Laugavegur trail: hiking from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk

The colourful moutains in Landmanalaugar

I got back from Poland and flew the same day to Höfn, an unusual place to end up after a week in Hamburg and Warsaw. Even coming back to Reykjavik sometimes gives me small-town culture shock, but Höfn’s airport makes you feel like you’ve arrived in the middle of nowhere. You’re right under Vatnajökull glacier, on an isolated peninsula that sticks out into the sea. They’ve got really good hot dogs there, and after the next 8 days riding horses from Höfn to Fljótsdalur, the first fast-food I ate again was another hot dog in Egilstaðir.

I got back to Reykjavik on a Saturday, and after almost 9 days without any contact with civilization except the other 15 riders,  the same city now gave me big-town culture shock. I was actually enjoying being back in a heated house with running water, until my friend Tom called me and asked if he could come to Iceland and hike Laugavegur with me… on Monday. I had no time to hesitate, since he booked his flight 20 minutes later, and flew to Iceland 36 hours later. Then, we backed our gear and provisions and set off for the remote highlands, once again.

Landmanalaugar

We started in Landmanalaugar, a mountainous and colourful geothermal region 5 hours away from Reykjavik. The elvation is 6o0 metres there and though you´re in the highlands, its a popular tourist destination and thus built up with basic services. The best part of Landmanalaugar is the hot river you can bathe in. It was freezing cold and windy, so getting down to our bathing suits was the hardest part, but once we had sat there for an hour, it was no problem to retain the heat while we redressed and started the 11km trek to Hrafntinnusker. We hiked through yellow steaming mountains and moss covered lava fields, even over some snow, but 3 hours later we were 500 m higher, home at a rocky camping ground just before dark.

the highest elevation point, at Hrafntinnusker

The first night we had frost, a lot of it, enough that our whole tent was frozen stiff and we had to shake off the ice before we could pack it up. The next day we passed 2 huts, Álftavatn and Hvanngil, doubling day 2 and 3 into a long, 28km day. The scenery was incredible, and we had fun stripping down to our underwear for repeated river crossings, but the last 3 kms were the longest, slowest kilometres of the whole hike. The weather changed constantly, from bright sun and calm winds to sideways hailing sleet, but one thing was consistent; everything around us was naturally dramatic.

We only passed a handful of other hikers, centered mostly around the 2 huts we passed, but on the 2nd night at Emstrur, we made some friends. There was the tour group in one hut that gave us left-over kjötsupa (lamb soup), the tour guide who sold us beer, and a German couple who let us use their primus to make tea. We crashed in out tent that night, and wake up way after everyone else had left.

the last 3 kilometres…

The last day was a gentle 12 kms, mostly downhill, back to greener pastures, and we ended in Þórsmörk prepared to indulge in all the services they had. We heated and stretched our sore muscles in the sauna for 2 hours, swam in the hot pool, cooked soup, drank hot tea, cold beer,  and the last provisions of whisky we had left. We made more friends by bonding over our hike experiences, and slept like babies before the bumpy bus ride back to Reykjavik.

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