Updated: Jan 23
From sweeping lava fields to ancient glaciers and dramatic waterfalls, Iceland is the land that has it all. Many hiking lovers wish to reap the benefits of what nature has to offer while exercising their minds and soul. If you happen to be one of them, know that Iceland is pretty much a hiking paradise and the Laugavegur trail offers you a real opportunity for adventure.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at everything you need to know to tackle the Laugavegur Trail, from when to go and what to expect, to what to pack in your bag. We’ll be taking you through the itinerary section by section, so you won’t miss a beat.
Hiking the Laugavegur Trail
First things first: you might have been wondering how to pronounce Laugavegur. The easiest way to say this tricky word is to break it down into syllables: Loo-ga-vay-gur. Okay, now that the pronunciation is clear, let’s dive into all you need to know about Iceland’s premier hike.
The Laugavegur Trail is a truly epic multi-day hike through some of Iceland’s most spectacular scenery. From volcanic lava fields to multicolored mountains and wild hot springs, soaking in the sights and scenes of the Laugavegur hiking trail is truly an out-of-this-world experience. For those who need information, or just a bit of inspiration, here’s all you need to know:
How long is the Laugavegur Trail?
The Laugavegur Trail is 54km heading north to south through Iceland’s Southern Highlands. It stretches from Landmannalaugar in the north to Þórsmörk in the south, but hikers often add on the stretch from Þórsmörk to Skogar as well.
This is not a hike for the day-tripper though. Walking the Laugavegur trail involves three to four days of hiking. You’ll also need to carry all of your gear with you, as there are no baggage transfer services available in the area. Additionally, because you’ll either be tent camping or staying in rustic huts along the way, you’ll need to carry a fair bit of gear with you.
In terms of the time it takes to walk the trail, well, that depends. There are six mountain huts with campgrounds along the way and these are the only places that you are allowed to stay. There is strictly no wild camping in Iceland, especially not here in such a pristine and precious landscape.
Most people take three to four days to hike the full length of the trail, which averages around 15 km per day (9 miles). However, you should always allow for an extra day in case weather conditions hold you up.
Here you have further information on what it is like to hike in Iceland. To explore the section to Scogar you should add another day. Plus, you might also want to spend an extra few days enjoying the beautiful hikes around Þórsmörk.
How difficult is the Laugavegur trail
The path isn’t too heavy going in terms of steep ups and downs. It is undulating in the main, so all those with a reasonable level of fitness should cope well. But since adverse weather conditions can add to the level of difficulty considerably, you will certainly need to be up for a challenge to embark on this adventure.
In which direction should the trail be hiked?
The classic Laugavegur Trail runs north to south. This feels right because the trail does descend slightly in this direction, albeit only by 300 meters or so. There are also some exquisite views that open up suddenly for hikers heading in this direction.
It also makes a big difference that most other people will be hiking from north to south. Therefore, if you head in the opposite direction you’ll spend a lot of time passing people. In fact, during the busiest periods, the path can only be hiked in one direction. If you do decide to go against the flow, double-check that it’s allowed at that time.
When is it safe to hike the Laugavegur Trail?
The trailheads are both located in Iceland’s Southern Highlands. This means that they can only be approached on F-Roads, Iceland’s famous mountain roads that are only open during the summer months. Come winter snowfall and all F-roads close to traffic.
Even during the summer months when the roads are open, they can only be driven on in 4x4 vehicles. Keep that in mind when renting your campervan in Iceland. This gives you some idea of the terrain that you’ll be facing. As with driving in the highlands, it is only possible to hike here in the summer months, too.
Both the roads and the hiking trails are generally open from mid-June to mid-September, but it all depends on Iceland’s notoriously fickle weather. Up in the highlands, snowstorms can easily blow through in mid-July. If they are severe, the rangers will close the roads temporarily.
As a general rule, you will find that the earlier in the season you arrive, the harsher the weather conditions will be. So for milder temperatures and more settled weather, late July through August is the safest time frame.
Where to stay along the Laugavegur Trail
There are two options available for accommodation along the trail. These are in dorm rooms in rustic huts or in designated camping areas outside of these huts. It is absolutely prohibited to set up camp anywhere else along the trail, as to protect the natural habitats that you will be passing through.
Hut accommodation along the Laugavegur Trail
There are six huts along the trail. Each provides guests with mattresses in shared bunkrooms and can accommodate between 50-80 people. Conditions are basic, but they are warm, dry and comfortable. Believe us, they will be a very welcome sight at the end of a long or stormy day of trekking. All you need to bring with you is a good sleeping bag and a pillow if you’d like one.
