This is a story all about how my life got flip turned upside down. Not really, rather about how we walked all over Iceland, specifically the famous Laugavegur trek. This first picture you see is actually from a different part of Iceland, I just wanted to grab your attention. Don’t worry, many jaw dropping views coming up. Enjoy!
We departed Boston, Massachusetts at 9:00pm after a 2 hour delay, arrived in Keflavik, Iceland at 6:00am, took a bus at 7:00am, arrived to Reykjavik at 8:00am, walked around until we found our hostel at 11:00am, then couldn’t check in until 2:00, so we took turns taking naps on the chairs outside. Needless to say we had a rough first day! This is the first hostel we stayed at.
We shopped for food, a cook stove gas canister, and some other small last minute things. Basically, got our packs all set for the 55 km (34 miles) trek.
The bus set out to the highlands of Iceland the following day! It was about 4 hours of driving.
Got caught in some serious traffic due to a lack in horsepower.
Fun fact: It is illegal to import horses to Iceland because they want to keep their horses purebred.
After 3 hours of highway and 1 hour of heavy off-road terrain, we finally made it to Landmannalaugar, the first campsite! (you can see it on the right)
It was super nice when we got there (15 C/60 F), and drop-dead gorgeous. Our tent is the one getting robbed in the bottom right. Just kidding! That’s my travel buddy, Erik.
Popular for it’s natural hot spring, Landmannalaugar is the most popular starting place for the Laugavegur (name of the trek), but some start further north. Also, you can see people swimming in the hot spring in the distance. It’s very relaxing.
View of Landmannalaugar as we set off on our journey!
The first part of the trek is almost entirely uphill over a mountain range and around some geothermal hot springs. There were lots of cool formations due to this.
Total elevation gain: 550 meters (1800 feet)
Total distance: 12 km (8 miles).
You can see the terrain is very rocky, but cool!
You can see pockets of snow where the ground is shaded from the sun. You can also see the trail we were following and a couple more people.
View looking back to Landmannalaugar (the flat part on the top left).
Same view after climbing a mountain. This time, you can see some of the geothermic areas we passed with steam rising up. Sometimes the ground would be hissing right next to the trail.
Fun fact: the trail is very well marked, but you are not supposed to deviate at all. This is to preserve the nature and so people don’t get burned.
There were lots of these little flower patches scattered throughout.
Lots of going up and down and up and down.
Note: The stream water is super cold because it’s from a glacier, the steam is from water underground getting boiled by thermal spots.
Cool ecosystem underneath the melting snow.
As we climbed slowly in elevation, the landscape got more and more barren. The shiny rocks on the right side are actually naturally formed obsidian.
Fun fact: To preserve the nature, it is actually illegal to remove any of the obsidian. We learned this from a volcano museum after the trek, so…I may or may not have an illegal rock in my collection. Thug life.
The trail often crossed large portions of snow in this area; difficult because of how slushy it was.
Note: you can see two trail blazers, which mark out where the trail goes if the footpath is not clear.
I envy the guy that got to ski that mountain on the left…holy moley that would be epic!
Made it to the 2nd campsite! It was cold, windy, and only midday, so we decided to keep on plowing along. It was a hard decision because the first two days are the most difficult, and we did them both in one day.
The 2nd part of the trek follows this valley and exits on the opposite side with a steep descent down to a lake in a lush environment.
Total descent: 550 meters (1800 feet)
Total distance: 12 km (8 miles)
I wouldn’t call them glaciers because I think they’re mostly snow, but they are awesome! (pictures of actual glaciers come later)
My companion trudging towards the inevitable steep climb on the far right. You can see two people already at the top.
We had to hike it, you just have to scroll your finger a little bit. Either way grants the gorgeous view from the top of that hill!
Moving ahead, we started slowly descending and coming to the end of the valley. Also, the sky is abnormally clear, so here is a nice picture of the glacier in the background consuming the mountains.
Finally rounding the corner out of the long valley, there is a nice view.
We were pretty tired at this point, but the 3rd campsite is located on that large lake to the right. It looks so close!
Story: After the trek and on our bus ride back to Reykjavik, we met the bus cashier, who is giant and is named Glacier in Icelandic. He was ridiculously funny and made for an awesome 3 hour bus ride.
The top of a descent down a very steep and sketchy slope that went for about 1km (0.6mi).
We made it to the bottom safely (barely).
Final stretch…this is about 2.5 hours of walking after we first saw the lake. So it wasn’t that close.
Finally made it, and way worth skipping that second campsite!
Total traveling for first day: 24 km (16 miles)! Not so easy carrying 16 kg (35 lbs.).
The lake was cold.
You would think that we would sleep well from all that walking, but I was not yet used to the 24 hours of sunlight and foolishly did not bring a night mask.
We set off early the next morning because a storm was blowing in for that night. The trail from here goes around the mountain ridge to the left of the lake. We check our gear for the few river crossings and set out on the 3rd part of the trek.
Total distance: 15 km (9.5 miles)
The first of many river crossings was within 3km of the campsite, so we ran into some traffic on the way.
Note: the water temperature is a frigid 0 Kelvin, or at least it felt like that because it’s direct runoff from the glacier in the distance (pictures coming up!). Even with my trusty crocs, my feet went numb as soon as I entered.
