This itinerary will thoroughly detail the best hikes in Landmannalaugar in the Iceland Highlands and also explain hiking Landmannalaugar as part of the multi-day Laugavegur trail. Iceland’s Landmannalaugar is the antithesis to Peru’s Rainbow Mountain. The colourful rainbow mountains and epic landscape in the Iceland Highlands are truly mind blowing.
Landmannalaugar Hiking | Day Hikes & Laugavegur Guide
This guide aims to help you plan your hiking trip to the incredible Iceland Highlands. Specifically, we will review the best hikes to do in and around Landmannalaugar as an overnight trip. Plus, we will review seeing Landmannalaugar as part of the multi-day Laugavegur trail.
The hiking here is absolutely amazing. It’s on par with other great hikes around the world like the W Trek in Chile. Best of all, the highlands are some of Iceland’s best kept secrets, alongside Stuðlagil Canyon. This is for 2 reasons. Both based around accessibility. We will explain further below.
When to Visit Landmannalaugar
European summer: Firstly, there is a very narrow window during summer that they are accessible. This is mid June to mid September. Outside of this time, the W roads leading there are closed. This is due to snow and other hazardous weather and road conditions. Secondly, even during those times, they are difficult to reach. Unless you are comfortable with driving river crossings with a hired 4×4 vehicle, then you will need to get a Iceland Highlands bus. Unfortunately the buses aren’t cheap.
Rest assured, all of the effort, timing and funds needed to follow this hike in the Iceland Highlands is worth it.
Day Trip vs. Multi Day Hike
There are basically 2 itinerary options for hiking in Landmannalaugar. You can travel there exclusively. Otherwise, the Laugavegur trail is a multi day hike that starts in Landmannalaugar and finishes south in Þórsmörk (Thorsmork); home to the magnificent Skogafoss. Mind you, there are numerous multi-day trek options in the Icelandic Highlands. But Laugavegur rates highly.
STORY TIME: Long story short, we had planned to do the Laugavegur trail as part of our hiking itinerary. However, a severe yellow weather warning prevented us from being able to complete the route. We were gutted. But instead, we managed to camp overnight at Landmannalaugar. This gave us enough time to do the various trails around that are that we wouldn’t otherwise have had time for if completing the Laugavegur trail.
Honestly speaking, if you have less than a week in Iceland, consider just a day trip. Landmannalaugar is the absolute highlight of any trip to the highlands anyway. If you have around 10 days, an overnight camping trip will allow you the opportunity as we did, to complete all the hikes around Landmannalaugar that a day trip wouldn’t allow time for. If you have 2 weeks or more, consider the incredible Laugavegur trail as part of your Iceland Highlands itinerary.
The 3 Day Laugavegur Trail Itinerary
Itinerary summary: As explained, we weren’t able to complete the Laugavegur trail. So the remainder of this guide will detail completing an overnight camping trip to Landmannalaugar. Specifically, the hiking routes here will be explored in more detail.
However, for those who are lucky enough to complete Laugavegur, please find a distance/duration summary below. These details are specific for those wanting to complete it in 3 days. This will help maximise your time exploring the rest of Iceland. Albeit, the trail is often completed in 4 or 5 days. If you’re reasonably fit and/or an experienced hiker, 3 days is realistically doable.
The 3 Day Laugavegur Trail Distance/Duration
|Hiking Route (Day)||Km/Mi.||Hours|
|Landmannalaugar – Hrafntinnusker (Day 1)||12km/7.5 mi.||4-5hrs|
|Hrafntinnusker – Emstrur via Álftavatn & Hvanngil (Day 2)||28km/11.1 mi.||5-6hrs|
|Emstrur – Thorsmörk (Day 3)||15km/9.3mi.||6-7hrs|
Please note that camping is ISK2,000/person (€13/$14USD) at each of these campsites. The price is the same at alternate campsites along the Laugavegur trail as well. Keep in mind, that the Hrafntinnusker campsite is quite basic. There are drop toilets, safe drinking water & sinks for washing. On the other hand, Emstrur’s services include toilets, safe drinking water, sinks for washing, warm showers (500 ISK [€3/$3.50USD] for 5 minutes), a small shop, picnic tables & a clothesline.
