provide, this creates a spectrum of beautiful hot springs, perfect for bathing.

Lanmannalaugar can be either the start or the finish of your journey, to or from Thorsmork. It will set the scene of the rich landscapes to come on your way as you take beautiful Iceland, with a variety of short and long hiking trails located near the hut.

 

Hut Hrafntinnusker

The hut on Mt. Hrafntinnusker was built in 1977 and stands 3,370 feet above sea level. The physical features of Iceland are impressionable, as the hut is  known for the magical ice caves in its vicinity. It can accommodate up to 36 people, though of course more will be admitted in bad weather.

Geothermal heating will keep you warm year-round, but running water is only available when the warden is present. Otherwise, water must be fetched from the gully to the west of the hut, or snow has to be melted.

 

Hut Alftavatn

The huts on Llake Alftavat were built in 1979 and can accommodate up to 58 people in sleeping bags. One hut is specifically reserved for those hikers travelling between Thorsmork and Landmannalaugar.

The Alftavatn huts, offering the best in luxury Iceland tours, appear halfway along the trail. The beautiful Lake Alftavatn used to be the site for hunting whooper swans – the lake itself is a picturesque background, deep and richly colored. Swans are no longer hunted here, but the site remains an enchanted stop, perfect for witnessing local flora and fauna as you enjoy day hikes in Iceland.

 

Hut Emstrur

Appearing against the horizon of the South Emstrua river, these Iceland cabins accommodate 40 people and come equipped with gas stoves and running water. Near the huts, you can take a stroll via a pedestrian bridge across the South Emstrua river. A short walk further will see you placed in the canyons of river Markarfljot. One the best activities in Iceland, it’s worth exploring a little to enjoy the canyons – only a little exploration with a big pay off!

 

Hut Hvanngil

This hut sits near the church and ancient farm house site of Keldur, as well as near the Folk Museum. It accommodates up to 70 people. The road from the hut continues across the Langviu Lava Field, River Markarfljot and past Lake Alftavatn. A true gem of tourism in Iceland, the sites here promote the local culture of Iceland and will reveal a little more of the history of this unique landscape and its people.

 

Huts Husadalur Thorsmork

The Volcano Huts, some of the best Iceland trekking cabins, are located in the Husadalur valley, between the towering glaciers and volcanoes of this area. Here, a multitude of trails wind their way through the volcanic landscape offering a chance to take an advantage of an Iceland volcano hike.

This is a hiker’s paradise, and the Volcano Huts offer small cottage-style accommodation. It also has the LavaGrill, where you can enjoy hearty local cuisine, as well as packed lunches and picnics for your explorations. Relax at the LavaSPA, where natural hot pools and saunas offer up a chance to unwind away from your Iceland expeditions. There are toys, books, sporting equipment, and more for you to use at your leisure.

 

Huts Basar Thorsmork

Built in 1980 to 1981, these huts are some of the first built after the foundation of the Touring Association Utivist, one of the first Icelandic outdoor travel organizations. Located in the Godaland area, the huts are comfortable, are a welcome stop on your journey, and offer great lodging in Iceland.

In this area, there are a variety of hiking possibilities available – shorter and gentler paths, as well as long and more challenging ones, all offering the best of Laugavegur trekking. Return to the huts at your leisure, a warm and friendly space year-round. The huts here are heated with oil and a small hydroelectric power station.

 

Hut Skagfjordsskáli Langidalur Thorsmork

Located in the flat area at the mouth of Valley Langidalur, the huts here are just a moment away from the sparkling river Krossa, one of the best places to go in Iceland. The route here will require a robust vehicle from road #1, and travellers should be aware of the un-bridged rivers in the area.

However, once you reach the huts, you can enjoy Mt Valahnukur, as well as several other local top attractions in Iceland such as: Storendi, Stangarhals, Hamraskogar, Husadalur, Tindafjoll, Basar, Eyjafjallajokull – all offer incredible hiking opportunities and vistas.

The huts here are spacious and include provisions for picnics, as well as all the standard sleeping accommodations and bathrooms.

 

Best Time of the Year to Visit the Laugavegur Trail

The Iceland tourist season is highest from June to August, when the daylight is endless. There are festivals, and other activities. It is best to pre-book your journey at this time of year, as the trail gets very busy.

