The hike was absolutely amazing. The scenery was up there with the best we’ve ever seen. The dramatic volcanic mountainside with steam vents alongside snow was incredible and the views surreal. But it was also very high up on the list of the hardest things I’ve ever done too!
Our first mission was getting to Landmannalaugar, which is where the hike starts, 180km out of Reykavik. The only way to get directly there from Reykjavik is the 8am bus which we missed due to incorrect advice from some staff. We could get a bus 40km out of Reykjavik but needed to hitch-hike the rest in order to meet Luke that evening in Landmannalaugar.
This went great for the first 100km, Ben and I had never properly hitched before and we found it quite fun knowing its very safe in Iceland and without having to fear it getting dark as the sun is up all day and night at this time of year. We got picked up 4-5 different times without having to wait more then 10 minutes but when we got to the 4WD road 30km out of Landmannalaugar it was getting late with no cars passing. We decided to camp the night after walking for about an hour. We set up and slept through the light of night until the morning when we started to hear cars again.
Unfortunately the cars werent stopping and we were still 25km away so we started walking, we were supposed to start the hike today but realised if we didn’t get a lift we really would have to walk the whole way and then the 55km hike! We were getting a bit depressed because the road was desolate as was the landscape, and all the cars passing were full.
Until one passed, stopped ahead and turned around back to us. They only had one spare seat but said one of us could squish in the boot if we didn’t mind! Of course we didn’t, Ben sat in the back with the bags and we got to Landmannalaugar by about 11am. We spent an hour in the natural hot springs here which were deliciously warm, almost too warm near where the hot waterfalls enter.
We got going after lunch at about 3pm and just as we were heading off we got stopped by staff who basically told us we wouldn’t make it through the snow patched trail in the gear we were wearing. This wasn’t the most encouraging start to our hike. The boys had hiking boots that were apparently not snow-proof enough and I was only wearing my trusty Dr. Martens. We knew what it was like to be unprepared in snow since our Slovakia hike so we almost pulled out on the hike altogether. Luckily we’re young and stupid enough not to listen to advice because we did it anyway and had no problems with the snow at all!
Luke in Shorts, Ben in Jeans (apparently a big “no” in the hiking community) me in docs…
The start of the hike was the most interesting and the steepest. We climbed up and through beautiful steaming lava fields as we ascended up about 500m for the first 12km. It was just so surreal the beautiful and contrasting sights the different coloured rocks with steam popping up with snow still unmelted from the long winter.
We were so exhilarated by the mountains surrounding us that the snow didn’t bother us at all once we started walking through the snow fields.
We arrived at the first hut all too soon. I couldn’t believe we’d come so far in four hours. We had been warned of the possibility of setting our tents up on snow and when we arrived we saw it was inevitable with all the dirt spaces already pitched.
We finished our 2-minute noodle dinner around 8pm and with the sun still out we could see it shining on the path out of the valley where we could continue walking or stay at these huts in the shade, on the snow. It was an easy decision we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and head to the next hut 12km away. We all ended up being so glad we decided to tackle the second leg of the trip that night because the next 12km were even more stunning then the first and even more impressive with the sun and blue skies.
We’d reached the top of the view point by around 10:30pm with this surreal pre-historic backdrop. It is one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen.
As we descended with this view it became even more beautiful with each turn. This place is just absolutely magical.
It was a bit of a killer seeing the campsite such a long way off still not reaching them till midnight. The last 3kms felt longer then the entire 21 before it and after carrying my 10kg bag all day I wasn’t sure if I could keep walking. But the sun is helpfully deceiving making it feel a lot earlier then it was. The official sunset here is 12.30pm with the sunrise at 3am meaning that it literally does not get dark here at all at this time of year. We gratefully set up our tents and slept through till the morning.
The next day brought some light rain, 2 icy river crossings and a change in scenery. The start was much the same as we’d seen, and so far the streams were bridged or narrow enough to jump and we stopped for lunch 5km in.
There were some amazing waterfalls amongst the rugged mountains. But the icy glacial streams we had to cross were absolutely painful. I almost cried the second time from the pain in my legs but as soon as they’re dry again you can almost forget that you never want to do that again.
The last few kms looked devastated, vast expands of grey rock which was only interrupted by some herded Icelandic horses at one point.
It started raining lightly and this time when the huts were in sight below the glacier I was delighted. We had instant bolognaise spaghetti dinner and went straight to bed.
Our last day was terribly wet and cold. The scenery improved from the day before but the change in temperature and the rain brought our spirits down. We hiked around a massive canyon and crossed over a river on a bridge that has a warning for anyone with Vertigo. The last river crossing was the worst for me I think I did actually cry this time.
It was amazing to finish the 55km hike and in only 3 days. The sense of achievement was almost as incredible as the views although it was a relief to catch the bus out of Thorsmork at the end.
This hike was the first proper one Ben and I have done carrying everything with us making me want to do more but I’m not sure if any in the world would be as good as this.