Landmannalaugar Overnight Trip
Overnighter: Some of you may only have time for a day trip to Landmannalaugar. Trust us, it is worth every penny! Simply return on the same day at 6pm. With an arrival of 11am, this will give you ample time to complete the main hikes around Landmannalaugar. However, an extra morning is helpful to give yourself even more hiking time at this stellar location. Furthermore, you will have more time to enjoy Iceland’s best FREE thermal pools!
Just to confirm, camping at Landmannalaugar is ISK2,000/person (€13/$14USD). The campgrounds are quite hard and rocky so be prepared. Services include indoor toilets, safe drinking water, hot showers (ISK500/person [€3/$3.50USD] for 5 minutes), clothesline, sheltered cooking area, picnic tables and a small shop. Set up camp when you arrive to get a good spot!
The Best Landmannalaugar Hikes
Please find below an illustrated map found at the Landmannalaugar campsite. It depicts the most popular routes here. We will go into more detail about them below.
1. Brennisteinsalda (Sulphur Wave Trail)
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 6.5km
- Time: 2-3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 429m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Landmannalaugar Campsite
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated the trails in this guide
This is the most popular trail. It is a 6.5km loop that takes 2-3 hours. There is a well marked trail to kick off proceedings. You will then walk by some geysers and begin to ascend, around 250-300 metres. There is a turnoff to the peak of Brennisteinsalda. The views of the rhyolite mountains from here are hard to beat. Absurd blues, yellows, reds and browns cover the mountains afar. It is unbelievable. We actually combined this hike with Blahnúkúr using a trail we found on Wikiloc. The trail is sometimes tiring with it’s mini mountains to climb. But not technical at all. So we have rated it as easy.
2. Blahnúkúr (the Blue Peak)
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 5.7km
- Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 383m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Landmannalaugar Campsite
If completed without any other trail combination, the loop is 5.7km and takes 2.5-3.5 hours. You will ascend roughly 350 metres in total. Overall, this hike provides some of the best perspective shots of the mountainous landscape. In fact, the terrain does vary throughout the loop from rainbow mountains to lava type fields to grassy meadows. The peak of Blahnúkúr is one of the highest points in Landmannalaugar. So it’s one of the best spots for an overview of the terrific landscape on offer. Similar to the Brennisteinsalda, this hike is sometimes physically demanding uphill. But it has no technical sections. So we have rated it as easy.
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 8.5km
- Time: 2-3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 480m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Landmannalaugar Campsite
We snuck this hike in the morning after camping. This was before the weather turned foul. It is another loop trail. The distance is 8.5km and takes 2-3 hours to complete. Overall ascent gained will be around 300 meters. The trail begins on flat rocky terrain. You will then have to skip over thin river crossings. Next, a sharp ascent, before continuing essentially along a ridgeline. For us, the weather was overcast. So the colours of the rhyolite mountains were slightly dampened. Overall, this hike wasn’t quite as spectacular as yesterday’s but still incredible nevertheless. It’s another straightforward and easy hike with a couple of tough uphill bits.
Fore more information, please check out our Wikiloc below for specific directions.
Geothermal wonderland: One of the benefits of staying overnight was the opportunity to soak and relax in Iceland’s best natural geothermal pool. We weren’t rushed and had hours to kill! Yes, there are natural geothermal springs all over Iceland. But Landmannalaugars’ are one of the best and largest in Iceland. Best of all, it’s free. After a day’s hiking in the Iceland Highlands, there was nothing better than sitting in the beautifully warm water. Although be warned, when playing around with Beck, I accidentally splashed some of the water into her eye. Let’s just say that her eye didn’t look the best over the next few days. So have fun, but be more careful than I was. Luckily I didn’t get in too much trouble!
