Laugavegur Trail: A Guide to Iceland’s Famous Multi-Day Hike

Learn everything there is to the famous Laugavegur Trail in Iceland with our comprehensive guide, covering everything you need for this unforgettable hike.
Quick links

The Laugavegur Trail, Iceland’s most renowned trek, spans through the diverse landscapes of the Southern Highlands. Starting from the geothermal wonderland of Landmannalaugar and culminating in the verdant valley of Þórsmörk, this trail presents an unparalleled opportunity to experience Iceland’s raw and varied wilderness.

Recognized globally for its scenic beauty, the Laugavegur Trail offers hikers a journey through a spectrum of natural phenomena, including multicolored rhyolite mountains, expansive lava fields, and serene glacial vistas.

This guide aims to provide essential information for those wishing to embark on this remarkable trek, ensuring a well-prepared and memorable adventure.

Female hiker on the Laugavegur trail on Iceland.
Trekking the Laugavegur Trail

Laugavegur Trail in Numbers

  • Length: cca. 55 kilometers (34 miles)
  • Elevation gain/loss: cca. 1701 meters (5,583 feet)
  • Number of days: 4-5 days
  • Technical difficulty: Moderate
  • Starting point: Landmannalaugar
  • Finishing point: Þórsmörk (Thorsmork)

Map

Why Hike the Laugavegur Trail?

The Laugavegur Trail is a unique hiking experience renowned for its extraordinary diversity of landscapes. It takes hikers through a dynamic array of natural wonders, from the vibrant rhyolite mountains and geothermal springs of Landmannalaugar to the serene greenery of Þórsmörk.

This trail offers a rewarding physical challenge and a journey through Iceland’s rich natural and cultural heritage. It’s a trek that promises adventure and the opportunity to intimately connect with some of Earth’s most unique and pristine environments.

Whether for the breathtaking scenery, the geological marvels, or the insight into Icelandic folklore, the Laugavegur Trail is a truly unforgettable experience.

Hiker walking to Landmannalaugar mountains, Iceland
Stunning scenery on Laugavegur Trail

The Trail’s Significance

The trail itself has been a vital passageway for centuries. Originally used by Icelanders to travel between various regions, it has played a significant role in the country’s history, serving as a conduit for trade and communication. The areas around Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk have historical importance as gathering spots for shepherds and travelers.

The trail passes through regions rich in folklore and sagas. Icelandic folklore is filled with tales of elves, trolls, and other mythical beings believed to inhabit these landscapes. Some locations along the trail are said to be enchanted or sacred, often linked to local legends.

The geothermal area of Landmannalaugar is not only a natural wonder but also a testament to Iceland’s volcanic activity, which plays a significant role in shaping the country’s culture and lifestyle. The hot springs and unique geological formations are deeply intertwined with Icelandic traditions of nature reverence and sustainability.

Trail Itinerary and Daily Breakdown

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

  • Distance: 12 kilometers
  • Terrain: This segment introduces hikers to the colorful rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar. The trail ascends through lava fields and geothermal areas, offering stunning views.
  • Challenges: The initial ascent is demanding, with an elevation gain of around 500 meters. Weather can be unpredictable, with possible snow patches.
nature in hiking the laugavegur trail in Iceland
Volcanic landscape

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

  • Distance: 12 kilometers
  • Terrain: The trail descends from the highlands, transitioning into a valley with a picturesque lake, Álftavatn.
  • Challenges: The descent can be steep in places. Hikers should be prepared for river crossings that require careful navigation.
Laugavegur Trail Landmannalaugar Alfavatn Landscape View
Hiking towards Lake Alftavatn

Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur

  • Distance: 15 kilometers
  • Terrain: The landscape shifts to black sand deserts and volcanic fields, offering a stark contrast to the earlier part of the trail.
  • Challenges: This section includes several river crossings and can be exposed to wind. The terrain can be rough underfoot.
Markarfljót River and Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
Views of glaciers high above

Day 4: Emstrur to Þórsmörk

  • Distance: 15 kilometers
  • Terrain: The final day features diverse landscapes, including lush valleys and birch forests as hikers approach Þórsmörk.
  • Challenges: The trail includes a few steep sections. Weather conditions in the valley can vary.
Þórsmörk
Green expanses of Þórsmörk

Preparation and Planning

Physical fitness

You have to be in a hiker’s shape to comfortably tackle the trail, which involves daily hikes of approximately 10 to 15 kilometers over varying terrain. Regular cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling, or brisk walking, ideally started several weeks before the hike, are effective.

Include long hikes in your regimen, simulating the trail conditions with a loaded backpack if possible. This will build stamina and help you adapt to carrying the weight you’ll have during the hike.

Gear and clothing

Given Iceland’s unpredictable weather, waterproof and windproof clothing is essential. Sturdy hiking boots, well broken-in to prevent blisters, will be invaluable over rough terrain.

For river crossings, lightweight water shoes are necessary to protect your feet from the cold, rocky riverbeds. Other essentials include warm clothing layers like fleece or wool, a hat, gloves, and extra socks to keep warm and dry.

