Landmannalaugar, deep in Iceland’s highlands, is a wonderland of colourful mountains, steaming sulphur vents and volcanic craters. Here is a breakdown of the best Landmannalaugar hikes.
Deep in Iceland’s highlands, Landmannalaugar effortlessly combines beauty and desolation. Black jagged lava fields surround colourful red and green mountains; sulphurous vents rise through scarred earth and bubbling rivers meander volcanic craters.
Dotted throughout this dramatic scenery is a myriad of captivating Landmannalaugar hikes; full and half-day trails that take you into an otherworldly Icelandic experience.
With a couple of visits to Landmannalaugar under our boots, here is our selection of the best hikes in the area. These range from a straightforward couple of hours, to more strenuous walks that will take most of the day and one epic multi-day experience.
It wouldn’t be an Iceland experience without a bit of logistical effort. To help with your planning read our guide to visiting Landmannalaugar which includes maps and useful information. We also have detailed instructions on getting to Landmannalaugar. For other achievable adventures read our guides to the best of the Iceland highlands.
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1 – LAUGAHRAUN LOOP
For a short hike that touches many of the highlights of this magnificent region, the Laugahraun Loop is a great place to start. In under 2 hours cross a lava field, amble past multicoloured mountains and head down a small canyon.
The path leaves the tourist information centre and rises onto the Laugahraun Lava Field (red markers). The trail requires a bit of concentration as the rock is hard and not always even, but it’s not long before you have dropped off the other side.
Following the trail up a small valley and across a moraine you come to the base of Brennistensalda. Also known as the ‘sulphur wave’ this yellow and red mountain rises before you as steaming vents surround it with an eerie mist. The path skirts brown bubbling mud pots, before meeting a junction of other trails. Turn left (and follow the orange markers) heading back across the lava field.
Towering in front of you the green and blue rocks that cover Bláhnúkur’s flanks drop into a river that winds its way down the Graenagil Canyon (orange markers). The path follows a bubbling river along the valley floor and after just 1 hour and 45 minutes you are back to where you started.
Distance – 4.3 kilometre (2.6 miles) loop | Time -1 hour, 45 minutes | Elevation – 200 metres (+/-) | Difficulty – Easy.
2 – BRENNISTEINSALDA ‘SULPHUR WAVE’
Nicknamed the Sulphur Wave, Mount Brennisteinsalda is a colourful display of yellow and red slopes splatted with spots of blue ash. The base is surrounded by black lava covered in places with green moss.
This excellent hike is an extension of the Laugharaun loop in reverse. However, instead of walking around the eastern base of Mt Brennisteinsalda, this hike goes over the top. The result is an even closer look at the multitude of colours as well as excellent views over the surrounding landscape.
Begin at the campsite and head up the Graenagil Valley then across the western end of the lava field (orange markers). Turn left onto the Laugavegur Trail (red markers) and then right to take the steep short ascent up to the summit of Brennisteinsalda (white markers).
The views over the lava field from here are excellent. If you need an upgrade to capture the moment, check out these great cameras for hiking.
The path (white markers) heads over the other side and drops gently towards Vondugil. It’s a great section of easy walking alongside a wide valley with great views over the rhyolite mountains. Finally, reconnect with the Laugharaun Loop and take the path (red and white markers) over the lava field back to Landmannalaugar.
Please note // Periodically some of the paths around Brennisteinsalda are closed to allow this sensitive area to recover. In 2022 the path to the summit from the south was open, but it was not possible to complete the loop northwards. In the meantime return via the Laugahraun lava field trail.
Distance – 6.6 kilometres (4.1 miles) | Time – 3 hours | Elevation – 310 metres (+/-) | Difficulty – Easy – Medium
3 – BLÁHNJÚKUR MOUNTAIN, BLUE PEAK
The hike up Bláhnúkur Mountain (meaning blue peak) is the most challenging Landmannalaugar hike on this list. There’s a steep ascent with a narrow path that has precipitous drops on both sides as well as a river that you may need to wade across. But if you are up for the challenge it is the most rewarding hike in the area. The views are simply majestic.
From the campsite head south towards the entrance of Graenagil Canyon, cross the wooden plank over a small stream and head towards path that climbs steeply up a green hill (yellow markers). As the path rises up a set of zig-zags, the green turns to bluey black volcanic ash and gravel. The rocky path is steep with lots of small rocks and steep drops on one or both sides. There is nothing technically difficult on this hike but you’ll need a head for heights. After about an hour you’ll reach the 916-metre peak.
