The first leg of the trail is from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker mountain (or Obsidian Skerry), a rocky mountain top that is also the highest point of the hike. This first day is only about 12 km, but it’s all uphill. On the way, you walk past bubbling hot springs and steaming ground up to the yellow hills above Landmannalaugar. At Stórihver (Big Hot Spring) the climb begins to be steeper and the green moss gives way to rocky ground and often some snow, even in July! Some people take the first two legs in one day but that gives you a long 25 km day!
From Hrafntinnusker, the trail is mostly downhill even though the path goes up and down over gullies and hills, and although the surroundings are moonlike you might find some fragile plant life if you pay special attention. On the second leg we also come across the few first rivers that have to be forded on the way. The first ones are usually not too deep but it is still necessary to take off the hiking boots and put on the river crossing shoes.
The Álftavatn huts sit by the lake Álftavatn (The name refers to Whooper swans that used to be hunted there in the 19th century). The lake sits in a green valley and has high mountains on either side. A beautiful spot to spend the night!
On the third leg, the landscape begins to change dramatically as we leave the greens of Álftavatn and head into the sands of Mælifellssandur. During the first half of this day, the hiking rhythm is broken up a few times with a couple of river crossings but the scenery is incredible. When coming to Emstrur the great canyon of Markarfjótsgljúfur merits a detour to the right of the trail. The river Markarfljót, which is about 100km long, has carved this canyon which at this point is about 200 m deep so from the top you can look down on fulmars (bird species) soaring between the rocky cliffs. A nice evening stroll from the Botnar huts in Emstur to the canyon is also the perfect way to end this day and enjoy this majestic place.