Outstanding view at river skóga at Laugavegur trail, Iceland
Waterproof clothing is essential for Iceland

Backpacking essentials

A comfortable, well-fitting backpack is crucial as you’ll be carrying it for several days. Equip it with a rain cover to protect your belongings. For sleeping arrangements, a lightweight but warm sleeping bag is needed, even when staying in huts. Campers will also need a durable tent, a sleeping mat, and cooking equipment.

Food and water

Pack lightweight, high-energy foods like nuts, dried fruits, energy bars, and ready-to-eat meals. While the water in streams is generally safe to drink, carrying a water purification method, like tablets or a filter, is advisable for safety. Ensure you have a durable water bottle or hydration system.

By addressing these key areas in your preparation, you can look forward to an enjoyable and memorable experience on the Laugavegur Trail.

Getting There

Accessing the Laugavegur Trail involves reaching its start point at Landmannalaugar. The most common method of transportation is by bus from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The journey typically takes around 3 hours and traverses gravel roads and river crossings.

Two main bus companies provide this service, each equipped with vehicles suitable for the rugged Icelandic terrain. Tickets can be purchased in advance, which is advisable during peak hiking season.

Bus crossing a river with hikers and adventurers in Landmannalaugar on a cloudy day
Icelandic bus crossing a river

For the return journey, buses are available from Þórsmörk, the trail’s endpoint, back to Reykjavik. It’s important to note the schedule and availability of these buses, particularly if you’re hiking independently, to ensure a smooth return trip.

Those planning to extend their hike beyond Þórsmörk, such as taking the additional Fimmvörðuháls trail to Skógar, should also plan their return transportation accordingly, as the endpoint will differ from the standard Laugavegur route.

Accommodations

On the Laugavegur Trail, hikers have two main types of accommodations: mountain huts and camping sites.

The mountain huts, managed by the Icelandic Touring Association, are basic yet comfortable shelters that provide respite from the unpredictable weather.

These huts include bunk beds, communal kitchens, and basic sanitary facilities. Given their popularity, especially during peak season from June to August, it is essential to book these well in advance.

Alftavatn hut and campsite on the Laugavegur trail on Iceland.
Mountain hut and camping site in Alftavatn

Adjacent to each hut, there are designated camping areas for those preferring a closer encounter with nature. These sites allow access to the hut’s facilities, including toilets and water. Some offer showers for an additional fee.

Unlike hut reservations, camping spots usually don’t require advance booking, but they can get crowded, so arriving early is recommended.

Whether opting for the relative comfort of a hut or the adventurous appeal of camping, hikers are expected to be self-sufficient, including carrying sleeping bags and, especially for campers, their cooking equipment.

Adhering to the environmental conservation rules and using designated areas for tents is crucial to preserve the trail’s pristine nature.

Laugavegur Mountain Huts

1. Landmannalaugar Hut

  • Location: At the trail’s starting point amidst geothermal hot springs.
  • Capacity: 78 people
  • Facilities: Has dormitory-style sleeping, kitchen facilities, and nearby natural hot springs for bathing.

2. Hrafntinnusker Hut

  • Location: Higher in the mountains.
  • Capacity: 52 people
  • Facilities: Basic amenities with shared sleeping areas. Due to its high altitude, it’s often surrounded by snow, even in summer.

3. Álftavatn Hut

  • Location: Beside the picturesque Lake Álftavatn.
  • Capacity: 72 people
  • Facilities: Offers a more expansive setup with sleeping arrangements and kitchen facilities and is known for its scenic surroundings.

4. Hvanngil Hut

  • Location: Situated in a green valley, offering a break from the volcanic landscapes.
  • Capacity: 60 people
  • Facilities: Includes standard hut amenities and is a popular stop before the more arid sections of the trail.

5. Botnar/Emstrur Hut

  • Location: Set in a more barren, desert-like part of the trail.
  • Capacity: 60 people
  • Facilities: Basic hut provisions, serving as a crucial stop before the final stretch to Þórsmörk.

6. Þórsmörk Hut

  • Location: In the lush valley of Þórsmörk, surrounded by forests and rivers.
  • Capacity: 75 people
  • Facilities: More comprehensive amenities, often used as a base for exploring the valley.

Navigation

Successfully navigating the Laugavegur Trail requires awareness of the trail’s characteristics and environmental conditions. The path is well-marked, reducing the likelihood of getting lost, yet it’s always prudent to carry a detailed map or GPS device.

This is especially important as weather conditions in the Icelandic highlands can change rapidly, potentially impacting visibility.

Female hiker crossing a river on the Laugavegur trail on Iceland.
A typical river crossing on Laugavegur Trail

The trail presents a variety of unique challenges, from river crossings to steep ascents and descents. While most rivers have footbridges, some require fording, especially in the later sections of the trek. Wearing appropriate water shoes and exercising caution during these crossings is vital for safety.

The trail’s terrain varies significantly, ranging from smooth paths to rocky and uneven sections. The initial part of the trek involves a significant elevation gain, which can be physically demanding.

Moreover, hikers should plan each day’s journey considering their pace, weather conditions, and the distance between huts or camping sites. It’s advisable to start each day’s hike early to allow ample time for unexpected delays or to enjoy the scenic beauty along the way.