Onward to the south! You can see the glacier in the background.
5km in, there is another campsite option in case the weather is more harsh. There are man-made rock walls to block the high winds of a storm.
You can see some of the rock formations to protect from weather.
Story: After the trek when we were going out in Reykjavik, we met someone who did the trek, but a day behind us. This means that he arrived at the lake campsite the afternoon that the storm hit. He said there was tons of rain and wind; they did not let him camp there because it was too dangerous. He had to continue 5km through the river crossing to this campsite.
Landscape went from plains to rock in a matter of meters (slightly larger yards). There’s the sign to þórsmörk, our final destination. However, there is one more campsite before we can arrive.
We are luckily this river had a bridge…
This one did not! As cold as it is, it is actually quite soothing for the feet from walking so much!
Just makin’ our way downtown.
Note: there was lots of singing without background music, except for the occasional beatbox of agreement from the other hiker.
Sometimes, you don’t see something coming up until you arrive at it because it is in a little ditch.
Glacier is many kilometers (many miles) away in the background.
My favorite time of the day, snack time!
Totally legit sign. No seriously, we thought it was a joke at first, but you actually have to go infinity km (infinity miles) to get to the next campsite.
How did that rock even get there?
Looking backwards after reaching the other side…finally!
There were lots of these little flowers scattered throughout the boulders and volcanic rock.
What’s that coming around the corner? The glacier?
No, it’s just more desert full of broken up boulders.
Eventually came to another river crossing. Here is Erik changing his footwear.
Neat landscape is neat.
The trail was exhausting when it changed to sand every once in awhile. Made for slower progress, but we are not in a rush by any means.
Can’t complain about hours of walking with views like this!
Out of nowhere, finally the fourth campsite!
It was very pretty in this little hidden valley. I’m in the red coat on the right.
Fun fact: Since the black sands were so fine and the wind so strong, the sand can actually blow under the rain cover, through the mesh, and onto your face while you sleep. Wow!
Charging the tech with this beauty.
Story: So it was starting to rain a little after I took this picture, so I thought to bring it into the tent to see if it would still work, AND IT DID…at first. I checked it periodically and my battery went up 5% slowly, but after I left it, my battery ended up getting leeched until it was dead. Due to this, I have fewer pictures of the last segment, sorry. Maybe you should go do the trek yourself and see what I didn’t include (lots honestly).
Ok, so the last segment of the Laugavegur. Say goodby to hidden valley as we move towards the final campsite of þórsmörk (pronounced “Thorsmork”. The trail continues through a lot of the same desert terrain, then makes a shift into a forest once you’re close to the campsite. The final campsite is very close to the large glacier we saw earlier.
And here is the forest!
Joke: Looking at the pictures from before, you can tell Iceland has very few forests, unlike New England (where I’m from). They say that if you’re lost in a forest in Iceland, the best thing to do is stand up.
There it is in all it’s glory, the final campsite with the glacier in the background. Honestly, I never got over how stunning the glacier is for it’s sheer size. It’s a shame that it’s receding due to climate change.
Some miscellaneous pictures of trails around þórsmörk.
Fun fact: We had to learn safety procedures for flash floods. You know…just in case. But here is what the floodplain looks like without a flash flood happening.
There were lots of campsites scattered throughout the floodplain that we discovered as we went.
You can see another large campsite across the floodplain. They are scattered all over this area because it is gorgeous and actually possible to drive to (same as Landmannalaugar).
That is the trail we are following; quite thin at times (not the famous Laugavegur anymore, that ended upon arrival to the last campsite).
Last picture I took before I tripped and cracked my phone screen. It was literally seconds after this picture…
Is it cloud or glacier? Tough to draw the line between them.
So you’re still sitting there looking at these pictures? How about you buy a plane ticket to Iceland instead. You know you want to.
I love mushrooms. And so does my roommate, Hanley. This one’s for Hanley.
(NO, NOT AS DRUGS!)
Here’s every last piece of equipment I used (except for food). I guess I’ll just list everything out because why not. Starting from top:
- Wasatch 3900 backpack
- Self-inflating sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag (-6C/20F insulation, but I was very warm most nights)- Gloves
- Winter hat
- 2 Nalgene 1L water bottles in the best colors
- Saucony Peregrine 5 trail running shoes
- Tent stakes
- Rain cover (Erik carried the actual tent)
- Baggy thing for toiletries
- Vacuum seal bag for clothes (I sat on it to compress without a vacuum)
- 2 pants, 3 shirts (1 long sleeve), 1 rain coat, 4 underwear, 3 sock pairs, and 1 warm jacket (used rarely)
- Sleeping bag case that I actually used to store food
- Sudoku book, glasses/sunglasses case, harmonica, pen, can opener, survival knife, lighter, snow caps for poles, 3 carabiners, earplugs (unused), and bug spray (unused)
- Green, hyper-drying towel
- Crampons (unused)
- 2 leftover power bars
- Bowl + utensils
- Ziplock bags
- Cook stove + gas canister
- Headlamp (unused)
- Solar charger
- Sleep mask
Thanks for reading all about this incredible journey. It was one of my most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I have ever had and highly recommend it to anyone. Special Thanks to Erik who has been an awesome hiking buddy.