hiking the laugavegur camping iceland
Iceland,  We12hike

Hiking the Laugavegur in Iceland

All you need to know about hiking the Laugavegur

Did you know that the Laugavegur is the busiest street in Iceland? And that’s it’s right in the heart of Reykjavik? Do not worry, I’m not going to write about that particular Laugavegur today. I’ll be talking about the better Laugavegur, the the most amazing trekking in Iceland, as far as we are concerned. You can “do the Laugavegur” in four days or you can do it in a couple of hours, if you participate in the marathon. Today we’ll share our experience about hiking the Laugavegur with you. I’m sure that after finishing this read, you’ll want to go, too!
 
So why is it this trail called Laugavegur then, you are probably wondering. Well, it’s the busiest walking trail in Iceland, that’s why. As is the Laugevegur in Reykjavík. OK, that’s not really true, because Laugavegur actually means “way of the hot pools”. However with our suggestions you should not worry, if you handle things wise you shouldn’t really have to be bothered by herds of other walkers at all. Our pictures are the proof of that!
 
The Laugavegur hiking trail is 55 kilometer long and stretches from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk. Both can easily be reached by bus from Reykjavík with Reykjavik Excursions. As we had already been to both places before two years earlier we decided to start walking straight away after arriving from Reykjavík, instead of staying in Landmannalaugar for a day or two.
 
hiking the laugavegur
 
Landmannalaugar is an incredibly scenic place. One like we have never seen anywhere else before. The surrounding rhyolite mountains are just gorgeous with all their shades of red and brown. In addition you can get lost in ancient lava fields and climb the blue mountain called Blahnukur. Yes, if you have some time to spare, make sure you will stay a bit longer in Landmannalaugar… if only for the hot pools that are great to warm up after a cold night in your tent. If you’re hiking the Laugavegur you will see a lot of Landmannalaugur but not even close to all.
 
hiking the laugavegur
 

Day 1. Landmannalaugar – Hrafntinnusker (12 km)

Time to start hiking the Laugavegur! The distance of the first day’s hike isn’t too long but it will still take you about three to four hours, especially because you’ll be taking plenty of photographs along the way. Most of today’s hike is uphill. The first part of the hike takes you through Laugahraun, an old lava field offering excellent photo opportunities. Once you get out of the lava field, a stunning panorama will open up in front of you. You will get up close and personal with the rhyolite mountains here, the ones that Landmannalaugar is famous for.
 
laugahraun hiking the laugavegur
From here, you will start to ascent the red mountain called Brennisteinsalda, or Sulphur Wave. This area is very geothermical, plumes of smoke raise from the ground in many places and the smell of rotten eggs is never far away. After reaching Brennisteinsalda you will have left most of the day hikers behind and the real fun can begin. From here, you will be climbing and descending various mountains. The views will become more and more awesome, especially once you are surrounded by nothing but mountains and plumes of smoke. It’s like you are in a completely different world, a world that cannot really exist.
 
landmannalaugar-martijnhiking the laugavegur brennisteinsalda

Bear in mind that there is usually still quite some snow on the track. We were hiking the Laugavegur by mid-August when you would expect the snow to be gone, however there was still quite a lot of it left. Colored black in many places meaning snow from the previous year, when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted. This part of the trail can also be very treacherous when it’s poor weather. People have gotten lost and even died on in this section. Even though it’s clearly marked by poles, Martijn did it once without any view and he couldn’t even see the next marker. There for always carry a GPS to ensure you are still on the track.
 
plume hiking the laugavegur
Eventually you will start another sturdy climb and finally, after about 4 hours of trekking, you will have reached your place for the night: Hrafntinnusker. This place is simply stunning! There are mountains all over and it is very mystical. And… incredibly cold since you are at 1.070 m (500 m higher than at Landmannalaugar). They have built places to camp out of rocks and it’s wise to pitch up your tent between the layers of rocks, to protect you from the wind. It will be a very chilly night!
 
hrafntinnuskerhrafntinnusker-camping
 

Day 2. Hrafntinnusker – Emstrur (28 km)

This route is actually two days combined, Hrafntinnusker to Alfavatn (“swan lake”) and Alfavatn to Emstrur. The trail to Alfavatn will take you over the Hrafntinnusker plateau you spent the night on. It means going up and down and up and down, through the little valleys and over the mountains. As I said earlier, there was still quite a lot of snow left and in those valleys you had to be incredible careful because underneath there was usually a river flowing as a result of the warmer temperatures, meaning that the snow bridge could collapse any time.
 
hiking the laugavegur alfavatn

hiking the laugavegur
After about two hours you will reach the end of the plateau and it’s time to descent to Alfavatn. The descent is pretty steep so be careful here and take your time. Once in the valley, you will have to wade through your first river. It’s a small one only so no need to worry just yet.
 