Safety Considerations and Weather

Weather plays a crucial role in the hiking experience on the Laugavegur Trail. It’s known for its unpredictability, with the possibility of encountering rain, wind, and even snow, regardless of the season. Hikers should be prepared for all types of weather and have suitable gear, including waterproof clothing and layers for warmth.

Álftavatn, Laugavegur trail, Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn, Iceland
The weather can be very unpredictable

The key to a safe hike is preparation. This includes having the right gear, being aware of the weather forecast, and understanding the trail’s challenges. Carry a map or GPS device, adequate food and water, and a first-aid kit. Ensure your clothing and equipment are suitable for Iceland’s variable weather conditions.

Wildlife

The Laugavegur Trail takes hikers through various ecosystems, each hosting unique flora and fauna that add to the trail’s allure.

The trail’s vegetation is a testament to Iceland’s diverse habitats. In the geothermal area of Landmannalaugar, hikers can observe a range of mosses and hardy grasses thriving in the warm soil. As the trail ascends, the vegetation becomes sparser, with lichens and small shrubs adapting to the harsher conditions.

In the valleys and lower altitudes, especially around Þórsmörk, the landscape is dotted with birch forests and various flowering plants, adding splashes of color to the terrain.

Arctic Fox

While the highlands of Iceland are not teeming with wildlife, there are still opportunities to observe some interesting species. Birds are the most common sight, with species such as the Golden Plover, Arctic Tern, and the Raven often spotted along the trail.

The rivers and streams may host various waterfowl, while the Þórsmörk valley provides a habitat for a greater variety of birds owing to its richer vegetation.

Mammalian wildlife is less visible, but hikers might catch a glimpse of the Arctic Fox, especially around dawn or dusk. These elusive creatures are the only native land mammals in Iceland and are known for their beautiful fur, which changes color with the seasons.

The ecosystems along the Laugavegur Trail are fragile. Hikers are encouraged to observe wildlife from a distance, avoid disturbing animals, and adhere to the path to protect the vegetation.

Trekking the Laugavegur Trail with a hiking agency

For those planning this trek, managing the logistics can be complex. Opting for a self-guided tour through an agency can simplify these aspects, allowing you to focus on the beauty and experience of the trail. 

These tours handle accommodations and luggage transfers and provide essential information, making your adventure enjoyable and hassle-free.

To view our Laugavegur hiking tours, visit our homepage at Iceland Hut to Hut Hiking.

user-profile-pic
Andrew Luff
Verified Customer
A fantastic 3 day self guided Hut to Hut hike around Triglav National Park in Slovenia. We experienced a full range of weather which made it an unforgettable trip. The organisation and back up support with GPS maps etc was excellent. Hut staff were friendly and very happy to give advice and suggestions on the routes and directions. Would recommend.
user-profile-pic
Gisela Irion
Verified Customer
Tina and her team gave me perfect support on my hut hike through the Triglav National Park in July. In particular, they had to cater to my specific needs twice, which they did for me with no problem. I once had to cancel at short notice before the start of the trip because my father was not feeling well, but then we found a solution and I was able to start the hike. Tina and team first canceled the huts immediately and then reserved them again for me. Even when my condition caused a little tour change again, I immediately had suggestions and these were immediately available in the Trip plans app. I liked this app very much because it was easy to handle and the huttohut-team gave a short overview how the daily tour will be and which highlights – mostly beautiful views – I will see“
user-profile-pic
Sarah Luvisutto
Verified Customer
Thank you for this breathtaking and fabulous hiking adventure in Slovenia. We loved every minute and highly recommend Hut to Hut Hiking Europe. Fantastic experience! Our guide Jan was so knowledgeable and thoughtful and we truly appreciated his expertise and very much enjoyed his company. We are already looking forward to planning our next adventure!
user-profile-pic
Nachiket Mor
Verified Customer
Daja Gorišek was the travel agent from here who meticulously organised the trek all the way from Meiringen to Lenk im Simmental. She took care of all the details -- from planning the actual trek route, the detailed GPS map for each stage, to the hotels. The actual experience was entirely consistent with what was promised.
user-profile-pic
Julia Mabry
Verified Customer
Hut to Hut organized all of our stays and were diligent about ensuring our rooms were saved for us. They organized our luggage transfer etc. The team was very responsive and helpful! Hut to Hut hiking is simply the best way to experience the mountains!
user-profile-pic
christian eckert
Verified Customer
Wegen Schnees musste die Route über den Triglav geändert werden. Unser Führer Jan und zusätzlich auch Luka für die Gipfelbesteigung waren umsichtig, hilfsbereit, zeigten den Weg, nahmen, wo nötig, Stöcke und Gepäck ab und achteten, dass man sicher und gesund zurück kam. Er kannte die Pflanzen. In den Hütten organisierte er das Essen und wir spielten Karten. Das Shuttle zum Start und vom Ziel war auch bestens.
Journey on an unforgettable Iceland hut-to-hut hiking adventure, discovering the wild beauty of volcanic landscapes along the Laugavegur Trail and others.
Portfolio company of World Discovery.