Hiking in Iceland gives a whole new meaning to the term wide open spaces. The volcanic landscapes on this stunning island are dynamic, colorful, wild, and unbelievably vast. One of…
Hiking in Iceland gives a whole new meaning to the term wide open spaces. The volcanic landscapes on this stunning island are dynamic, colorful, wild, and unbelievably vast. One of the most wonderful ways to experience the best of what Iceland’s backcountry has to offer (waterfalls, glaciers, geothermal activity, canyons, aquamarine rivers…you get the idea) is to hike the iconic Laugavegur Trail. This 34 mile (55 km) walk typically takes hikers 2-4 days. It allows walkers to experience the remote and often harsh landscapes of the Icelandic wilderness while still providing some basic comforts and amenities. Those who want to maximize comfort might choose to stay in the mountain huts, while those seeking a more rugged (and affordable) experience can camp at every stage of the trek. Completing the hike is pretty straightforward, but there are nonetheless some important factors to consider in advance. This is particularly true if you are planning to camp along the trail. This guide will cover everything you need to know in order to prepare for an amazing Laugavegur camping adventure!
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First, a few basics about the Laugavegur:
Direction: We hiked the Laugavegur from north to south and we’d certainly recommend traveling in this direction if you want to avoid some very long climbs and be more likely to have the wind at your back. If you do plan on hiking from south to north, expect a more challenging hike and plan for longer days on the trail. The “traditional” direction to hike is from north to south, but don’t expect to have the trail all to yourself if you go in the opposite direction. We saw several dozen hikers traveling northbound each day while we were out there.
When to do it: The weather in Iceland can be extremely harsh. No matter when you go, expect cold, wet, and windy conditions for a least some parts of your trek and pack accordingly. This is especially important for campers. We hiked in early July and had great weather throughout, although it was still very cold at times. Even though it was peak season, it wasn’t overly crowded on the trail if we got an early start. With the right gear (check out our packing list for more on this topic), campers can typically complete the hike from mid-June through early September. Make sure to always check with the hut wardens for the latest conditions and never attempt to hike through unsafe weather.
- All prices in this guide are per person, per day.
- This guide is based on a moderately-paced four day itinerary that begins in Landmannalaugar and ends in Þórsmörk (pronounced Thorsmork). There is an option to extend your hike by completing the Fimmvörðuháls Trail which connects Þórsmörk to Skogar. We have included information about this option in the guide as well. Many segments of the hike can be easily modified and these have been noted in the guide. For those hiking from south to north, most of this information still applies in reverse. Any exceptions have been noted in the guide.
- Wild camping is not permitted in Iceland.
- Campers will not have access to outlets for charging electronics until they reach the campground at Skogar. Plan accordingly.
- Reservations are not necessary for any of the campgrounds.
- You’ll find only a very limited inventory of (very expensive) supplies for sale at some of the huts along the trail. You should plan on stocking up on food, stove fuel, and provisions for your entire trek before leaving Reykjavik.
Day One: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker
If you are planning on starting your hike in Landmannalaugar, you’ll likely need to catch a bus there from Reykjavik (see our Laugavegur Trail Logistics article for more on how to do this). The bus ride takes about 4.5 hours, so you’ll want to take this into consideration when planning out your first day of hiking. If you take a morning bus and arrive in Landmannalaugar by midday, you could complete the first stage to Hrafntinnusker in the same day. Alternatively, you could camp at Landmannalaugar and begin hiking the following morning. If you went with the latter option you could combine the first two stages into one longer day to make up time and avoid camping at Hrafntinnusker (see more on that below). Additionally, there are some great day hikes near Landmannalaugar as well as some truly incredible hot springs.
Services at Landmannalaugar: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), hot showers (500 ISK for 5 min), clothesline, sheltered cooking area, trash and recycling, small shop selling snacks, beer, and hiking necessities (blister pads, maps, and stove fuel), picnic tables. Note: The ground at the Landmannalaugar campsite is very hard and rocky. You’ll need to use the rocks provided to secure your tent, as you are unlikely to be able to get your stakes into the ground. A nice sleeping pad is also recommended.
