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Twisting glacial rivers, hills the colour of burnt sienna and secret natural hot springs for mid-hike bathing; the landscape of Landmannalaugar is like another planet. This unique geological area within Iceland’s untamed highland interior is a prime spot for hikers, as the way-marked Laugavegur trail passes through.
A person standing alone among the brown hills of Landmannalaugar
Best time to visit
63.99113, -19.05871
Distance from Reykjavík
180km (112mi)

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Landmannalaugar camp site in the Highlands of Iceland.
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Hiking Through Landmannalaugar

The History of Landmannalaugar

Meaning “the people’s pool” in English, the Landmannalaugar is an area of geological beauty where milky blue glacial rivers cut through the protected valley. It is one of Iceland’s most striking landscapes because the rhyolite minerals of the hills tinge them in sepia tones and a vast spectrum of colours. It sits on the edge of the Laugahraun lava plain which was formed during the eruption of a nearby volcano around 1477.

The reason it is called “the people’s pool” is because this valley is home to several naturally heated hot springs. Local Icelanders have been bathing in these pools for centuries, and these days they offer respite for those hiking the Laugavegur trail.

A person looking over the Landmannalaugar area in the Icelandic highlands
Landmannalaugar is a crossway of different trekking paths along the Icelandic Highlands.

Exploring Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is at the northern end of the famous Laugavegur hiking trail – a multi-day route particularly popular in summer. You can reach Landmannalaugar on foot by following this trail all the way from Þórsmörk. Those that simply want to experience the beauty of Landmannalaugar without having to lace up their hiking boots can reach this spot via the narrow, unpaved f-roads that lead into Iceland’s uninhabited interior. These roads are only open in summer and even then you need a 4x4 to navigate the rocky surface and to ford the glacial rivers that flood the way.

Once you’ve reached Landmannalaugar, there are a few hiking trails through the valley and mountains to explore on foot. Check a Landmannalaugar map to see the routes of the trails. The valley is also home to a few of Iceland’s geothermally-heated natural pools where you can bathe outside. The hot springs are free to use.

A Landmannalaugar self-drive adventure can be a little intimidating if you’re not used to navigating mountain roads. Guided tours to the region leave from Reykjavík, allowing you to embark on multi-day hikes through Iceland’s interior and experience the beauty of Landmannalaugar hiking trails in person.

Group of explorers hiking through Landmannlaugar area.
A scenic trekking path in the Landmannalaugar area.

The Laugavegur trail

This 55-kilometre (34-mile) hiking trail leads from Þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar, taking in the stunning scenery of Iceland’s untamed highlands as you go. Most people tackle the route over three or four days in order to fully enjoy the landscape and to allow for some of the challenging climbs. Experienced hikers who like a challenge can complete the trail in just two days. Either way, you will need to stay overnight in one of the rustic mountain huts that mark the way or a designated campsite. Along the route, you’ll see ancient lava fields, volcanic slopes, glaciers and mossy-green valleys. Some say the sight of the colourful rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar at the end of the trail is the most beautiful section. It is also where you’ll find several naturally-heated pools – don’t forget to bring a towel and swimwear to enjoy the Landmannalaugar hot springs towards the end of your hike.

There are several multi-day guided tours available, covering the entire route of the Laugavegur trail. On a tour, all the mountain hut accommodation and transportation are taken care of and a guide can lead the way through this isolated part of Iceland.

A person with a pen pointing at a map of Iceland.
Planning your trek in advance is a good idea when tackling the Icelandic Highlands

Preparing for a hike

The Laugavegur trail and routes around Landmannalaugar are not the most challenging hikes in Iceland but are not to be underestimated. There is quite a lot of uphill involved when exploring the area on foot, so you’ll need at least an average level of fitness. Tackling the entire Laugavegur trail takes a few days, so it is a good idea to train before you arrive in Iceland – make sure you are comfortable doing several long-distance walks over multiple days in a row. It’s a popular route, so if you’re not joining a guided tour, make sure to book your mountain hut accommodation well in advance.

In terms of equipment, you don’t need anything specialist like crampons, ice axes or ropes, just a very sturdy pair of waterproof walking boots with good ankle support. Walking poles can help you on the ascents and across the long distances. As the hiking trail is only open in summer, packing sunscreen and a hat is a good idea. You will also need a lot of provisions – enough food and liquid for each day as there are no hot dog stands or restaurants out here in the Icelandic wilderness. Whether you’re staying in the mountain huts or at campsites, you’ll need to bring a sleeping bag.

All About Landmannalaugar

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