November 25, 2023

Iceland. Hiking along the laugavegur trail

“Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”

― Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battutah

55 КМ
Hiking the laugavegur Trail can be a colorful adventure filled with incredible beauty and, at the same time, a real challenge to your body and will.
The laugavegur Trail is considered one of the most beautiful hiking routes in Iceland, Europe and perhaps the world. With a length of 55 km, it starts in the coloured mountains of the Landmannalaugar valley in the heart of Iceland, crosses geothermal zones, black volcanic deserts, obsidian fields and comes to the green and river-carved Thorsmork valley.

In this article, we will share our experience of traveling along the trail. We will tell you about the peculiarities of preparing and walking the laugavegur Trail, and try to answer important questions that may arise for those who are going to walk this route for the first time and on their own.


  • 1

    How to get from Reykjavik

    The laugavegur route is not a circular route, it leaves from one point in the center of the island and comes to another point on the south coast of Iceland. You will need to book two buses to make this trip. During our trip (summer 2023), the bus from Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar cost 70 euros one way. The return bus we took from Thorsmørk Valley, the price was a bit nicer. You can find more information with links to the website, timetables and ticket bookings in our trail guide.
  • 2


    Drinking water is free and available in all the shelters, but on the first sections of the route there is nowhere to refill on the way, so we advise you to take enough drinking water for a day, it makes no sense to carry more. We took about 0,75 liters per person, and water for cooking was taken already in the shelters. This will significantly lighten the weight of your backpack, in such a hike every extra kilogram is very much felt, believe me.
  • 3

    Phone signal, card payment

    Phone coverage is almost everywhere, but the Internet is much worse. Take into account that at certain parts of the route there will be no connection.

    You can pay by card almost everywhere, but we advise you to take cash with you, as signal problems can occur.
  • 4

    Necessary equipment

    • Tent (with rain and wind protection)
    • Sleeping bag (for 0 degrees)
    • poles
    • Raincoat
    • Towel (preferably small and quick-drying)
    • Gas burner (+ cylinders)
    For a full list of equipment with a breakdown, see our guide.
  • 5

    How much gas to take with you

    We took two cylinders of gas for two people, one for 450 ml, the other less. Given that we only cooked breakfasts and dinners, the consumption was a little less than we expected. We had enough of the larger cylinder for all the days, and we didn't waste it completely. We should remind you that we were very lucky with the weather and did not cook hot tea on the route and did not heat the tent with a burner, so this volume was enough, but we still advise you to take gas with a reserve, in case of bad weather and the need, for example, to wait out a storm in one of the campsites. You can also replenish gas on the route, we saw gas on sale in some hutts, but the shelter
  • 6

    Electricity and chargers

    You can only charge your phones and other equipment in a few places, not all shelters have this option. Bring your own power banks and extra batteries.
    Landmannalaugar - charging is done in green buses (shop-restaurant) for an extra charge, about 10 euros per hour.
    Hrafntinnusker - you won't be able to charge your tech here
    Alftavatn - you can charge your tech in the restaurant if you are a visitor. Take tea, cocoa, coffee, or lunch/dinner. General access outlets to the right of the cash register.
    Emstrur - you won't be able to charge your tech here
    Volcano Hut Torsmork - this is the largest and best equipped camp of all, you can charge your tech in the restaurant. There are outlets in the dining area and at the entrance, you can also ask the staff to charge your phones at the bar - it's free.
  • 7

    River fording (river crossing)

    The first river you will have to cross near Altphavatn Lake, a couple of kilometers from the camp. For a more comfortable crossing, the crossing is equipped with a rope thrown across the river, which you can hold on to. This is the only equipped crossing we met during the whole trip. You will be more comfortable crossing rivers with poles, they give you additional support, especially important when crossing rivers with fast currents. There will be at least 2 of them on your way. If you are in doubt about which place is easier to cross, we advise you to wait a bit and observe how other travelers will act. On the trail you can also meet groups with tour leaders who have up-to-date information and know exactly where the current is not so strong and the depth is shallower.

