Laugavegur Trail: Landmannalaugar to Hvanngil
The Laugavegur is Iceland’s most famous trek. It’s not hard to see why. The 55 kilometer hike from Landmannalaugar to Skógar covers some of the most unreal scenery, from lush meadows, to foreboding glaciers, to burnt orange, volcanic hills.
When we decided we were going to Iceland this summer, the Laugavegur was the first thing I started booking. We were going to hike the damn thing, come hell or high water. Our itinerary was Landmannalaugar to Hvanngil, and Hvanngil to Thorsmork.
Josh and I woke up bright and early to start our trek. It was going to be a long day, and we were a little nervous about the mileage. We were hoping to get a quick start to the day, but the kitchen was locked until 7. We packed up our sleeping bags and waited for the kitchen to open up so we could boil our water and hit the trail. Not many folks were up that early. The guided groups in the hut were just beginning to stir when we left.
The trail starts by ascending into the Laugharaun lava field. The sun shone off the glassy obsidian. We pass the meadow we frolicked in yesterday and continue left and up towards steam blowing up into the sky.
The trail ascends even more and soon, we’re above the lava field. Looking back, the air is sulfurous and the views are partially obscured by heat escaping from thermal vents. It was so beautiful. This would be our theme for the day.
The Laugavegur continued, hiking on rolling, painted hills. Then the terrain changed. We hit snow. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to be annoying in my trail runners. The sky became very overcast and the wind picked up.
The Laugavegur was still very well signed, but some of the posts had fallen over. We slowly climbed up on the trail, passing several memorials for hikers who’d died in snowstorms. Some hikers were within a mile of the Hraftinnusker hut when they perished.
Hraftinnusker was the coldest point on the trail. Winds were blowing at 30-40mph. We couldn’t feel our fingers. I wish I brought leggings. We stopped for a quick refuel and continued on. Later, we learned that camping was closed for the night at the hut due to high winds.
Snowy sections turned back to rocky terrain, which turned back to hard packed volcanic dirt. We were hiking through painted hills again. In the distance, we could see Alftavatn—in Icelandic, vatn means lake— nestled amongst lush, green hills. The trail descended steeply down loose dirt and scree. I was glad we weren’t hiking up it. I don’t think they believe in switchbacks in Iceland.
We had to cross our first river. From the distance, we could see hikers stopped to take off their shoes. We were able to find rocks to hop across. Trekking poles really helped.
We hiked along flat terrain until we reached Alftavatn and took a short break. At Alftavatn, we realized that people could just drive to all the huts?! It was a pretty luxe backpacking experience. Volcano Huts even had a restaurant there. We didn’t stop for long. Hvanngil awaited.
After leaving Alftavatn, we encountered our first real river crossing. I was so glad I brought my Chacos. It was frigid, but surprisingly refreshing. Many of the other hikers dawdled before or after the crossing. We pushed on. We were less than 5km from Hvanngil.
Where Landmannalaugar was spacious, Hvanngil was a small and intimate hut. It holds about 60 people between two stories. Bathrooms are detached from the building, and frankly, quite cramped. There are only two toilets, resulting in long lines during peak hours. Another bathroom was a quarter of a mile down the road.
Camping at Hvanngil is nestled in a lava field next to the main hut. It began to pour in the early evening at the hut. I was thankful to not be holed up in a tent.
How to book the Hvanngil hut
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the dates you are looking to book and pray that spots are available. I booked Hvanngil for one on March 28 and was added to the waitlist for one. When I paid, I paid for two spots.
- The hut 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.
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 runners, Outdoor 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