The Missing Guide for Laugavegur Trail

Updated: 2.1.2017

If you’re heading to Iceland for some adventurous hiking experience it’s very likely that Laugavegur Trail is on your top list.

The trail was officially opened in 1979 when Icelandic Touring Association publicly advertised as a 55km, 4 days trekking route from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk.

At the early beginning it was just a local thing but with time it became popular within foreign tourists visiting Iceland.

There are few good reasons why people like Laugavegur trail. First, because it has a diverse landscape to offer, second – it is possible to do it without hiring a guide and the third is the possibility to finish the trail in a short time.

If you have already made up your mind to do this trail, in this post you will find most useful tips how to prepare and what to know about the trail.

In 2013 National Geographic chose Laugavegur trail as one of the top 20 trails in the world.

First, I will discuss about the gear you need to have, detailed hiking plan, information about each campsite and the transportation options to get to the starting point.

Disclaimer: I am not taking any responsibility for your safety on the trail. For the latest weather updates about the trail, contact Iceland Touring AssociationAlso check the weather alerts on Safetravel.is. In case of emergency, call 112.

Gear for the Laugavegur Trail

It’s best to have as little as possible, but there are some things that are must to have, not only for your comfort but also for your safety.

Water/ wind proof clothing – weather is more unpredictable in highlands, so having a good shell layer, gloves and a hat would keep dry and comfortable.

Thermo clothing – wearing a thermo base layer will keep you warm and dry. It might feel cold at the beginning of the hike, but when you’re on intense hiking mode, you will warm up quickly. Never wear a cotton t-shirt underneath of it, or you will get cold.

Not sure what base and shell layers mean? Read: Layering Basics

Fleece or lightweight jacket – When you’re not on the move, it is very likely that you will get cold quickly. To keep yourself warm, it is a good idea to have a fleece or a lightweight dawn jacket that you could put on while you’re having a lunch or pitching up a tent.

Hiking boots If you’re planning to hike with a heavy backpack, hiking boots will give you an extra ankle support. Also it is a good way to keep your feet dry when crossing the streams and hiking boots have a better grip on a rough ground than a regular ones. If you’re not carrying your camping gear, light trail shoes could be a good choice as well.

River crossing footwear – Any cheap sneakers or slippers with an ankle support. If you’re thinking about flip flops – they are a bad idea. It might slip off your feet while river crossing and you would end up crossing it barefoot.

Map/ GPS You can get a trail map at most of the bookstores, but be aware that it could get foggy on a trail. In that case, it is good to have a GPS device with an uploaded trail map.

Food  To minimize the weight of your backpack it is good to carry with you freeze dried food. For more food ideas read Meal Planning Tips for Backpacking. Drinkable water is accessible at the campgrounds. Also drinking untreated water from crystal clear rivers is safe.

Hiking poles – It is not necessary, but very useful while trekking on steep hills and for the river crossing. Early in the hiking season (starts in the end of June) you might also need to use crampons.

Swimsuit Not important, but if you want to enjoy the hot spring at the Landmannalaugar, have it with you.

First Aid kit – It is good to have some basic first aid stuff, in case if you get minor injuries.

Camping gear For staying at the huts, you would only need a sleeping bag.

For camping you would need to bring with you all the essential gear by yourself.

These are the things I took with me on my last trip:

  • Tent – light but compatible for windy weather.
  • 1 x steel peg – to make holes in the ground, before attaching the tent with aluminum pegs.
  • Groundsheet – The ground in most of the campsites is very rough. Having a groundsheet will save your tent from being damaged.
  • Sleeping bag – not a bulky one, to save space for the other gear.
  • Sleeping mat – Foam mat could work, but air mat with insulation would be safer move to keep you warm.
  • Cooking set and stove – Campers do not get access to the cooking facility. To be able to have a hot meal, you should bring with you at least one pot with a lid and a hiking stove.

Other useful items: sunscreen, sunglasses and additional backpack straps.

If you don’t have some items or not willing to bring all the gear from your country, you can rent or buy outdoor equipment in Reykjavik.

p.s. Gear set might vary depending on the weather so please contact Iceland Touring Association at least one week prior to your departure, to find out what is the situation there.

Laugavegur hiking plan

Don’t worry it is not that complex. There are only two options. You either start from Landmannalaugar or from Þórsmörk. In my opinion starting from Landmannalaugar is a better way to go to be able to enjoy the beauty of the landscape in Landmannalaugar area before hiking high up the mountains.

