The Laugavegur Trail Trek in Iceland is one of the most beautiful treks you can do in the world. I’ve been to some of the best destinations worldwide for trekking. New Zealand, Norway, Alaska, The Himalayas, and so many more.
It’s easy for me to say that the Laugavegur Trail is definitely amongst the best. National Geographic named it as one of the best 20 treks in the world.
This is a trip report about a trek there in July.
It apparently takes the average hiker around four days to complete the Laugavegur Trail. However, I did it in three days with (obviously) two nights camping and this description of the hike reflects that speed.
But then I like to hike fast and long distances (everyone’s different).
Laugavegur Trail Map
Here’s a Laugavegur Trail map to give you an idea about the hike:
The Start of The Laugavegur Trail
Being a trail there is obviously the choice of two ends to start at.
The beginning by the coast or the beginning inland. The inland option is what most people do and is what I chose as well.
If you’re expecting total peace with nature alone in the wilderness then you will be in for a surprise. This is a popular trail and many people go just to hike the first few hours and back.
Upon arrival at the starting point at Landmannalaugar, you will be greeted (especially in July and August which is the peak season for the Laugavegur Trail) by lots of tourists.
The day-trippers only go for a few hours to walk up the trail before heading back so it’s only very busy for the first few hours. If you are short on time and want to just do a day trip to the start of this hike to see it you can organize that here.
There are a few portable cafes that will serve you up some freshly made sandwiches and soup which is highly recommended before heading out onto the trail.
Also, you will find the ranger station at the beginning.
Once you set out on the trek the first landscape you will see is geothermal.
Steam pours out of the ground here in what is a heavily geothermal part of Iceland.
The trail slowly ascends upwards as you can see the geothermal activity down below. It really does feel like you’re entering another world.
This is one of the reasons it seemed to me that many visitors come to this end of the trail for a day visit, to see this activity.
But like mentioned before after a few hours the day hikers disappear and you’re left on the trail by yourself at times, and occasionally with other trekkers.
It’s very peaceful.
Soon the trail turns flatter and you come to one of the first huts and camping grounds where you are allowed to stay.
The Laugavegur Trail officially only allows camping at these designated campsites or staying in the huts there.
Unofficially if you are alone, or just a small group and you go far from the trail out of sight and don’t have a bright (think red or yellow) tent then you could technically camp away from the designated areas and not be seen.
Although it isn’t really allowed this was what I did, simply because I was alone and with a very small non-obtrusive green tent.
I made sure not to step on any sensitive area and camp out of sight of the trail, but actually only around 500 meters away from an official camping area, so wasn’t really hurting anything.
Don’t do this if there is a big group of you. No matter how hard you try you will most likely be seen.
Anyway knowing that I continued on past the first hut as it was still early and I also had plenty of strength.
Crossing some snow amongst a sandy and rock-strewn area for an hour or two the trek opened up to a view down onto a valley surrounded by jutting mountains, with a shimmering lake to the right.
Is Iceland beautiful? Yep.
Following the trail down into grassy land and along a stream, I started searching for a place to camp for the night.
The official camping area is near the lake (you can see the lake in the photo below). I camped around 500 meters before this just behind a grassy mound a hundred meters from the trail.
It was peaceful and no one else around. The way it should be in nature if you’re looking to escape.
The next day the trail followed along a stream and past more mountains sticking up randomly like something out of a fantasy movie.
Some of this reminded me of how I felt on some of the treks I did in New Zealand, such as the Tongariro Crossing.
The Middle of The Laugavegur Trail
The initial stages of the next day involved hiking over pleasant greenery, with the lake by which the campsite was near fading into the distance.
That soon changed though as the terrain soon resembled what one could imagine an alien planet (think Mars) would appear to be.
The greenery vanished altogether and was replaced with stone rocks and black sand that blew dust everywhere in the wind that had brewed up before a rain shower came in.
This made things tougher for the hike because of the bad terrain and rain mixed with the subsequent sand flowing towards the eyes.
Also, a fast-flowing strong river needs to be crossed which was somewhat difficult, despite being not so deep in width.
