Hiking Laugavegur seem to be the hype since National Geographic published the top hikes one can do in the world and included Laugavegur. The hike is gorgeous and when you look at the distance – 55km- it doesn’t seem too strenuous. The hike can be completed in 2-4 days + an extra day if you decide to do the Fimmvörðuháls pass hike. I did the Fimmvörðuháls pass in 2015 (from Skógar to Thorsmork) and decided that I wanted to do the rest on the way to see the solar eclipse in US. So what’s the trick? Is it hard? Well… it’s Iceland.
The distance or the elevation gain is not a major factor in this hike, the weather is. As long as you know this, you’re fine. And yes, albeit the hike is done in summer, that doesn’t mean it won’t snow. We found ourself in snowy conditions in day 2. Just prepare for it. Also for the fact that the temperatures will near 0 celsius at night.
How is the hike then?
Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker: 12 km
Lamndmannalaugar can be reached from Reykjavik via bus with no issues, we arrived early yet too late to go on the hike right away, so we spent the night. The campsite is quite popular for day hikes as well, so prepare for a big daily hikers crowd in the bathrooms. Yes it’s crowded. The ground itself, well when rainy, super muddy. We were lucky though and had little to no rain during our stay in Landmannalaugar. There’s plenty of options for day hikes and the surrounding rainbow colored rhyolite mountains.
Naturally we didn’t book the hut as ~70 euros per night on a bunk bet is just crazy. The campsite itself is busy and, but has some decent facilities like showers and plenty of toilets. No wind protected kitchen area though. Keep that in mind.
The hike to Hrafntinnusker is mostly easy, gaining elevation very softly. Keep in mind though that Hrafntinnusker is the highest point of the trail, it gets snowy and orientation in snow could be tricky. The small memorial plate 1km from Hrafntinnusker, of a hiker who simply lost his track and froze to death so close to the hut, is a good reminder of that. The path is beaten by now. Unless there’s fresh snow, you should have no problem.
Hrafntinnusker to Alftavatn: 12km
Hrafntinnusker is a very basic campsite, 12 km from Landmannalaugar, and even in the middle of July we camped in the snow fields. No showers and make sure to come early to get one of the small walls to shade your tent agains the wind. As it’s rather short distance to Alftavatn, a lot of peoople make it one stretch. I found the evening here beautiful though. Even thouigh it was snowing and raining. The campsite is much calmer than Landmannalaugar, naturally. Make sure to check the ice caves and thermal features nearby. Keep in mind the temperatures here drop to zero in the middle of summer easily.
Alftavatn is 12 km from Hrafntinnusker and the navigation is very easy and the route well market.
Alftavatn to Emstrur: 15 km
Alftavatn is fairly well equiped campsite, including a restaurant! It’s a new thing, so we didn’t eat there as we didn’t know it existed. Most importantly though, there is a small common room, where you can escape the elements. It might seem silly, but as we arrived to the campsite, it got extremely windy and rainy. Escape to the indoor warmth was very welcome. Keep in mind there’s scarcity of rocks along the lake you’ll be camping at, hence no wind-breaks and all the stones you can find are used to secure the tents. Come early and you get the stones, come late… well your loss. Oh there’s a guitar on the wall, we ended up making friends with random people just playing and singing as that’s the best way to pass the bad weather. There are showers and no wind shade for cooking.
From Alftavatn onwards, there are river crossings. It sure depends on the weather, but we found most of the crossings okay. There are tips on where to cross the deeper of the rivers, shared in the hut. If in doubt, just ask, they will give you recent info. In our case, we had to remove pants as the water reached mid tight. The current wasn’t very strong.
Emstrur to Thorsmork: 16 km
Emstrur is a tricky place to camp at as the hit is set on a hill. Make sure to arrive early to sleep on a flat surface. There are really beautiful hikes around. Should the weather permit, make sure to check the canyon! The campsite has showers which are insanely busy, so prepare for long queues. It took me an hour to get into the shower. Well people should realize they don’t need to smell like pristine flowers…
The hike tho Thosrsmork is mostly really easy terrain, though upon arriving to Thorsmork, there’s a little trick… pass the Volcano huts campsite, which is pricy all the way to Botnar. Bus goes from there as well, the campsite is less crowded, offers fantastic common room to cook in and is less expensive. All wins! No long waits for the shower and crowd is behind in the Volcano hut campsite! Oh and if you have time, just spend time in the valley. It’s gorgeous!
Gear for Laugavegur
I try to go as light possible while hiking as I cary a heavy camera. That being said, I was quite unsure if my setting will be good enough for Laugavegur. Well it worked well! So in case you wonder what essentials I pack…
Tarptent single rainbow … now that was the biggest unknown as I wasn’t sure if one layer tent will do the job. It worked. Make sure to position is along the wind smartly. It withstood conditions some of the normal tents had trouble with!
Warmpeace Viking 600 sleeping bag … czech site, sorry. Incredibly warm three season light backpack. I was never cold in it, despite the snow outside.
Thermarest NeoAir Xlite super light, perhaps the best sleeping mattress I ever owned.
Pinnacle Soloist GSI just enough food for myself. Two people would struggle.
Var2 stove which can use Coleman gas cartridges, available in Reykjavik (you can get the click Campingaz there as well). Light and does the job.
Hiking poles: anything goes. Got mine at Decathlon.
Rain gear: Hardshell jacket, rain pants & gloves as well as backpack cover. And I don’t believe in ponchos. I simply don’t think they work.
Long underwear completely from Merino. Icebreaker is my go to brand. Just really stock yourself on Merino.
Most importantly: leave anything cotton home!
Everything depends on your personal preference, but I managed to stuff everything into 45+10l backpack. Weight ~20kg including water daily.
Happy Laugavegur hiking!