Hiking around Landmannalaugar is one of the top attractions in Iceland. Landmannalaugar is a mountainous area located in the highlands in the south of Iceland. It’s famous for hot springs, geothermal sulphur deposits, colourful mountains, and Laugahraun lava fields. It’s also the starting point of the Laugavegur trek. In this post, I will tell you about my hilarious (or shall I say pitiful) adventures while hiking around Landmannalaugar and reveal some pro tips in case you’d like to solo hike around Landmannalaugar.
Solo travel in Iceland
Iceland is probably the safest country in the world if you’re a solo female traveller. The crime rate is extremely low, Icelanders are very friendly and helpful, English is spoken basically everywhere and tourism is so well developed, that even if you’re disorganised, you’ll easily manage travelling solo. On the other hand, I would not like to find myself stranded in some off-path place during bad weather such as storm or fog, because that could actually be dangerous. The only thing I was worried about when planning for hiking around Landmannalaugar solo was the weather.
Those concerns, however, didn’t stop me from doing what I had planned and therefore, only one day after finishing the trek in Vatnajökull National Park, I was standing in front of the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik waiting for Iceland By Bus to take me to Landmannalaugar. The sky over Reykjavik was getting more and more cloudy and it soon began raining like crazy. What a fine start to my solo travel adventures in Iceland!
Icelandic contrasts: pitch black Laugahraun lava fields versus colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar
The journey through the Icelandic highlands was long and bumpy. As soon as the asphalt ended, we entered an area near the Hekla volcano. I felt as if I was travelling on a different planet because the landscape was so bizarre. Everything was pitch black. The hills, the road, the rocks. Given that landscape, I was shocked to see the bright coloured mountains once we entered Landmannalaugar.
The Icelandic vastness took my breath away (I know how cheesy this sounds but it is true, go there and check for yourself!). I was also surprised to see that the mountains I knew from Google images are really THAT colourful. I had also not expected to see a whole camping village at the foot of the lava fields which also mark the starting point of the Laugavegur trek.
The only disadvantage of my solo travel in Landmannalaugar was the weather. It was cold, it was raining, and it was a lot more windy than in Reykjavik. Having learned my lesson in Vatnajökull, I decided not to care about the weather and enjoy those incredible views anyway. I quickly paid the camping fee (around 10 Euros) and went on a hunt for a perfect camping spot.
Pitching a tent in Landmannalaugar – a hilarious example on how my solo travel survival skills suck
Feeling as if I was on some mysterious, confidential, and hyper-important mission, I was walking around the campsite in Landmannalaugar trying to locate the best spot for pitching the tent thinking what an awesome badass I was to be solo travelling Iceland. If only I had known what happened later, I would have probably be thinking something else…. :P
After a few minutes of walking around the area close to which I wanted to pitch my tent, noticed a perfect, still unoccupied space. Comparing to the rest of the campsite, it was the only plot of land without hundreds of medium size stones.
Since it was already windy and raining, the decision to pitch the tent there was quick. It took me ages to put up the tent since I first had to collect a lot of large stones which would secure my tent from flying away and fasten it to the ground, which was also problematic since the soil was very hard. After 20 minutes of running here and there and trying to put up the tent, it was finally standing. My hands were absolutely dirty, but that’s not what caused me troubles later on.
When I was opening the “doors” of the tent, I noticed that my shoes were all brown and my trousers had patches of mud up to my knees. I was dirty AF.
And then I realised it. I squatted and pressed my hand against the ground. It quickly got covered with dark, thick water. This was the moment when I started muttering swearwords about my carelessness and absent-mindedness. I was thinking I did the best deal ever while pitching my tent in a plot of mud. :):):) Since I couldn’t stay in that place (otherwise, I would wake up in a brown swimming pool), I had to relocate the whole tent and go through the pitching circus once again.
Another 30 minutes later, exhausted, angry AF, soaked, and cold, I finally managed to get into the tent and not drown.
The colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar
Even before I came to Iceland, I knew I wanted to hike the Brennisteinsalda volcano, the highest point in Landmannalaugar (855). The hike is relatively easy and you can go there and back in around three hours. It took me more because I was stopping in every corner of Landmannalaugar to take photographs.
The first part of the hike to Brennisteinsalda goes through a forest of Laugahraun lava fields – huge lava rocks of different shapes scattered between the campsite and the mountains. The lava rocks are black with patches of green moss here and there. The path is really well marked. You basically need to follow little poles with red endings stuck into the ground every few meters. The initial hike through the lava fields is not long, but if you stop every few seconds to take photographs, you can spend an hour there and still not reach the main, the most impressive part of Landmannalaugar – the colourful mountains and geothermal spots.
Once I left the lava fields behind, another amazing view emerged in front of me – a huge, spacious valley surrounded by colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar. There was a little river meandering at the bottom of the valley and some sheep were having a casual stroll on the nearby hills. There was also a meadow of cotton grass.
Right to the left of this beautiful valley, there was a path leading up to Brennisteinsalda volcano and further, to Hrafntinnusker. The first thing that I noticed, were clouds of white smoke stemming from the ground in the most random places you can imagine. As much as it looks absolutely magical, it stinks, because it’s mostly sulphur.
