How to Hike the Laugavegur Trail Self-Guided

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Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is a spectacular trek that showcases some of the island’s most beautiful scenery. The 35-mile route connects the Landmannalaugar hot springs to the Þórsmörk river valley, with the option to add on the 15-mile Fimmvörðuháls Trail from Þórsmörk to Skogar. The trail packs in tons of diverse sights and landscapes- volcanoes, waterfalls, black sand deserts, snowy peaks-in a relatively short distance. Although the trek is pretty approachable for most hikers, it can be a bit daunting to take it on nonetheless.

Many hikers opt to use a guide to navigate the sometimes tricky logistics of planning a Laugavegur hike, but we’re here to tell you it is possible (and even fun!) to plan your own self-guided trip. We hiked the trail on our own, camping each night and navigating without a guide – and it was a truly amazing experience!

In this guide, we’ve compiled everything you need to know to plan your own self-guided Laugavegur Trail trip in the hopes it will inspire you to plan your own unforgettable Icelandic adventure.

In this Guide

Self-Guided Laugavegur Trail Planning

The Laugavegur Trail can be an intimidating trek to plan on your own. There are several factors to consider, including transportation, weather, accommodation, and timing. The Laugavegur Trail is located in a very remote area that can only be accessed in a 4X4 vehicle. It’s a point-to-point route, meaning you’ll start and finish in different areas. You’ll also need to account for Iceland’s notoriously temperamental weather and build in a backup plan if you need to wait out a storm.

Fear not, all of these challenges are easily solved with a bit of research, some advance preparation, and the right resources at your disposal.

Before starting, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the trail by reading our Complete Guide to the Laugavegur Trail. From there, you’ll have a good sense of what to expect, and some of the basics of preparing for a self-guided hike.

Next, you’ll jump into creating an itinerary, arranging transit to/from the hike, and booking your accommodation. Finally, you’ll want to be prepared to navigate on the trail, which can be notoriously difficult to do!

We’ll go through each of these steps and more to help you plan your perfect self-guided Laugavegur Trail adventure in the following sections.

Laugavegur Trail Map

Step One: Pick Your Dates

The most important first step is to determine the dates you plan to hike the Laugavegur Trail. The trail is best hiked in the summer season, which in Iceland is a pretty short window of time. Given the short season and the limited availability in the huts, it’s a good idea to determine your dates well in advance and be willing to be a bit flexible, if possible. To help you get a sense of what to expect, we’ve provided an overview of each month below:

  • June: This is considered “early summer” in Iceland, meaning there’s usually lots of snow remaining on the trail. It will still be quite cold, especially in the first part of the month. If you plan on hiking in June, be sure to check with the huts in advance, as some don’t open until the end of the month. It’s advisable to pack crampons for early season hiking.
  • July: This is peak season for the Laugavegur. Hikers will enjoy nearly 24 hours of daylight, and relatively milder weather. Expect more crowds on the trail, and be sure to reserve in advance if you plan on staying in huts. We hiked the Laugavegur in early July. The weather was mostly clear and it wasn’t overly crowded.
  • August/September: The first half of August sees continued mild conditions and busy trails. During this time, the trail will be at its clearest in terms of snow, although large patches remain throughout the year. As the month wears on, the days get shorter and colder. The huts typically close for the season by the second week of September. 
Hrafntinnusker Hut Laugavegur Trail
The Hrafntinnusker Hut in July.

Step Two: Create Your Self-Guided Laugavegur Itinerary

Setting your itinerary can be the most intimidating part of planning a self-guided trek. To start, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the typical stages of the trek. Read about what each day entails, how long it is, and your accommodation options. Use the standard itinerary we’ve provided below as a starting point and makes changes as needed from there.

In our Complete Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur, we’ve provided four different itineraries, ranging in length from two to four days. We’re of course biased, but we think our Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail eGuide and Planning Portal are the best resource available for planning your own trek.

If you’re looking for a physical guidebook to help plan your trip, then we like Trekking Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail & Fimmvorduhals Trail: Two-way trekking guide. It is the most up-to-date and useful guide in our opinion.

Trekking Iceland's Laugavegur Trail & Fimmvorduhals Trail: Two-Way Trekking Guide
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The Knife Edge Outdoor Two-way Trekking Guide for the Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls Trails is the most up-to-date guidebook available.

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05/21/2024 01:49 am GMT

Here is the standard self-guided Laugavegur Trail itinerary that most hikers will utilize:

  • Stage 1: Landmannalaugar to Álftavatn
  • Stage 2: Álftavatn to Emstrur
  • Stage 3: Emstrur to Þórsmörk
  • Stage 4 (optional extension): Þórsmörk to Skogar via Fimmvörðuháls Trail

There are transportation options back to Reykjavík from either Þórsmörk or Skogar, so it’s convenient to end your trek in either location. The Fimmvörðuháls Trail is typically completed in one long day, but it’s possible to split it across two days if you prefer.