Alfavatn is a great place for an overnight or, in our case, a lunch break. From here, you will need to cross two more rivers until you get to the Hvangill hut. Here you will find another lava field and this marks the start of a black desert, called Mosar. It’s a couple of hours of more marching through nothing but black sand. Believe me, even knowing that you are in Iceland gets boring after a while. Especially when it also starts raining really bad…
 
river crossing laugavegurhiking the laugavegur
You gradually climb to a ridge, only realizing the hut is nowhere to be seen yet and descending again into the next valley. This goes on and one until, eventually, you reach Emstrur, which is  another stunning place for camping.
 

Day 3. Emstrur to Thórsmörk (15 kilometer)

Time to leave the black sand behind and march on to Thórsmörk. The day begins with a steep descent into a valley needing some rope and crossing a footbridge. From here, you will get views of the stunning Krossárjökull (jöküll means glacier) in the distance.
 
hiking the laugavegur iceland
 
glacier-viewemstrur
After a few hours hiking over high hills and 360 degree panoramic views you will reach another ridge. Down in the valley below lies the Throngá river, the most difficult to cross on this trek. The water is usually muddy (unlike the other rivers you have crossed) so you will have to rely on people before you to have picked the best spot for your crossing. In our case, the water came way above the knee but we’ve heard stories of people being in waist deep.
 
thronga river crossing while hiking the laugavegur
 
After you have waded through Thrónga, you will gradually make your way into Thórsmörk, a very pretty and green valley. After another hour and a half, you can congratulate yourself: you’ve made it! Our favorite place for camping is Langidalur, which is quite a bit further up into the valley. It doesn’t have many facilities but it’s much better than the crowded place at the hostel at Husadalur where everybody else stays…
 
thorsmork-camping river-day-2 day-3-b
 
If you have more time, you can continue to Skogar from here or make some days walks. Thórsmörk is great for hiking but generally not for the faint hearted ones. I loved hiking there but crossing some really steep scree slopes was pretty nerve wrecking from time to time.
 
So, what makes the Laugavegur the best hike in Iceland? We’d say its diversity! You walk from rhyolite mountains through lava fields and snow to black desert and eventually a green valley. You are surrounded by glaciers, wilderness and Icelandic loneliness. And yes, eventually you won’t be the only one but does that really matter?
 
As we promised we’ll give you some tips about how to make the trek as little with people as possible. Unless you go before or after the high season you will meet other people. It’s up to you what to do with it…

– Most people stay in Landmannalaugar for a night and will depart the next morning. We started hiking the Laugavegur at about 2.00 pm and most hikers had already left by then, which was really good as we barely saw anyone else that afternoon, other than some day hikers.

– Start early on the other days. By all means, everyone at the campsite wakes up at the same time and pretty much departs at the same time. If you wake up early, you may be able to beat the crowds. If you get into a crowd, just let them pass. Iceland is very photogenic; there will always be something to take a picture of.

– Take your time walking. There is no need to rush because, unless you are doing the marathon, it’s not a race. Along the way there are plenty of things to see and admire, being on your campsite at 1.00 pm already is not necessary. Remember it’s light for 24 hours in the beginning of the summer so you can start early and stay up late!

– Walk from Thórsmörk to Landmannalaugar. Most hikers do it the other way around, however not many go from South to North.
 

Some extra advice for hiking the Laugavegur:

– Bring all your food as you can’t purchase any other than in Landmannalaugar or Thórsmörk. Over here, expect to pay almost double price so it’s wise stocking up in Reykjavik.

– Check for bus times on the website of Reykjavik Excursions.

– Bring wading shoes. We used Crocs (not very reliable since I lost them in a crossing) but Teva’s or running shoes would be better. We saw people going through the rivers barefoot, not a wise idea.

– Always register at the huts to let the wardens know you have made it safe and sound. It’s for your own safety.
 