Where to get the best view on Graenagil canyon and Blahnukur volcano in Ladnmannalaugar
View over Graenagil canyon is, in my opinion, the most impressive one in Landmannalaugar. There’s a blue river meandering between grand and colourful mountains and if I had more time, I would definitely hike there. Blahnukur volcano, on the other hand, is terrifying. Brennisteinsalda is at least colourful, while Blahnukur is all black and looks absolutely steep. I was taking photographs of people standing on top of Blahnukur and I have not noticed yet another group of people trekking it. Can you spot them? :D
And now watch out: a travel blogger’s special hint on how to get the best views in Landmannalaugar. Don’t follow the path to Brennisteinsalda volcano which is also the Laugavegur trek, and instead of turning right, go straight ahead until you reach a big lava rock. Go behind the rock. Stan still and admire the views.
Hiking Brennisteinsalda volcano in Landmannalaugar when it’s windy AF
The higher I hiked, the more windy it got. On the last straight part of the Brennisteinsalda trek, it was so windy that I was starting to be concerned if I won’t be blown away. The views, however, were a good reward for all the troubles. Despite showers, the visibility was not bad. Campsite valley in the distance, Blahnukur volcano in its all grandeur, impressive yet quite scary dark lava fields an colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar everywhere else. The only thing that made me slightly worried was the thick fog hovering above the Laugavegur trek.
The most pleasant thing to do in Landmannalaugar – taking a bath in a hot spring
The hike to Brennisteinsalda volcano took me around four hours while normally it takes between two and three. I was so slow because I was stopping everywhere to just admire the views and take photographs. After I came back to the campsite, I felt hungry so I quickly went on to prepare my dry food. Due to low temperature, it took ages to boil the water even though I kept the stove in the “gate” to my tent. After dinner, I felt it was highest time to do what I had been waiting for the hole day.
Taking a bath in a hot river. The one in Landmannalaugar is quite large, a lot larger than the one in Vatnajökull, but there are also more people. There’s a really cute wooden path leading to the river and there’s also a balcony where you can leave your clothes and shoes before jumping into the crystal clear water.
Getting into the river was the most bizarre thing ever. I expected to feel a lukewarm water and, instead, I felt a pleasant wave of warmth covering my body. It was SO INCREDIBLY pleasant to be soaking in hot water while looking at those amazing mountains! Really, one of the highlights of my stay in Iceland. However, the water is not hot all the time – there are currents. Before I found a perfect spot, I actually was hit by a cold current a few times and, trust me, you don’t want to be in cold water while you’re swimming in Iceland. ;)
What starts bad ends well – solo travel rocks and Iceland is awesome
After the whole day of adventures, I was quite tired but happy. Despite the embarrassing mishap with pitching the tent and enduring bad weather all day, I was getting more and more excited about tomorrow’s hike. I was about to hike the Laugavegur trek and I went to sleep thinking that I won’t let bad weather destroy my plans. As always, things that start bad have a pretty good ending, at least in my case. I slept like a dead log throughout the whole night, stayed warm and woke up feeling really energised and ready to rock the next day.
The next day some things happened which made hiking the Laugavegur trek an amazing adventure and it wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t travelling solo. But that’s a topic for another post. :)
Practical information and tips on hiking around Landmannalaugar
How to get to Landmannalaugar?
You have many options but I will tell you about the one I tried out myself: by bus. There are at least two companies that organise transport from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar: Reykjavik Excursions and Iceland by Bus. I decided to go ahead with Iceland by Bus since they have a hop-on hop-off travel pass which gives you a lot of flexibility and secures your travel at the same time. In the summer, they leave daily at 7:30 from Harpa Concert Hall and 7:00 from the Reykjavik Campsite. The schedule may change for 2017, these hours are for 2016.
Accommodation in Landmannalaugar
Campsite in Landmannalaugar is huge and there are hundreds of tents, at least in August. Camping fee is around 10 E and includes access to bathrooms with sinks with hot water. Showers with hot water are paid extra! The bathroom is quite spacious and has heating turned on so there are always a lot of things hanging everywhere. I left there my swimming suite and a towel and they didn’t get much drier due to high humidity. You can drink tap water. There’s no possibility to borrow a tent there, so you must have your own. Actually, you can’t borrow anything there (meaning hiking poles, etc.).
Shops in Landmannalaugar
You can buy maps in the warden’s hut but I haven’t seen anything else to buy.
What to pack for hiking around Landmannalaugar?
If you’re staying there for a few days or if you’re doing the Laugavegur trek, I highly recommend reading this post. It has everything you need to know about trekking in Iceland.
Hiking trails in Landmannalaugar
There are many! The area is huge and you can spend days just hiking around Landmannalaugar. Brennisteinsalda volcano hike is the popular one (although don’t expect crowds, when I hiked it, there were other two people only) and it’s not difficult. Blahnukur volcano looked a bit scary because it’s all black, but I would love to hike it next time. Graenagil canyon is mesmerizing but I haven’t seen any solo people doing that. I am afraid some guidance might be needed to hike in Graenagil canyon and not get lost, but if you have a head for maps, go for it. You can also hike to Hrafntinnusker and back. This would be around 24 kilometres, but you can totally do it within a day. There are many other lesser known hiking trails which I haven’t done yet. Just go and ask warden, they have plenty of hiking ideas.
Is it worth to visit Landmannalaugar?
YES. The one day I spent there is not enough to explore the area of colourful mountains and I am already planning on coming back and taking more time to just hike around Landmannalaugar. The views you’ll see in Landmannalaugar are like nothing else in the world. More of those landscapes and what comes next in my post about hiking the Laugavegur trek.