On a clear day the views from the summit are magnificent with red-green mountains, black lava fields and an astonishing five glaciers. The hike down the other side (yellow markers) is steep and often slippery so decent hiking shoes are essential.
Finally, the trail drops to the valley floor where you’ll need to cross the Brennisteinsoldukvisl River. Depending on the weather, this may involve taking your shoes and socks off and wading across.
From here, head into the lava field (yellow markers) until you come to a junction of paths. Turn right (orange markers) and keep alongside the Graenagil Canyon to return to Landmannalaugar.
Please note // If it’s wet and you are worried about crossing the Brennisteinsoldukvisl River, do the walk in reverse. Then if you can’t cross comfortably you can easily change your plans and tackle one of the other walks on this list.
Distance – 5.8-kilometre (3.6 miles) round trip | Time – 3 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – 380 metres (+/-) | Difficulty – challenging (steep ascents & descents plus a river crossing)
4 – BLÁHNJÚKUR / BRENNISTEINSALDA LOOP
If you have a clear day and you are up for some strenuous effort, combining Bláhnúkur and Brennisteinsalda is a wonderful Landmannalaugar hike.
Start by going over Bláhnúkur Mountain as described in walk three. When the hike drops into the lava field turn left at the junction (instead of right to head back to Landmannalaugar Camp) and follow the orange markers to a junction of paths. From here bear left onto the Laugavegur Trail (red markers) and after 5 minutes turn right up to Brennisteinsalda (white markers) and follow walk 2 back to Landmannalaugar camp.
By combining all the loops, you get the trifecta of Landmannalaugar vistas: magnificent views of Bláhnúkur; the other-worldly sulphurous vents and earthy hues of Brennisteinsalda; and the spiky lava field of Laugharaun.
The whole trail will probably take almost 6 hours with over 600 metres of ascent and descent but with views like this, it’s worth it.
Please note // Periodically some of the paths around Brennisteinsalda are closed to allow this sensitive area to recover. In 2022 the path to the summit from the south was open, but it was not possible to complete the loop northwards. In the mean time return via the Laugahraun lava field trail.
Distance – 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) | Time – 5 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – 630 meters (+/-) | Difficulty - Challenging
5 – LJÓTIPOLLUR CRATER, UGLY PUDDLE
Ljótipollur means ‘ugly pond’ but don’t let the name fool you. The shimmering blue lake that sits in the 4-kilometre diameter crater is nothing short of stunning. Sitting on the crater edge as the natural forces heat your butt through the clay is a great way to stay warm in this chilly country.
The highlight of this easy walk is the lake-filled volcanic crater, but the rest is good too. There are some stunning views across the Landmannalaugar mountains plus a short traverse over a lava field. There is also the possibility of climbing the cone of Stutur, a spiky peak of black lava.
The official route (blue markers) starts at Landmannalaugar, but it takes 2.5 kilometres to get to the best part of the hike and the same distance to get back at the end. Instead, park at the northeast corner of Frostastaöavatn Lake. From here it is 2 hours and 30 minutes of easy walking on a well-signed path (blue markers). When the path comes back to the road, make sure you turn right and follow the road for 500 metres before coming back to the blue markers and turning right again.
If you don’t have a car you’ll need to walk from the campsite (5-kilometre extra round trip) to join the loop adding an hour and thirty minutes and turning an easy walk into a medium one.
Distance – 7.2-kilometre (4.4 mile) loop | Time – 2 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – 200 metre (+/-) | Difficulty – Easy
6 – SUDURNAMUR
This hike leaves the crowds behind and takes you to the summit of Sudurnamur, a fine peak on a ridgeline that runs along the northern edge of the lava field. It’s a challenging half-day hike, but once you are up on the ridge there are continual views across the lava field, Brennisteinsalda and Mount Bláhnjúkur.
The hiking trail begins at the campsite and heads out along the F224 for about 1 kilometre until you see red posts pointing towards Sudurnamur. Following the signs, the trail rises steadily, flattens onto a plateau, and then rises again. After another flat section, there’s a second push to the summit.
The path down descends steadily until it reaches a series of creeks and small rivers cutting through the gravel valley floor. Most days these are easy enough to jump across or use stepping-stones, however, after heavy rain, you may need to wade. The path joins up with the end of the Brennisteinsalda loop (white markers) before crossing back over the Laugahraun lava field (red & white markers)
Note // The route over Sudurnamur is well-marked with red posts, but we have marked it on the map in purple (to avoid confusion with the Laugavegur trail). Also, in 2022 the path down Sudurnamur and passed Brennisteinsalda was closed due to soil erosion so until it reopens you can only attain the summit from the east and then return the way you came. Ask at the information desk for the latest updates.
