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Landmannalaugar: a Geothermal Paradise in the Icelandic Highlands

|March 1, 2023
Finance educated, mountain and glacier loving, imaginary ski extraordinary and current resident of Reykjavik.

Landmannalaugar is a stunning location in the Icelandic highlands. Its geothermal activity makes the place one of the most colorful hiking options in Iceland. This vast uninhabitable area that spans most of the center of Iceland is a true treasure when it comes to geology, hiking, and nature. Landmannalaugar is a must-visit for all nature enthusiasts out there! Discover everything you need to know about the area, including its history, how to get there, and things to do.

History & Folklore of Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is a part of the Torfajökulseldstöð volcanic system and was formed in an eruption in approximately 1477. Translating to “the People’s Pools” in English, the area was once used by Icelanders as a geothermal retreat. Travelers would visit the hot springs at Landmannalaugar to recharge before setting off on a long hike. 

The highlands are a place of adventure, current day and passed, and serve as 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.

How To Get To Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is accessible by bus, but only when the mountain roads up to the Highlands open in the summer, from mid-June to mid-September. Depending on the year and road conditions, this may be slightly earlier or a bit later on in the season. If you are joining a guided tour, super jeeps are able to get to Landmannalaugar between June 15th and September 30th.

Driving up here in your own car is not advised, as the roads can be pretty difficult to navigate. You’ll have to cross a couple of rivers, and whilst they aren’t big,  the current is strong enough to easily rid you of your license plates. If you are driving a rental car, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to access the highlands. The buses, either the scheduled ones or the buses that go to Landmannalaugar with guided tours (these run at very similar prices), are always the best option. A tour such as the Highlands volcano adventure will allow you to experience the wonders of Landmannalaugar, as well as other surrounding attractions, without the worry of transport or planning an itinerary.


Picture yourself here? The view from Laugahraun

Things To Do At Landmannalaugar

Expect to be blown away on your visit to Landmannalaugar. There will be colorful mountains, steam coming from the earth, natural hot springs you can bathe in, and a beautifully rugged landscape. You’ll find yourself wondering how and if anything could possibly grow up there, and just then you’ll be greeted with the brightest 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

With so many sights and scenes to explore, planning your itinerary can be a challenge. Here are just some of the things we’d suggest you do during your trip to the highlands.

Hiking in Landmannalaugar

A hiker’s paradise, to say the least, Landmannalaugar is 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 it will take you no more than five minutes in Landmannalaugar to realize that it was all worth it. 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.

Landmannalaugar panoramic view

Geological rock formations at Landmannalaugar

Camping in Landmannalaugar

If you’re looking for a true Icelandic experience, camping is the perfect option to get closer to unspoiled nature. Landmannalaugar has arguably the most fascinating and photogenic campground, with beautiful surrounding fields of colorful rocks and active wildlife.

Camping in a Tent

Visitors camping in a tent will need to pay an admission fee, giving them access to the on-site showers and toilet facilities. It is worth noting that the terrain here is uneven, so try to find an allocated spot on a flat surface. The best way to set up your tent is to secure it with pegs, as well as heavy rocks to keep it secure in the wind.

Camping in a Hut

Landmannalaugar also has an extensive mountain hut network, which follows the Laugavegur hike. The huts are run by ferðafélag íslands and are the ideal choice for those wanting to stay in optimum comfort. The huts also have access to toilets, showers and clean running water. If you’re staying in a hut, don’t forget to bring your sleeping bag (and extra bedding if needed), as only a mattress is provided. The huts come in different sizes, designed for single or multiple sleepers.

Due to popularity, we’d recommend booking your camping spot as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Landmannalaugar Laugavegur hike huts

Mountain Huts and the campground in Landmannalaguar

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.

People bathing in a warm hot spring in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar Cafe

There is a little cafe up here that is open for most of the summer, it’s quite charming and runs 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 the cafe for some extra filling and hot coffee.

Dog on the ground

Máni - the dog and keeper of the campground in Landmannalaugar

What To Bring

It’s important to fully equip yourself with everything you may need during your adventure to Landmannalaugar. We’d recommend bringing:

  • Bathing suit
  • Towel
  • Hiking clothes
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Camera
  • Book on geology (optional but highly advised!)
Landmannalaugar highlands

Contrasts everywhere! Geothermal steam and snow in Landmannalaugar during June

Landmannalaugar Tours

At Arctic Adventures, we provide a selection of brilliant tours, including private tours, spanning the Landmannalaugar area. 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 area,  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.

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