Imagine a 34-mile hiking trail that introduces you to an astonishing diversity of landscapes: colourful rhyolite mountains, thermal pools, glaciers and volcanic slopes carpeted in emerald green moss. That’s the Laugavegur trail, and it’s one of Iceland’s most popular multi-day hikes.

Located in Iceland’s Southern Highlands, the trail begins in the colourful, geothermally-active Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve. You’ll ascend the black obsidian slopes of Hrafntinnusker and cross the sparse black ash field of Mælifellssandur. From there you’ll pass into Þórsmörk, ‘The Valley of Thor’, a surprisingly green area nestled between three glaciers.

In this guide, we'll discuss the route for this extraordinary hike in greater detail, alongside answering some of the most frequently asked questions about Laugavegur, from accommodation options to logistics.

How Long to Walk the Laugavegur Trail?

The relatively-short length of the Laugavegur trail might lead you to believe that it’s easily accomplished within a couple of days. And of course, there are people that do that. At last year’s Laugavegur Ultramarathon, which follows the same route as the hiking path, the quickest completion time was just over four hours! We would not recommend you attempt this (without sufficient training, at least).

Dramatic cloudy landscapes along the Laugavegur trail.
Along the Laugavegur Trail, the weather is just as dramatic as the scenery. Photo: Getty

The vast majority of hikers divide the route into four segments, hiking between seven to 10 miles a day, which is what we recommend. It might not sound very far, but there are some steep climbs to contend with. And considering the route is entirely off-road, you’ll need to carry all your food and other supplies with you.

Weather along the trail route is notoriously temperamental too. You might spend the morning hopefully waiting for the rain to abate before leaving camp. You’ll be trudging through the snow, crossing icy rivers, finding your way through thick fog… tempted yet?

If this sounds like exactly the type of adventurous trek you’re looking for, you can even make it a little bit longer. Add on the Fimmvörðuháls trail, a 13-mile route which leads from Þórsmörk, across two glaciers, to Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar.

You’ll be trudging through the snow, crossing icy rivers, finding your way through thick fog… tempted yet?

Most people walk the route from north to south, as the trail slopes slightly downwards in that direction, and this is the order you have to book huts in. However, if you don’t mind camping there’s nothing to stop you from going the other way. You’re likely to encounter fewer people, and you’ll get to enjoy a dip in Landmannalaugar’s thermal pools at the end of the walk rather than the beginning.

The hot springs at Landmannalaugar on the Laugavegur Trail
The hot springs at Landmannalaugar are the perfect way to start or end your walk. Photo: Getty

The Laugavegur Trail: A 4 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

Distance: 7.4 miles

Time: 4-5 hours

You can either arrive at Landmannalaugar the day before and camp at the trailhead, or catch the early bus out of Reykjavik and get on the road. We’d recommend the former, if you have the time to do so.

The camp is located in the colourful volcanic hills of Fjallabak Nature Reserve, where there are plenty of short hikes to get you warmed up. Speaking of warming up, there are some geothermal hot springs which you can bathe in. The campsite at Landmannalaugar also has a charcoal grill, so you can kick off your adventure with a barbecue.

Hikers struggling up the steep climb leaving Landmannalaugar on the Laugavegur Trail
The first part of the route is one of the steepest ascents of the whole trail. Photo: Getty

Once you’re ready to strike out, you’ll start off by climbing a waymarked path up to the lava field of Laugahraun. The path is steep and strenuous, especially when covered in snow, but it soon levels out.

The lava field consists of dark basalt, ossified into strange formations and dotted with green moss. As you walk, you’ll see evidence of geothermal activity, including steam rising from vents in the ground, and puddles of bubbling mud.

Craggy volcanic mountains loom up on either side. You’ll head downhill to a plateau, just below the mountain of Brennisteinsalda (also known as the ‘Sulphur Wave’). This is a great spot for a snack break; take in the view of the multicoloured rhyolite mountains and gorges.

A hiker looking at the rainbow coloured slopes of Brennisteinsalda on the Laugavegur Trail
The colourful, otherworldly slopes of Brennisteinsalda. Photo: Getty

Continue on uphill to Stórihver, a green valley where a geyser pumps out steam across the landscape. We’d recommend a rest here, as the final part of the hike - to the hut in Hrafntinnusker - involves another elevation gain.