Distance – 9.8 kilometres (6 miles) | Time – 4 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – 440 meters (+/-) | Difficulty – Challenging
6 – LAUGAVEGUR TRAIL TO THÓRSMÖRK
The Laugavegur trail from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk is one of the great multi-day walks in Iceland. Taking 3 to 4 days and covering 55 kilometres, it was chosen as one of the “20 Best Hikes in the World” by National Geographic.
Over the course of 3 days, the hike delivers some outstanding scenery including lava fields, colourful rhyolite mountains, canyons, glaciers and active volcanoes. There are also hot springs to soothe the aching limbs along the way. It can be difficult to coordinate your accommodation, so this is a good hike to do as an organised tour.
If your Iceland itinerary doesn’t allow enough time to do the whole walk you can do a small section of it from Landmannalaugar.
Follow the well-marked path (red markers) from the tourist centre at Landmannalaugar Camp that passes through the Laugahraun lava field. Pass under Brennisteinsalda and continue west for as long as you like before turning around and retracing your steps.
It’s not the best hike in Landmannalaugar (the circular trails above are better) but it’s a good way to road test the famous Laugavegur Trail.
Distance: 55 kilometres | Time: 3 to 4 days | Elevation: too much to mention | Difficulty: challenging multi-day trek
MAP / BEST HIKES IN LANDMANNALAUGAR
The map below has an overview of the best hikes in Landmannalaugar. It’s a useful guide to get your bearings but please follow the coloured signposts.
The ranger at the Landmannalaugar information hut can provide advice for hiking and two maps: a comprehensive yet expensive 1:50,000 Iceland hiking Map covering Landmannalaugar, Laugavegur, Thórsmörk & Fimmvörðuháls and a cheap hand-drawn map for 300kr.
If you are doing the low-lying easy walks in good conditions, the hand-drawn map will do. If you are hiking all day up the mountains you may want the higher quality map.
Finally make sure you have google maps, or maps.me downloaded offline onto your phone before leaving. Although they don’t have all the walking trails, they will at least tell you if you are heading in completely the wrong direction.
BEST TIME FOR HIKING IN LANDMANNALAUGAR
The hiking season in Landmannalaugar is short, running from late June to mid-September, depending on weather conditions that determine when the mountain roads are open.
Even in the height of summer, there may be snow on the paths making the trails harder to see and hiking more challenging. At times trails may be closed, so check in advance before you leave.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR HIKING IN LANDMANNALAUGAR
For more information about visiting Landmannalaugar including where to stay, and other great things to do in the area, read our complete guide to Landmannalaugar.
There are several different ways to access Landmannalaugar if you are self-driving, each with different degrees of difficulty. Read our guide to getting to Landmannalaugar before you set off which also includes bus details and organised tours.
TIPS FOR HIKING IN LANDMANNALAUGAR
01 – Getting to Landmannalaugar can be tricky. You can take a bus or a super-jeep tour from Reykjavik. But if you’re feeling adventurous, self-driving over the highlands is the best way to go. All the information is on our getting to Landmannalaugar article.
02 – If you plan to take a day trip, leave early. The drive takes a couple of hours each way and you’ll want to maximise your time there. For more general information on driving the mountain roads, read our article about the F-road in Iceland before you go.
03 – There is a small shop called the Mountain Mall at Landmannalaugar for basic supplies, but if you are day-tripping it might be a good idea to bring your own lunch.
04 – Check weather conditions and pack warm clothes and waterproofs. The highlands are colder than the coast and the weather can change quickly.
05 – Wear good hiking boots/shoes with thick soles and good grip. The paths can be stony and the lava can be spiky. After rain the trails will be slippery and if you are walking up Bláhnúkur mountain, be prepared to take your shoes off to cross the river.
06 – Buy a map at the information centre and download online maps (and our map) for the area onto your phone. Your GPS will work even if you do not have data. It can be invaluable for tracking your progress if the cloud comes down.
07 – Bring swimwear and a towel to enjoy the geothermal pool. There’s no better way to relax the limbs after a good hike.
8 – Don’t forget your camera, the scenery is stunning.
OTHER GREAT DAYS OUT IN ICELAND’S HIGHLANDS
Landmannalaugar is the most popular day trip into the highlands but there are plenty of others that are not hard, just as rewarding, and even more off the beaten track. Read about all our favourite places to visit in Iceland’s Highlands, but in particular, you may want to consider the following:
ICELAND TRAVEL TIPS
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