Iceland Highlands – Landmannalaugar Recap
Although we were disappointed not to be able to complete the Laugavegur trail, we still had an absolute blast hiking the best trails of Landmannalaugar. We hope that this guide has your ready for either circumstance. The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and wild, so be prepared for either eventuality. Either way, we can guarantee you’ll have an epic time hiking either the Laugavegur trail or the smaller hikes around Landmannalaugar.
Getting to & from Reykjavik
Flights: You will need to fly into Reykjavik initially. For booking flights, always use Skyscanner to source the cheapest flights. In doing so, we found and booked return flights for £88/person (€96/$112USD) directly with Wizz Airlines. But be warned – to add any extras to your flight is very expensive with Wizz.
Because our Iceland trip was for 10 days, we needed to add priority boarding for each flight so we could have up to 10kg of hang luggage. This added £20/person (€22/$25USD) for the return flight. Also, at a later date, we figured we would need checked in baggage with the size of the camping equipment. This added another £58/person (€64/$74USD) for the return flight. So our relatively cheap flights ended up being not so cheap!
But we regularly see deal alerts from the UK to Reykjavik on Jack’s Flight Club between £40-60/person (€44-66/$51-76USD). So sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the latest flight alerts. They recently ventured into the US. So it’s worth looking into Jack’s Flight Club membership if you’re from the States as well.
Accommodation in Reykjavik
Options: Luckily, we have a friend in Reykjavik that we stayed with on this trip to Iceland. Previously though, we had stayed at the Reykjavik Campsite. But if you’re not camping, you should consider using Booking.com or Airbnb. Feel free to use our Airbnb link for a discount on your booking if you’re new to Airbnb!
Getting to & from Landmannalaugar
Highlands bus: Reykjavik is the perfect starting point for this trip. We booked the highlands bus through TREX – Travel Experiences. Use our promo code TRAVEL2020 at the checkout for a 10% discount. The price is ISK7,650/person (€49/$54USD) each way. In fact, there are a few companies offering the route at similar prices. However, TREX offered a Hikers Pass. This is ideal for doing the Laugavegur trail. The buses aren’t cheap so make sure to use our code for a discount.
The first bus is from Reykjavik to Landmannaluager. The return bus is from Þórsmörk to Reykjavik. Just to clarify, Þórsmörk is where the Laugavegur trail ends. Please find alternate pick up times and pick up locations below.
Reykjavik Pickup Times and Locations
- 7:30am or 12:30pm: The City Hall in downtown Reykjavik (Vonarstræti 4).
- 7:45am or 12:45pm: Laugardalur campsite.
- 8am or 1pm: Miklabraut South by the convenience store & gas station next to Kringlan shopping mall.
Þórsmörk Pickup Times and Locations
- 2:30pm or 6pm: Langidalur cabins & campsite.
- 2:45pm or 6:15pm: Básar cabins & campsite.
We chose to complete the Laugavegur trail in 3 days. Further detail about this can be found below.
We booked the return bus 2 days in advance in late August. There seemed to be plenty of availability. As previously mentioned, we were staying at a friend’s place close to Kringlan shopping mall. So we chose to be picked up at the Miklabraut South location. We chose the morning departure from Reykjavik to give us ample time to see Landmannaluager and then hike to Hrafntinnusker (Day 1 campsite). The morning bus arrived in Landmannalaugar around 11am. The hike from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker is 12km and takes 4-5 hours.
We chose to depart Þórsmörk at 6pm on Day 3. This would allow us enough time to hike the 15km from Emstrur (Day 2 campsite) to Þórsmörk in time for the bus. That hike takes 6-7 hours.