The scenery changes significantly as you walk; the colourful, undulating hills are replaced with stark black volcanic slopes. The higher peaks are striated with snow all year round; the temperature drops significantly as you make your way through slushy patches of snow. As you cross the slope of Söðull, you’ll find a sobering memorial to a former trekker.

“In loving memory of Ido Keinan, who passed away in a blizzard so close to the safe hut nearby yet so far at only 25 years old,” reads a metal plaque drilled into a basalt cairn.

Keep climbing up the bare obsidian mountainside until you reach the Hrafntinnusker hut. Located at an elevation of 1110m, it’s the highest point on the trail, surrounded by snow and dark mountains streaked with ice.

Hrafntinnusker hut and campsite on a particularly cold day on the Laugavegur Trail
Hrafntinnusker hut and campsite on a particularly cold day! Photo: Getty

The campsite is on a bare, obsidian slope, consisting of a few horseshoe shaped windbreaks created from the volcanic rock. This was one of the nights where we camped, and we can tell you from bitter experience that it was really rather cold!

For this reason, some hikers choose to continue onto the next campsite, which is better equipped and less exposed. However, if you do that you’ll be looking at a further four to five hours of hiking, which is a lot when you’re carrying a heavy rucksack!

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

Distance: 7.4 miles

Time: 4-5 hours

You’ll be able to see the trail that leads away from the campsite towards Álftavatn (and the hikers walking ahead of you). It leads across patches of snow and bare rock, curving over rolling basalt hills as it passes below Reykjafjoll Mountain. Although the terrain is relatively flat here, do tread carefully - there are several ravines covered with snow bridges.

The path meanders towards the west of Kaldaklofsfjöll, and there’s a short but relatively steep climb up to the plateau of Jökultungur, where you’re treated to an impressive view of the varied terrain you’ve hiked across, and the three surrounding glaciers: Tindfjallajökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Well, unless it’s obscured by clouds!

Hiking across Jökultungur towards the Álftavatn Valley on the Laugavegur Trail
The hike across Jökultungur towards the Álftavatn Valley. Photo: Getty

As you walk across Jökultungur, you’ll see the Álftavatn Valley spread out below you. The terrain has changed again - Lake Álftavatn, with its gleaming gun-metal grey waters, is encircled by conical volcanic peaks carpeted in lime green moss. Rivers run through the green floor of the valley like silver threads. On a clear day, you should be able to see the faint blue and white silhouettes of the ice caps on the horizon.

There’s a rocky, slightly steep descent into the valley. From there, it’s a flat walk across the valley floor, which is carpeted with moss and grass. You’ll need to cross the Grashagakvísl river to continue along the path.

The view over Álftavatn Valley. In the distance you can see Álftavatn Lake and the huts on its shore on the Laugavegur Trail
The view over Álftavatn Valley. In the distance you can see Álftavatn Lake and the huts on its shore. Photo: Getty

In some weather, you can do this via a snow bridge - otherwise you’ll have to put on your waterproof shoes, roll up your trousers and wade across. The water is (literally) glacial! According to FÍ, the water is drinkable (but we’d always recommend purifying it).

The hut and campsite are located on flat land near Lake Álftavatn. The words ‘Restaurant’ and ‘Bar’ are painted on the side - a can of beer is definitely in order. This campsite has better amenities than the previous one, including hot showers (which you’ll need to pay an extra fee for).

Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 6-7 hours

Follow the trail in an easterly direction across the valley. After around 20 minutes of hiking you’ll need to cross the Bratthálskvísl river. It’s deeper and faster flowing than yesterday’s, especially after heavy rain. You’ll walk along Brattháls ridge on the way to Hvanngil, a green and volcanic valley where a further set of trekking huts are located (a useful toilet stop).

Hvanngil, where grass and wildflowers are encircled by volcanic hills and boulders.
Hvanngil, where grass and wildflowers are encircled by volcanic hills and boulders. Photo: Getty

After Hvanngil, you’ll cross the Kaldaklofskvísl river via footbridge, and a short while later, it’s another cold crossing of the Bláfjallakvísl river. Your fourth and final crossing of the day is the Innri Emstruá river, using a wooden footbridge.

