Across the Icelandic Highlands in 4 Stages
From $1,100 USD per person
The Laugavegur Trail in the wilds of Iceland is without question the country's most popular hiking trail, each summer attracting thousands of foreigners and locals alike. Laugavegur, literally "pool road", has been in continuous use since the mid-1970s, when the Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association, or FÍ) combined a number of already-popular trails into a multi-day trek. The trail runs north to south from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk, cutting a meandering line through some of the most breathtaking natural displays of beauty in the Icelandic highlands: mountains of every color, verdant valleys, pounding waterfalls, rushing rivers, high glaciers, bubbling hot springs, ice caves, and more.
In comparison to other multi-day hikes, like the Camino de Santiago and Tour du Mont Blanc, the Laugavegur is short at a mere 34 miles (55 km). Daily stage lengths are reasonable, and the elevation change is manageable. This hike is not to be underestimated, however. The otherworldly beauty of Iceland's highlands is matched only by its rugged trail conditions and wildly unpredictable weather. You will have to reckon with sharp, volcanic rock, steep descents, gusting wind, and pea-soup fog that obscures the trail. But if the sun is out and snow is sparse, hiking conditions might even be described as "easy" (a relative term).
Though the standard itinerary is a short 4 nights, it can easily be extended. The huts at the starting and ending points in Landmannalaugar and Thórsmörk are both large and comfortable and access a number of fantastic day hikes that will up your total distance traveled. The valleys around Thórsmörk in particular are some of the most beautiful we've seen, though they are yet more rugged than the main trail. Some hikers even choose to continue south to the Fimmvörðuháls hut and then on to Skógar, home of the famed waterfall Skógafoss.
No matter how you choose to hike the Laugavegur, FÍ has this advice for you: "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and try to enjoy the trip regardless of how it turns out."
Adjusting the hike to your budget and preferences
Hike 34 miles (55 km) across Iceland's rugged highlands.
View some of the world's most alien terrain, including technicolor mountains, rough lava fields, and steaming hot springs.
The island of Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are pulling apart from each other. It is one of the most volcanically active places on Earth and home to a few dozen live volcanoes, with eruptions occurring every four years on average. This volcanic activity, together with Iceland's proximity to the Arctic Circle and the high altitudes of its inner reaches, are what makes Iceland's Highlands so rugged. They are mostly an uninhabitable volcanic desert, where precipitation runs off too quickly for any plant life to take hold, except in certain oasis-like pockets. Indeed, 80% of the island is uninhabited, with most Icelanders choosing to settle on the fertile lowlands and coast, where conditions are relatively mild. The result is huge plains, valleys, and mountains of rough, volcanic rock and ash -- mostly grey, black, or brown, but punctuated with flashes of blue, green, orange, and red. Volcanoes still penetrate through to the surface here, which is why you'll see plenty of steam and bubbling springs on the Laugavegur. And in fact, you'll pass right by the volcano Torfajökull, which hasn't erupted in over 500 years but is still active!
Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (5.1 hours | 10.6 km / 6.6 mi | elevation ⇅ - 648 m / 2,126 feet)
The first day of hiking is the shortest in terms of distance, but is often ranked as the hardest because of ascent and weather. The trail first crosses the rough lava field of Laugahraun, which allows for nice views of the surrounding countryside in its technicolor beauty, and then turns left and skirts the lava field as it climbs the side of Brennisteinsalda to a magnificent viewpoint. After a steep descent, you will reach a long plateau from which you can see numerous ravines that have been cut out of the soft bedrock by water. Stórihver marks the end of the plateau and the beginning of the final, moderate climb up to Hrafntinnusker.
Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (4.9 hours | 11.3 km / 7 mi | elevation ⇅ - 705 m / 2313 feet)
This second stage is usually ranked as the easiest, though the total descent is significant and at times quite steep. It covers a distance of approximately 12 kilometers and is known for its dramatic landscapes and stunning views. From the Hrafntinnusker hut, the trail winds through an otherworldly landscape of black sand and volcanic rock formations before descending into the Jökultungur area, known for its geothermal activity and hot springs. The trail then crosses the Syðri-Emstruá river before ascending to the Almenningar plateau, offering panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains. After a steep descent, the trail leads to the Álftavatn hut, located on the shores of a picturesque lake.
Álftavatn to Emstrur (5.8 hours | 16.2 km / 10.1 mi | elevation ⇅ - 426 m / 1398 feet)
The stage from Álftavatn to Emstrur covers approximately 15 kilometers and is known for its diverse landscapes and river crossings. The trail starts by crossing the Brattháls ridge, offering stunning views of the Álftavatn lake and the surrounding mountains. From there, the trail descends to the Hvanngil valley, where hikers cross several glacial rivers. The trail then winds through the colorful hills of the Emstrur area before descending into the Botnar valley, known for its black sand and towering cliffs. The trail ends at the Emstrur hut, located on the banks of the Thröngá river.
Emstrur to Thórsmörk (7.2 hours | 16.6 km / 10.3 mi | elevation ⇅ - 931 m / 3054 feet)
Like the previous stage, the stage from Emstrur to Thórsmörk is also known for its dramatic river crossings, but also for its stunning views of glaciers and mountains. The trail starts by crossing the Thröngá river before ascending to the Almenningar plateau, offering panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains. The trail then descends into the stunning Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon, where hikers can see the Markarfljót river carving its way through the rugged landscape. From there, the trail leads through the impressive Stakkholtsgjá canyon before ascending to the Fimmvörðuháls pass, located between two glaciers. The pass offers breathtaking views of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the surrounding glaciers. From the pass, the trail descends into the Thórsmörk valley, where it ends at the Thórsmörk hut.
