Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands
The Highland hikers bus pass takes you to the start of Iceland’s most popular hiking trails, the Laugavegur trail and or the Fimmvörðuháls trail. Laugavegur is a 4 to 5 days’ hike through spectacular landscapes. The starting point is usually at Landmannalaugar and the end at Þórsmörk but can also be done vice-versa. Even though the trail is not considered to be too difficult, hikers must be physically fit and have experience in hiking and not reccomended for children. On the way, hikers must wade several un-bridged rivers and early in the season you can expect some snow on the trail and, when it melts, a mud and water. All destinations offer overnight stay in huts and camping sites but accommodation in huts must always be booked in advance. You can book your accommodation in huts here: https://www.fi.is/en
Typical itinerary for the classic trails (2 – 5 day hike)
Laugavegur: Your typical itinerary can be: First day from Reykjavík (or Hella) bus 13 to Landmannalaugar. Arrival in Landmannalaugar around 11:30. You can either spend the day exploring the beautiful landscapes of this area and take a bath in the geothermal river or start your Laugarvegur hike at noon.
Day 1 or 2 Landmannalaugar-Hrafntinnusker or Álftavatn – The distance between Landmannalaugar and Hrafntinnusker is around 12 km or 4 – 5 hours’ hike with elevation increase of 470 meters. This first leg of the trail is the most difficult one due to elevation increase. Some hikers choose to continue to Álftavatn hut after a short stop at Hrafntinnusker while other stay for the night. The next part of the trail is between Hrafntinnusker and Álftavatn is relatively easy, 12 km long with elevation decrease of nearly 500 m.
Day 2 or 3 Álftavatn – Emstrur – The distance between Álftavatn and Emstrur is 15 km. This is an easy day with 6-7 hours´ hike with elevation decrease of 40 m.
Day 3 or 4 Emstrur – Þórsmörk – The trail between Emstrur and Þórsmörk is 15 km long with 6-7 hours´ walking time and elevation decrease of 300 m.
Day 4 or 5 Reykjavík or onwards to next hike – From Þórsmörk you can either continue the hike over Fimmvörðuháls or hop on the bus back to Reykjavík or Hella.
Here you find a link to a video from hikers on the Laugavegur trail.
Typical itinerary for the Fimmvörðuháls trail (1– 2 day hike)
Fimmvörðuháls is a trail through a mountain pass from Þórmörk to Skógar, or from Skógar to Þórmörk, between the glaciers “Eyjafjallajökull” and “Mýrdalsjökull”. Mid way is a hut where you can stay overnight or head on to Skógar/Þórsmörk This trail is more difficult than Laugavegur due to elevation changes. Chances of fog are very high but the trail is marked and we strongly recommend that you follow the marked trail. The hiking period is from the middle of June to end of September. In June and sometimes in the beginning of July you may expect snow.
Here you find a youtube video from a hike over Fimmvörðuháls mountain pass
Popular day hikes
Landmannalaugar – The pearl of the highlands
Hike one of Iceland’s colourful pearls in the breath-taking highland areas. To go to Landmannalaugar you can hop on our bus no. 13 either in Reykjavík or Hella that gives you 6 hours to explore on your own. Landmannalaugar highlands are surrounded by colourful rhyolite mountains and the black expansive lava field of Laugarhraun. Hiking maps are sold on the bus and you will find many marked hiking trails in this area. For your typical hike day, you can e.g. follow a marked trail for approximately 3 hours via Grænagil to Brennisteinsalda and down Vöndugil and back to the hut in time for a relaxing bath in the geothermal river and to enjoy some snacks. If you are staying for more than a day you can choose between many short or long hikes in the area. Dress according to weather and bring your swim suit and a towel (if you want to enjoy the geothermal pool). We highly recommend bringing a packed lunch and snacks even though basic refreshments are sold at “The Mountain Mall”, which is a café operated in two renovated school buses. The highlands are a nature reserve so you must take all your garbage with you to bins at the huts.
Here you find a blog from Kinga´s hike in Landmannalaugar
Þórsmörk – the hiker’s paradise
Spend a day hiking in Þórsmörk. You can choose between three destinations in Þórsmörk; Stakkholtsgjá canyon, Básar or Húsadalur and have 6 hours in Þórsmörk to explore. Hiking maps are sold on the bus. You can hop off the bus by the magnificent Stakkholtsgjá canyon. The canyon is almost 2 km long and to reach the end of it you need to wade a small river. It takes approximately 1,5 hours to walk into the canyon and back. From Stakkholtsgjá it is a 60 minutes’ walk to Básar where you can hop on the bus to go back to Reykjavík or Hella. In Básar you can find more marked hiking trails if you are staying for more than a day. Click here linkur to reserve a camping space. If you hop off the bus at Básar you can take an hour walk to Langidalur and from there a little longer than an hour to Húsadalur over Valahnjúkur. If you are staying for more than a day you can choose between many short and long hikes in the area. The highlands are a nature reserve so you must take all your garbage with you to bins at the huts.
How to prepare for a hike in the Icelandic highlands
Climate in Iceland is relatively mild despite its location. The Gulf stream sends us warm currents all year around so we normally do not have severe low temperatures along the coast. It can be a bit colder in the highlands. Even though the Gulf stream is in our favour the most challenging thing about travelling in Iceland is the ever-changing weather. In one day, we may experience sunshine and rain and even some snow, depending on when you are travelling. Prepare for the good and bad and dress in layers. To follow the latest weather forecast go to www.vedur.is/en or www.yr.no.
On the classic hiking trails, such as the Laugarvegur and Fimmvörðuháls trail you can either stay in a hut or in your tent at campsites. The huts only offer dormitories with single and twin bunk beds so you must share a room with other travellers. There are no restaurants or shops in the highlands except in Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk, so you must bring your own food for the hike. Electricity is limited at the huts since it is located far and away from everything. So, charging phones and other devices costs extra. We recommend that you bring a portable charging device. Showers are provided at all the huts except at Hrafntinnusker on Laugavegur trail. Fee for facilities is 500 ISK and you need to bring coins (no cards). Included in the fee is toilet paper in the bathrooms and soap for your hands but you must bring with you shampoo, towel and other hygiene items. to book accommodation in huts or at campsites click here
- Sleeping bag & if you are camping, bring a lightweight tent, mattress and a primus
- GPS device and a torch for safety
- Warm wool underwear and a fleece jacket
- Water & wind proof Gore-Tex jacket and trousers
- Hiking shoes (preferably used) & warm walking socks
- Gloves & a cap
- Light shoes/trainers & walking sticks for crossing the rivers
- Swimsuit and a towel
- Sunglasses & sun protection
- Plaster & ointment for blisters
For your safety in the highlands we recommend to that you make a travel plan and leave it with someone who can react. ICE-SAR in Iceland offers you to send the information needed to start search or rescue, in case something happens while you’re on your hike. You can leave your travel plan at: www.safetravel.com