Frequently cited as the one of the top hikes in the world, Iceland’s Laugavegur trek does not disappoint. The beauty of this hike is that you can set your own pace as you hike along a well marked trail, surrounded by glaciers, hot springs and all things unpronounceable!
My Icelandic adventure took place mid August 2016, hiking from Landmannalaugar to Pórsmörk over 4 days (34 miles total). I had planned to hike solo, but I met some great people along the way and here are my tips to help you plan your own Laugavegur trek!
Overview of my 4 day trip:
- Day 1: Landmannalaugar – Hrafntinnusker | Distance: 12 km | Hrafntinnusker hut
- Day 2: Hrafntinnusker – Álftavatn | Distance: 12 km | Álftavatn hut
- Day 3: Áftavatn – Emstrur (Botnar) | Distance: 15 km | Emstrur hut
- Day 4: Emstrur (Botnar) – Pórsmörk/Langld | Distance: 15 km | Pórsmörk hut
1. Timings – when do you want to go?
Fortunately, this decision is largely made for you! The trail is open from mid June to mid September, with varying weather conditions over the three month period. I opted for mid August to avoid the more harsher conditions at the start and end of the season.
2. End destination – Pórsmörk or Skogar?
There are two types of people on the trail – those that hike all the way from Landmannalaugar to Skogar and those that don’t! Most people I met on the trail finished at Pórsmörk and my one regret is that I didn’t allow more time to hike the additional 23 km to Skogar, as the views are spectacular.
- Landmannalaugar to Pórsmörk = 34 miles (55 km)
- Landmannalaugar to Skogar = 48.5 miles (78 km)
Short on time? For me, the first two days from Landmannalaugar to Álftavatn were by far the most scenic and if you are short on time, a two day hike from Landmannalaugar to Álftavatn is enough to give you a true sense of the trail – returning by bus from Álftavatn to Reykjavik (the bus collects from Álftavatn hut).
3. Daily distances – how many miles per day?
Landmannalaugar to Pórsmörk is typically hiked over 4 days, however it can be easily completed in less time as most people take a leisurely pace, averaging around 12 km to 15 km per day.
I covered the distance in 4 days and although the daily distances were short, I enjoyed the slow pace of the trail as it allowed plenty of time to experience the diversity and uniqueness of Iceland’s wilderness….like boiling our water on the ground!
4. Direction – start or finish in Landmannalaugar?
Most people tend to hike north to south from Landmannalaugar to Pórsmörk – which is clear to see why from the Laugavegur elevation map below (e.g. travelling north to south is mostly downhill). Planning to hike solo, I opted to hike from Landmannalaugar to Pórsmörk as I figured there is safety in numbers as during high season, 100+ hikers start the trail each day.
Why hike the other way? One of the main advantages of hiking from Pórsmörk to Landmannalaugar is the reward of the hot spring that awaits in Landmannalaugar!
5. Group or solo?
If you are wondering whether you can hike the trail on your own, you absolutely can! The trail is extremely well marked and you will regularly see other hikers up ahead. Overall, as long as the weather is in your favour and the trail markers are clearly visible, it is very hard to get lost.
That said, the weather in Iceland is extremely unpredictable, so my advise is given strictly subject to good weather conditions as fog and even snow can be common in July and August.
6. Sleeping arrangements – huts or camping?
There are many different factors at play here – from budget, comfort, camping gear, weight of your pack etc – but I opted to stay in the huts for three key reasons:
- Weight & equipment – my trip to Iceland was all about the Laugavegur trek, so I wanted to leave my camping and cooking gear at home and enjoy the luxury a light pack on the trail
- Comfort – due to the unpredictability of the weather in Iceland, the huts offer protection from the wind and rain
- Facilities – the huts have great kitchen facilities (stoves, pots, crockery and cutlery) and a large pot of boiling water waiting for you when you arrive!
Due to the high demand and limited space available in the huts, you will need to book in advance to stand a chance of getting all of your preferred huts along the trail. I emailed about three months in advance and joined the dreaded wait list, however one by one all of the huts I requested became available.
- Huts cost 7,500 ISK per night / camping costs 1,800 ISK per night
- Huts must be booked in advance, via email (camping guests do not have to book in advance)
- Leave your sleeping mat behind – you are provided with a comfortable mattress
- Showers are available at selected huts for 500 ISK for 5 minutes (trust me, this is the best shower you have ever had)
7. Book transportation to and from the trail heads
Now that you have finalised your route, it is time to book your transportation to and from the start and finish – made easy by the fact that Iceland has nailed it when it comes to providing convenient and affordable transport around the island!
Reykjavik Excursions offer daily buses to and from key points along the trail including Landmannalaugar, Álftavatn, Emstrur, Pórsmörk and Skogar – simply book online ahead of your arrival.
- Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar – 4 hrs 30 mins
- Pórsmörk to Reykjavik – 4 hrs 5 mins
8. Pack suitable equipment – the more waterproof, the better!
The amount of equipment you need to pack will depend on whether you are camping or staying in the huts. However, wherever you are sleeping you will need to ensure you have clothing that is suitable for all types of weather conditions – e.g. if it isn’t waterproof, leave it at home!
Above all, you will to pack for all types of weather which means lots of warm layers, gloves and hat.
There is no food available to purchase at the huts (or along the trail), so you will need to come prepared with enough food for breakfast, lunch and dinner to last the duration of the trek. I went slightly overboard with dehydrated meals, which can get old pretty fast, however what they lack in taste they make up for in convenience (simply fill with hot water and wait around 10 minutes).
If you are staying in the huts you have full use of the kitchen facilities, however campers are not allowed to use the cooking facilities. Please note that this is strictly enforced by the wardens that run the huts (e.g. you will need to bring a cooking stove like the Jetboil below).
10. How to prepare for the river crossings
Yep, I saved the worst till last! After hearing horror stories of how cold the river crossing are, I was unsure of what I should wear on my feet and naively thought that long ski socks would suffice. They. Did. Not.
Two things are essential for successfully traversing the icy glacier river crossings that were at one point, up to our bare thighs: Make sure you have two trekking poles and some form of waterproof shoes. You will need the trekking poles for stability as the current can be fairly strong and the waterproof shoes will save your feet from the stones on the river bed. As for the cold, you will just have to grin and bear it!
…..and the best place to go after your hike? Catch a bus to the Blue Lagoon (pre-booking is required) and take a dip in the geothermal spa that is quite simply, glorious!