The Laugavegur Trek is one of Iceland’s most famous and beautiful treks. This 4-day trek runs from the Landmannalaugar geothermal springs to the Thorsmork nature reserve. The trail leads through striking landscapes spanning gorges, glaciers, and multicolored rhyolite mountains. And, just for fun, the dramatic valley of Thorsmork sits at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull, an active volcano!
Here is my experience hiking the Laugavegur Trek without a guide. At the end of this post, you will also find a list of useful tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your adventure.
Getting to Laugavegur
Laugavegur is easily reached by bus from Reykjavik, and takes roughly half a day, depending on weather conditions. Tickets can be purchased online, and it is recommended to do this in advance. I took an early bus to Laugavegur, which gave me time to set up camp and explore the area.
Bus tickets can be purchased online at VolcanoTrails. You can take as long as you want for your hike, and make additional stops on your return journey (if there are other sites you want to see). On my return journey, I spent a few hours at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
Day 1: Laugavegur to Hrafntinnusker
The first day is all uphill. The trail is well-marked and there is no risk of getting lost. However, the gradual incline and two very steep parts along the way make the day seem long. The temperature also begins to drop as the landscape changes from geothermal vents with rocks painted in shades of red, green, and orange to snow-capped mountains. When I arrived at the hut, I received a warning of a storm moving in, and I was advised to leave very early the next day.
Useful Tip: One of the most difficult parts of the trail is the weather – it is unpredictable and can change at any minute.
Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn
I woke up early on the second day and left early to avoid the storm. As I made my way onto the glacier, the clouds covered the sky, and within a minute all was white. The hut was no longer visible, so turning back was not an option. I took two deep breaths, closed my eyes, and told myself “Don’t panic.” I walked for a few more minutes and heard voices. Several other hikers from the hut were also lost. The start of the trail had not been marked properly! After 10 minutes of searching, we found the sign that put us back on the right trail.
The trail to Álftavatn is mostly downhill, and not as difficult as the first day. However, the increasing wind and looming clouds forced me to walk faster than usual. I made it to Álftavatn just in time. As the wind picked up, all hikers were recommended to take refuge in the huts in Álftavatn.
Useful Tip: In case of bad weather or an emergency – Immediately go to a refuge. They have emergency vehicles that can take you to safety and they can provide cover during a storm.
Fifty people in a hut meant for ten – an opportunity to make new friends! Then, without warning, the winds increased, and the lake in front of the hut disappeared into the darkness. I could hear the wind pounding on the cabin doors. Apparently, this is not uncommon in this part of Iceland. The storm continued into the night, with gusts of wind tapping on the walls. Yet, when I woke up the next morning, there was nothing but tranquility, as if nothing happened the day before.
Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur (Botnar)
Day 3 or, as it’s also called, river crossing day. The third day is, again, downhill, and mostly volcanic terrain. The landscape is barren and void of life, but peaceful. There are two river crossings on the way to Emstrur. The first is only ankle deep, so I only had to remove my shoes. The second is deeper and colder, it can sometimes be knee-thigh deep. So, as you can probably guess, in some cases you sometimes need to cross without pants! As I approached Emstrur, the wind picked up, and another storm rolled in. It was not as strong as the day before, but I was lucky to have a sturdy tent.
Day 4: Emstrur (Botnar) to Thorsmork
The last and final day. I left early and made my way through the barren terrain, passing mounds of volcanic rock. There is one tricky part on this last day. A climb down a slippery rock, with the help of a rope. While the decent is only slightly scary, I would not want to do this in the other direction. Finally, a river crossing – only ankle-deep, and, then, the dead landscape turns to lush green fields. I arrived in Thorsmork, set up camp, took a much-needed hot shower, and celebrated with a beer.
Tips for Hiking the Laugavegur Trek
1. Wear waterproof and warm clothing. The weather can change at any minute, and it gets cold at night.
2. Bring enough food. Clean water is provided along the way, but there is no food.
3. Pack light. Bring only what you need, store the rest at the campsite in Reykjavik.
4. Bring a GPS. Parts of the trail are not well marked, and it is easy to get lost in some parts.
5. Bring money for a hot shower. If you want a hot shower you have to pay for the warm water.
6. Bring a good camera. The landscapes are stunning!
7. Book the hut in Hrafntinnusker. The night is very cold, and, if you don’t have a 4 season tent you will freeze.
8. If a storm comes without warning – immediately take cover. Storms can become dangerous very quickly in Iceland.
9. Follow the advice of the people in the refuge. They have a lot of experience with the weather in Iceland and can offer help.
Have questions about the Laugavegur Trek or Iceland? Send me a message in the comments below!
Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips & tricks.