After breakfast, depart on the shared bus transfer back to Reykjavik.
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Total Pygmy Miles
Of all the words that come to mind when describing the setting of the Hrafntinnusker hut, "scenic" is probably not one of them. Still, there is a certain raw beauty to the rolling, rocky hills and mountains in the nearby landscape, which only adds to Iceland's "otherworldly mystique". At 1,100 meters in elevation, it is the highest hut in the Laugavegur network by a factor of two. It is purpose-built to withstand the harsh conditions at this altitude; it's not uncommon to see the hut buried to its eaves in snow into June. The hut provides gas stoves and cold, running water in the kitchen, but you will find no showers here, and only latrines in an adjoining toilet hut.
Skálarnir við Álftavatn
What's this, a restaurant, a bar? In this wilderness? No, your eyes do not deceive you; the Álftavatn trailhead is the only location on the main Laugavegur trail with a restaurant that serves hot meals and refreshing drinks (run by the Volcano Trails company). The two FI huts nearby house a total of 72 people, with kitchens in both buildings, equipped with gas stoves and cold, running water. Like the hut at Landmannalaugar, the Álftavatn huts are located on a wide, flat plain, walled by mountains, and terminating at Lake Álftavatn. In summer the valley floor and walls are covered with grass and moss, a pleasant change from the pure rocky highlands at Hrafntinnusker.
The Botnar hut on Emstrur marks a transition in the Laugavegur from high plateau to the rolling hills and canyons that take you to Thórsmörk. Botnar is actually three identical huts linked by walkways, each outfitted with a kitchen and able to accommodate 20 people on double bunk beds, for a total of 60. The adjoining toilet house is where you'll find the showers. The views from the Botnar huts are good but not spectacular, as the cliff behind them and the hills in front of them obscure the scenery. But just a short walk away there are spectacular viewpoints into the colorful canyon carved by the Markarfljót river.
FÍ describes its hut in Thórsmörk as a "true Icelandic treasure and very popular with outdoor enthusiasts" who flock to this area to enjoy its natural beauty. The large hut is set on a flat area where the Langidalur valley opens out onto the alluvial plain of the Krossá river. It is almost certainly the most lush part of the Laugavegur trail, with grass, bushes, and scrubby trees covering the sloped valley walls. The area around the Langidalur hut is networked with top-notch trails perfect for a day hike. Favorites include the out-and-back to Rjúpnafell, the loop around Tindfjöll, and the gorgeous Stakkholtsgjá canyon across the river plain.
The Laugavegur trek is possible only in the summer months, when the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has opened the roads to Landmannalaugar and other huts on the trail. In general, this means from late June to mid September. At this time, the huts are open and the trail is less covered by snow and ice, but snowstorms are still possible early or late in the season. July to mid August is the most popular time to hike the trail, when temperatures are at their warmest and the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day.
Self guided does not mean you are alone. We help you coordinate and plan your trip beforehand. Once you are on the trail, we provide 24-hour customer service in case there are any urgent issues with your bookings.
PYGMY ITINERARY BENEFITS
- Price Transparency: see where your money is going with line-item pricing
- Never Lose Your Deposit Guarantee: 50% refund, 50% credit to future trip
- Customized Handbook with Journey Details: maps, elevation profiles, tips and more
- Destination Book Digital Travel App: everything in your handbook, in digital form
- One Year Premium GAIA GPS Membership: your GPS routes, on your phone
- Complete Itinerary Customization: build the trip you want to take
- Special Meal Requests: we'll help you stick to your diet of choice
- Before-You-Go Email Series: helpful emails to get you prepared for your trek
- Transportation Options Information: timetables, routes and contact info
- 24/7 Phone Support for Urgent Issues: give us a call if anything goes wrong
- WhatsApp Support (9 AM to 5 PM, ET): rapid response to your inquiries
- Email Support (24-hour turnaround): answers for not-so-urgent questions
- Virtual Pre-Hike Briefing: one-on-one briefing with your travel consultant
- Baggage Transfers (where applicable): your bags, delivered to your accommodation
Level : Medium
Level : High
Level : Medium
- Technical ability is rated as medium because the path is generally well marked and easy to follow. Previous hiking experience is strongly recommended, however, as loose, ashy sand predominates throughout the trail. There will also be a few river crossings that cannot be avoided, and, though the water is generally shallow, it can still be a slog to get through.
- Mental strength level is difficult to estimate because it depends so much on the weather, which is unpredictable and extreme. We've rated it as high because it's possible to experience wild storms in the middle of summer, pea-soup fog that obscures the trail, and multiple feet of packed snow at higher altitudes. There is also a lack of creature comforts in the huts, like bedding and fresh food.
- Physical conditioning is rated as medium: though there are steep ascents and descents that can be challenging, the stages are on the shorter side and are often flat for long distances, offering a chance to catch your breath. However, there are no stage-to-stage baggage transfers on the Laugavegur, so you must be capable of carrying your gear for the entire trek.
Starting at $1,100 per person, based on double occupancy
After initial consultation, we will customize your itinerary to meet your fitness level, budget, accommodation wishes and schedule. Depending on the journey, it might be possible to skip stages, rearrange their order, substitute accommodations, and add or subtract transfers. Find more information on the base itinerary and possible customizations below.
- Shared transfers to Landmannalaugar and back to Reykjavík
- Four nights accommodation in highland huts
- Substitute private accommodation at Volcano Huts in Thórsmörk
- Increase or decrease number of hiking days, depending on fitness and motivation
- Side hikes throughout itinerary, depending on fitness and motivation
- Transfer from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavík
- Accommodation in Reykjavík
- Blue Lagoon entrance
- Day tours from Reykjavík
- Travel insurance