Landmannalaugar in the Highlands of Iceland is a great place to visit for many reasons. One major reason is there are many exciting hiking trails that are easily accessible for most people. Located in a spectacular landscape, they offer some of the most amazing views you will ever see.
A view from Suðurnánmur track towards Bláhjúkur, Brennisteinsalda and Laugahraun (Laugahringur)
For one-day visitors, the most popular hiking trails in Landmannalaugar are the Laugahringur trail, the Brennisteinsalda volcano, the Bláhnúkur mountain, and the Suðurnámur mountain ridge. Of course, there are other hiking trails, but many of them are more difficult and longer. They require more time for preparation and better gear. And then there is also the longest one—the Laugavegur hiking trail that goes to Þórsmörk: 54 kilometers long and takes about three to four days.
One of the best ways for you to visit Landmannalaugar and experience its glory is to take the Hit Iceland spectacular tour with a personal guide.
Laugahringur circle hiking trail
This is the most accessible and most popular hiking trail in Landmannalaugar. It is a “circle” through and around the Laugahraun lava field. In 1477, an eruption from the slopes of the Brennisteinsalda volcano gave birth to this small lava field. Although small, it is one of the most interesting lava fields you can find in Iceland. The regular basalt lava is blended with numerous shining black obsidian rocks—a combination exclusive to only a handful of other fields in the area.
The hike starts at the FÍ (Ferðafélag Íslands) service center. You have to go straight through the lava field to the west on an excellent hiking path. After crossing the field, a breathtaking view of the magnificent Vondugil (Bad Ravines) valley will open up before you. The mountains surrounding the valley are colorful, and the view is absolutely something for the camera.
Laugahringur lava walk is the most accessible and most popular hiking trail in Landmannalaugar
For those who are not up for walking and hiking, this is an excellent point for you to turn around and return.
For the rest, you continue at the west edge of the lava field towards Brennisteinsalda, the volcano. The path is a bit steep, lined with small rocky lava steps all the way up to the open and colorful small sulfur rocks and hot springs that are sometimes covered with smoke. This place therefore has a strong sulfur smell. At this point, you turn and walk east through the lava field again. This part of the lava is a bit rocky and more difficult to walk all the way to Grænagil ravine, but it is shorter than the path through the lava from the service center. From the ravine with a colorful river bed, you will finish the walk at the service center.
The hike is approximately five kilometers and relatively easy. Everyone able to walk five kilometers should easily finish this hike. As the path is sometimes a bit rough, especially the second part through the lava, we recommend having a good pair of hiking shoes.
For families camping in Iceland with children, this is an excellent hiking trail for especially the children as the lava, geothermal smoke, strong sulfur smell, and the colorful mountains are all healthy ingredients for the imagination.
If you take the Hit Iceland tour the guide will accompany you on this hiking trail.
Brennisteinsalda (Sulfur hill) is a small mountain/volcano, approximately 800 meters high. On most days, standing at its top gives you a great view of Landmannalaugar and its surroundings, and even a good look at the Icelandic Highlands.
From the service center, since you are already at 600 meters, the elevation is only about 200 meters. The first half of the hike is the same as that of Laugahringur, but instead of turning left or east by the smoking sulfur rocks, you have to continue upwards. The path through the lava steps is a bit steep and narrow, but it grows relatively easy once you are on the yellow gravel path near the top.
Sitting on top of Brennisteinsalda volcano towards Vondugil valley
Taking this hike in addition to Laugahringur only heightens the enjoyment of your Landmannalaugar experience—when you turn to the view south towards Hrafntinnusker, the mountains are exceptionally colorful.
The hike from the service center to the top of Brennisteinsalda is approximately five and a half kilometers. So, you should prepare yourself to walk eleven kilometers. This will take about two and a half to three and a half hours. For this hike, it is always better to have hiking shoes since the path is both slightly rough and slippery. Most hiking shoes, compared to sneakers or ordinary shoes, have a better grip as the sole is designed for rougher terrain.
As mentioned above, the Landmannalaugar lava field came from Brennisteinsalda in 1477. It is a very unusual lava field as the crater is barely visible. The magma originated from the Bárðabunga fissure and a volcanic system hundreds of kilometers to the northeast, and not from the massive volcanic surroundings at the Torfajökull glacier volcanic system. This is the reason why this lava field is so much different than the rest of the landforms in Landmannalaugar. It is an illegitimate child of another volcanic system. On the other hand, the mountain itself was formed thousands of years ago like many other rhyolite mountains nearby.
The Bláhnúkur mountain (Blue Peak Mountain) is probably one of the best known mountains and iconic landscapes in the Landmannalaugar area. As you drive the last part of the road to Landmannalaugar and cross the river, it forms the background of your arrival and offers a magical atmosphere.
This is the most challenging of the four hiking trails—it is the steepest and the most difficult, but it is also the most rewarding one. Look in any direction, and it will give you the best views. It is also the second highest mountain in the area.
The elevation from the service center is about 320 meters. Your first hike is up to the lower peak and up a mountain shoulder to the higher one. In addition to being steep, the path, as it is narrow and the slopes on both sides are steep, could be intimidating for those with a fear of heights.
When you are on top of the Bláhnúkur, you will have a great view of the Icelandic Highlands. You might even see, as some have claimed, more than eight glaciers and icecaps. It is a place to pause and enjoy the view. Once you have spent enough time on the top, you can walk the same path back. Or, if you are still in the mood for more challenges, you can take the path that goes down to Grænagil and takes you back to the service center at Landmannalaugar.
Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil
Out of the four trails, this one is the longest and probably the most rewarding. It takes about four to five hours, starting at the sign located on the road just before the river you need to cross for arriving at Landmannalaugar. The first part is a bit steep, but with every step, the breathtaking landscape reveals itself before you. This is the best place to view the Landmannalaugar area in all its glory as you are viewing it from the north to the south. Once you are on top, it is a long and easy walk on a mountain ridge with the ever-changing view in all directions. Here you have many opportunities to take a lot of photos. To your south, you will have an excellent view of the Torfajökull volcanic system that feeds the colorful lava and formed the orange, blue, and yellow mountains. You will also witness the northeast of the landscape and the landform poetry of the vast and dangerous Bárðarbunga volcanic system, the “father” of the Laugahraun lava field.
Walking the Suðurnámur hiking trail
From the mountain ridge, you descend a slope down to the Vondugil valley. You will walk through some beautiful and colorful landforms. Once you are in the valley, you need to pass a wet valley and cross small streams. For crossing the stream, you need to find the best way to wade or find proper stepping stones. And finally, you will join the track over the Laugahraun back to the service center.
All or any of those four tracks are interesting hikes that will only make your visit to Landmannalaugar more enjoyable.
If you are interested to have a guide with you from Reykjavík, check out our Hit Iceland Landmannalaugar tour.