Whatever you choose to do, the following trail plan can be also used for Þórmörk to Landmannalaugar direction.

Day 1

Landmannalaugar ->Hrafntinnusker (12km, estim. time 4-5h)

You start your trip from the biggest and most popular campsite of the whole trail. But don’t get overwhelmed, majority of the people are on their day tours, only small fraction of them are doing the whole trail.

Anyway, within one hour you will start seeing colorful mountains with sulphur ornaments that Landmannalaugar is famous for. Very soon there will be 470m elevation increase, so be ready for the snow patches that you will have to cross.

On of many hills – you can do it!

If you already feel exhausted, stay overnight at Hraftinnusker campsite. Just have in mind that it can get quite windy there.

If you’re not in a rush, approximately 2km. (30-40min. walk) from Hrafntinnusker campsite there is an ice cave.

Difficulty: 3/3

Day 2

Hraftinnusker -> Álftavatn (12km, estim. time 4-5h)

After having a chill night at Hrafntinnusker campsite, move along the black sand and enjoy the view of mountains surrounding you. In an hour or so, you will need to hike up the steep mountain from where you will be able to see the amazing view of a colorful landscape.

Colorful mountains at Landmannalaugar

On this part of the trail elevation level will decrease by 490m. Be extra cautious, there will be some very steep and dangerous parts of hiking route. There are at least two river crossings, for one of them you will have to change to your river crossing shoes.

You can either camp at Álftavatn or if you’re in a mood to hike more, reach a tiny but cozy Hvanngil campsite. Before heading further remember to check the latest weather forecast at the information hut.

Difficulty: 2/3

Day 3

Álftavatn -> Hvanngil (5km, 2-3h)

An easy 2-3 hours hike with one major river crossing. Most of the people choose to camp at Álftavatn. If you’re willing to be ahead of the big groups, do this part on day two. There are several river crossings.

One of the river crossing on the way to Hvanngil.

Difficulty: 1/3

Hvanngil -> Emstrur (10km, 4-5h)

It is probably the easiest and flattest part of the hike. However, do not underestimate the danger. Within 2km from the campground, you would need to cross Bratthálskvísl river. Sometimes it can get very torrential. In that case, hiking poles would be your best friend to sustain the balance while crossing it.

Warning about Bratthálskvísl river.

People at Hvanngil campground can provide you with the latest weather forecast and tips about crossing the river. When you successfully cross the river, follow the gravel road until you start seeing blue poles again.

Difficulty: 1/3

Day 4

Emstrur -> Þórsmörk* (15km, 6-7h)

After three days of various landscapes and difficult trails, the way from Emstrur and Þórsmörk is more of hiking down than up the hill. There are, however, several obstacles like bridge crossing (you’ll need to use a rope, to reach it) and very close to the Þórsmörk campground wide river channel.

River crossing close to Þórsmörk*Arrival destination: Þórsmörk Húsadalur. For Básar campground you would have to hike extra 6km.

Difficulty: 2/3

Campsites and Huts on Laugavegur Trail

There are seven different campgrounds located on Laugavegur trail (Landmannalaugar to Þórmörk). All of them are reached by following the regular trail marked with blue color, except for Básar you would have to make a detour. All campsites offer huts with cooking facilities (only for hut guests).

Some of them have shower facility and trash bins, others don’t. None of them sell gas, food or any other type of necessities except at the Húsadalur (Þórsmörk).

When you arrive to the campground where you’re planning to camp, find a warden and do the payment. The price will be per person.

Have in mind that wild camping outside campsites are forbidden and only acceptable in the case of danger to go forward.

p.s. Even though I have mentioned opening periods of the campgrounds, opening and closing days are never known in advance. It depends on the snow melting and when the mountain roads open and close again.

Landmannalaugar

One of the most popular places of the highlands, not only by Laugavegur Trail hikers but also those who go there for sightseeing or half day hikes. The campground is big but rocky. It might be hard to attach your tent to the ground, so you might need to use some rocks to keep it grounded.

There are over 110 sleeping places at the huts. Hot shower and restroom is available for a small fee. If you arrive early you can also spend an hour or two at the hot springs pool located only few meters from the restroom facility.

