Volcanic Trails 3: The Backroad to Landmannalaugar

29. May 2018
Arinbjörn Hauksson
Highlands Horizons

This is the last in a three-post series where we have been documenting the stages of the Volcanic Trails. The 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, part 1, and then to Strutur trail, part 2, and now beyond. The third and 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!

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

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. 

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.

Arinbjörn Hauksson
Highland symmetry

Day 3: Dalakofinn – Landmannalaugar 

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. 

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

Day 4: back to Reykjavik

There’s a huge amount to see in Landmannalauagar, and it would be a pity not to check out the surrounding area before we head off: so that’s exactly what we do! On the fourth and final day, we will have the chance to summit one/some of the peaks we saw on the way into Landmannalaugar the previous day: Bláhnúkur 940 m (3,080 ft) and Brennisteinsalda 855 m (2,805 ft).

Bare in mind that Landmannalaugar itself actually lies at an altitude of approximately 500 meters (1640 ft.), so these peaks are not as extreme as they sound. The way back to Reykjavik will have you discovering more Highland landscape as the land gradually moves back down to sea level.

Arinbjörn Hauksson
Colours of the Highlands

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 1% 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 content writer for Icelandic Mountain Guides

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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