Laugavegur Trail Blog – Iceland

I was on Day 3 of the Laugavegur Trail. I was cocooned within my sleeping bag, eyes closed as means of temporary escapism. Mangling winds and a lashing rainstorm whipped against the delicate fabric of the tent, like the devil himself was trying to break inside. I feel the gentle ooze of cold rainfall next to my face. Alex presses a towel against the side, providing a temporary barricade against the rain flooding our tent. “Come on, we need to eat….”.

In September 2016, we embarked on the Laugavegur Trail, a infamous walking trail in Iceland described as the world’s most beautiful trek. The trek was point to point across 55km of multi-coloured lava fields, rhyolite peaks, icescapes and bubbling mud pools. Follow my journey on this trek and embark on this wonderful adventure!

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Laugavegur Trail – Sept 2016 

Day 1 – Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar

  • x1 Bus with Reykjavik Excursions  (buses run from approx mid June to mid Sept)
  • Cost £55.00 (one way)
  • Journey time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Campsite cost – 1800 ISK // £12.00 per person per night.

Situated at 600m above sea level, Landmannalaugar is a popular day trip from Reykjavik. We’re surrounded by pinnacles of primeval mountains and volcanoes. Multicoloured slopes of volcanic rock and rumbling vents expel warm steam from deep mountain crags. We spent the day at Landmannalaugar, rather than embarking on the trek straight from the bus journey. We soaked together in a natural hot spring, the water enveloping us like a heated embrace beneath lead-grey skies.

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We take heed the warning on the trail head sign, stating that all hikers must have GPS, a compass or a map. Armed with no resources, other than vague google-based knowledge that the trail is well sign-posted, we decided to purchase a map on the day just in case!

Day 2 – Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

  • Net climb 470m
  • Walking time: 3 – 4 hours
  • Distance – 12km

It’s the first day of our trek and we’ve underestimated the temperature in Iceland. The chill is skin seeping-cold, making our bodies quiver whilst creating an impending sense of doom at the prospect of peeling the warmth of our sleeping bags away from us. The weather routinely drives low bands of cloud to Landmannalaugar. I saw glimpses of orange and purple gravel lining the volcanic slopes. Lazy smoke trails rose from mini craters and grizzled green mountain tops pierced through the ghost-grey mist. I truly struggled on the 1st hiking day. I battled with the weight of my 15kg rucksack; up and down the Icelandic trails, trekking like a turtle that couldn’t handle the weight of its own shell. We arrived at the highest camping site for our first nights sleep, Hrafntinnusker in 3hrs.

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Campsite #2

Day 3 – Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

  • Net Descent 490m
  • Walking time: 3 – 4 hours
  • Distance – 12km

It wasn’t just rainfall drumming against our tent. It was a downpour that truly battered, buffeted and soaked us to the bone. The snarling wind and the buckling sky was thundercloud black. We trekked in the middle of a turbulent storm, with swollen raindrops drawing every ounce of heat away from us. Coils of mist enfolded the mountain, like a landscape enwreathed with danger.

We were on the topmost peaks of the Laugavegur Trail, battling through the worse weather I’d ever encountered on a trek. The rainfall did not stop, we reached Álftavatn in 3hrs 30 mins, heads lowered, hands cold and our morale as dank as the sodden socks in our boots. We somehow pitched the tent in the pouring rain, where I dived straight into the safety of my sleeping bag. **see start of the blog post**

I laid there quietly, feeling deflated, exhausted and bitterly cold. I prayed for the rain to stop whilst quietly contemplating whether I could face another stormy day on the trek. Alex shuffled next to me, softly stating we had to eat. He’s unzipped the tent porch and I feel a roar of warmth as the Trangia is lit within our tent porch. The fire felt like a sunset glow on our faces, as the night skies remained melancholy. Alex prepared the most nourishing meal that evening. A hot pot of ready-made meatballs in tomato sauce with creamy ‘Smash’ mash potato. I felt immediately renewed after dinner. We settled down to sleep for the evening, in hope of a better spell of weather the next day.

No photos this day of course. I was drenched!

Day 4 – Álftavatn to Botnar

  • Net Descent 40m
  • Walking time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Distance – 15km

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I awoke to a bright blue hue of sunlight shining through our tent. The sun was a glittering eye of luminous gold, like nature’s apology for the terrible storm we endured the day before. For our walk to Botnar, we skirted around canyons, crossed glacial rivers which felt like a thousand cold needles stabbing our feet and trekked our longest day so far, yet I found this day to be the most beautiful on the trek.

 

We reached Botnar in 5 hrs 30 mins. The landscape changed from black lava fields to birchwood forests – we’ve left the volcanic highlands behind us now.

Day 5 – Botnar to Þórsmörk

  • Net Descent 300m
  • Walking time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Distance – 15km

Botnar was my favourite campsite. There was a steep and slippery mud bank to the water source, yet the campsite had the friendliest warden, the biggest pitches (they even left a mallet for campers to use) and a little stream running through the campsite. We set off after a leisurely breakfast of coffee and porridge, ready for our last day on the trail!

