According to National Geographic, the Laugavegur Trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in the world. At 55km long, from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk, this hiking trail is one of the most spectacular and traveled by hundreds of mountain lovers every summer. In this post we will talk about this trekking and its peculiarities to help trekking lovers as much as possible who are looking for information about it.
Original trail: from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk
This route of approximately 55km connects the geothermal area of Landmannalaugar with the valley of the God of Thunder, Þórsmörk. This trail is called “Laugavegurinn” (translated as “The Way to the Thermal Baths”), but it has been popularly called the “Laugavegur Trail” or the “Landmannalaugar Trail”.
The route can be done in 4-5 days if we go to 1 stage per day, in 2 days if we double stages and in 1 day if we do the Laugavegurinn Marathon.
Before starting the route, as ex-guards of one of the iconic refuges, we always encourage travelers to notify the guards that you are going to do the trekking route.
The stages of the route are as follows:
1. From Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (12km / 7,45mi)
At the initial Laugavegur mountain hut, the Landmannalaugar hut, our hiking trail begins. Once we have approached the information point to indicate that we are going to the next mountain hut (Hrafntinnusker), we can begin our journey. The path begins just behind the refuge, ascends to the lava fields and crosses them to the slopes of the Brennisteinsalda volcano. We ascend the slope of it and continue towards the Stórihver geothermal area. Little by little, the smoky terrain will gradually change to lava fields with pieces of obsidian on the ground. A few km from the Hrafntinnusker mountain hut there is a memorial of a hiker who, after ignoring the advice of the refuge guards, decided to venture to the next stage in the middle of a storm.
Hrafntinnusker’s hut is one of the most basic and spartan of all, but certainly the views on a clear night (with midnight sun) are spectacular.
2. From Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (or Hvanngil) (12km / 7,45mi)
We continue with the second stage of the trek. Today we find a terrain difficult to intuit and through which to navigate, due to the snow at the beginning of the stage and the mud of the geothermal areas. The landscape rapidly changes from geothermal zones to tortuous mountain scenery to the balcony, from where we will have the first view of our destination today: Álftavatn. Once here, the path is boxed into the valley, we descend until we cross a river barefoot for the first time. After this we head through a plain of a glacial valley, to the mountain hut and the lake of Álftavatn.
Álftavatn’s mountain hut is spacious and very comfortable. Outside the hut, next to the wardens’ cabin, there is also a bar and a small mountain restaurant where they serve hot food.
3. From Álftavatn to Emstrur-Botnar (15km / 9,3mi)
Dawn rises in Álftavatn. We put our backpacks on our back and started walking towards Hvanngil (approx. 4km / 2.5mi). On the way, we will first have to wade a small river a few kilometers from Álftavatn, and after crossing through Hvanngil and seeing ourselves immersed in the black desert, we will cross two other rivers (the first through a bridge, and the second barefoot). The black desert is marked by two mountains: the beginning is marked by the Stóra Súla, and the end is marked by the Hattafell volcano.
Through today’s path we will encounter sandstorms (if we have windy weather), glacial rivers that create spectacular waterfalls and huge forests of Silene Acaulis and Armeria Maritima.
After crossing the Hattafell, we slowly descend towards the Emstrur canyon, where the Botnar mountain hut, our destination, is located. If we arrive early, next to the descent to the refuge there is a path that takes us to the Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon, from where we can obtain spectacular views.
4. From Emstrur-Botnar to Þórsmörk (15km / 9,3mi)
The last stage of the classic Laugavegur trek takes us from the Botnar mountain hut to the Langidalur hut, in Thor’s valley, Þórsmörk (also spelled Thórsmörk). Today we start crossing the campsite next to the refuge, and after that we will walk through the hills that descend to the canyon of the Fremri-Emstruá river. We will cross the canyon through a small bridge and head towards the hills that rise through Sandar until the gray dunes of volcanic sendiment begin to transform into an incredible orchard full of life. After crossing the last (and largest) river on foot, we will reach the forests of Þórsmörk, home of the Arctic fox.
In Þórsmörk there are 3 hut: Langidalur hut, Básar hut and Volcano Huts. The original refuge is the Langidalur hut. A large, spacious refuge in a privileged environment.
If you’ve made it this far … CONGRATULATIONS! You have completed the 55km of the Laugavegur classic trail.
Other alternatives to extend the trail
- Stay one night in Landmannalaugar at the beginning and take the chance to ascend the Bláhnúkur volcano and take a bath in the natural hot springs next to the refuge.
- Continue towards Fimmvörðuháls and from there descend towards Skógafoss. This adds 2 more stages to the journey and is called the “Fimmvörðuháls trail”. They are the most alpine and hardest stages of the whole trip without a doubt. Volcanic terrain, petrified lava fields from the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, vertical canyons and areas where we use chains to help us progress. Not suitable for people with height fear!
- Extend the trek to unknown areas. 55km? Let’s do a 130km route! Our Hidden Trails trip makes a trek in which we discover all the wonders of the Highlands in a 12-day tour, we will spend 2 nights in Landmannalaugar and, from there, we will go to more remote areas that will connect with the Laugavegur trek to Þórsmörk. A unique experience for lovers of wild trekking and in an environment away from the crowds of Laugavegur.
Where can I sleep during the trail?
During the trekking days we can choose to sleep in the mountain huts of Ferðafélag Íslands or camp next to them. Wild camping is prohibited unless there is no other option. The shelters available are:
- Landmannalaugar mountain hut. Stage 0
- Hrafntinnusker mountain hut. Stage 1
- Álftavatn mountain hut. Stage 2
- Emstrur-Botnar mountain hut. Stage 3
- Langidalur mountain hut. Stage 4
Important: The mountain huts must be booked in advance. Many travel agencies reserve these shelters months in advance, so it is possible that if you do not have a reservation, you will not be able to access the facilities.
Food during the trail
It is important to know that the huts in Iceland differ greatly from the concept of huts in Europe. None of them (except in Álftavatn) serve food. They do not have a restaurant or cafeteria. During our time as wardens at the Landmannalaugar mountain hut we have seen many hikers arrive without food to the hut, hoping to eat a warm meals.
The wardens sell snacks or dry food, but there is no kitchen with staff working. In the huts there are kitchens and if you sleep in them you have the right to use the facilities.