Step-by-step instructions for the laugavegur trail in Iceland

Day by day
The laugavegur Trail itself consists of 4 sections of trail from one shelter to the next:

• Landmannalaugar – Holdskulsskslli 12 км

• Holdskulsskslli – Alftavatn 12 км

• Alftavatn – Emstrur 15 км

• Emstrur – Torsmork 16 км

Some people do this route in 3 days, but we chose the 4-day option, and here's why:

First, we opted for a more measured pace. Considering that in the first days you will have to carry a backpack full of food and gas, the 24 km distance over mountainous terrain with gaining and losing altitude up to 1000 m can be a serious challenge.

Secondly, we considered the first two sections of the route to be the most beautiful and we wanted to see them more thoroughly, not on a run. At this pace we reached the mountain hutte Hrafntinnusker and Lake Alfawatn around lunchtime and still had plenty of time for radial outings without backpacks.

Landmannalaugar is a large and spacious park with an incredible number of hidden gems. Many people come to the valley to bathe in the hot springs, or just as a starting point on the laugavegur trail, but, in fact, a few day hikes in Landmannalaugar may turn out to be the most beautiful hikes of your life.
We will not detail our stay in Landmannalaugar as we will cover that in another more detailed article, but once again we will share an opinion, if you make it to these places and you have time, linger in the valley. Make sure you walk the trails and routes, you can leave your belongings at the camp and make some beautiful outings light and at your own pleasure.
laugavegur trail starts behind the Information House, you have to pass through a wooden gate with the name of the trail, and then follow the markers (during our hike they were marked with blue paint).
Perhaps we should express our gratitude to the park staff, we never lost the route, everything was clear and simple, markers and signs with information are often found, which makes it easy to navigate on the terrain.

We traveled in mid-August from 13-18, the day was still quite long, sunset around half past eleven, sunrise at 4:30. This allowed us to take our time and go with stops and breaks. We should note that we were incredibly lucky with the weather. It was sunny, windless and warm, and we took out raincoats only twice, which is absolutely atypical for Iceland.

And so, we left Landmannalaugar camp around 10am. The trail took us to the heart of the lava field with bizarre formations and extrusions, after 1.5 km we were at the foot of the colored mountain, the brightest and most famous in the valley, there we met several geothermal zones with small fumaroles and colored clays.

The beauty of the surrounding landscape inspired us to go further, with
My back and shoulders were sore from unaccustomedness, but all these trifles were compensated by the surrounding beauty.
After a couple of hours, the trail led us to a gray wasteland, almost all the space was black, and only the blue sky, combined with bright (almost unreal) green mosses, diluted this monochromatic picture. In contrast to the colored mountains, the place seemed even more alien, as if we were traveling in parallel realities. Because of this abrupt change of colors and reliefs, one day is perceived as several, which makes the trip unusual and inspiring.
Obsidian is a natural volcanic glass, an igneous rock formed by the rapid cooling of lava.
The main forming minerals are quartz and feldspar.
Beyond the black mountains, obsidian fields awaited us.
Obsidian is also called volcanic glass. It is extremely smooth and shiny, black as oil, and if you hit obsidian against another rock with force, it will split into several and the edges will be as thin and razor sharp. Some of the stones were not just black, they played with iridescent hues, you wanted to look at them. Obsidian fields are a special sight, in sunny weather this rock shines and shimmers on the black volcanic sand and it seems that the whole space around you is dotted with precious stones.
Be prepared that Camp HOLSKULDSSKALLI lacks most amenities, the toilet isn't the cleanest, there are no showers, but it was in these mountains that we felt more wild than anywhere else in Iceland
Around 3 pm we arrived at the HOLSKULDSSKALLI camp. This is the highest camp on the whole trail. Many people are hesitant to camp here because of the frequent gusty winds and low temperatures. At the information desk we found out the forecast for the next night and decided to spend the night. We found this campground to be the most authentic, atmospheric and interesting of any we had seen.