As you continue south towards Emstrur, the green valley is replaced by the sparse volcanic desert of Mælifellssandur. The black sand is littered with pumice boulders, and is almost entirely devoid of vegetation. After you’ve been walking for around an hour, you’ll begin to descend into a small valley, where you’ll catch sight of the huts.

Day 4: Emstrur to Þórsmörk

Distance: 9 miles

Time: 6-7 hours

Head east on the trail across the volcanic landscape. The path descends down to the Syðri-Emstruá river, which runs through a deep canyon (don’t worry, there’s a footbridge for this one). You’ll climb back up on the other side, to a higher plateau above the gorge.

The volcanic black sand desert at Emstrur on the Laugavegur Trail
The volcanic black sand desert at Emstrur. Photo: Getty

If you walk out (carefully) towards its edge, you’ll be able to see the deep gorge where the Syðri-Emstruá and Markarfljót rivers meet. They’re fast-flowing rivers which are fed by the meltwater running off the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers.

Hike south through the hills of Almenningar. You’ll cross two small ravines, Slyppugil and Bjórgil, both of which have creeks with drinkable water. Once you’ve left the ravines behind, you’ll see that the landscape begins to get greener.

You’ll soon reach the final steep climb of the day, up to the bare summit of Kápa. And shortly after that, your final river crossing, over the gravel outwash plain of the Þröngá. It might not be steep, but the ground is rocky.

You’ve now crossed over into Þórsmörk, which translates to ‘Thor’s Valley’. It’s the greenest part of the walk - you’ll even hike through your first woodland of the trip, Hamraskógar, where you’ll find dainty, stunted trees and a carpet of wild herbs and flowers. Descend down through the wooded valley for around half an hour, until you reach the end of the trail.

The green landscape of Þórsmörk - a stark contrast to the black desert of Emstrur
The (relatively) green landscape of Þórsmörk is a stark contrast to the black desert of Emstrur. Photo: Getty

There are a few accommodation options available, if you aren’t planning on going back to Reykjavik straight away. The most popular is the hut and campsite at Langidalur. But if you’re adding on the Fimmvörðuháls trail to your trek, it’s worth continuing on - you’ll find the small Baldvinsskáli hut around 2.5 miles along the route.

If you’ve finished the walk, and want to treat yourself, we recommend the more upmarket private accommodation, Volcano Huts. There’s a sauna and hot pool, plus a restaurant serving up a hearty dinner buffet.

What Time of Year Should I Hike the Laugavegur Trail?

Due to the unpredictable weather in the region, the Laugavegur trail is only open from late June to mid September. The exact dates are dependent on the weather, and also on Iceland’s Road Authority. The trailhead, and some of the huts along the route, are accessed by gravel F-roads (roads that access the highlands of Iceland), which are closed during the winter months when conditions are too dangerous for driving.

It’s for this reason that most hikers will plan a trip between July and August. Attempting it earlier or later than this means you run the risk of not being able to access the trail at all. However, you will encounter fewer hikers on your journey.

Trek Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail | Much Better Adventures
The camping edition of Iceland’s otherworldly and legendary trek. Join a small group of hikers, sleeping out in the elements as you go.

Accommodation: Should I camp or Use the Laugavegur Hiking Trail Huts?

The huts and campsite at Álftavatn Lake on the Laugavegur Trail
The huts and campsite at Álftavatn Lake. Photo: Getty

There are two accommodation options along the Laugavegur trail - to stay in one of six huts, or their adjacent campsites. Both of these are owned and maintained by (the Icelandic Touring Association). Wild camping is not permitted.

The huts are located in Landmannalaugar, Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil, Emstrur and Þórsmörk. Each varies in size and comfort, but all offer a mattress to sleep on, toilets, cold running water and a communal kitchen where you can cook your evening meal. They’re all heated by gas or geothermal energy, but there's no electricity (so you won't be able to charge your devices). Make sure to book them in advance - they fill up several months ahead of time.