The “Mountain Mall” is also located at Landmannalaugar. This eccentric shop is housed within a ring of retro school buses. They sell snacks, hiker meals, warm drinks, beer/wine, and hiking necessities. They also have some nice indoor and outdoor seating areas.
Price: 2000 ISK per person.
The camping area at Hrafntinnusker is adjacent to the small hut which is located near the top of the pass. This is definitely the most exposed and rugged of all the campgrounds along the Laugavegur. You should think twice before deciding to camp here, since it is likely to be very cold and windy. As with all huts along the route, campers will not be allowed inside the hut, even in stormy conditions. If you decide to camp here, you’ll want a 0°F sleeping bag and a high-quality three season tent. If you’re feeling slightly less hardcore, you have a couple of options. You could splurge on a bed inside the hut for this stage (book in advance on the Ferðafélag Íslands website), or you could combine the first two stages of the hike and camp either at Álftavatn or Hvanngil. More on these alternatives below.
Services at Hrafntinnusker: Drop toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up.
Price: 2000 ISK per person
Alternative Options for Day 1:
If you’d like to combine the first two stages of the Laugavegur into one long day, this is definitely possible if you are prepared and start early. However, due to the nature of the steep climbs and possibility of snow-covered trails late in the day, we do not recommend combining these stages if you’re hiking from south to north. If hiking north to south, you can either hike to Álftavatn (24km) or continue on to Hvanngil (an additional 3.8km, or 27.8 km total). There are some pros and cons of each option.
Pros: Closer (it’s already a long day). More services (see below). Beautiful setting on a very lovely lake.
Cons: More crowded. Very exposed campground-could be unpleasant in poor weather.
Pros: Much smaller and less crowded than Álftavatn. You’ll begin the third stage of the hike with a head start since you’ll be 3.8 km closer to the next hut.
Cons: Fewer services. There is a river crossing between Álftavatn and Hvanngil which might seem daunting at the end of a long day of walking-some people may prefer to tackle it with fresh legs on the next day.
Day Two: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (or Hvangill).
Services at Álftavatn: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, restaurant/bar selling hot meals, hot showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), picnic tables. There are sinks very close to the camping area, while the bathrooms are slightly further away.
Price: 2000 ISK per person.
Services at Hvangill: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, semi-sheltered picnic table.
Price: 2000 ISK per person.
Day Three: Álftavatn to Emstrur
The Emstrur Hut and campground are located in a lovely little valley alongside a pretty stream. The hut has some nice decks with great views and picnic tables that are accessible to campers. The camping area is located below the hut and is reached by descending down a rather long flight of stairs to the banks of the stream. Campers will need to climb back up the stairs to use the toilet facilities and sinks.
Services at Emstrur: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, picnic tables, clothesline.
Price: 2000 ISK per person.
Alternative Option for Day Three:
It is possible to complete stages three and four into another long day and make it to Þórsmörk at the end of your second day. We chose this option in order to take advantage of good weather and free up time to complete the Fimmvörðuháls stage. Plan for 9-11 hours of hiking to complete these stages in one day.
Day Four: Emstrur to Þórsmörk
Upon nearing Þórsmörk, hikers will reach a junction in the trail with a sign that denotes three options for camping. The campgrounds are a few kilometers apart, so pay attention to which direction you want to head before setting off.
Volcano Huts: This privately-run campground is located in the opposite direction of the other two camping options. If ending your hike in Þórsmörk, be sure to check with your bus service to ensure that they pick up from Volcano Huts, not just the Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite.
Services at Volcano Huts: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), indoor cooking area, restaurant/bar, free wifi access at the main service building, shop selling snacks and hiking basics, trash and recycling.
Price: 2600 ISK (includes access to hot showers, sauna, natural warm soaking pool, and wifi access).
Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite: This campground is a bit more basic than Volcano Huts, but is still lovely nonetheless. It is run by the Icelandic Touring Association (Ferðafélag Íslands or FI for short), which operates all of the other huts and campsites along the Laugavegur up to this point and the facilities will likely feel familiar. It is located on the riverbed and has plenty of nice grassy areas for pitching a tent. It is well-positioned for pickup if ending your hike in Þórsmörk, but it would also be a good option if you’re continuing on to Skogar. If you plan on completing the Fimmvörðuháls hike, you should definitely plan to camp either here or at the Básar Campground.
Services at Þórsmörk/Langidalur: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, picnic tables, sheltered area for cooking, trash and recycling.
Price: 2000 ISK per person.
Básar Campsite: This sprawling campground is run by the Útivist Travel Association. You’ll have to walk another 1.5 km past the Þórsmörk/Langidalur campsite across the rocky riverbed to reach it, but you’ll have a head start if you’re hiking to Skogar the next day (which could be valuable since Fimmvörðuháls is a long hike). This campground doesn’t have a lot in the way of views, but it does offer nice facilities, sheltered campsites, and grassy pitches.
Services at Básar: Indoor toilettes, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, picnic tables, hot shower (500 ISK), cell phone charging (500 ISK), BBQ area.
Price: 1500 ISK per person + 300 ISK tax per tent.
Day Five: Þórsmörk to Skogar (the Fimmvörðuháls Trail)
The trail from Þórsmörk to Skogar is long and challenging, but the beautiful sights are incredibly rewarding. If you are committed to camping, you’ll need to complete the entire 25km (10-12 hours) hike in one day since there are no camping options along the way. If you would like to break it up into two days, you have the option of either staying at the Útivist-owned Fimmvörðuháls Hut or the more basic FI-owned Baldvinsskali Hut, both of which require advance reservations. Otherwise, if you complete the hike in one day, you’ll end at the impressive Skógafoss waterfall and right in the center of the Skogar Campground. Be warned that after being in the remote wilderness for the past few days, Skogar might feel like a bit of a zoo. The falls are a big destination for large tour buses, as well as individuals driving the famous Ring Road. You’ll know you’re getting close to the end of the hike when you start to see jean-clad tourists leaning precariously over the edges of cliffs with their selfie-sticks. You’ll hear all sorts of people and traffic noise late into the evening at the campsite, so ear plugs are a good idea. Because of the campground’s central location, non-campers frequently use the facilities. Expect to wait for the bathroom during the middle part of the day. If you can get past the crowds, you’ll find that Skogar is a pleasant place to camp, with grassy pitches and views of the falls from your tent.
Services at Skogar: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (300 ISK for 5 minutes), free cell phone charging (just ask the warden), picnic tables. There is also a more upscale restaurant/bar in the hotel/hostel nearby, as well as a more casual restaurant and a shop selling some souvenirs, camping equipment and snacks. There are a couple of other restaurants if you walk further down the road.
Price: 1300 ISK per person.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of backpacking in Iceland, citing the prohibitive costs, tricky logistics, and harsh conditions. Camping along the Laugavegur Trail is the perfect way to see Iceland’s most beautiful sights without spending a fortune or getting caught in the tourist circuit. Hopefully our guide can help you plan out your best possible adventure in one of the most incredible landscapes on earth. Happy trails!
If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience camping on the Laugavegur Trail. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
- Laugavegur Trail Packing List: Be sure you’ve got everything you need!
- Laugavegur Trail Logistics: Don’t overlook the little details!
- Laugavegur Trail Photo Gallery: Get inspired!
- Laugavegur Trip Report- Know what to expect on the trail!
- How Much it Cost Us to Hike the Laugavegur Trail – Make it work for your budget!
- The Laugavegur Trail | Map, Routes, and Itineraries-Plan and customize your trip!
- How to Train for the Laugavegur Trail: Get in shape for your trek!