Laugavegur Trail is considered Iceland’s most popular hiking trail. From the rainbow-striped mounds of the highlands in Landmannalaugar to the vivid greens of Pórsmörk, the scenery is continuously changing, along with the weather. It's no surprise that National Geographic named this trail one of the best in the world!
This Laugavegur trail guide is a must-have for anyone planning a trip to Iceland. We've compiled everything you need to know to have a fantastic trip in one place, so you can be confident that you've covered all the basics.
Laugavegur translates to "Way of the Water," and the trail certainly lives up to its name, as the hike guides you alongside a stream. Only accessible during the summer months, Landmannalaugar is a magnificent place with colorful rhyolite mountains and bubbling hot springs where visitors are welcome to bathe. In total, the trail is 55 kilometers (34 miles) long and runs in the shadow of the Mrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers. Numerous mountain peaks, crater lakes, waterfalls, geysers, and volcanoes may be seen along the journey.
Whether you hike the trail on your own or as part of a guided trip, the journey will usually take 4 days and nights.
Typically, you begin at the northern end in Landmannalaugar and travel south to Thorsmork. You can take a bus back to Reykjavik from Thorsmark. You could also hike an extra 1 to 2 days to Skogar (Laugavegur to Skogar).
Another way to do this hike is to travel south to north, beginning in Skogar or Thorsmork and ending in Landmannalaugar. This direction is slightly more difficult with greater elevation gain.
Regardless of which direction you choose, you can easily catch buses to and from Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork at the start and end of your journey.
The Laugavegur Trail is only open from about mid-June to the end of August, which is when the weather in Iceland is at its best for hiking.
Because the weather is so unpredictable, the huts close for the rest of the year, and hiking the trail is not recommended. Most tour operators will only operate tours from July to August.
The Laugavegur Trail is a moderate to difficult trek that can be completed with average fitness. It is advised to prepare for your trip by going on longer-distance hikes to improve endurance.
There are some steep sections of the trail that are more difficult to navigate, so take your time and be cautious. Keep in mind that you will have to wade through some rivers, so be prepared to get your feet wet!
Some necessities to backpack the Laugavegur trail include (but are not limited to):
- Food (make sure you have the right amount of food for the duration of your hike - plus a little extra in case of emergencies!)
- Connectivity – Local sim card (Vodafone Iceland, Nova, Siminn)
- Waterproof/rain pants or raincoat
- Waterproof hiking boots or shoes
- Wool socks (wool stays warm even when it gets wet so it is crucial for Iceland hiking)
- A warm jacket (down or synthetic)
- Sleeping bag (even if you stay in the huts, you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag)
- Water bottle and/or water filter (you can treat water from any of the streams along the trail)
- Waterproof pack cover
- Trekking poles
- Keep dry and warm to avoid hypothermia
- Download the Icelandic Emergency App onto your phone
- List your name on the safety lists at the huts
- Do not cross rivers by yourself and walk across them hand-in-hand
- Pack a first aid kit
- Pack a compass, map, or GPS in case you lose your way
- Stay hydrated!
- Check the weather before you set off for the day and listen to the wardens if they tell you it's not safe to continue
The Laugavegur Trail can be done with or without a guide, and there are pros and cons to each option.
Guides are often familiar with the best off-the-beaten-path destinations and can provide you with invaluable information about the natural history and landscape of the area. Overall, having a guide can relieve your stress as a traveler, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Plus, guides can enhance the experience by providing entertainment and a built-in community.
On the other hand, going it alone can also be extremely rewarding. With increased responsibility comes increased reward, and planning and executing a trip on your own is no exception.
Regardless of how you choose to backpack the Laugavegur Trail, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will never forget.
The only sure way to fully appreciate the magnificence of the Laugavegur trail is to plan ahead of time. Here we have included a day-by-day itinerary that we offer for our 4-Day Laugavegur Trek Basic Camping-Based
Day 1: Reykjavík - Landmannalaugar – Hrafntinnusker
At 08:00, we board a regular public bus from the BSI central bus station. When we arrive in Landmannalaugar at noon, we eat lunch before heading south into the mountains. The trail winds its way through hill after hill, steadily ascending and descending throughout the day. Keep an eye out for signs of geothermal activity beneath this otherworldly landscape, such as steam rising from the warm ground! Arrival in the afternoon at Hrafntinnusker mountain hut, where we will spend the night. Distance: 12 km (7.5 mi) Walking time: 4 - 5 hrs Ascent: 470 m (1540 ft)
Day 2: Hrafntinnusker – Álftavatn
from Hrafntinnusker we descend down in the gullies of Jökultungur with hundreds of steaming hot springs and mud pools. Here we enjoy the magnificent view of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and snow-capped Mýrdalsjökull. The route passes through geothermal minerals and muds that feel like glue as you walk over them.
In the afternoon we arrive at Álftavatn hut where we stay the night.
Distance: 12 km (7.5 mi)
Walking time: 4 - 5 hrs
Descent: 490 m (1610 ft)
Day 3: Álftavatn – Emstrur
You trek along Stórasla's unusual cone-shaped green volcano base. Then you go to Mlifellssandur, the famous black sand desert. This eventually leads to the historic shepherding regions of Emstrur, from which you can see Hattfell, an ancient and glorious volcano. Then we arrive in Emstrur, where farmers used to graze their sheep in the summer. There is a river crossing along the way, so bring your water shoes. The water will be very cold, but the reward will be well worth it. The stunning Markarfljót canyon is a worthwhile detour that leads to Botnar hut, where you will spend the night. Distance: 16 km (10 mi) Walking time: 6 - 7 hrs Descent: 40 m (130 ft)
Day 4: Emstrur - Þórsmörk – Reykjavík
Day 4 kicks off with a more exciting landscape, the small valleys and gullies of Emstrur, where the great Mýrdalsjökull glacier rises only a couple of kilometers away. You will also pass through the spectacular Markarfljót canyon, which was carved out by intense floods caused by volcanic eruptions. You will eventually cross the big river that will lead you to your destination, Pórsmörk, green valleys filled with arctic birch forests and colorful flowers. We take the evening bus back to Reykjavik from Thorsmork.
The benefit of joining our trip is that everything is already planned, so you won't have to worry about anything. All hikers have to do is enjoy the scenery and follow the knowledgeable guide. Everything has been taken care of.
Following each day of trekking, you will spend the night in a cozy mountain hut, where delicious food and a good night's sleep await.
Our tour guides will always make certain that everyone is safe and comfortable. The guides will be aware of the trail's conditions in advance and will be prepared in case of bad weather.
Browse our 5-Day Laugavegur Trek Classic Hut-based here.
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