As much fun as it was feeling like being on an alien planet, it was a relief to get back onto greener areas with a river running through steep mountain terrain.
Passing by another campsite where it seems most people would stop for their second night on the Laugavegur Trail I chose to push on.
There are a few rivers to traverse on this trek, most being somewhat easy enough. The main tougher one is just before the landscape starts going steeper where you go on the toughest ascent of the trip.
Thankfully there are small wooden bridges to help out in the worst parts, but it will take you some navigating around for a while to find the best crossing points.
Once across this river, there is one final campsite before the push upwards to reach the top of the mountain ahead. If tired by this point this is a good place to stay for the night.
Full of energy still I kept pushing on.
I’m not going to lie, it was a very tough climb up, but also the last really tough part of the trek, and the views were so worth it!
The trek had turned into deep canyons covered in moss with specks of snow here and there.
Some entertaining hard scrambling across rocks and the sides of the mountain are needed in some areas, but there are safety chains in place for the worst parts.
Don’t worry about it, I’m actually a little worried about heights and it wasn’t a problem. I would hate to do it in heavy rain though.
On top of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, mountain, whatever, in July there’s snow still around. The weather’s unpredictable though.
There you can do some short diversionary hikes to see the volcano craters where the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions took place.
After trekking on the top through some snow the coast comes into view and you start the descent towards the end of the trek.
The End of The Laugavegur Trail
The Laugavegur Trek is so beautiful because of the ever-changing landscapes that you go through, and the end (or beginning, depending on which way you start) is my favourite part.
As the trail descends towards the sea you follow a gorge covered in moss that then turns into a waterfall.
And that’s how the rest of the trail is for the next few hours. Small gorge, turn into a waterfall and repeat several times over.
Imagine a fantasy movie like Lord of the Rings and you get the idea of how it is.
It’s seriously so beautiful and serene. It’s by these waterfalls that I wild camped for the last night, listening to the sounds of the water.
I camped near the waterfall in the picture below.
The next day it was only a few more hours to the end of the trek following more waterfalls.
It’s these last few hours that you see more day-trippers just coming to hike the first few hours of the trek, similar to the beginning on the other end.
And to see the last (or first) waterfall.
Then you reach the end at Skogar. Trek done.
The Laugavegur Trail is easily one of the best treks in the world.
How To Get To The Laugavegur Trail
Public transport in Iceland kind of sucks, especially when getting away from the main ring road around the country, so expect that when going there.
Personally, I hitch-hiked from Reykjavik to the beginning and it was easy. I camped overnight en route simply because of starting late in the day getting out of Reykjavik
Plenty of people hitch-hike in Iceland and from what I gathered you don’t need to wait too long for a ride.
When To Do The Laugavegur Trail Trek
June to September is the time to do the Laugavegur Trail as this is when the snow has mostly melted and the weather is at its best.
When saying the weather is at its best bear in mind that Iceland has some fast-changing weather, and a hot sunny summer’s day can quickly become a rainstorm and things get chilly fast.
Any other time outside of these four months there will be too much snow and bad weather.
Even at the end of July at the peak best time to do the trek I encountered a cold rain shower now and then.
Best Apps For Trekking in Iceland
These are three essential apps you should have on your smartphone for any treks you may do in Iceland.
112 Iceland App is the emergency services app for Iceland so if you get into trouble you can call for help by pressing the emergency button.
Vedur is the best weather app for Iceland and is run by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. This will help you keep track of the weather conditions for your hike.
Wapp is an outdoor GPS hiking trails app with many free maps to access.
Useful Links for Iceland Travel:
The best guidebook about Iceland to help plan your travels more there is the Lonely Planet Iceland Guide.
Whenever you go hiking anywhere in the world it’s best to take out travel insurance and make sure they cover you for being evacuated from remote places.
Without insurance, it will cost a lot in Iceland to get evacuated from a trail if you hurt yourself in a harder to get to area! I use WorldNomads for my travel insurance and they are excellent.
National Geographic has a good map of Iceland to take with you for your trip.
If you liked this article about the Laugavegur Trail Trek a share would be appreciated! –