Backpacking the Laugavegur 101

Backpacking the Laugavegur Trail

So you wanna hike the Laugavegur trail in 2 days? No problem. I did it in August, and it was fantastic.

The Laugavegur trail was The Thing that I wanted to do on my Iceland trip. I saw photos on Outdoor Research earlier this year, and I was sold. The day that I booked my airplane tickets was the day I started booking spots on the Laugavegur trail. I had to do it, no matter what.

Backpacking the Laugavegur

I decided to break the 55ish km trail into two days. My rationale was that less days in huts meant a higher likelihood of getting the huts that I wanted to book. I’m not sure it makes any sense, but it did at the time, and it worked for me. We also wanted to maximize our time exploring all of Iceland. Who knows? I’m nuts.

Best time to hike

We hiked it in early August. We had pretty stellar weather with only half a day’s worth of rain while we were on the trail. There was no snow on the trail, except near Hraftinnusker. We didn’t experience high winds or wintry conditions.

Backpacking the Laugavegur

Northbound or Southbound?

North to south is the way to go.

In Iceland, they don’t really believe in switchbacks. We gained most of our elevation on the first day, and then it was a gradual downhill with a few steep parts.

Descending into Alftavatn on loose, steep terrain was easy. Leaving Alftavatn going up to Hraftinnusker on said terrain would have been quite miserable.

The entire hike to Emstrur was flat or downhill.

Backpacking the Laugavegur

How to get there?

  • Reykjavik Excursions — we took a bus because we didn’t want to pay a bunch of money to abandon it for a few days. Reykjavik Excursions will pick you up/drop you off at Landmannalaugar or Thorsmork.
  • Car — You’ll need a car that is capable of driving F roads. We rented an SUV through Kuku Campers later on our trip, and the car was not insured for this F-road. Also, depending on the car rental, if you’re caught on an F road without being F-road-worthy, you could be fined by your rental company.

Hiking the Laugavegur, Landmannalaugar

Gear

Hers: Arc’teryx Kea 45 Pack (similar here), Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket, Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket, Arc’teryx Atom SL Jacket, Icebreaker Tech T Lite, Norrøna bitihorn lightweight zip off pants, Salewa Multi Track GTX trail runnersOutdoor Research Petra sweatpants, Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag, Snowpeak spork

His: Osprey pack, Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell Jacket, Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie, Avalanche Outdoor Supply shirt, Mountain Hardwear AC Henley shirt, Prana Stretch Zion pants, Therm-a-Rest Questar sleeping bag

What I wish I brought

  • A lightweight stove. The hut kitchens don’t officially open until 7am. At some huts, like Landmannalaugar, this is policed. If you want to get an earlier start, bring a stove to cook with.
  • Leggings. It was pretty windy at Hraftinnusker and it was wet on the way to Emstrur. I wish I’d brought leggings to wear under my pants to help keep the chill away.

Itinerary

Day 0 – Landmannalaugar, 15 km

We took the Reykjavik Excursions bus into Landmannaluagar one day before starting our hike. Still jet lagged from our flight,  this was the perfect way to get in an easy, active rest day. We explored the trails around Landmannalaugar. This alone was worth it.

Day 1 – Landmannalaugar to Hvanngil, 30km

We hiked from Landmannalaugar to Hvanngil through painted hills and snow. On the way, we passed the Hraftinnusker and Alftavatn huts. One river  crossing required taking our shoes off.

Day 2 – Hvanngil to Thorsmork, 25km

We hiked in the rain from Hvanngil to Emstrur to Thorsmork. Though our mileage was shorter, it felt like a tougher day. The trail was long, flat, and slightly less scenic. There were two shoes-off river crossings on this day.

Which huts should you book?

  • Landmannalaugar – this was my favorite area. One day here was absolutely beautiful. Plus there’s a hot spring nearby. Landmannalaugar is a Ferdafelag Islands hut.

Backpacking the Laugavegur, Landmannalaugar hut

  • Hraftinnusker – this hut is small, on a rocky, exposed part of the trail. Camping here is windy and often gets shut down if the winds are high enough. Here, you’ll need to pack your trash out. Hraftinnusker is a Ferdafelag Islands hut.

Backpacking the Laugavegur, Hraftinnusker hut

  • Alftavatn or Hvanngil – these two are within 5km. You’ll book one or the other. Hvanngil means your day to Emstrur or Thorsmork is shorter. Hvanngil is the smaller of the two huts. Alftavatn has a Volcano Huts restaurant and you’re next to a lake. Alftavatn is the larger of the two huts. Both of these are Ferdafelag Islands huts.

Backpacking the Laugavegur, Alftavatn hut

    • Emstrur – this is a small hut, like Hraftinnusker. You’ll need to pack your trash out. The camping here is the least exposed; you’re down in a ravine, next to a stream. Emstrur is Ferdafelag Islands hut.
    • Langidalur or Volcano Huts or Básar in Thorsmork? Hands down, go with Langidalur. It is absolutely beautiful. Situated next to the Krossá river, the views of the glacier nearby is unbeatable. Langidalur is a Ferdafelag Islands hut. The Básar hut is across the Krossá river, close to Langidalur. It is an Utivist hut. The Básar hut is the closest hut to the beginning of the Fimmvorduhals trail. Volcano Huts are the furthest away from the Fimmvorduhals trailhead. It is about 1.7km away from the Langidalur hut, and 6km away from the Básar hut. Volcano Huts has more private room options available, a restaurant, and a hot pool at the LavaSPA. This is operated by Volcano Huts.

Laugavegur Trail, Thorsmork, Langidalur Hut

Book the Ferdafelag Islands huts

The Ferdafelag Islands are bookable by email. Email  fi@fi.is with the dates  you are looking to book and pray that spots are available. I was waitlisted for all of them and kept checking back in periodically.

The huts costs 8000 ISK per person, which allows full use of facilities, while camping costs 2000 ISK per person, which allows access to the bathrooms and drinking water.

Book the Volcano Huts

The Volcano Huts are bookable online. The dorm spots are 8200 ISK per night which gives you access to all the facilities, including the Lava Spa. The Volcano Huts have a restaurant in the lobby.

Book the Utivist hut

The Utivist Hut is also reservable online. The hut is 6000 ISK per night.

Gear list for the Laugavegur

Hers: Arc’teryx Kea 45 Pack (similar here), Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket, Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket, Arc’teryx Atom SL Jacket, Icebreaker Tech T Lite, Norrøna bitihorn lightweight zip off pants, Salewa Multi Track GTX trail runnersOutdoor Research Petra sweatpants, Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag, Snowpeak spork

His: Osprey pack, Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell Jacket, Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie, Avalanche Outdoor Supply shirt, Mountain Hardwear AC Henley shirt, Prana Stretch Zion pants, Therm-a-Rest Questar sleeping bag

We combined the Laugavegur with the Fimmvörðuháls and hiked all the way to Skógar!

Backpacking the Laugavegur Iceland