My Laugavegur Hike in Iceland

End of July I finally managed to travel to Iceland to do some hiking. I chose the Laugavegur (the trail of the hot springs) as it is being advertised as the hike everyone should do at one point when hiking in Iceland.

As some people keep nagging me for the promised images, uhm, here they are.

Day 0

The first full day in Iceland was spent traveling to the starting location, Landmanalaugar (the peoples pool). As there is a pool here, which has an inflow of hot spring water and one of cold melting water, this is actually a pool with a temperature perfect for chilling out in there. You can even adjust the temperature by just moving around in the pool, as each spot differs… Still, there are no pictures of the pool. Don’t ask me why (-:

Here you can see the huts at Landmanalaugar. The one on the far right is one of the huts which contains bookable beds which you find along the trail. I opted for camping, as I was to late to book any huts (you need to book sometime in spring to have a chance to still get any space) and I actually like camping. The small green tent in the picture is mine, which weighs just around a kilo. The rest of the huts house toilets and shower rooms, washing basins and sleeping and working places for the warden (the poeple that work at the huts).

Landmanalaugar huts

The following picture is taken from the pool area. You can nicely see all the tents already scattered around here.

Landmanalaugar huts and campsite

There is also a mall… Uhm, two trucks bolted together and they sell hot soup, beverages and several small things.

Mountain Mall

One of the huts houses the Björgunarsveit (mountain rescue). I also did not manage to take a picture of the bus that took us to Landmanalaugar, but this one looks pretty similar to it.

Björgunarsveit

In this image you can see a small meltwater river that will span the entire valley in the spring.

valley

Day 1

The first day started with steep upwards climb. The view backwards was tremendous.

Landmanalaugar from atop

This is a small meltwater pool. Although one should not put ones hand in any pool along this hike, as they can be quite hot, this one was actually very coold.

Cold Pool

Just a road sign. Hrafntinnusker was the first goal. In the background you can see the small wooden stakes that mark out most of the trail. In fact, the trail is marked extremely well. Considering that I had incredible good weather and that it can get quite foggy/rainy/stormy up here (currently ~500m elevation) good marking of trails can be the difference between life and death (more on this, later)…

trail sign

This is just another pool, I guess a cold one. The height has increased from the last picture (now around 540m), but this is not the end).

Another cold pool

This is another view back towards Landmanalaugar (once you see the river, you also find the black/brown/green hilly thing that you saw a picture of earlier).

View back again…

Just some mountains to the side.

mountain view 1

mountain view 2

This is another “pool”. Its just missing the water at the moment. From the right you see a small stream of water going in. It can then be heated and overflow or even be vaporized…

heating ground

Another view back, can you find the starting point?

Landmanalaugar again!

We are now at ~800m elevation. I offered a couple to take a picture of them (so that both are on the picture), then they gave me a reach around and snaped this picture. I did not have a thermometer with me, but it was probably around 10°C. Maybe a short note on the backpack… It was much to heavy with around 23 kilos. If you want to do something like this hike, save every little tidbit of weight. But hey, you always learn, I now know some things that I will change in the future.

I, me and myself

Yeah, hot pools ahead!

hot pools ahead

Here you see a thermal exhaust that heats up the water flowing through.

cooking the water

even more boiling water

This is nearly at the top of the hike (~1000m). It is quite rocky here and the stakes have been moved atop these cairns which are probably easier to see in bad conditions. Some guy hiking around here with his family without much load (they only did a day trip and went back to Landmanalaugar. He was telling the kids that every cairn actually was built because someone died here.

Cairn of stakes

And then you happen upon this cairn, which was actually built because someone died here. The sad thing is, that he would only have to gone over the next height to arrive at Hrafntinnusker.

memorial cairn

Yeah, it was just around the corner. In this picture you can actually see the solar cells and the mobile antenna. You can actually pay the huts and camping with credit cards all the way along the trail…

Hrafntinnusker

The night up top (~1100m) is said to be the coldest on the whole trail. This is supported by strong gusty winds that bring along lots of ash (we are standing here atop a volcanic region after all). So someone put up these wind protection walls (and in the background you can see the toilet and washing station (-:

Hrafntinnusker campsite

Day 2

Starting out from this highest point of the trail it now went over very snowy terrain. Hiking over snow is actually much more strenuous than over sandy ground. Here you can see that even though the snow is actually quit thick, you never know how stable it is. Below the snow you see a little stream and a hole above it. Walking over snow always means that you could fall in at any time…

Snow with holes

Up here in this cold environment you will not really find any plants. The highest of feelings is lichen and maybe some moss.

