The Laugavegur Hiking Trail in Iceland
When it comes to explaining why the Laugavegur trail is so popular, there are too many reasons to count. It could have something to do with the multi-colored highlands or the volcanic springs, both of which showcase a surreal natural world that doesn’t exist anywhere else. This enchanting trail takes you through a vibrant landscape and to the heart of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the south Icelandic highlands.
What is the Laugavegur Hiking Trail?
Laugavegur is a hiking trail in the Fjallabak region of the highlands of south Iceland. Traditionally, the Laugavegur trek begins in the yellow and orange rhyolite hills of Landmannalaugar, and winds over rocky terrain through to Þórsmörk. Some trails take you the entire way, from Landmannalaugar to Skógar on the south side of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The classic route runs from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk and takes between 4 and 5 days to complete. Those hiking from Landmannalaugar to Skógar can enjoy a full 7-day trek.
Here is the day-to-day itinerary on the Classic Laugavegur Trek:
Day 1: Reykjavik - Landmannalaugar - Hike to Hrafntinnusker (Obsidian Skerry)
Day 2: Hike from Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn lake
Day 3: Álftavatn Lake to Emstur via the Mælifellssandur black sand desert
Day 4: Emstur to Thorsmork and final BBQ dinner
Day 5: Thorsmork to Reykjavik
Tour options for the Laugavegur Trek
There are more than one variation of the Laugavegur hiking trail, which all offer different highlights.
Laugavegur Classic Trek
On this popular tour, hike the classic route from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk in 5 days.
The Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls Combo
This 7-day adventure takes you to Skógarfoss waterfall and over Fimmvörðuháls pass, which runs between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.
The 4-Day Laugavegur Basic
This hike has you on the trail for 4 days. Luggage transport is not available, but supplies are provided along the trail.
Do I need a guide to hike from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk?
The terrain on the Laugavegur trail is vast and diverse, but luckily, the basic trail is marked the entire way and easy to follow. For the more complicated side routes, it is better to follow a guide, who will point out all the natural phenomena that an untrained eye might miss. A local guide will also share with you all the insights about life in Iceland and Icelanders. Besides, travelling in a group of like-minded people from all over the world will add to your experience.
Self-guided option or add Greenland
Those who are confident with their hiking and navigation skills can explore the trail at their own pace when they choose to go on a self-guided option. Other adventurers might want to combine their adventure with a 5-day trek in Greenland.
How do I get to Landmannalaugar to start the Laugavegur hiking trail?
Landmannalaugar is 182km away from Reykjavik, and there are several ways you can reach it.
If you are going on an organized tour with a company, bus transport from Reykjavik is included.
A public bus regularly runs from the BSI bus terminal in Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar, taking approximately 4 hours. During the summer, the bus takes you through the mountains for some spectacular views. For some guided tours, there will be a pre-determined time where you will meet your guide at the BSI terminal before departing.
Experienced drivers will relish the chance to have a completely independent driving trip to Landmannalaugar. You will also need someone else with you to take the car back once you have arrived. Make sure you have a 4x4 vehicle and experience with crossing rivers before setting off. The drive will take around 3 hours, and you can enjoy the passing scenery at your own pace. Take Route 1 to Route 26 (Landvegur). Continue on Route 26 and turn right at Landmannaleið. From here, you will spot signs to Landmannalaugar.
What do I pack for hiking the Laugavegur trail?
You always need layers when visiting Iceland, but days spent hiking the Laugavegur trail mean you will be exposed to the temperamental elements. You will need to pack the right clothes, shoes, and equipment if you want to make the most of your tour. On all Laugavegur trail tours, you will need:
Waterproof jacket. Though you’ll be hiking the trail in the summer, you will still need a light, waterproof jacket to shelter you from the rain.
Sturdy hiking boots. You will be hiking over long distances, making comfortable hiking boots an essential item. It is best if they are waterproof or GORE-TEX.
Layers. Outsmart fickle Iceland weather by packing layers that you can easily take off.
-Fleece or wool sweater.
Weatherproof trousers. Along with flexible, breathable pants, you will also need some weatherproof trousers that you can quickly pull on when it starts to rain.
