Volcanic Trails 2: The Backroad to Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar highlands
Arinbjörn Hauksson
Highlands Horizons

This is the last in a series of posts about the epic Volcanic Trails. You can choose to take only part one or only part two. Additionally, you can do the complete trekThe Volcanic Trails are a lesser-known set of trails in the Highlands of Iceland that make a very interesting alternative to the classic Laugavegur trail. 

From the Explorer’s peak to the Canyon of Fire and then to Strutur trail in part 1 and now beyond. The final stretch of the Volcanic Trails sees you up into the hills of the Fjallabak region, completing the journey at the Highland oasis Landmannalaugar, with mountain huts at every step of the way!

Icelandic Highlands in bloom
Arinbjörn Hauksson
Icelandic Highlands in bloom

The Going

The trails covers a total distance of 38 kilometers (24 miles) at an altitude of 600-900 meters (2000-3000 ft) and with a maximum ascent of 400 m (1300 ft).

We define this trek as difficulty level of 3, which we classify as 3/5 “Challenging”: 

Suits those that are physically active and have some background in basic traveling in mountainous terrain with a backpack. 6-7 hrs walks per day.

Icelandic Mountain Guides

The Backroad to Landmannalaugar: Day-by-Day

Rhyolite Screes
Craig Downing
Rhyolite Screes

Day 1: to the Swan Lake

You start by making a trip to Álftavatn, or “Swan lake”. It’s an amazing ride up there, watching the landscape morph, twist and change, becoming more rugged as you move into the wonderful Highlands, mads more remarkable by the fact that this region is only truly accessible for 2/3 months out of the year. You arrive here, at what would be the second hut of the Laugavegur Trail, on the way down from Landmannalaugar. However, you will be travelling in the opposite direction to everybody else; your journey is a different, less-travelled one. 

Man in a big lake surrounded by mountains
Craig Downing
This is our kind of a rest stop!

Day 2: Álftavatn – Dalakofinn

On this day, you will walk west through a geothermal wonderland, steam rising everywhere. The table mountain Laufafell dominates the landscape, a stark contrast to the yellow and orange Rhyolite screes. One more colour to add to the Highland kaleidoscope. Let your mind wonder as your feet take you step by step in the right direction. Finally, you stop in a mountain hut for a well-earned meal and a much-needed rest.

Highland symmetry reflection in water
Arinbjörn Hauksson
Highland symmetry

Day 3: Dalakofinn – Landmannalaugar - Reykjavík

This is the day that you will reach Landmannalaugar, the home stretch. On the way, we pass the Reykjadalur valley, vast fields over Obsidian lava, Hrafntinnuhraun (Hrafntinnu = obsidian/ hraun = lava) and the impressive peaks of Suðurnámur and Brennisteinsalda, a mere kilometer from Landmannalaugar. The final part of the trek takes you through Laugahraun (washing lava), at the end of which you will find Landmannalauagar, one of the finest natural sites in Iceland. 

However, you may not want to be thinking about carrying on a hike after you have just finished a hike like this. Fortunately, Landmannalaugar has a very hot, very natural hot river where you can bath and ease away your pains from the trail. 

On the way back to Reykjavik will have you discovering more Highland landscape as the land gradually moves back down to sea level.

Two people walking toward the camping grounds in Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic highlands
Arinbjörn Hauksson
Landmannalaugar in Sight!

Hike with Environmental Stewards

When you hike through the Icelandic Highlands with Icelandic Mountain Guides, rest assured that you are hiking with environmental stewards

As environmental stewards in Iceland, we take a proactive approach to preserve the trail and the surrounding nature by allocating a percentage of the tour price for each passenger to our Environmental Fund. With us, you get to experience these amazing trails and minimize your environmental impact.

Icelandic Mountain Guides Environmental Policy

The Volcanic Trails await!

Experience the highlands as very few people do, move in the opposite direction to the others: take the road less travelled.  Experience the Highlands with environmental stewards, experience the Volcanic Trails with Icelandic Mountain Guides, your trusted expert in all things Iceland and all things wilderness.

Enjoying the blog? Keep me posted!

If you feel like the volcanic trails might be up your mountain, volcano or river (see what we did there?) but you have a few more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team will be happy to answer any questions you might have!

And, by the way, how’s the blog? Enjoying it? If so, we can keep you posted and up to date with the latest info, tips, tricks and travel advice from Iceland’s most awarded adventure tour company. You’ll get a monthly newsletter with a nice little roundup of the posts that we have put out.

About the Author

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Hailing from London and born into a British/Brazilian/Italian household, Joseph came to Iceland originally to complete a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Iceland: the rest is history.

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