 

Weather

The weather in Iceland can be extreme! High season runs from June to August, in line with the extended daylight of a far north summer. During this time, Iceland comes alive with festivals, activities, and visitors. It’s a great time to hike and interior mountain roads will be open to All Wheel Drives. The Nordic landscape does have potentially inclement weather, but don’t let that stop you from exploring some of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Be sure to check the weather to prepare, as the highlands can be unpredictable with strong winds, rain, hail, and fog coming about with little warning!

Low season from October to April is a different story. Roads are often shutdown due to wintery weather. However, there are a variety of wonderful winter activities in Iceland to try out, including snowboarding, skiing, visiting ice caves, and more. With so little daylight, it’s important to have a warm place to stop for the night. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see the Northern Lights – this is the best time of year for a viewing!

 

Laugavegur Trail Elevation

The trail elevation starts at 1,706 feet and climbs to 3,474 feet.

 

Laugavegur Trail Terrain

With the beauty and variety of landscapes, there are a whole host of stunning terrain types along the trail. Every day provides a glimpse into new pristine environments, which include a volcanic landscape, lava fields, glaciers, natural hot springs, black arctic deserts and lush forested valleys – every color on the spectrum! The Laugavegur Trail terrain is one of the top attractions in Iceland!

The terrain is mostly accessible to hikers, but tricky spots with steep hills, and unbridged rivers do exist. Don’t forget that snowy conditions can also add difficulty. During the high season, however, help is always on hand on the trail. Be aware that in low season, help can be a little less available, and campsites aren’t quite so sheltered.

 

Key Sections of the Laugavegur Trail

Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

Set over 7.5 miles (an estimate 4-5 hours of walking), this section of the trail is noteworthy. The Landmannalaugar Trek is a gentle trail passes through the dramatic lava field known as Laugabraun, and presents a steady and uphill climb to a plateau up the slopes of Brennisteinsalda. This is a view not to be missed.

After approximately 4 hours of walking in the breathtaking Iceland landscape, you’ll be rewarded with a lush green vista, and hot spring, called Stórihver. If you take on this trail early in the season, expect a blanket of snow from here to Höskuldsskáli. Don’t miss the serene ice caves near the hut at the end of the trail.

Come prepared with water proof gear, as conditions are regularly foggy and damp along this section. This section presents a ~1,540 feet net climb from start to finish.

 

Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

A 4-5 hour walk over 7 miles, the beginning of the Laugavegur Trek guides you through a enormous plain that intersects with ravines which can mean many short ascents and descents. Once you reach the mountain Háskerðingur, you will find your reward in a magnificent view across the brightly colored rhyolite hills. 

As you leave this ascent, you are soon submerged in dark palagonite terrain, with glittering glaciers. A region known for offering some of the best Iceland sights, the area becomes lush and fertile, and as you follow the (sometimes steep) trail of Jökultungur, a welcoming oasis presents itself as a resting stop. This oasis lies near the river Grashagakvísl, leading you to the huts by the Álftavatn lake. This area of the trail represents a 1600 feet descent in total.

 

Álftavatn to Emstrur

As you pass the huts at Álftavatn, the Laugauvegur Trek continues on the river Bratthálskvísl. The trail will take you up the ridge Brattháls into Hvanngil ravine. Here, there are huts and the river Kaldaklofskvísl.

Next, a turn towards the south will take you to Emstrur – within less than a kilometre, you will have to wade across Blafjallakvisl. A final bridged river will take you to a view over the huts in Emstrur. From here you can take a pleasant walk to the Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon, one the best places to see in Iceland. In total, this segment of the trail is approximately 9 miles, which can be walked over 6 to 7 hours.

 

Emstrur to Thorsmork (Þórsmörk)

Over 9 miles and a net 1,000 feet descent, Emstrur to Thorsmork (Þórsmörk), a place of interest in Iceland, begins with a walk around the canyon of Syðri – Emstruá. The area below is known as Almenningar, and includes several rivers that you must cross. The vegetation in this area is particularly dynamic, changing rapidly as you progress – and with the seasons – from birch wood to a whole variety of flora. It will stand in stark contrast to the desert areas you will have passed through to get here! This section of journey offers a great opportunity for photographing Iceland and its many landscapes.

