Landmannalaugar: a geothermal paradise in the Icelandic highlands

|June 6, 2017
Finance educated, mountain and glacier loving, imaginary ski extraordinary and current resident of Reykjavik.

Landmannalaugar is a stunning location in the Icelandic highlands. It's geothermal activity makes the place one of the most colorful hiking options in Iceland. Landmannalaugar is a must visit for all nature enthusiast out there! To find out all your need to know read this blog.


During the summertime, most of us on this little island are willing to agree on one thing, spending time in the highlands of Iceland is about as good as it gets.

This vast uninhabitable area that spans most of the center of Iceland is a true treasure when it comes to geology, hiking, and experiencing nature at it’s very best. One of the most stunning parts of the Highlands is an area called Landmannalaugar, here you will experience nature like you never have before, or will again, unless of course, you end up like me and just can’t help but coming back, again and again.  I hope you find the information below helpful and that you’ll have time during your stay in Iceland to visit this place, a place so magnificent it cannot properly be described with words.

Hiking in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar a place like no other

How do you get to Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar are accessible by bus when the mountain roads up to the Highlands open in the summer. Most of the time this will be around June 15th, the road leading up to Landmannalaugar then closes mid-September. Depending on the year, this may be slightly earlier or a bit later on in the season, all depending on road condition. If you are joining a guided tour, super jeeps are able to get to Landmannalaugar between June 15th and September 30th.

Landmannalaugar

Picture yourself here? The view from Laugahraun

Driving up here in your own car is not a good idea, the road can be pretty horrendous even for super jeeps. You’ll have to cross a couple of rivers, they aren’t big but the current is strong enough to easily rid you of your license plates. If you are driving a rental car, you are not allowed to cross any rivers or drive into water, doing so will void your insurance. As someone that has a license to drive big buses and has at times driven for a living on Icelandic roads, take it from me, I’m not even particularly interested in having to drive up there myself. The buses, either the scheduled once or the buses that go to Landmannalaugar with guided tours (these run at very similar prices), are always the best option.

What to expect at Landmannalaugar

Expect to be blown away. There will be colorful mountains, steam coming from the earth, natural hot springs you can bathe in, a whole lot of rugged landscape. You’ll find yourself wondering how and if anything could possibly grow up here, and just then you’ll be greeted with the greenest neon green moss you’ll ever lay eyes on, and little pink flowers that seem to grow from nothing.

Landmannalaugar panorama

Taking in the view. Landmannalaugar is the starting point to the remote Laugavegur Hiking Trail, a favorite amongst Icelandic touring enthusiast, for good reason.

Landmannalaugar Highlands

A day well spent! Looking over a moss covered lava field in Landmannalaugar.

Are there lodging facilities like at Landmannalaugar

Yes, there are. Landmannalaugar have what I think is the most fascinating and photogenic campground, it’s a field of rocks and that is that. No more, no less. If you plan on camping bring a mattress  (and ofcourse other camping essentials like a good sleeping bag). Don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful place to camp, the campgrounds surroundings are dramatic and picturesque, just bring the right gear. For some extra comfort, there are really nice mountain huts, run by ferðafélag íslands, where you can rent a bed and be shielded from the weather and rocks. Both the campground and the cabins have access to toilets, showers, and clean running water.

Landmannalaugar Laugavegur hike huts

Mountain Huts and the campground in Landmannalaguar.

What about food, is there any food to buy at Landmannalaugar?

There is a little cafe up here that is open for most of the summer, it’s quite charming run out of an old school bus. You’ll have the options of soup of the day, and a good variety of canned food, dried food, biscuits, and candy. The staff is the nicest and you’ll likely see Máni the dog, making sure no food is wasted and that things are being run smoothly. If you are here on a multi-day trip, food will be provided. Otherwise, bring lunch and stop by at the cafe for some extra filling and hot coffee.

Dog on the ground

Máni the dog and keeper of the campground in Landmannalaugar

What kind of tours run up there

There are a few options depending on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a moderate day hike, check out Landmannalaugar Day Hike, the price of this tour is quite low, only slightly more expensive than a bus ticket. If you would like to spend more time exploring the hiking paths of Landmannalaugar the three-day Landmannalaugar Pearls of the Highlands is a wonderful option. To get further acquainted with the Highlands, The Laugavegur Trek starts in Landmannalaugar and then takes you to either Þórsmörk or Fimmvörðuháls. For this, there are a couple of options available, that you can further explore here.

Landmannalaugar highlands

Contrasts everywhere! Geothermal steam and snow, the picture is taken in June on a family day hike.

What not to forget

Bring a bathing suit and a towel for the hot pools, a camera, some snacks, a water bottle (you’ll have plenty of places to fill it) good hiking clothes and boots. It’s not a bad idea to bring books on geology and folklore, to help you identify the rhyolite mountains and spot elves and trolls in laugahraun lava field, this is definitely the place to let your imagination go wild.

The Landmannalaugar Hot Springs

The hot springs are a must, don’t be deterred by the fact that you need to walk a short while in your bathing suit, you can always wrap a towel around you or even put on some shoes and a jacket while you run out there, it will take you about three minutes. Also when you first dip your toes in the water, you may be surprised by how cold it feels, take two more steps and you’ll get to the warm part.

River in Landmannalaugar

People bating in the hot springs in Landmannalaugar. Photo from Trek Iceland

Facts and numbers

Located in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. The closest lava flow is from an eruption in 1477. The Nature reserve itself spans around forty-seven thousand hectares, all at an elevation above 500m (1640 ft). In this area, you’ll find glacier-covered mountains, lava fields, rivers and adventure seeking hikers.

Highlands in Iceland

Folklore about Landmannalaugar

The highlands are a place of adventure, current day and passed. A great inspiration for poetry and writing. There are endless stories that take place up here, about outlaws living in hiding, people fleeing from plagues, the formation of love and friendship and of course stories about otherworldly creatures. 

Landmannalaugar panoramic view

Hiking

A hiker’s paradise to say the least Landmannalaugar are known for offering some of the most stunning hiking trails in Iceland. Here you will find endless options for day hikes as well as the starting point to the infamous Laugavegur Trail.

It takes effort to get to Landmannalaugar, the drive is long and bumpy at times, but I promise you this, no matter how tired and agitated you are during the drive, it will take you no more than five minutes in Landmannalaugar to realize that it was all worth it and that it would have been a bit of a tragedy to miss out on this true pearl of the highlands. Make time to come up to this paradise on earth while touring the south coast, if you are lucky you may even catch some late summer northern lights.

Who would you want to come here with? Share with your hiking buddies!

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