Unpredictable Weather in the Iceland Highlands
Unfortunately the weather in Iceland as a whole can be unpredictable and wild. This is particularly true for the Icelandic Highlands. There was a severe yellow weather warning issued the night before our departure to Landmannalaugar. Completing the Laugavegur trail was highly discouraged. This was due to hazardous winds and thunderstorms. Our plan to hike Laugavegur was foiled!
By the way, make sure to always keep an eye out for any weather warnings issued on the official meteorological page of Iceland. In fact, we were quite lucky in that my friend in Reykjavik that we stayed with actually told me about the weather warning. The benefits of knowing the locals!
Fortunately though, the severe weather warning predicted was to begin around midday on Day 2 of our now hypothetical hike. So we would be fine to still go to Landmannalugar and explore it for 1 day at least. Luckily, TREX were very flexible with changing bookings given the circumstances. But please note that changing bookings last minute may not always be possible due to availability. Particularly in the busiest period from late June to early August. The buses may be booked out.
So we had 2 options for returning from Landmannalaugar. Return the same day at 6pm or the next day at 2:30pm or 6pm. We decided to return the day after at 2:30pm. This is because there were enough epic trails to keep us busy. That would be until the weather turned bad midday the following day. In addition, we already had the camping gear ready to use anyway!
Wet Weather Gear
Although it is summer, it is still Iceland. So pack at the very least waterproof boot, trousers, jacket and backpack covers to see off the damp spells. We tend to avoid waterproof trousers as they’re generally heavy, non-breathable and expensive. However, for Landmmanalaugar, you will definitely need waterproof gear due to the wild weather.
For great tips on the best valued hiking gear, head to 66 Items You Must Travel With.
- Return bus: ISK15,300/person (€98/$108USD)
- Camping in Landamannalaugar with hot shower: ISK2,500/person (€16/$184USD)
= ISK17,800/person (£103/€113/$131USD)
These are the costs incurred only in regards to camping in Landmannalaugar. You’ll also need to factor in flights and any accommodation before and after the trip. Also, keep in mind that nothing in Iceland is cheap. That’s why we brought food to take with us from Reykjavik. So perhaps budget an additional £20 (€22/$25USD) for that. We also took our own camping gear. If this is not possible, you will have to factor this in too.
Hiking Gear for the Iceland Highlands
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – given the unpredictable weather in Iceland, you’ll want hiking boots that have sufficient waterproofing.
- The North Face TKA Glacier snap fleece jacket – an extra layer to keep warm when hiking or chilling at any one of the Iceland Highlands campsites.
- The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof jacket – an absolute no-brainer for when the weather inevitably turns wild.
- Columbia water repellent convertible hiking trousers – you’ll need hiking trousers with waterproofing ability when you’re in Iceland.
- Waterproof over trousers – for extra protection against the rain, take these compact over trousers and keep handy in your day bag.
Camping Gear for the Iceland Highlands
- Vango Banshee Pro Tent 300 – a high quality but affordable compact and lightweight tent, perfect for multi-day hiking.
- Vango Ultralite Pro 200 sleeping bag – this sleeping bag will keep you warm when camping in the cold Iceland Highlands.
- Sea to Summit Anti-Insect Mummy Style CoolMax Adaptor sleeping bag liner – you’ll have a surprisingly warmer sleep with an extra layer. Plus, this will keep you sleeping bag clean.
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium inflatable pillow – a compact and convenient pillow to take on multi-day hikes.
- Head torch – a good camping accessory to see where you’re going at night!
To be fully prepared, consider downloading a GPS guided map before you set out. We recommend Wikiloc or AllTrails. For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Complete the Laugavegur Trail in 3 days: This will maximise your time in Iceland.
- Be flexible with your Iceland Highlands hiking itinerary: The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and change at any moment. So be prepared for your plans to change.
- Take your own food: This is standard advice for camping trips. However, Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. So buying food at the small store at Landmannalaugar wouldn’t be wise.
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