Hiking the Laugavegur is an incredible experience for any outdoor lover. It is the most famous multi-day hike in Iceland – and for a good reason! The 3 to 5 day hike takes you through some of the most dramatic scenery of the Icelandic Highlands. With the option to either tent camp, or stay in huts, this trail is accessible for hikers of all skill and experience levels!
Officially, the Laugavegur travels 35 miles between Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork. The starting and ending points are both in the Highlands and easily accessible by bus. Unofficially, it is possible to also hike between Thorsmork and Skogar on the Fimmvorduhalls trail to add an extra day of hiking.
It is possible to hike the Laugavegur in either direction, but it is much more common to hike from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. Even though there is still some climbing, if you hike in this direction, then it will generally be a downhill walk.
The hike is typically done in 3 or 4 days. A sample 4 day itinerary would look something like:
Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hraftninusker
Day 2: Hraftninusker to Alftavatn
Day 3: Alftavatn to Emstrur/Botnar
Day 4: Emstrur/Botnar to Thorsmork
If you want to do the hike in 3 days, it is most common to cut out Hraftninusker or Emstrur/Botnar. Be warned, if you choose to cut out Hraftninusker and start the same day as the bus ride to Landmannalaugar, prepare for a long and difficult first day.
When to hike the Laugavegur
The trek is best done during the summer, since it is covered with snow and ice for pretty much the rest of the year. The best time to do is is between June 15 and August 15. It is possible to do it before or after, but it will depend on the specific weather that year.
Even if you consider yourself to be a competent backpacker, hiking the Laugavegur outside of the summer months is not encouraged. The weather in Iceland is harsh and can change very quickly.
How to Get There
You will most likely start from one of three trailheads. Landmannalaugar, Thorsmork or Skogar if you are doing Fimmvorduhalls first.
If you are starting from Landmannalaugar, then you can either drive yourself or take a bus. Since the Laugavegur is point to point, it is probably a better idea to take the bus. Trex, one of the bus companies, runs at least 3 buses a day in the summer months.
If you are starting from Thorsmork, there is also an option to drive or take a bus. Many busses run to Thorsmork every day from a variety of companies. But there are also many tourists, so it is important to book in advance.
Skogar is probably the easiest of the 3 to get to. It is right on the ring road, so there is no requirement drive on an f-road to get there. There are public busses as well as tour busses running to Skogar. One word of warning, there are more busses in the morning than in the afternoon. If you finish late, you will most likely have to spend a night in Skogar.
Where to Stay
There are two options when hiking the Laugavegur. You can either stay in Huts or in a tent. If you are planning on tent camping, then just keep in mind that wild camping is not permitted. Camping can only happen in designated campsites. The designated campsites are at Landmannalaugar, Hraftninusker, Alftavatn, Hvangil, Emstrur/Botnar and Thorsmork. All of the campgrounds run by Ferdefelag Islands (FI) cost 2000 ISK per night, payable upon arrival.
Most people choose to hike Fimmvorduhals as a day hike, but if you want to set up one more camp, then there is an option to set up near the FI hut approximately in the middle of the hike.
The alternative to camping is to stay in the huts. The huts are very cozy and have a lot of amenities, but are also quite expensive. Additionally, the huts book up extremely early so be prepared to make reservations at least half a year if not more in advance!
If you plan late, it is possible to still get hut reservations through an operator such as Volcano Huts. Volcano Huts operates a hut and campsite in Thorsmork, but also can make arrangements at the FI huts on the Laugavegur for you. If you book the Laugavegur package through Volcano Huts, it will include bus tickets to the start/end and meals at the Thorsmork hut.
What to Eat
If you are staying in a tent, then you need to bring all of your cooking equipment including gas, stove and pot. If you are staying in the huts, then each hut has a fully functional kitchen with cookware and utensils.
There is an option to buy food in Landmannalaugar, Alftavatn and Thorsmork, but at Hraftninusker and Emstrur you will need to have food with you. The best kind of food to take on a hike is high calorie food such as nuts, pasta, dried fruits or chocolate.
Here is a sample meal plan of what I eat in a day while hiking.
Breakfast: 2 Packs of instant oatmeal. Either something like Umpqua oats or Trader Joes Oatmeal. Ritual Instant Coffee or Cliff Energy Bloks with Caffeine like the Black Cherry flavor.
Lunch: If it is the first day on trail, I bring a grocery store sandwich, otherwise I usually skip lunch in favor of snacks.
Snacks: High Calorie Energy Bars such as Cliff Nut Butter filled bars or Off the Farm Bars. If you want fruit, Clementines are great portable options.
Dinner: Either a Mountain House dehydrated Meal or Instant Noodles with a Packet of Tuna.
Everyone’s calorie needs are different, but it’s a good idea to snack on something about once every 2 hours or so.
What to Pack for Hiking the Laugavegur
The weather in Iceland can change on a dime. Even in the middle of Summer, it is possible to be surprised by a sudden snow storm. Because of this, its important to be prepared with your equipment. If you are staying in the huts, then you should bring the following:
- Backpack for your stuff
- Backpack Cover AND/OR Backpack Liner (I use a garbage bag)
- Two pairs of wool or synthetic socks
- Trail Runners OR Hiking Boots
- Hiking Pants
- Thermal Pants
- Rain or Snow Pants
- Synthetic or wool long sleeve shirt
- Mid Layer Jacket or fleece
- Ski Jacket OR Down Jacket and Shell
- Thermal Long Sleeve Shirt
- Warm Hat
- Warm gloves
- Baseball Cap
- Sleeping Bag for ~35 degrees F
- Water Bottle
- Water Filter
- Lighter (For emergencies)
If you are camping then you need the above with the additional:
- Sleeping Pad
- Cooking Utensils
- Sleeping Bag for ~20 degrees F
Additionally, there are a few river crossings on this hike. Different people have different preferences, but generally, you want to have:
- River shoes (something like this is perfect)
- Trekking Poles or a Hiking stick (I used my tripod but it was less than ideal)