If we haven’t convinced you by now with our story and the pictures, I’m not sure how else we can make it clear. So just get out and do it and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!
 
distance of hiking the laugavegur
 
Want to read more about Iceland and/or our hiking trips? You may enjoy the following blogs, too:
Glacier hike on the Sólheimajökull – a must-do when in Iceland
How to do the Icelandic South Coast in one day!
Top destinations in Europe for experienced hikers
 
 
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Thanks for sharing!
 
[please note this article was first published in June 2014 and updated in June 2016]

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Anto is a 30-something outdoor fan who travels the world about 100 days a year, combined with a full-time office job. She loves to go hiking, enjoys a good class of wine and can usually be found with an iPhone in her hand. Favorite destinations: New Zealand, Patagonia, Austria and Alaska.

65 Comments

    • anto

      You can sleep comfortable all over Iceland, no worries Henry – I’m sure you’d love it, it’s a a very unique place and we’ve never heard from someone they didn’t like it…

  • Hannah

    Chances of getting lost, melting snow bridges, cold nights, an the smell of rotten eggs….sounds like a pretty epic adventure, totally worth it though from the looks of your photos!

  • Alli

    Wow… the photos actually look straight from a National Geographic magazine. Seriously. What a breathtaking experience this must have been! Iceland has just been bumped to the top of my “must visit” list! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Chris Boothman

    What an amazing experience it must be to hike the Laugavegur! Reading this post just makes me so ready to visit Iceland in December this year. We probably won’t be there long enough to do this hike, and December probably isn’t the best time either to do this but I am very envious of you being able to accomplish this. The pictures are stunning and I am sure that seeing the scenery and landscape in person is probably even more breathtaking than pictures can do it justice.

    • anto

      Wow – great to hear you are going to Iceland in December! This trail is actually closed from late September/ early October on but there will be plenty of other nice things to do, such as hoping to see the Northern Lights!!!

  • Dave Cole

    I am certainly convinced! How long is the hiking season for the Laugavegur? Does it stretch into September and October? I’ve been exploring the warmer parts of the world for a while and, once I arrange the funding, take some time to explore the Nordic areas. It sounds like the first thing I will need to buy is a GPS, then some quality hiking gear. I’ll be sure to leave the Crocs at home. Your shots of the terrain are very appealing and one of the best arguments to tackle this hike.

    • anto

      It’s a very short season Dave, usually only from June until early-mid September, depending on snow conditions. October I guess would be too late to go, which generally goes for the Nordic areas. We love going there but they all have a short season, we noticed in Norway that many hikes were still closed because of snow in early June and heard that many don’t open before mid July. If you want to go hiking, I’d definitely take this into consideration when planning your trip to this part of Europe!

  • Lauren

    Wow!!! You had me at Iceland. I really want to go there so badly. It really is amazing how the landscape changes all within the same hiking trail! Every photo is breathtaking!

  • Eva

    Great photo’s and good and valuable information. Can definitely use this for my Laugavegur trip in July. I can’t wait walking around in this amazing landscape. Thanks for this very complete blog about your experiences 🙂

  • Jay

    Amazing pictures and writing about Iceland. My co-workers always take a trip to Iceland but they never show me their pictures. It’s really a beautiful place and I like all the volcano smoke coming out of the holes. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rouven

    Though I’ve been to Iceland twice, I’ve never made it to the Highlands. But I guess I have to go there a third time (as if that wasn’t my intention already…) and hike along the Laugavegur. The pictures look amazing. I’ve done some hiking in Northern Scandinavia and Scotland, but this is truly impressive! And four days is just perfect.

  • Nicola

    Hey, thanks for sharing those details about Laugavegur. Me and my sister plan to do this hike in two months in August and it says in your description that you had been on the trek in August as well. Do you remember how long it takes until it gets dark at night? I was in Iceland last year in June when it did not get dark at all and I was just wondering how it would be in August, so that we can plan our trip properly. I’d really appreciate if you could get back at me when you do have time.

    Thanks,
    Nicola

    • Martijn

      Hi Nicola, Iceland is superb in August.
      The sun will go down around 22:00 and will rise again at around five in the morning. So don’t forget your (head)light.
      Two pluses; 1. the golden photo hour is not when your sleeping. 2. You have more change to see some (northern) stars.
      Enjoy your hike.

