Iceland is one of the last few remaining truly wild places on earth, and exploring it was one of the greatest adventures we ever had. During our epic trip, we spent a lot of time trekking and camping throughout the highlands. The Laugavegur trail was one that we were so excited to tackle.
It’s arguably one of Iceland’s most iconic hikes, a 4-day trek across 55-km of wilderness, taking in breathtaking scenery at every turn. Sadly, we were hit by a series of crazy storms, and spent two days taking shelter in our tent! But, we did explore the area on some shorter Laugavegur hiking trails once the weather cleared, and it was breathtaking. ho
While we didn’t manage the Laugavegur trek in its entirety that time, we did spend a lot of time planning for it. So, in this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about tackling the Laugavegur trail, Iceland’s most diverse and incredible hike.
When is the best time to hike the Laugavegur trail?
While Iceland is a fantastic destination to visit at any time of the year, if you’re planning to tackle the Laugavegur trail, you need to be a little more careful. As we discovered, the weather in this part of Iceland can be extremely temperamental!
In general, the trek can be carried out from around mid-June through September — as long as you have the right gear! Even in the middle of summer, you can experience cold temperatures, storms, and extreme conditions.
The best advice is to check in with the hut wardens before you set out. They’ll be able to tell you about any upcoming unsafe weather, as well as the latest conditions. Whenever you go, prepare for wind, rain, snow, and cold temperatures.
You can find out more about the ‘Best time to visit Iceland’ in our handy guide!
What to expect from the Laugavegur trail?
If you take out the crazy weather, the actual Laugavegur hike is fairly moderate compared to other long distance hikes. The daily kilometers aren’t too high, and if you’re starting north to south, the inclines are mostly on your side.
On the other hand, if you travel south to north, expect a lot of climbing! Along the way, the route takes in crashing waterfalls, rushing rivers, volcanoes, hot springs, canyons, glaciers, and much more! For the most part, if the weather holds out, most hikers of reasonable fitness can comfortably complete the entire route in 3-4 days.
The Laugavegur trail is known for its river crossings, which can vary from ankle to waist deep in icy cold, fast flowing water. Be sure to check with the wardens before proceeding, and get a good idea about how accessible the next stage is.
Day 1 Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker
- Distance: 12 km (7.45 miles)
- Elevation increase: 470m (1,541 feet)
The first day is one of the most physically challenging, with a lot of climbing. From the bus stop, the path is clearly marked and as you follow the trail uphill, you become surrounded by mountains, their hues changing with the light. Once you reach the peak, you’ll arrive at Hrafntinnusker hut and campground, where you’ll spend the night.
Day 2 Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn
- Distance: 12 km (7.45 miles)
- Elevation decrease: 490 m (1,607 feet)
What goes up must come down, and today will be mostly spent gently making your way down towards Álftavatn hut. As the rocky landscape opens up, the views are immense, taking in lakes, craggy valleys, and gorgeous mountains. Álftavatn hut and campground takes its name from the lake that it’s situated by, a stunning place to rest for the night.
Day 3 Álftavatn to Émstrur
- Distance: 16.9 km (10.5 miles)
- Elevation gain: 421 (131 feet)
Today is a day of river crossings and short but steep inclines and descents. The going can be tough, though the first crossing at the Bratthálskvísl river isn’t too bad. Later in the day, however, you’ll need to tackle the hardest river crossing on the route.
At the Bláfjallakvísl river, the fast-flowing, icy cold water often reaches up to your waist. Once you’ve made it across, a largely flat, almost desert-like landscape takes you to Émstrur hut and campsite.
Day 4 Émstrur to Þórsmörk
- Distance: 16.7 km (10.3 miles)
- Elevation gain: 445 m (1450 feet)
Heading downhill for much of the day, more incredible views surround you, especially as you cross through the Syðri-Emstruá River gorge. The trail more or less follows the river, before crossing a few smaller tributaries. As the river swells to become a lake, you turn away towards the Þórsmörk hut and campsite.
This is the end of the Laugavegur Trail, and in the morning you can grab a bus back to Reykjavík. Or you can add a couple of extra days on to your hike and tackle the Fimmvörðuháls Trail — let’s take a look!
