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Landmannalaugar: a Geothermal Paradise in the Icelandic Highlands

|January 31, 2024
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 how to get there and things to do.

What is Landmannalaugar, and what can you see here?

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. 

But the real answer to the question of “What to do in Landmannalaugar?” is the Landmannalaugar hike. This place is known to be a true paradise for those who enjoy hiking and trekking because of the mesmerizing views and diverse landscapes.

Person hiking in Laugavegur trail

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. Bus to Landmannalaugar, either the scheduled one or the bus that go to Landmannalaugar with guided hiking tours (it runs at very similar prices), is 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.

Best time to visit Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar tends to change during different seasons. While this change is quite fascinating, it’s good to know which time of the year is best for visiting the site. The most convenient time to explore Landmannalaugar is from June to September for multiple reasons. The weather in Landmannalaugar is warm and nice during the summer months, with rain during autumn. During summer and autumn seasons, you get to enjoy hiking for longer because of the midnight sun. It's also a time of the year when the F-roads that lead to the trails are open. Note that during winter, even though Landmannalaugar appears in a different kind of beauty, access here is rather limited. Because of the severe weather changes and snow, the roads that lead to Landmannalaugar are often closed.

What you should also consider when planning your trip to the site is the fact that while summer brings warmth and sunlight, it’s also the busiest time with most travelers on trekking paths. So don’t be surprised if you have to stand in line for showers or see many trekkers on the path. 

During winter, Landmannalaugar becomes a perfect place to spot the Northern Lights. But keep in mind that because of how dangerous Landmannalaugar weather can become during wintertime, it’s not advised to go there on your own. The best practice is waiting for warmer seasons and booking a tour for the best experience.

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.

Female tourist backpacks in Landmannalaugar

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 mountains from a car window

Trekking in Landmannalaugar

If you’re an avid hiker and wish to really soak up all the beauty of Landmannalaugar, then you should definitely choose a trek during which you’ll spend a few days in the area and hike in all the best places. 

One of the most popular trails in the area is the Laugavegur trail. Its beautiful path, which is 55 kilometers long, follows between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk. What makes this trail so special is its diversity.

The most convenient way to explore this trekking area is by going to one of the guided tours. Those who don’t have much time for an excessive hike can choose the 3-day tour discovering Icelandic highlands or a bit longer, 4-day trek leading to Þórsmörk. There’s also the 6-day tour in Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls for those who are ready to really get to know the highlands. 

If you’re still now sure which one of the two to choose – hiking or trekking – read all about it in this blog post.

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 enjoying geothermal baths at Landmannalaugar

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

Where to stay 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.

Tourist camps in Alftavatn Lake

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

What To Bring

Preparing for traveling in Iceland means paying extra attention to your clothing. The main rule here is layering and wearing water and windproof clothes. Want to know more about how best to prepare your luggage for an upcoming trip to Iceland? Continue reading How to Dress in Iceland.

It’s also 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
  • Sleeping bag
Geothermal springs in Landmannalaugar

Contrasts everywhere! Geothermal steam and snow in Landmannalaugar during June

Safety tips when traveling in Landmannalaugar

Preparation for Landmannalaugar mountains means not only putting the right equipment in your backpack but also knowing what additional steps need to be taken before the trip. Here are a few tips and tricks that can make your trip a lot smoother and safer:

  • Evaluate your physical well-being and capabilities. Don’t plan too much or try to overdo it, as it might cause you a rather dreadful experience or even getting an injury.  

  • Check weather conditions before going. Iceland is famous for its unpredictable weather, so checking the reports is a must to avoid any severe changes.

  • Follow trails. Go only on marked paths and trails, otherwise, you might get lost. It’s also convenient to learn how to use GPS and a compass. 

  • Inform others about your plans. Before leaving for your trek/hike, don’t forget to share your itinerary with your relatives and friends so that they’ll know where to look for you in case of an emergency.

Don’t forget that a safe trip is a successful trip!

FAQ about Landmannalaugar

Is Landmannalaugar worth it?

No doubt, especially if you wish to see the raw side of Icelandic nature. It’s one of the popular destinations during summertime.

Do you need a 4x4 to get to Landmannalaugar?

Driving a 4x4 vehicle is a must during your trip to Landmannalaugar, Iceland. Driving on F-roads requires doing it in 4x4. Also, the roads in Landmannalaugar are quite rough, so it would be hard to navigate here with a different type of car.

How long does it take to hike Landmannalaugar?

The time frame depends on your abilities and wishes. Hiking in Landmannalaugar can mean a short trip of a couple of hours as well as a 3-4 day trek.

Can you stay in Landmannalaugar?

Sure, especially if you decide to go on a trek that can take up to a couple of days. Here, you can either stay in tents or huts. It all depends on your wishes and comfort.

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