#hiking

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.

Hiking in Landmannalaugar

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 hike in Landmannalaugar Iceland highland

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 volcano

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 where you have a spectacular view

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.

Bláhnjúkur mountain

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.

Bláhnjúkur mountain in Landmannalaugar

Bláhnjúkur mountain

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. 

Suðurnámur hiking trail in Landmannalaugar

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.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Landmannalaugar on the map of Iceland

Brennisteinsalda hiking trail in Landmannalaugar Iceland

There are probably few cities in the world that have a river running through its districts.  Let alone a river where people can go fishing and catch a salmon.  But in Reykjavík the capital of Iceland you will find a river running through a beautiful valley Elliðarárdalur. The river has its origin in the two square kilometer lake Elliðavatn.  The lake is quite shallow as most of it is only 1 meter in depth. The valley is a great place to take two to three hours to hike.

Kermóaafoss, the largest and most exciting waterfall in Elliðaárdalur

Iceland has many natural wonders and many places you can visit and enjoy.  Although some of our natural wonders like Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot spring have gained popularity among visitors, there are still many peaceful and exciting places that people rarely visit. Places that are not as accessible and require more effort to visit.

What is the reward of getting to the top?

We have often discussed the highland of Iceland.  It is by any measure a very exciting and fascinating place.

The Highland in Iceland is soon covered with snow

In the heart of the Icelandic highlands is Nýidalur (New Valley). This is the perfect place to experience the true remote, but often extreme conditions of the highlands. Positioned right of the Sprengisandur Route - Highland Road Nr. F26, Nýidalur is also in between two glaciers: Tugnafellsjökull and Hofsjökull. There are a few hikes to be taken around the Valley, and The Icelandic Touring Association have two huts there, perfect as accommodation after a day out.

In the heart of the Icelandic highlands is Nýidalur (New Valley).

What is special about Ófærufoss is the amount of viewpoints you can see it from, giving you a new perspective of this impressive waterfall each time. At first, when driving towards Ófærufoss you will see it from above, along with a curve of basalt rock formation leading to the waterfall. After driving down to the canyon you can take an hour long hike towards the waterfall. When you have reached it you can walk/climb to see the pool in which the water falls down. That is where this photo is from, but we should mention it can be a bit slippery to take this detour.

When you have reached the waterfall you can walk/climb to see the pool in which the water falls down.

 

Fimmvörðuháls, the Five Cairn Ridge, is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland.  Although quite challenging, and even dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors walk this 22 km and 1000 meter high track every summer. Obviously, it has something to offer.  It is a spectacular hike with stunning views and many natural wonders: waterfalls, craters, canyons, glaciers and breathtaking landscape.   In 2010, a small eruption started on the track almost by the most challenging part of the track, Heljarkambur or Crest of Hell.

Most of the hikers walk from the well-known waterfall Skógarfoss to Þórsmörk. At the peak, the track is on the east side of Eyjafjallajokull and west side of Mýrdalsjökull.  Both glaciers house powerful volcanos that can erupt with short notice.  Even the most notorious volcano in Iceland's history as well as geological history, Katla in Mýrdalsjökull, has been due for a long time. 

In 1970, a group of eleven hikers started the trail in good weather determined to walk to Þórsmörk. There was nothing exceptionally unusual about the weather or the condition.  On the top near Heljarkambur, a severe weather hit the mountain and three of the hikers became exhausted and died within hours.  The rest of the group made it to Básar in Þórsmörk with enormous hardship and difficulties.  The story is a constant reminder of the unpredictable weather that two glaciers can produce. It is also a reminder of the necessity to prepare to hike over Fimmvörðuháls thoroughly and take all the percussion possible. 

The track is only accessible from late May until September and is only for highly trained and experienced hikers at any other time of the year.   

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Fimmvörðuháls on the map of Iceland

Although quite challenging, and even dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors walk Fimmvörðuháls 22 km and 1000 meter high track every summer.

Intimidating or scary heights, none stop noise from birds, stunning sight of monstrous cliffs.  How should we describe the westernmost place you can reach in Iceland. Yes, you are at Látrabjarg, but you might as well be at the edge of the world. Látrabjarg is simply not easy to describe; it has to be experienced. It consists of four cliffs, Keflavíkurbjarg, Látrabjarg, Bæjarbjarg, and Breiðavíkurbjarg. Altogether 14 km long and the height is 441 m., and as steep as steep can get. Standing by the edge gives you a whirling sensation, which doesn't fade the longer you stay. Indeed, it will stay with you for a long time afterward. If you are near the edge with a camera in your face, don't move until you have a clear sight and the camera away from your eyes and nose.

One of the largest bird colony in the world

The cliffs are home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots, and razorbills. Látrabjarg is, indeed, Europe's largest bird cliff. The area is free of foxes, making the birds quite fearless. Especially the puffins, frequently venturing into the upper, grassy parts of the cliffs. Látrabjarg is a fantastic place to observe them in their natural habitat. But please understand the danger involved if you try to approach the edge.

Hiking is always the best and most rewarding way to travel in Iceland

Hiking along the edge is like being on top of the world. But, take care. Don't cross the white line painted on the sheer side. The dizziness may result in one fatal misstep. If you want to observe and photograph the birds, lay down on your stomach with only your head over the edge. There are some hiking trails in the southwest part of West Fjords, one of the most interesting is the one by the cliff.  If you decide to hike the Látrabjarg contact some of the guesthouses, like Hnjótur Guesthouse, and find out the best route.  Some of those trails are quite difficult but highly interesting. 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Látrabjarg on the map of Iceland

Látrabjarg is not easy to describe. It has to be experienced.

Probably the most famous hiking trail in Iceland today is the Laugavegur trail from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. It is a fascinating highland path where people go through all kinds of landscape and many geological wonders. A typical time for the hike is four days and five nights as most people spend a night in Landmannalaugar, the base camp, before starting and one night in Thorsmork, the oasis, at the end. Although the hiking trail is not particularly challenging, it requires some serious perpetration. The trail goes through some difficult terrain, and that requires good shoes.

The most famous hiking trail in Iceland today is the Laugavegur

The Icelandic Highland is a huge uninhabited area of Iceland basically covering the center and sometimes stretching to places near the shore.  The whole highland area is loaded with natural wonders, hiking trails, places to visit, fascinating geology, mountains, geothermal pools, waterfalls and much more. It is characterized and defined by altitude as the term Highland implies. It is mostly above 900 meters and thus usually rather cold and seldom specifically warm.  In any sense of the word, it is extremely sensitive. The soil, the lava, the vegetation, the roads, the hiking trails. 

Most of the time the whole area is under snow.  Almost nine months of the year.  Only in the summer does the Highland reveal itself and starts blooming and exposing its vegetation, crystal clear creeks and beautiful mountains with thousands of colors.  In large areas, it consists of vast black sands, dark lava, suspiciously looking rocks, powerful rivers flooding from under glaciers and long horizons. If there is one message or one thing an Icelander would tell you about the Highland it would be to understand the sensitivity of this harsh landscape.

Like many Icelanders, it looks harsh and tough but under the surface is a very sensitive soul.  It is a place where people need to drive carefully on a good 4X4 vehicle with good preparation on marked tracks only.  Anyone trying to drive the Highland in a vehicle not fit for the task is both irresponsible and possibly compromising a wonderful experience.  If you decide to travel in the Icelandic Highland, please take care and understand the sensitivity of the whole are. And remember that most of the Highland is only open from the beginning of July until the end of September.