  • Sarah

    I am visiting Iceland in summer and your posts have been getting me so excited for the trip!! Thank you for all of your advice and beautiful photos!

    • anto

      Thanks Sarah! I hope you will have an amazing time (but I’m sure you will, Iceland is beautiful … we are heading back once again, too!)

  • Cathy

    Wow this is an incredible hike! Of course your description of continuing on makes me curious and excited for the “not for the faint hearted” warning:)

  • Enrique iribarne

    Thanks for your wonderful description!! We are going this July. We are camping. The question is: can we use the huts for cooking or do we have to cook outdoors with our camping stoves. In this case, how challenging is it with all the wind?

    • anto

      You’re welcome Enrique! Nope, you can’t go inside the huts to cook. In fact when camping, you can’t really go into the huts at all. They have some picknick tables at most places and some hiding places (such as where to pitch up the tent in one of the pics) so you’ll be find, it can just become a bit of a challenge from time to time. Have a great time!!

  • gillian reynolds

    HI. Thanks for your helpful descriptions and beautiful photos. I am worried about the 50 M narrow trail across a cliff near Heljarkambur. The Youtube video made it look horrendous!
    Any tips?

    • anto

      You’ll be fine, as long as you take the weather into consideration. We just came back from Iceland and canceled our planned hike over Fimmvorduhals because the weather was too poor. Have a great trip!

  • kaley

    My cousin and I are going to Iceland in June 2017. We’re interested in this hike, but I have a few questions I was hoping to get answered.
    1. Do I need to book a hike? We we’re planning on hiking it ourselves, but I wasn’t sure if it was a law that we must tell someone that we’re hiking the trail.
    2. If we’re pitching our own tent do we have to pitch it in designated spots or can we pitch wherever?
    3. Is a gps needed or will a map do?
    thank you so much!

    • anto

      Thanks for visiting our blog. Here are the answers to your questions:
      1. Nope you don’t need to book it, unless you want to sleep in the huts as they are usually fully booked. You can easily hike it yourself!
      2. Yes there are campsites, you are not allowed to just pitch it anywhere
      3. Bring a GPS! We had good weather on the trip we blogged about but Martijn had thick fog (not uncommon) and he couldn’t define the trail anymore and the next marker was too far to see. People have died on the track in poor weather so if you have a GPS, I definitely recommend bringing it.
      Hope this helps, let me know if you need any help at all 🙂

  • Sara

    Hi, very well done blog. I wanted to ask whether you think that it could be possible to do it with a 10 and 12 year old children. They are used to Alps and Dolomites, but I am not sure about crossing rivers…Thanks!Sara

    • anto

      Thanks Sara! Well it really depends on the water level I’d say and how tall they are. I mean, the water is quite strong but I’ve seen little girls do it (as in short) and they were fine. Use common sense and never let them cross by themselves. You could also check with Icelandic Mountain Guides who do guided trekkings what their recommendation would be for this! Good luck and I hope you can make it, it’s gorgeous!

  • Mickel

    I really enjoy reading your blog post. I am doing nearly the same hike this coming August. Since I will be tenting and bringing (maybe) my cooking system, one question I have is the wind. Is it often SO windy that cooking with a gas burner would be nearly impossible…at least hard enough that it is not worth the effort to cook outside?

    • anto

      Happy to hear that Mickel. Yes there is plenty of wind but we usually found a place to hide behind and cook. There are shelters in some place, too. So yes, do take your stove because it’s by far the easiest way to prepare your food. Have a lot of fun on the hike, you will love it for sure!

  • Michael

    Hey,
    I really like your Blog and am going to do the Trail myself this summer.
    So my question is, do you have to sign up by the rangers before you start walking as some other Blogs say?

    • anto

      Thans Michael! As far as I can remember, we never signed up with the rangers. You can check at the office in Landmannalaugar or Thorsmork though if it will be required for the season to come, but in the past it was not …

  • Heidi

    thanks for the great information! i was hoping to do this hike starting june 21 which i understand is cutting it a bit early, and was wondering how to find out when the trail “opens” this year? i’ve searched on google but wasn’t sure if there was some official source on this.