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With each km of ground we covered, I watched as vegetation grew more and more varied. We trekked through black sand and crossed rivers across deep canyons and raging rivers.

Our last river crossing before the 2km final stretch into Thorsmork.

 

Seeing the sign for Þórsmörk made me feel like jumping for joy! I was cold, wet and filthy and the end was in sight. It was an easy descent on a wide and well trodden path, straight down to the hut. We arrived into Thorsmork in 6hrs.

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Day 6 – Þórsmörk to Reykjavik 

  • x1 Bus with Reykjavik Excursions  (buses run from approx mid June to mid Sept)
  • Cost £55.00 (one way)
  • Journey time: 4 to 5 hours
  • Campsite cost – 2000 ISK // £14.00 per person per night (INCLUSIVE OF A SHOWER!)

On the last day, we thought of opting for a last circular trek to Eyjafjallajökull (the volcano which erupted in 2010 that caused worldwide flight chaos!), but we were happy to be warm and dry in the Volcano Huts at the end of the trail. Our bus departed from the hut at 3:00pm for our journey back to Reykjavik. For more details on the Fimmvörðuháls Hiking Trail, see here.

We did it! 3rd – 8th Sept 2016 

Trip Tips 

Trail Resources 

  • 4 days – x1 day of pure sunshine, x1 day of torrential storms, x1 grey day and x1 intermittent foggy/cold day. The climate of the Icelandic Highlands in a nutshell!
  •  An excellent online Trail Guide is available via this link. The official Icelandic guide is here.
  • We purchased a map for 1800 ISK at the trailhead shop in LandmannalaugarWe did not find the map strictly necessary, as the trail is well marked with painted posts (every 200m or so) on route. Please feel free to let me know if you want to borrow this map. 

Accommodation 

  • The huts are ridiculously expensive on route! I thought £60.00 // 8000 ISK per person, per night was unjustifiable. Huts have to be booked months in advance, for camping you can just turn up and pitch. Camping is £12.00 // 1800 ISK per person, per night.
  • Details of each hut/camping spot is here.
  • The toilets are clean and well stocked, however showers are an extra 500 ISKWe did not shower for 5 days, the prospect of showering and dashing in and out of cold tents wasn’t nice! The shower at the end campsite is included in the price of the tent pitch.
  • Campers are not permitted to use the hut cooking facilities.
  • There is no electricity on route, some huts charge 1,000 ISK (£7.00) to charge devices.
  • There are no bins on route, there is a Trail policy where all trekkers must take their rubbish with them. Wardens provide plastic bags if necessary.
  • You can pay by cash and card. 

Food 

  • There are no shops on route, you need to carry all your own food. Some examples of what we prepared are below.
  • Breakfasts – Moma Porridge (highly recommended, ready made porridge sachets with powdered milk), coffee/tea sachets and biscuits.
  • Lunches – Wraps, dairylea cheese (they lasted 5 days with no fridge), nutty cereal bars and chocolate.
  • Dinners –  Risotto, smash mash potato, gnocchi, pesto pasta and a bag of tomato meatballs (available in Poundland)
  • Fuel – you cannot bring gas on the plane. We brought methylated spirits in Reykjavik for £15.00 from ‘Oli’s’, a popular petrol station in the city.
  • We thought of treating ourselves to dinner on arrival at Volcano Huts, but an uninspiring looking buffet was £32.00 per person. Beware the high Icelandic prices!
  • Fun tip – Icelandic drinking water is the most delicious in the world! You can fill up at all campsites and some glacial rivers on site.

Transport

  • It is a bus journey with Reykjavik Excursions  (buses run from approx mid June to mid Sept, the timetable can be checked directly on the website) Cost £110.00 return.
  •  The journey time is 4 to 5 hours.
  • We thought of trying to cut transport costs, e.g. hitchhiking, car-share websites etc but we couldn’t find any other providers for this journey. Landmannalaugar is very secluded and a 4×4 vehicle is required.
  • WOW Air and British Airways fly to Iceland (approx £130.00 return flights with BA). We opted to do the trail at the very start of September to avoid the crowds and to obtain cheaper flights.

Top Tips 

  • I broke my camera on the first day. Bring a power bank or a back-up camera for pictures!
  • Carry as little weight as possible. Leave the shampoo, conditioner and toiletries and opt for a bar of soap. Our rucksacks got progressively lighter as we ate our meals and this made the trekking much easier!
  • Bring more warm clothes then you think necessary.
  • I don’t normally use walking poles, but I’d see the gear as necessary especially for the river crossings. The water was lower thigh/knee deep (I’m 5ft 3!) and fast flowing. The walking poles prevented a tumble down a Icelandic glacial river.

If you have any other questions about the trek, feel free to comment here or email me, it was a brilliant experience and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who wants to experience the true beauty of Iceland.

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2 responses to “Laugavegur Trail Blog – Iceland

  1. Pingback: My Travel History | Days of Adventure·

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