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The Laugavegur trail is Iceland’s most famous and most visited hiking trail and often receives international acclaim for being one of the world’s best trails. Featuring multicoloured rhyolite mountains, volcanic deserts of black sand, vibrant green meadows, and crystal ice caves, a journey along the Laugavegur hiking trail will bring you experiences and sights like nowhere else on earth.
The trail runs about 55 km (34 mi) long, from the area of Landmannalaugar, with its volcanic landscape and relaxing hot springs, all the way to the glacial valley of Thórsmörk (Þórsmörk meaning ‘Thor’s Wood’). If you are looking to tackle short day hikes, then please read the top 6 hiking trails in Landmannalaugar.
Read on to discover what makes the Laugavegur trail worth visiting and how to make the most of your trek.
- Swimming in the hot springs at Landmannalaugar.
- Wading your way through rivers along the trail.
- Experiencing the rainbow of colours from the mountain ranges.
- Climbing through ice caves near Hrafntinnusker.
- The weather can be quite unpredictable, no matter the season. You must be prepared for low temperatures, heavy rain and wind, and sometimes snow (yes, even in the summer months).
- Trek difficulty: Moderate to challenging. This trail requires endurance. A high fitness level is recommended.
- Trek duration: It will take you about three to four days to trek the entire Laugavegur trail. If you are not pressed for time and want to enjoy all the area has to offer, you can add a few extra days. This would allow you to explore additional trails branching off from Thórsmörk, or you can spend an extra day or two at the base camp in Landmannalaugar.
- Best season for hiking: The Laugavegur trek is only easily accessible for about two or three months, typically mid-June to mid-September (though we recommend waiting until at least mid-July in the event of a harsh winter). Outside these times, it is very difficult to reach the start and end points of the trail.
- Remoteness: Laugavegur is a very popular trail, so while the area is quite remote you are unlikely to be alone in your travels, especially if visiting between the end of June and late August. The trail is visibly and regularly marked (about every 200m). Regardless, it is always important to bring adequate food and proper hiking gear.
- Altitudes and temperatures: The highest point on this trek is 1059 m, with elevation changes of anywhere from 40 m to 490 m each day. The area is prone to quick and sudden changes in weather causing rapid fluctuations in temperature. Always check the weather forecast before you leave. Some areas will be covered in snow, even in the summertime, so be sure to dress accordingly.
- Accommodation: Several huts can be found along the Laugavegur trail that cost about 6500 kr per night. The most common stops include Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil and Emstrur. These huts include heating, beds, kitchen utensils, and bathroom facilities. Some also include hot showers. Since Laugavegur trek is a world-famous trail, demand for the limited accommodation options along its path is quite high, making it difficult to reserve huts at short notice during high season. Therefore, we advise booking as far in advance as possible. Your other option is to camp, which can be done outside the main huts for about 1200 kr per night. You can also normally use the kitchens in the huts for an additional 500 kr per night.
- Start and end locations: Since this is a linear trek, there are two options: you can start in Thórsmörk and end in Landmannalaugar (south to north), or vice versa. The most popular route is north to south – Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk – as Landmannalaugar is about 300 m higher in elevation than Thórsmörk. Either way, both locations are easily accessible from Reykjavik.
- Permits: No permits required.
Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (about 12 km, 4–5 hours)
Leaving the hut in Landmannalaugar, follow the trail across the Laugahraun (a rocky, black lava field) before climbing up the colourful slopes of the Brennisteinsalda volcano. Walking across its plateau for about three to four hours, you will eventually reach the Stórihver hot springs. The path to the Höskuldsskáli hut, where you will stop for the night, will likely be covered in snow but should be clearly marked. If you still have energy remaining, visit the nearby ice caves - just 1.5 km from the hut.
Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (about 12 km, 4–5 hours)
As you begin your second day, follow the trail through a valley with some small ravines. You will notice a sudden change in scenery, leaving the colourful rhyolite mountains behind for darker palagonite mountains and glaciers, as well as some green vegetation. As you head down through Jökultungur, the green grazing area, the path becomes steeper and eventually leads to the river Grashagakvísl. After passing the river, follow the trail until you reach the huts at lake Álftavatn.
Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur (Botnar) (about 15 km, 6–7 hours)
Today involves a bit more walking than the previous two days. Follow the trail over the Brattháls ridge into the ravine below where you will cross the Bratthálskvísl river. Walking further, you will come across another river, Kaldaklofskvísl. On the river’s eastern side, the trail branches eastwards and southwards. For this itinerary, we follow the southward trail towards Emstrur. After about 1 km you will have to wade through another river, followed by a bridge crossing about 4 km later across the Nyrðri Emstruá. From there, you should be able to see the huts at Botnar. Stop for a rest before venturing out to the Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon in the evening.
Day 4: Emstrur (Botnar) to Thórsmörk (about 15 km, 6–7 hours)
Heading out on your final day, walk around the Syðri-Emstruá river canyon before carefully treading down the steep path to the bridge. From here you cross an area called Almenningar, where the desert landscape will suddenly shift to plants and birch trees. After crossing the Þröngá river, the deepest river you will face on this trek, you are just 30 minutes away from the huts of Thórsmörk.
If you are feeling really adventurous, you can combine this itinerary with the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail and add an additional 25km section to your trek. It will take you from Thórsmörk to Skogar. This hike will take you at least 10 hours and is best tackled over a day or two. This part of the trail is scattered with hot springs, ending with incredible views of the Myrdalsjokull glacier and Eyjafjallajokull glacier.
During the summer months, buses run from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk (and Skogar) about once a day. These buses will start operating in mid- to late-June, depending on the winter.
Landmannalaugar is accessible with a 4x4 vehicle. One route to the area is accessible by normal car, but this not advised for rentals as large stones are likely to cause damage. Thórsmörk can also be reached with a 4x4; however, this involves a river crossing and should be attempted by experienced off-road drivers only. See our detailed guide on car rentals in Iceland for more information.
- Be sure to bring battery power banks to charge your mobile phones and cameras because there is no access to electricity on the trail except at Thórsmörk.
- Mobile coverage is available in some places but limited in other sections of the trail. Be sure to bring your own food along with you, as there is only a single shop along the way (in Landmannalaugar) and it can be very expensive.
- Bring a water bottle, which you can refill in rivers along the way.
- Pack layers and waterproof gear in preparation for changing weather.
- Hiking boots are essential.
- Sleeping bags are not provided at all huts, so it is best to bring one with you. Read here for a detailed guide on the trekking equipment needed while trekking the Laugavegur trail.
- Rapid fluctuations in temperatures might cause flash floods causing the rivers to rise, always cross a river in groups but with great caution. If you are alone, wait for other travellers. Some rivers do not have footbridges.
- It is always a good idea to leave your travel plans at safetravel.is for emergencies.
After days of trekking, head out to some of the best bars in Iceland for a well-deserved drink. If you are looking for other hiking trails in Iceland, please read our 5 Best Treks and Hikes in Iceland. If you’re unsure whether trekking and hiking is your thing, check out the top things to do in Iceland instead.