Hiker stands on a mountaintop on the Laugavegur Trail
Take care of the planning ahead of time so you can enjoy every moment on the trail.

Step Three: Book Your Accommodation

Once you’ve got your itinerary set you’re going to want to book your accommodation. Yes, that will likely lock you in to an itinerary and limit some flexibility, but there are a limited number of beds in the mountain huts along the route and they’re almost always fully booked in peak season.

The best starting point for this step is our Laugavegur Huts and Accommodation Guide. This handy post provides an overview of every accommodation option along the route, plus information about how to make reservations.

Most of the accommodation along the route is in mountain huts managed by Ferðafélag Íslands (FI). These huts provide basic dormitory-style sleeping quarters, communal kitchens, and bathrooms or outhouses. You’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag. Most offer hot or warm showers for an additional fee. It’s possible to purchase a few snacks from the huts, but meals are not provided.

The Laugavegur huts are situated in beautiful remote locations, and spending a few nights in them will likely be a highlight of your trek. Although they don’t offer much in the way of luxury, you’ll find lots of camaraderie with your fellow hikers. And when the fierce Icelandic wind is howling outside, there’s nothing cozier than hunkering down in these warm and welcoming shelters.

If you plan to camp on the route, you don’t need to worry about making advance reservations. You can camp outside of all of the huts and use their bathroom facilities for a rather modest fee. We chose to camp when we completed the Laugavegur Trail and we enjoyed the added flexibility that came with this option. Keep in mind that camping is only permitted in designated areas near the huts. Check out our Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail for more information.

Landmannalaugar Hut is just one of the atmospheric accommodation options along the route.

Let us help plan your Laugavegur Trek

We’re here to help! We offer comprehensive Laugavegur Trail planning support so you can plan your perfect trip!

We offer the following Laugavegur trip planning services:

Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur

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In-depth trip planning resource

GPS files for three Laugavegur itineraries

Everything you need to plan your perfect trip

GPS Digital Download

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GPS files for the entire Laugavegur Trail

Navigate with confidence on the trail

Works with all GPS navigation apps

Custom GPS File

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Custom GPS file created for your unique itinerary

Includes all of your huts/accommodation

Confidently navigate using a GPS file designed just for you

Why work with us?

As passionate hikers, we’ve made it our goal to empower you with all of the information you need to have your best Laugavegur Trail experience. 

We’ve helped over 2,500 hikers prepare for their trips, navigate on the trail, and simplify the planning process.

Step Four: Arrange Your Transit To/From the Trail

Once you’ve got your itinerary and accommodation figured out, it’s time to think about how you’ll get to and from the trail.

Accessing the Laugavegur Trail is relatively straightforward and you’ll have a few transportation options, depending on where you start and finish your trek. As the vast majority of hikers will be connecting through Reykjavik, we’ve provided information for transportation links from there.

Option #1: Highland Bus Pass

For those hiking the Laugavegur Trail from north to south, you’ll start in Landmannalaugar. There is no public bus service to Landmannalaugar so you’ll need to arrange private transportation. The best option in our opinion is the Reykjavik Excursions Highland Bus. The bus pass provides walkers with transportation to the start of the Laugavegur trail as well as back to Reykjavik from the finish.

Option #2: Trex Hikers Bus Pass

You can also book your transit through Trex, which you can check out here. This pass is very similar to the Highland Bus Pass in that it offers a single transfer service from Reykjavík to your chosen starting point (Þórsmörk, Landmannalaugar or Skógar) and back to Reykjavík at the end of your trek. In fact, it is also operated by Reykjavik Excursions and has the same pickup/drop off points. We recommend checking both pass options, as prices vary slightly depending on your starting and ending points.

Option #3: Public Bus

If you choose to complete the Fimmvörðuháls and finish in Skogar, Straeto (the public bus company) picks up here via Route 51. Check Straeto’s website for more details and timetables. Alternatively, if hiking from south to north, you can take the public bus to start in Skogar. Keep in mind you’ll need to use Reykjavik Excusrions on the other end of your hike, as there is no public bus service to any other point along the trail.

Important Considerations

Keep in mind that all routes between Reykjavik and any of the three main access points for the Laugavegur take several hours. The journey between Reykjavik and Landmannalaugar takes about 4.5 hours, Reykjavik to/from Þórsmörk takes about 4 hours, and Reykjavik to/from Skogar takes about 3.5 hours. Therefore, you’ll want to plan the start and end of your hike accordingly to allow for enough time to complete each segment and also catch your return bus. 