Opening period:  16 June – 1 October

GPS point: N63° 59′ 26.019″ W19° 3′ 40.258″

Telephone: +354 568 2533

Hrafntinnusker

Located 1128km above the sea level is the most remote campsite on Laugavegur trail, which means that there are not many facilities available. There are however, restrooms and cold running water and cooking area for hut guests. You’ll need to carry your own trash all the way to Hvanngil campground.

The hut is for up to 20 people.

If you’re camping there, there are some man-made rock walls that protect your tent from strong winds. To have a higher chance to pitch your tent close to one of those, you would have to be at the campsite as early as possible.

We had to use some heavy stones to keep our tent grounded.

Opening period:  20 June – 10 September

GPS point: N63° 55′ 59.630″ W19° 10′ 4.738″

Telephone: +354 568 2533

Álftavatn

Located in the valley next to the Álftavatn lake. It is a popular destination for Icelandic fishermen who come there on 4×4 jeeps.

Cold water, restrooms, and some tables for a picnic are available. Hot shower is available on demand by paying a small fee.  Huts accommodate 58 people.

Opening period: 20 June – 10 September

GPS point: N63° 51′ 26.125″ W19° 13′ 36.003″

Telephone +354 568-2533

Hvanngil

Little but cozy campground that is popular by local horse riders. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see some horses resting after a long day ride. The hut offers accommodation up to 70 people, spread in four different rooms. Next to the restrooms you will find trash containers where you can bin your trash. Hot shower is available on request for a small fee.

Opening period: 20 June – 10 September

GPS point: N63° 49′ 54.603″ W19° 12′ 17.163″

Telephone +354 568-2533

Emstrur (Botnar)

Located in a narrow river valley, it accommodates 40 hut guests. If you want to get a good camping spot, be there early. Cold water and restrooms are available for free, hot shower for a small fee.

Emstrur campground, the trail up the hill leads you to Þórsmörk.

GPS point: N63° 45′ 57.877″ W19° 22′ 25.462″

Telephone +354 568-2533

Þórsmörk – Húsadalur (Volcano Huts)

The huts can house over 100 people and there is plenty of space for camping. Also, it is the only campsite where you can buy some snacks and have a proper breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Lava Grill Restaurant & Bar. Besides that there are hot showers, sauna, outdoor pool…but of course you would need to pay for it.

Opening period: 1 May – 15 October

GPS point: N 63° 41.506′  W19° 32.502′

Telephone: +354 552-8300

Þórsmörk – Básar

Located 6km away from Húsadalur. The huts accommodate 80-90 people. Cold water, restrooms and hot showers on demand are available for a small fee. Like in Húsadalur, campsite is covered in grass.

Opening period: 1 May – 30 September

GPS point: N63°40′ 559″ W19° 29′ 014″

Telephone: +354 562-1000

How to get to Þórsmörk or Landmannalaugar

As I mentioned before, Laugavegur trail can be done from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk or opposite. There are buses that go both directions. Some of them stop at the campsites that are in the middle of the trail.

At the moment there are three different bus operators that service Laugavegur trail. Those are Reykjavik Excursions, Sterna and Trex.

If you’re not sure when you are planning to return or just want to have a flexible return ticket, it is a good idea to buy a hiking bus pass. It only requires you to choose departure day and time from Reykjavik, but your return ticket gives you a priority to get a seat in any scheduled bus, any day of the week.

Some details about hiking passes from each operator:

Trex Hiker’s Bus Pass

Operates from 15th  of June until 17th of  September.

Transfer options to Landmannalaugar, Rjúpnavellir, Þórsmörk or Skógar. All the same departure locations are available for the way back to the city.

Purchase Ticket – Timetable

Sterna’s The Highland Hikers Passport

Operates from 20th of June until 9th of September.

It can transfer you to Þórsmörk or Landmannalaugar and back to Reykjavik from the end point.

Purchase Ticket  – Timetable 1 (Reykjavik – Landmannalaugar), Timetable 2 (Þórsmörk – Reykjavik)

Reykjavik Excursion’s Hiking Passport

Operates from 13th of June – 7th of  September

Just like other two operators, it stops at Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk, but between 27th of  June and 31st of August it also stops at Álftavatn, Hvanngil and Emstrur at the campgrounds located on Laugavegur trail.

Purchase Ticket – Timetable (PDF)

Last words

I hope this information was useful and will be helpful to plan your upcoming Laugavegur Trail trip!

If there is something that I could go deeper into or I have forgotten to mention something very important, please let me know in the comment section below and I would do my best to provide you with an update.

 

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