    • anto

      You’re welcome! I think that will be a bit early but please drop a line to fi@fi.is to check when they open the huts. There is no such thing as an official opening date of the trail but I was there early July last year and there still was a lot of snow left. I hope the guys at this email address will be able to help you and inform you of the current conditions. Cheers!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the blog! My friend and I are also planning to hike right around the same time in June of this year. I wanted to know how easy the trail is to follow or will it also be covered in snow? Also is there a special program I can download to my GPS for the trip?

    • anto

      Hi Jennifer! Last year there was a lot of snow left even in early July so you will definitely encounter that on the trail. There are polemarkers everywhere but once the snow is thick, that may get tricky. For current status, I’d recommend emailing to fi@fi.is to check when they open the huts and what the conditions of the track are, as it varies each year. What kind of GPS do you have? I’m not that much into them but can check with Martijn if we still have the tracks or where he downloaded them. Just let me know!

    • anto

      Thanks for your link, I will definitely check it out. It really depends, I have a DSLR which is way too heavy and a small Sony camera which isn’t as good as my DSLR of course. Most recently I just used my iPhone 6S which does good pics imho but for my upcoming trips I will be looking for a new and lighter camera to carry along!

  • Ioanna

    I’m glad I found this post! I am going to hike this trail in late July 🙂 I am really excited, although the wading through rivers is a bit anxiety-inducing… o_0

    Happy travels!
    Ioanna
    A Woman Afoot

  • Michael sommerauer

    Hey guys,

    so I’m starting my trip on the 2nd of July.
    I’d like to start in Skógar and add an extra day to the trip.

    Is there a cheap hotel or camping ground in Skógar where I can stay the first night, because I arrive in Skógar on the 1st in the afternoon.

    Thanks,
    Michael

    • anto

      Hi Michael,

      Sorry for the late reply. Yes you can pitch up your tent at the base of the Skógafoss easily, just in front of the trailhead. Super nice spot and hard to miss. Have fun on your trek, you’ll love it!

      Cheers,
      Anto

  • Marga

    Hi Anto, I read your comment about not being able to go into the huts while camping. I was just wondering, will there be electricity on the campsite? To charge your phone, etc?
    Love to hear. Marga

    • anto

      Hi, uhm not sure to be honest. I think they’ll have electricity in the huts. In Landmannalaugar I can’t recall having seen electric sockets last summer to be honest and this was by far the best campsite on the track. So I’d take a solar charger just to make sure. It may be that they have improved the sites but as I said, I don’t expect so. If you happen to find them this summer, feel free to let me know so I can update this blog. Cheers and have an amazing hike!

  • Marga

    Hi Anto, in the meantime I found another blog. It said that you can pay to use electricity in the huts for ca 7 euro. I’d rather not have the extra weight of a solar charger. It’s 14 kilogram allready if I’ve done the math right 😉
    I’ll let you know my own experience when I’m through.

    • anto

      Hi, ah okay thanks for the heads up Marga, much appreciated! Yes, I’d definitely choose to pay for it then, too. Have a safe trip and ENJOY! Bless bless!

  • Hayden Idrus

    HI Anto,
    My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Iceland at the end of July and would like to hike the laugavegur trail over 5 days (first night camped in laudmannalaugar to enjoy the hot spring and then stopping at Hrafntinnusker, Alftavatn, Emstrur, and finishing in Pormorsk). Although we have both camped when we were younger we don’t have any recent experience hiking and camping. We are both in good physical condition as our work requires us to be, so Im not concerned about that, but do you think this trail would be too difficult for inexperienced campers?

    • anto

      Hi Hayden! I think it will depend a lot on the weather circumstances, too, which can make it a little harsh. I’ve seen people do it with cheap gear and their tents got blown away. Iceland is not to be taken lightly as it can snow at anytime of the year and there may still be snow present on the trail. However, if you are fit and have enough stamina, you can certainly do this hike as plenty of people are walking it each year, even the more inexperienced ones. Just take it easy, make sure to know how to cross rivers by foot and bring plenty of food as there is none along the trek. What also helps is to start practicing with walking with a pack on your back for a few hours at a time. This is usually what makes it hard for people who don’t hike a lot. I hope this is of any help and good luck with your trek!

  • Daniel Klein

    Hi Hayden, I’m planning a late July, 2019 hike on this trail.

    2 questions:

    1-I’m bringing a tent for insurance but I’d like to know how do you arrange to book the huts?

    2-I’m also bringing a GPS. Is there a .gpx file I can get?

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