  1. It is better to arrive at the camp before 4pm. Toward evening, all the well-equipped sites will be occupied.
  2. Choose your tent site with the wind in mind. In the camp you will find places with stone walls built around them, make sure to secure your tent well, pile the edges with stones, if there are several of you, put your tents closer to each other.
Radial output
In the afternoon we went for a radial exit to the snow wall. Earlier there was an ice cave there, but due to warming weather it collapsed. This short outing was a real gift and decoration of our hike. You can find a detailed description of the route in our guide to the Laugavegur trail. And here we will just show you a couple of photos. If you linger at the HOLSKULDSSKALLI camp, we suggest you take this easy three-hour hike.

There is also a low mountain near the camp, from the top of which you can enjoy a circular panorama of the whole valley.
It was comfortable to camp overnight, there was no wind and the temperature did not drop below 7 degrees.

On this day we had a 12 km hike to Lake Alfawatn. Here the trail was already marked with yellow color. If you stand with your back to the information hut, you have to go straight ahead and down. The trail was no less varied and beautiful: orange clays, yellow sands, green mosses, black rocks. It is interesting that during the whole hike we asked ourselves whether all this is really happening to us, climbing to a new peak and looking at the opening landscapes, everyone involuntarily asks himself, can it be so beautiful?

One of the most memorable places on this day was the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. Lifeless hills, scanty vegetation and sandy mountains were left behind, and a green valley with high mountains of unusual, almost perfect cone shape opened before us. As if on purpose they were placed here and there, and between them streams and rivers spread out in a watery network. In the distance we saw a large lake surrounded by two sharp ridges - Alphavatn, which was where our next camp was.
After descending from the pass, we came to a fast, full-flowing river. It is not possible to cross it on rocks, here you have to take off your boots and wade. Downstream we made an improvised crossing - a rope stretched between two rocks. The water in the river is ice-cold, so your feet are cramped quite quickly, the bottom is rocky, but not sharp. Many people take rubber slippers with them, so you can cross the river faster. We went barefoot as a habit, holding on to the rope. The ford was small, only a couple of meters, depth up to the middle of the shin, so we had no problems with the crossing.
Учитывайте, что в разное время года и в зависимости от погоды глубина реки и скорость течения могут сильно отличаться.
Interesting: during the trek you will meet the same people in different camps, this creates a special atmosphere and brings some sense of unity and mystery
We arrived at the camp around 4 pm. Compared to the Hrafntinnusker camp, which looks more like Everest base camp, Alphavatn looks like an ordinary well-maintained campsite. Colorful tents scattered in a wide clearing, by the river and on the lake shore, toilets and showers, a restaurant and a wooden hut with rooms for rent.

On this day we made a small radial exit and climbed a neighboring ridge, a very beautiful place with panoramic views of the nearby mountains.

We were able to recharge our gear in the restaurant, outlets are in general access, to the right of the cash register on the top shelf. The restaurant is open until ten in the evening and offers tea, coffee, cocoa, beer, wine, you can buy a lunch menu or have dinner here. It is usually simple but tasty food, there are dishes for vegetarians.
On the third day, the skill of assembling the camp reaches the point of automatism

We hit the trail earlier than usual, a 15 kilometer trek to Emstrur camp awaited us. Half an hour later we came to the first ford of two, the current was not strong and the depth was just above the ankle. The shelter workers told us that due to the warm and abnormally rainy summer, the rivers were not as full as usual. You could say that the weather favored us. On the way to Emstrur we passed another shelter Hvanngil, it is a small but well equipped camping site, here you can stop if you want to walk 2 km more on the second day, thus shortening the crossing on the third day.

