The Landmannalaugar Þórsmörk trek is well known in the world and the most popular by hikers in Iceland. These 55 scenic kilometers well deserve the reputation: colorful rhyolite mountains, glaciers, geothermal springs, steam columns, black sands desert, rivers and large lakes.
Although the distance can be easily covered in two or three days, why hurry? Take the full four days trek and enjoy the views.
Although the trek can be hiked from both directions most travelers choose to start in Landmannalauger (600m) and finish in Þórsmörk (300m).
Landmannalauger, meaning in Icelandic “the baths of the people”, was named after the warm springs in the area. These springs are indeed a good place to relax before the trek or afterwards.
The first leg is 12 km long and can be covered in 4-5 hours. The path leads to a large lava filed called Laugahroun which is covered by green moss. Mosses and lichens are the basis for the development of vegetation in Iceland.
They stabilize the soil and nurture seeds of grass and bushes. Moss can survive harsh climate conditions but it is easily destroyed when stepped on. Please keep to the marked and beaten path to protect it.
Walking further towards the Brennisteinsda mountain range we pass near a large field. In late summer it is covered with bog- cotton. The white-brown- green colors blend into the surrounding colored hills.
As we climb higher move scenery is revealed. Looking back towards Landmannalauger the whole valley is seen. Moving further we will see hills patched with ice, green moss and colored sends. About 2 thirds of this path is covered with snow most of the year. Getting closer to Hrafntinusker ice and snow may cover the path.
From time to time you will pass near a geothermal spring. The columns of steam are seen from far away. Water is too hot to bath in. Hrafntinnusker hut marks the end of the first leg. The hut overlooks a chocolate - vanilla colored plateau, providing inspiring views at dawn or dusk.
The second leg takes us descending 490 meter along 12 km. This distance can be covered within 4-5 hours. The first part of the hike takes us through the plateau. What may seem flat from afar turns to be a set of rounded hills. The valley between the hills is covered with snow. During the summer the snow is melting. While at early summer the snow levels the valleys, towards the end you will find yourself mostly climbing your way up and down. Walking polls may be very useful at this part, for balancing the slippery slopes, and for checking the ice stability. We have now left the rhyolite hills behind and walking past dark mountains covered with ice.
The long descend reveals a different scenery. Green velvet hills with spiked summit surrounding a lake. This is Alftavatn, the swan lake, although there are no swans there anymore.
The last part is a steep descend that ends at a Grashagakvísl river. You will need to cross one of its springs. There are no bridges there, so it’s you in the water! After river crossing the path leads to the Alftavatn hut which marks the end of this leg.
The third leg is mostly flat, although there are some ascends and descends during the first and the last part of the trail. The 15km path can be covered by 6-7 hours.
There are several river crossings along this leg. Some of the rivers are crossed on bridges others are crossed in water. The safest way to cross the river is to find the widest part, where water flows relatively slow. Cross the river while looking straight ahead to the other bank. Do not look at the water as you cross, the water movement may cause dizziness.
The first part of the trail leads to the green Brattháls ridge. Green mossy hills are spotted with white ice patches. We follow the trail down to the Hvangil valley and to Kaldaklofskvis river crossing. The path leads us to a wide plain. This is a black send desert that we are to cross during most of this part. The black plain is surrounded by the green velvet hills, and a big glacier is in front of us. This is Eyafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. The last river crossing is by a bridge over Nyrðri Emstruá. A short walk on the plain and the Emstrur huts are seen surrounded by stunning glacier views.
A round trip of an hour and a half leads to Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon and provides panoramic views on the surroundings. High basalt columns are seen from both canyon sides and demonstrate the power of nature. The trail leads to a place where two rivers meet: white water from one side and black water from the other side mixing together is strong currents.
Þórsmörk meaning Thor’s forest .is the final destination of the trek. The last leg will lead us along a mostly moderate descend of 300 meters over 15 km that can be covered by 6-7 hours.
The first part is a steep trail leading to the Syðri-Emstruá valley. The vegetation is changing as we walk further and turning more green, bushes and flowers are seen. There is only one river crossing today, but this is the deepest one. The Þröngá River also marks the beginning of Þórsmörk forest, which is one of the few natural forests in Iceland. In the pats Iceland was covered by forests. The new settlers came to Iceland about 1200 years ago and brought with them their knowledge, skills and practices. Following the agriculture method back in their homeland they cut down the trees to provide wood for housing and create meadows for pasture. However unlike back home in Iceland due to climate and soil conditions the trees do not grow so fast. Þórsmörk was a sacred place so it was spared giving us the opportunity to enjoy this oasis. Although trees are not high there are thick bushes, flowers and many different birds.
The start and end of trek is daily serviced by busses from Reykjavik by RE and TREX companies. Also Alftavatn hut is serviced by the busses.
There are huts and camping sites operated by the icelandic touring association ( FI )along the way. The huts provide bunk beds and matrasses, stove, cooking utensils, toilets, running cold water. For additional charge hot shower is provided and batteries can be charged. Since there are only a small number of beds in each hut be sure to reserve a place in advance. Neither sheets nor towels are provided. Bring all your food with you.
Waterproof hiking boots, walking polls, waterproof clothing, sleeping bag, additional pair of shoes to cross the river.
The recommended age for kids is 12-13 due to the river crossings that may be challenging for kids. The first two legs (Landmannalauger – Alftavatn) can be hikes by younger children.