Day 5 Þórsmörk to Fimmvörðuháls
- Distance: 12.1 km (7.5 miles)
- Elevation gain: 838 m (2,750 feet)
As you leave Þórsmörk, the route gradually makes its way uphill, winding up into the spectacular mountains. Along the way, stunning views over the surrounding glaciers open up, before the mountainside becomes exposed. After a final short but steep climb, you’ll find yourself at the highest point between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull Glaciers.
From here, it’s a short, mostly flat walk to Fimmvörðuháls hut and campsite.
Day 6 Fimmvörðuháls to Skógar
- Distance: 14.5 km (9 miles)
- Elevation gain: -1,016 m (-3,333 feet)
This final day sees you wandering continuously downhill towards Skógar, through almost otherworldly terrain. Beautiful waterfalls burst from the mountains all around, while the ever-changing scenery never fails to take your breath away. Finally, you arrive at the majestic Skógar waterfall, where the trail officially ends.
How to get to the Laugavegur trail?
The easiest way to get to the Laugavegur trail head is to take a bus. Trex offers a daily (June through September) highland bus service, stopping at Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, and Skógar. Best of all, they provide a special ‘Hiker’s Bus Pass’.
You need to book the Hiker’s Bus Pass in advance, and it costs from 7,500 ISK (around €50). This includes the 4-hour trip from Reykjavík to your start point, and the return trip from your end point. There are a few different times to choose from each day, allowing a little flexibility. You can also pick and choose your preferred start and end points.
Hitchhiking in Iceland
Alternatively, if you’d like to save some cash and avoid having to be restricted to the bus schedule, you could try hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is pretty common in Iceland, and many of the locals rely on it as a means of travel.
In fact, when we hired a car, we picked up a few people along the way! Just grab a sign and find the road exiting the city in the right direction, and you’re good to go! Always take precautions though and let someone know your plans.
Where to stay on the Laugavegur trail?
Despite the wild terrain, there are some great places to stay along the Laugavegur hiking trail. Ferðafélag Íslands — the Icelandic Touring Association — maintain a fantastic mountain hut system, and operate a number of campsites along the way. There are also a handful of private campsites and hostels along the way.
Laugavegur Trail Mountain Huts
You’ll find a number of basic, yet comfortable huts along the way for hikers to spend each night. Each is spaced around a day’s walk from another, so it’s easy to stay in a hut every night of your trip. These typically cost 9,500 ISK (around €65) per night.
Each hut offers simple bunk beds — though you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag — in communal dormitories. In addition, all of them are staffed by knowledgeable wardens, plus there are cooking facilities, a small shop, and paid showers.
With space for anywhere from 10 to 75 guests, they’re a popular choice, but they still get booked up way in advance. Be advised that during the high season, you must book long in advance, and can only book if you’re hiking from north to south. The following huts are all on the Laugavegur trail:
- Landmannalaugar Hut
- Hrafntinnusker Hut
- Álftavatn Hut
- Hvanngil Hut
- Emstrur Hut
- Þórsmörk (FI Hut)
- Þórsmörk (Volcano Hut)
Camping on the Laugavegur Trail
When we traveled through Iceland, we spent a lot of time camping. It’s an amazing way to get close to the incredible nature all around you. It means you’ll need to carry camping equipment with you, but with the best backpacking backpack, it’s not a problem!
While wild camping isn’t allowed in Iceland, there’s no shortage of fantastic campsites along the Laugavegur trail. In fact, there are campsites at each of the mountain huts — simply speak to the warden and pitch up your tent. These all cost 2,000 ISK (around €13.50) per night, and offer basic amenities such as toilets, paid showers, sinks, and drinking water.
The best thing is that you don’t need to book in advance, and can pay on arrival. This gives you much more freedom to spend a little longer exploring a particular area, rather than having to keep moving in one direction.
Camping in Iceland requires a bit more preparation compared to less extreme parts of the world. For some advice, check out our guide!
What to bring on the Laugavegur Trail
Since the weather in this part of Iceland is so changeable, it’s important to be prepared for anything. However, you don’t want to be lugging around heavy equipment that you’re unlikely to use. Here are some of the main things we’d recommend for anyone tackling this incredible hike.