Tremendously green

This trail is clearly visible. You don’t need any stakes here… Obviously.

Unstaked path

Just some more breathtaking mountains.

View to the side 1

View to the side 2

What you see here is actually not dirty water. The water is very clear and clean. The red you see is iron oxide that builds up in the rock here, which obviously contains lots of iron. I quite like the contrast of the green lichen with the red oxidized rocks here.

contrasts

less contrast, but the same setting

And just some more mountains. A little bit on the left you can already see the destination of this day: Alftavatn (Swan Lake).

Mountain View

Here you can see Alftavatn even better. You can also see that it is in one of many ridges. This spot is actually where the North American and Eurasian plate are drifting apart.

Ridges

What you cannot really see on this picutre is, that the drop here were around 400m vertically in around 500m horizontally.

This is a huge drop actually.

Down from the mountain there was now more green, even if it still was gras at the most and somehow much more marshy.

Gras at last

and a marsh

And a bend in a river. Sadly the pictures of Alftavatn did not come out ok. I can just tell you that swimming in a lake with around 6°C is refreshing…

Alftavatn river bend

Day 3

This river is a little deep for fjording, so someone put a bridge like thing over it. Take care, there is no railing.

A bridge

At least while looking back you see the Alftavatn hut and part of the lake.

Alftavatn hut

River fjording. Always a great fun. As long as you have your special fjording shoes. You don’t want to fjord in your hiking boots, so a pair of light sneakers or trekking sandals are perfect. I prefer something closed, so I have a pair of specialized water shoes. I still stubbed a toe pretty hard on one stone leaving a bad bruise. The worst thing you can do here besides going barefoot is using flip flops, because after the first fjording with those you will be fjording barefoot…

Fjording

more Fjording

Did I say something about not marking the trail because it was clearly visible? That does not seem to have been a consideration here.

Rocky path

Luckily there was a bridge here. This one would have been tough to fjord…

Tough river

A small part of the trail went along this high way. I was somewhat to slow here. The truck was in the water up to its fenders. The truck-van in the back actually was to small for this fjording and sucked in water. So now they have to wait for the engine to dry up.

car fjording

And one shot along the highway.

Highway

As you can see here, it was quite warm (we are only around 300m here now).

warm stop

Did anyone say that Icelanders are not funny?

LotR

And from here on, there were actual plans beside gras… Uhm, guys, where is the gras?

flower

This little stone (around 40cm in height) is only one of many such bombs that lay around here. Having been shot out of a volcano and flown quite some distance to land here.

Is this an ork head someone buried here?

Nearly the last fjording here. If you want to fjord a river, always look around what a good place would be. Even though it makes your way longer in the river, always look for shallow places, the flow will be much weaker here and you will also much less likely trip. And as a bonus, if it is really shallow, you can even keep on wearing your hiking boots.

another fjording

This is the destination of this day: Emstrur Botnar (actually, don’t ask me what this means).

Emstrur Botnar

Camping space is very limited here, so early risers like me are well off, while people that sleep in might be out of luck and have to make do with the crowded lower campsite.

Is this a Vaude ad?

Day 4

Starting out to the last day-trip there is another look backwards to Emstrur Botnar. You can even see the crowded lower campsite here.

Emstrur Botnar again

This is actually a volcano you see right now. Please don’t let it erupt now.

Some volcano or other

Even inside volcanoes, there can be rivers, right?

volcano river

more volcano river

Here was another bridge again, I did really not want to fjord here…

ravine

This is just another small volcano caldera (an old volcano top).

caldera

My shadow! Shadow!

Here you can see some hard stone, surrounded by weak stone. As you can clearly see, the hard stone prevails, while the weak stone crumbles.

hard and weak

This is the way we are supposed to go.

Looking ahead

A bush! The first bush-like thing in days.

bush

The Einhyrnigur (Unicorn mountain).

Einhyrnigur

And more of this soft/hard rock think.

some stones, wow

Someone started piling up rocks on this rock.

More rocks.

More bushes, yay.

bushes

This red here. It is just another kind of plant. A red plant.

valley

More bushes, and sheep!

Sheeps

This seems to be a pony riding group.

Ponies!

And the last fjording. The guy on the right actually had some flip flops to fjord, but lost them somewhere. It was fun watching him fjord. Another guy lend him some trekking sandals.

Fjording, again

Treeeeeeees! At last, this means that the destination is close.

trees

And this is actually it: þorsmórk (Thors forrest). Seems a little bit anti climatic now, does it not?

þorsmórk

This was the Laugavegur in just 70 pictures.

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