Woolen essentials. Summer means warmer days, but hiking in the highlands can expose you to biting temperatures. Pack your best gloves and hat to avoid discomfort.
A swimsuit and towel. You can bathe in the hot springs at the beginning of the tour, so make sure you keep a swimsuit and towel on hand for this part of the tour.
Day pack. Aside from your larger duffel bag, you will need a light day pack to keep all your essentials close to hand.
Sleeping bag. The huts do not provide sleeping bags, so you will need a thick sleep sack for cold evenings. On the Laugavegur Basic tour, sleeping bags are provided.
Towels. We don’t mean pack your plush bathroom towels, but a lightweight microfibre one.
Sun protection. You’ll be spending lots of time outdoors, so bring some sturdy sunglasses, sunscreen, and SPF lip balm.
Water container. Do your part to save the environment by bringing a water container, such as a steel flask, to reduce the use of plastic.
Lunch box. Don’t be surprised if you are hungrier than usual on the trail. Food is provided on all guided tours, but you will need to pack some energy-boosting food for daytime snacks on the go.
First aid kit. Any medical prescriptions, personal care items and blister care packs should make up your first aid kit.
Is there luggage transport available when hiking the trail?
We understand that you don’t want to be hiking the Laugavegur trail with a heavy bag on your back, which is why a luggage transport option is available on some tours. This transport is included on the Laugavegur Classic Trek and the first part of the Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuhals Combo Tour.
On self-guided tours, luggage transport is available on selected dates at an additional cost. On the Laugavegur Basic Trek, you will be using equipment that is stored in the huts. If you want to save time, money, and want a lighter, sportier hike, this is an ideal option for you.
Is the Laugavegur trail family friendly?
Since the terrain along the Laugavegur trail is so challenging, people are always pleasantly surprised to learn that hiking it can be a family activity. Providing children are at least 14 years old, they can accompany the adults in their family on some eye-opening tours across the rolling mountains of Iceland.
The minimum age requirement on the Laugavegur Trail Self-Guided tour is 7 years old.
Can solo travelers hike the trail?
Solo travelers are more than welcome to hike the trail. There is no single supplement required, as this group tour is made up of various numbers of visitors. Although you arrive solo, you will be hiking with a small group of keen explorers. Expect to be welcomed into an inviting tour family for at least a few days.
When is the best time to hike the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland?
It is no secret that the Icelandic highland landscape is more accessible in the warmer, summer months, and the Laugavegur trail is no exception. Generally speaking, you can hike the trail whenever the roads to the highlands are open, which is usually from June to September. Catch the hustle and bustle of peak season during July and August, when visitors flock to the trail. To avoid the crowds, you can experience the same golden summer scenery towards mid-September. Keep in mind that visiting at this time means shorter days and colder nights.
Bear in mind that the trek is not offered in winter, and huts are closed from October to May. There is a possibility of visiting Landmannalaugar in winter, but only for cross country skiing or in a super jeep.
Accommodations along the Laugavegur hiking trail
The Laugavegur trail’s length means that travelers can enjoy an abundance of natural attractions and several accommodation options along the trail:
A popular option for travelers is getting a bunk in a hut. Huts are sleeping bag accommodations, which saves you having to carry a heavy tent on your hike and also protects you from rainy and windy evenings. The huts are open during the summer season and are located in Landmannalaugar, Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Botnar and Þórsmörk. You will have no trouble finding them on both guided and self-guided tours. Make sure to book ahead if you are traveling in peak season on a self-guided tour.
For those who wish to sleep close to nature, designated camping areas can be found along the trail. Make sure not to sleep outside of those areas, as you don’t want to impact the beautiful environment you’re exploring negatively.
Does the Laugavegur hiking trail have hot springs to bathe in?
If there’s one thing every traveler dreams of one day doing, it’s taking a dip in one of Iceland’s soothing, hot springs. You’ll be pleased to know that amongst the steaming lava and mossy hills, there are some natural hot springs at the start of the trail, in Landmannalaugar. Laugavegur literally means ‘Hot Spring Route’ for this very reason.