- Warm sleeping bag: even in summer the nights are cold on the Laugavegur trail. A high quality, adequately rated sleeping bag makes a world of difference on those cold nights. Remember, some huts don’t have heating running during the night, and if you’re camping, you’ll be glad you spent a little extra.
- Eye mask: since the trail is only really accessible during the summer, you can expect almost 24 hours of sunshine. We can generally sleep pretty much anywhere, especially after a day of hard walking! But we found that blocking out the light makes it much easier to drop off!
- River crossing shoes: the Laugavegur trail is renowned for its numerous, icy cold river crossings. A sturdy pair of waterproof shoes with good grip make these crossings a hundred times safer than going barefoot or in flip-flops.
- Waterproofs: wind and rain can ruin your day if you’re not prepared. A good waterproof jacket is essential, and just as importantly, be sure you have a rain cover for your backpack.
- Proper clothes: remember the layer-system and pack the clothes that will keep you warm while you rest, and cool while you scramble up steep inclines in the blazing sun!
- A bag for your trash: always make sure that you take all your trash with you!
This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but you can check our full guide to hiking in Iceland for more details.
While the Laugavegur trail is one of Iceland’s most popular hikes, that doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake, and you should never treat it lightly. As we found out, the weather can put heed to the best laid plans.
We were kinda lucky in that our storm struck while we were in the campsite rather than halfway through the trail, but the weather can turn at any time. In addition, dangerous river crossing, steep inclines, and rugged terrain can cause accidents, even among the most seasoned hikers.
We’re not trying to put you off, it wouldn’t be an adventure without risk! But, taking a few precautions in advance and preparing properly before heading off, can prevent a bit of bad luck becoming a major disaster. Here are some important things to consider:
- Phone signal: there are large sections of the route that don’t have any phone signal at all. Instead of relying on your phone, it’s better to use a GPS tracker. We use the Spot GEN3, which lets us call for help in an emergency, even without a phone signal. Plus, in life-threatening situations, our location can be broadcast to local rescue teams.
- Use GPS: the idea of using a map and compass, and your own considerable skill, is a romantic notion. But it’s not a very practical one! Blizzards and mist can soon blow in, making navigation almost impossible. With an accurate GPS route on your phone or watch, you’ll be able to make your way, even in the worst conditions.
- Travel insurance: this is useful to have at the best of times, but on a perilous hike, it’s pretty much essential. Also check out our guide on how to find the best travel insurance that suits your needs!
Frequently asked questions about the Laugavegur trail
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Let’s take a look at some of the Laugavegur trail’s most frequently asked questions:
- Can I buy food along the way? It is possible to buy basic supplies along the way. Each mountain hut has a small shop, selling basic supplies; boil in a bag meals, chocolate, energy bars, etc. However, it’s important to bring your own food as well — there should always be some emergency supplies in your backpack, just in case.
- Where do I need to pee on the Laugavegur hike? You’ll find simple drop toilets or latrines at each hut and campsite. When nature calls on the trail, there aren’t always trees or bushes to hide behind. So, there’s not much else to do than leave the path and enjoy the open air!
- Can I take a shower? Most of the mountain huts and campsites do have showers. You’ll need to pay 500 ISK (around €3.40) for 5-minutes of warm water. Be advised, Hrafntinnusker hut doesn’t offer shower facilities.
- Do I need hiking poles? This largely comes down to personal preference. Some hikers are extremely glad to have their hiking poles, especially on the river crossings. Others prefer not to carry them. For us, we take them and do find that they help on rougher terrain, but don’t use them very often. Fortunately, they’re lightweight and pack away easily.
Multi-day hikes aren’t for everyone, and sometimes time just doesn’t allow for 4 to 6 days out in the wilderness! But if you’re looking to experience the sheer beauty of this incredible area, there are a number of fantastic day hikes from Landmannalaugar. You can find out more in our full Landmannalaugar hiking guide.
Are you ready to discover more about Iceland? Check out our Iceland page to read all our Iceland articles.