This section takes an estimated 6 to 7 hours of walking and represents roughly a 985 feet descent.

 

Thorsmork (Þórsmörk) to Skogar

Thorsmork (Þórsmörk) to Skogar is a 12 mile stretch, and 328 feet net descent (with a 2,950 feet climb at its start). This is one of the shortest sections of the Laugavegur Trek but is susceptible to sudden weather changes across all seasons.  This varies too as you move through the physical features of Iceland, as the lowlands are more likely to have calm, fine conditions. There can be heavy winds and dark fog, and sometimes even snowstorms. Come prepared!

With a brief plateau in the middle, the Laugavegur Trek levels out at Fimmvorouhals pass. This will likely feature a lovely snow-layer into early peak season, as the pass sits between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Feel free to stop at this point – there is a hut just near the pass, including an emergency hut in the event of poor weather. Take note of this, just in case! Once you reach the Skoga river, you will see an array of waterfalls! Surely not to be missed, The Laugavegur Trek takes you to some of most beautiful places in Iceland!

 

Laugavegur Trail Routes

There are several options for those who wish to take on the Laugavegur Trail. The most popular route is traveling from Landmannalaugar to Skógar, or vice versa. Once you take the bus from Reykjavik, there are three main choices of where you can start your route through the trail:

 

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar, located in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, is one of the best places to see in Iceland. It is at the edge of Laugahraun lava field, which formed as the result of an eruption in 1477. This is the northernmost place to begin your journey along the trail, and is one of the most popular points to begin. Take note of the shops, which offer basics like groceries. There’s also a horseback riding options, if you feel like travelling in a new style! The Landmannalaugar trek is easy to access, with several bus services operating regularly to and from this region.

 

Thorsmork (Þórsmörk)

Thorsmork (Þórsmörk) is a mountain ridge, named for the Norse god Thor. This route, one of the best hikes in Iceland, sits in the south of Iceland between the glaciers: Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull. Another very popular destination to commence your journey, the river Krossa winds through scenic mountain vistas. The valley here lies closed in between glaciers, leading to a warm climate – better than much of southern Iceland! In this protected valley, you can enjoy the beauty of all the natural mosses, ferns, birchwood and more. Choose from a variety of tours from this location, including hiking on the glaciers through to trekking up the mountains, or exploring the canyons below. Views will be rewarding regardless of the weather! Coaches arrive daily from the capital.

 

Skógar

Skógar literally means “forests”, and is a pretty little Icelandic village of only 25 people. The area is known for its waterfall – Skogafoss. Sitting by the Skoga river, it springs dramatically from the top of an eroded cliff. Here you can find a folk museum which is open daily, all year round, as well as a transport museum. Nearby is the Kvernufoss fall, and there are a whole host of beautiful waterfalls upstream along the river. Skógar offers views of some incredible physical features of Iceland.

 

Laugavegur Trail Wildlife

While there is some wildlife on the trail, this trek is much more about wide open landscapes. Take in magnificent otherworldly vistas and the force of millions of years of geological activity – it’s much more about flora than fauna!

 

Laugavegur Trail Folklore

Iceland is home to a rich tapestry of folklore. Even in the center of tourist activity, stories of trolls, elves, ghosts, and mysterious creatures abound. Creatures reaching out to communicate with us humans – they live in every nook and cranny of this varied landscape. They are often considered friendly beings, helpful to locals, but there are also stories of mischief and misfortune.

Folklore along the trail includes stories of warning, entertainment, and more. They emphasis the grand forces of the natural world in this area, and investigate the mystery of the weather, landscape and more. The fields of lava, the fjords, mountainous territory and more are all present spectacular and awe-inspiring natural experiences – it’s easy to see how your imagination might get away with you! With the changeable landscape and brilliant color, the rich folklore of the trail compliments the natural world of Iceland.

 

Incredible natural beauty awaits you on your journey through Iceland. Trekking the world famous Laugavegur Trail offers an immersive experience into some of the most majestic landscapes on Earth. 

I look forward to seeing you on the trail.

Jeff

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about our Laugavegur Trail Adventure you can CLICK HERE!