On this section of the trek most of the trail was through endless volcanic desert, the mountainous terrain ended and we mostly traveled through the valley. The second river was deeper and swifter, the current was strong but not knocking us off our feet. The only difficulty was the width of the ford, our feet were frozen and by the end of the crossing they started to cramp up. What we can say about this experience of forcing rivers - it is fun and interesting, gives the journey a little spice and causes adrenaline. Plus your feet will be very grateful for a contrast shower after a long time in cramped and hot mountain boots.
The section from Alfavatn to Emstrur was longer than the previous two, but it was easier to walk, and the scenery was not as spectacular as at the beginning of the trail, but it had a certain charm and reflected well the essence of Iceland's harsh nature

There were no trees or birds here, just endless black sands and lifeless cones formed during old eruptions. The wind was quite strong and gusty and sometimes turned into miniature tornadoes, swirling the black sand into small funnels.
Emstrur's camp was in the lowlands, ascetic and sheltered, blending seamlessly into its surroundings. Here on the slopes there was already greenery, plants and streams. We set up our tents quite quickly and rested for the rest of the day. Ptarmigans were running nearby, nibbling sparse grass and completely ignoring people, as if we were not even in this quiet and far from civilization place.
The final crossing was the same length as the previous one - 15 kilometers through hilly terrain. This section can be considered easy in terms of difficulty, but you should take into account that the most difficult crossing awaits you here.

We left camp around 9am. The trail looped among black lava hills covered with green mosses, small mountain flowers and colorful bushes. From time to time we stopped and picked northern berries: pinecone, blueberries and bilberries gathered together created a real flavor mix.

The closer we got to the Torsmerk valley, the more greenery appeared around, bushes were replaced by a real forest, mushroom meadows and difficult to pass birch groves. Low-growing, crooked, northern trees delighted the eyes of those who are used to forest landscapes.

On the way you will cross several turbulent rivers and canyons on bridges, and then you will come to a wide ford with a strong current, here you will have to take off your shoes again. This crossing is the most difficult on the whole section of the route. It is better to find out about the condition of the crossing in advance, as the water in the river comes from the glacier and if the days were warm, the current increases.
Thorsmørk National Park, or as it is also called "Thor's Woods", is located in the southern part of Iceland. This place is considered unique because it is surrounded by several ridges, which makes the climate in the valley milder and suitable for the growth of trees and shrubs. The mountains protect the forests from the wind and storms that so often come from the ocean. Many rivers and streams come into the valley, which spring from several large glaciers that spread over the nearest peaks.

The nature of this place will be in stark contrast to everything you've seen over the past few days, from mottled geothermal zones, colored mountains and red volcanic craters, to endless black deserts.

The valley is home to the best-equipped camp you'll encounter along the way. There is a full-fledged restaurant with a varied menu (let's not be deceived, it is still more simple than in the cities), a large selection of board games, there is even a guitar and a place where you can just relax and sit with a book. You can also use the sauna here, but it's better to book it in advance.

Tent sites are covered by forest and mountain slopes, and there is a lot of greenery around.
The atmosphere at the camp is very lively
You will meet solo hikers, organized groups, guides, people from all over the world. You will see those who have come to the valley for a couple of days, or who are just starting out on the trail, you will also meet those who, like us, have finished their hike here: they are always visible in the crowd, calm and a little tired faces, as if they have discovered something new.

A bus to Reykjavík leaves from Volcano Hut. The stop is located right in front of the restaurant and the main camp building. You can also stay here for a couple of days and do radial hikes, or you can go 20 km further and finish your journey at the foot of Skogafoss waterfall.
Whether or not to hike the Laugavegur trail is up to you. If you are afraid of the distance, the difficulty of the route or the lack of civilization, we advise you to start by exploring two valleys: Landmannalaugar and Torsmerk. The routes here are very scenic and you can leave your belongings at base camps and walk light. There is transportation from Reykjavík to both valleys and it is quite easy to get there.
We will definitely prepare guides on the routes of the valleys, there will also be some articles on this topic.

As for us, we are definitely glad we ventured on this trail and are insanely grateful to Iceland for the beautiful weather the island gave us and other hikers this summer. Hiking the laugavegur trail was a vivid adventure filled with beauty, the majesty of nature, mesmerizing scenery and no doubt overcoming ourselves.

This journey will remain an important event in our memories and will hold a special place in our hearts.

p.s. The end of the trip does not mean the end of your adventures, Iceland knows how to surprise and pamper with magic, on the way back to Reykjavik we were lucky enough to see the crossing of a herd of horses and even watch the rescue operation of a car stuck in the middle of the river.
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