Other facilities on offer in the huts include a shared kitchen and dining area, so you will be able to use their facilities to prep, cook and eat. You will need to bring your own food with you though. While some of the huts offer provisions for sale, they shouldn’t be 100% relied upon.
One of the huts at Álftavatn also operates a small and simple restaurant on occasion. Although again, this should not be relied upon. Check beforehand and book your accommodation in advance if it is operating during your hiking window.
In the huts, you will also have access to bathrooms with hot showers, but you will need to bring your own towel. Toilet paper and soap are provided.
Tent camping on the Laugavegur Trail
Tent camping along the trail is definitely the more challenging option. You will need to be fully prepared for weathering any storms that blow in, as there is no additional shelter offered to campers under these circumstances. If there is space in the hut then you could opt to book at the last minute, but if not you’ll have to brave the elements.
For camping, you will need to carry a stormproof tent and winter sleeping bag. You will also need an isolating sleeping mat for warmth. Cooking gear and food is essential, as you will not be able to use the kitchens at the huts. These facilities are available exclusively for those booked into the huts.
However, you will have full access to toilets and shower facilities at all of the campsites, so warm showers await you at every stop should you wish.
Laugavegur Trail itinerary
As this is the most frequented route, we are starting our itinerary at the trailhead in Landmannalaugar.
Getting to the trailhead
To get to Landmannalaugar, you could opt to drive the mountain F-roads in your own 4x4 rental. The other option is to take one of the shuttle buses from Reykjavik, which is probably the more sensible choice. You’ll be finishing your hike quite some distance away, so would then need to get back to pick up your rental car.
It also makes sense if you plan on taking up to a week to hike the trail and surrounding areas. After all, there’s no point hiring a high-spec 4x4 jeep and leaving it parked up for a week. Your best bet is to take the shuttle bus from Reykjavik and back. That way you can leave the rest of your gear safely behind in the city and only take what’s necessary.
At Landmannalaugar you will find a hut and campsite along with an information office and shop. There’s a car park here too and you’ll find plenty of other visitors heading for day hikes in the area. This is an area of outstanding beauty with rhyolite mountain views and wild hot spring pools. You might like to spend a day or half-day in the area first to enjoy the hot springs at your leisure.
Hiking Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker
This is a 12km hike and is potentially the toughest part of the trek, so if you feel wiped out at the end, don’t fret. The rest of the hike will almost certainly get easier. There is quite a bit of uphill on this first day and it is also the most likely place for bad weather.
Snow is still likely to be covering the ground earlier on in the season and more can fall at any time. The worst thing is the potential for poor visibility, as this can really slow down progress and limits your line of sight for gorgeous views. Plus, limited vision can be quite dangerous if not handled sensibly.
With this in mind it is a good idea to be flexible with your departure time; be prepared to wait an extra day for the weather to clear.
Arriving at Hrafntinnusker
This is the highest point on the hike and it is usually snow-covered throughout the year. The hut sits at an altitude of 1100 meters so it gets pretty inhospitable. With this in mind, it is unlikely that you will want to tent camp here. Your options are either to book into the hut or push on to the next campsite.
Hiking Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn
This is another 12km stretch but it is much easier going as it’s mostly downhill. However, there is a river crossing to negotiate. If you are tent camping and it’s very windy, you might prefer to continue on 4km to Hvanngil which is much more sheltered.
Hiking Hvanngil to Emstrur
This section covers 11km of interesting terrain with a river crossing to wade.
Emstrur to Langidalur, Þórsmörk
The final section of the Laugavegur trek in Iceland is 16km long. There is one final river to wade here.
Laugavegur Trek hiking: What to pack
Sturdy hiking boots
New socks for each day
Waterproof trousers and jacket
Warm hat and snood
River crossing shoes
Water bottle for refilling along the way
Food and snacks for the entire trip
Dry bags for your pack and important equipment
Mobile phone and battery charger
And if you are tent camping:
The ultimate adventure in Iceland’s Highlands
You probably will never see a hiking route quite like the Laugavegur trail in Iceland. The mind-blowing scenery and raw nature serve to reconnect you to your inner self. Apart from all of these tips, our main recommendation is that you enjoy this unforgettable experience to the fullest.
To find out more about other exciting Iceland adventures, visit these related articles.