Camping will give you more privacy, but arguably less comfort. However, if you decide to camp at one of the adjacent sites, you’ll have access to the bathroom facilities (but not to any of the indoor space or cooking facilities). On a small group camping trip, your host will provide you with a communal 'mess tent' for eating and relaxing in, and strong expedition tents suitable for the unpredictable Icelandic weather. If you're travelling independently and carrying everything you need with you, then you'll need to make sure your tent is suitably lightweight.

Trek Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail | Much Better Adventures
The camping edition of Iceland’s otherworldly and legendary trek. Join a small group of hikers, sleeping out in the elements as you go.

Cost is also a factor. Camping currently costs between 2,200kr - 2,300 kr (£13 - £14) while huts are 13,000 kr (£77) when travelling independently. Hot showers cost 900 kr (£5), for both hut and camping guests. So you might be surprised to see that small group camping expeditions along Laugavegur are a similar price to the hut-to-hut trek. This is because the former includes the cost of luggage transfer, so you don't have to carry all your equipment on your back - hut-to-hut trekkers will hike with everything they need, while campers just have a daypack.

What Kit Do I Need to Hike the Laugavegur Trail?

Hiking essentials for your trip, from walking poles to a water canteen.
Trip essentials include a first aid kit, decent shoes, a map and more. Photo: Getty

When hiking the Laugavegur Trail, we recommend coming prepared for the weather with the following gear:

  • Hiking boots (worn-in, waterproof and with ankle support)
  • Long-sleeved thermal tops / breathable wicking layers (wool or synthetic)
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Lightweight hiking trousers/shorts
  • Waterproof jacket with hood (windproof and breathable, e.g. Gore-Tex or similar)
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Gaiters (optional but recommended for June/early July departures)
  • Lightweight down/synthetic fill jacket
  • Lightweight gloves (wool or synthetic)
  • Hiking socks (2-3 pairs, wool or synthetic)
  • Swimwear (for thermal pools)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Sandals/beach shoes/old trainers for crossing rivers, and a pair or neoprene socks
  • Clothes and shoes/sandals for the evenings in the huts

What camping gear you’ll need depends very much on whether you’re camping or staying in the huts, if you’re travelling independently or in a group. If you’re camping independently you’ll need:

  • An expedition tent
  • A camping mattress (such as Thermarest)
  • A lightweight sleeping bag, 3-4 season with a comfort rating up to -5°C
  • Cooking equipment and utensils - a stove, a cooking pot, gas and utensils.
Hiking Essentials: 15 Must-Haves + 20 Things to Consider Packing
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a packing list for all hikes? Well we’ve got you covered for hiking essentials, plus some not-quite hiking essentials.

Travelling independently means you’ll need to carry your own food with you. This includes meals and other hiking snacks .

Even though the trail is clearly waymarked, make sure you bring a map. When fog, rain or snow descends on the mountains, visibility is significantly reduced

The huts do have a limited selection of food, drink and snacks for sale, alongside other products you might need (including plasters, power banks and camping gas). However, products do sell out, so it’s best not to rely on them for your daily calorie intake!

Even though the trail is clearly waymarked, independent trekkers should bring a map. When fog, rain or snow descends on the mountains, visibility is significantly reduced.

For a full packing list, check out the 'kit list' section of our Trek the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland: the Camping Edition.

How to Get There

Lots of people walk Laugavegur as part of a group tour. In these cases, transport is often provided to and from Reykjavík (and your evening meal miraculously turns up at the huts every night, which is an added bonus).

However, just as many people do the trip independently. Given that the trail is linear, rather than circular, driving yourself there is out of the question. Besides, contending with Iceland’s bumpy gravel F-roads is not for the faint hearted. Your best option is to take a bus to the trailhead.

Various Icelandic companies offer a hiking passport. This is a flexible ticket that takes you out to your chosen start point (either Þórsmörk, Landmannalaugar or Skógar) and back to Reykjavík at your chosen end point. You’ll need to ensure that you book a specific bus at the same time, as seats do fill up quickly.

Inspired? Check out our hut-to-hut Laugavegur trek. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Why not explore our Laugavegur camping trip? Or have a browse of our other Iceland hiking trips.