Reykjavik Excursions bus
Reykjavik Excursions provides easy access to and from the Laugavegur Trail.

Step Five: Decide How You’ll Navigate on the Trail

This is another potentially tricky aspect of planning a self-guided Laugavegur trek. Fortunately, the trail is relatively well-marked. Trail signs are located at all major junctions and intervals, with distances to the next hut provided in kilometers. In clear conditions, it is easy to navigate along the trail. However, storms, snow cover, fog, and other issues can make it frighteningly easy to lose your way. It is essential to carry a good map.

Many maps for the route are available locally in Iceland, although you can purchase an excellent map here.

Laugavegur Trail & Fimmvörðuháls Trail Map
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This is our recommend trail map for the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails. Printed at a helpful 1:40,000 scale, you'll have enough detail to help plan your trip and also navigate while on the hike.

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05/21/2024 01:53 am GMT

Even with a paper map, we highly recommend utilizing an offline GPS navigation application like Gaia GPS or Maps.me on your smartphone. This will allow you to see your precise location, as well as the overall trail map, next stopping point, and more, all without using cell service. This post explains how to set your phone up to work as a GPS for the Laugavegur Trail. 

If you want to learn how to make your own Laugavegur offline route (or a route for any other hike) check out our GPS Route Making & Navigation Course, which will teach you everything you need to know to build your own custom itinerary. We’ll show you how to map your route, create custom GPS files, sync routes to your phone, and even print your own maps.

A trail sign on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
A helpful trail sign near a difficult section of the Fimmvörðuháls.

Step Six: Pack Your Bags for the Laugavegur!

Hopefully by now you’ve got your itinerary set, accommodation booked, and a good understanding of the trail. All that’s left is to pack your bags and head to Iceland!

In terms of what to bring, you’ll want all the essentials for a multi-day hiking trip. Our Laugavegur Trail Packing List provides a comprehensive gear list so you can be sure you’re prepared with everything you’ll need.

There are a few key items that the self-guided hikers should ensure they pack:

  • Good rain gear: It is essential that you’re prepared for wet and wild weather.
  • Eye mask and ear plugs: Iceland experiences nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summer. Pack these items to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Sleeping bag: This is required in the huts, and you’ll want a warm one to stay cozy during chilly nights.
  • Water shoes: You’ll need sturdy sandals or other water shoes for river crossings. It is not safe to cross barefoot or in flip flops.
A river crossing near the Alftavatn Hut on the Laugavegur Trail
River crossing after Álftavatn. Be prepared for lots of these!

Laugavegur Trail: Guided vs. Self-Guided

Ok, by this point you likely have a good idea if a self-guided trip is for you. However, if you’re still not sure, we’ve highlighted some of the key factors to help you decide between a guided or self-guided Laugavegur trek.

If you don’t mind being more self-sufficient and doing a bit of route-finding in places, you’ll probably enjoy hiking on your own. This allows you more solitude and flexibility throughout your trip. You can still meet other hikers at the huts along the way. We hiked on our own and we were happy with our decision.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to worry about booking accommodation, navigating or other logistics and you enjoy the social aspect of hiking with a group, going with a guide might be a good choice. Additionally, most guided tours provide meals and baggage transfers, attractive services for many hikers. Check out some pros/cons for each option below:

Laugavegur Trail Self-Guided

  • Pros
    • Increased flexibility and independence
    • Added satisfaction of completing the trek on your own
    • Save money!
    • Hike at your own pace
  • Cons
    • Booking accommodation can be more difficult
    • Have to navigate the trail on your own
    • Meals not provided and very few places to purchase food along the route.
    • Have to arrange your own transit to/from the trail

Laugavegur Trail Guided

  • Pros
    • Accommodation, meals and transit arranged for you
    • Guides can provide a wealth of information on the trail and surrounding region
    • Many guided treks included additional excursions to other highlights in the area
    • Never worry about getting lost
    • Often includes luggage transfer
  • Cons
    • More expensive
    • Less flexibility
    • Potential that you won’t like hiking with your group
    • Most treks are five days minimum (maybe a con for some on a tight schedule)

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Get instant access to our trip planning portal with everything you need to start planning your trip.

Pick your digital guide below:

Have a Great Adventure!

We hope this post has given you some additional insights into how to plan a self-guided Laugavegur trek. We had an amazing time when we hiked the trail on our own, and want to be sure that all hikers feel empowered to plan this trek themselves!

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about planning your own trip, and be sure to check out the rest of our Laugavegur resources below:

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