Iceland: Route Notes: Landmannalaugar To Thorsmork

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If you’re already used to hiking then this route is no problem at all. The only thing you may find that’s a bit more challenging than your usual walking is the river crossings but we found that even with the heavy rain, and after the hot summer melting the glaciers, the rivers were not hard to cross.

It’s not quite as “remote” as we’d expected it to be. When we planned it we thought there was only a single hut at each end, rather than there being a hut for each easy day of the walk. But that’s only in relative terms – there is nothing on the route but the huts for a very long way in any direction. The closest thing you get to civilisation is a 4X4 track that the path follows for a short section on the third day out of Landmannalaugar.

The huts are fairly “standard” mountain huts with comfortable beds and a couple even have geothermal heating. Although they each have a kitchen, you must bring your own food. Each hut has a guardian and a radio that can at least contact the next hut. You are required to stay in or at least camp outside the first two huts at Landmannalaugar and Höskuldsskáli since they’re inside a wildlife reserve.

We were there at the end of the season so even if we hadn’t pre-booked we wouldn’t have had any trouble finding room in the huts. But in high summer without pre-booking you wouldn’t stand a chance of getting in. The guardian at Botnar told us she’d had 200 people on some nights. For a hut that sleeps 40 and that only has two outside toilets, that’s cosy (although she said they are putting in better toilet facilities within the next year).

We managed side trips or some other activity on every day. We rode the amazing Icelandic horses on the first official morning of the walk from the Landmannalaugar hut (and completed the rest of the “day” in an afternoon).
On the second day we took a slow wander over to the Ice Caves from the Höskuldsskáli hut (they’re very dangerous to enter, so we didn’t).
The next day we left the route for our own extension to the trip and a wild camp.
Then, passing the Botnar Hut the guardian tipped us off about the incredible canyon nearby.
Finally we double-day’d our planned route from Þórsmörk to Skógar to avoid being pinned down on the top by a very severe storm (most people do it in a day so it’s not a huge achievement!).

Although we didn’t spend as much time walking as we usually do on a Big Walk, the scenery was so spectacular and there was so much else to see, we didn’t feel like we’d missed out.

In fact I’m sure that if we’d not camped at Geysir and finished with a trip to the Blue Lagoon we’d have felt cheated (though one of us swapped the Blue Lagoon for a trip to see the icebergs at Jökulsárlón – which the rest of us now very much want to visit).

The route was easy to follow with a well trodden trail that was hard to miss and marker sticks and cairns in some of the more barren places. Despite that, carrying a map and a compass is essential in my opinion. Trails and sticks can disappear in a snow storm.

If you extend the route to go over the mountain and between the glaciers on the way to Skógar you might want to stay in the hut at the top. To book in there, you’ll need to talk to the guardian in the large hut(s) at head of the valley, opposite the Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) hut. But we didn’t stay up there as a big storm was forecast – and certainly arrived!

One thing I’d consider if I was doing the route again is reversing it to end at the luxurious hot-pool at Landmannalaugar. Though the Blue Lagoon (once back in Reykjavik) is arguably the more luxurious finish.

Even if you don’t walk the Landmannalaugar To Þórsmörk trek then a coach trip to Landmannalaugar is well worth the fare.

4 Replies to “Iceland: Route Notes: Landmannalaugar To Thorsmork”

  1. Cheers Petesy! :)

    I have been ferreting away in the background writing up Iceland but it’s been just chucking ideas into the good ole mind map as I’ve thought of them more than it’s been writing coherant postings.

    I’m finishing them off one at a time and posting them but I’ve got several more in the offing (fuel and stoves, food, bugs etc…).

    I’d like to have been able to write them up directly onto the blog a but I find that I’ll write one and then keep going back and adding bits that I’d forgotten to add.

    Ha – it’s still not stopped me forgetting to add in the part about how I kept my camera dry on the photos entry though!

  2. I know you posted them in Picassa the other day, but those photos simply do not get old. Can’t wait for more!

    Every Icelander I’ve ever met has spoken perfect English. Is that the same for the guardians running the huts too?

    (good to meet a fellow FreeMind user, by the way!)

  3. Ah you’ve seen the best of the pics ;)

    Besides, as you’re stunning shots will testify – camera’s can at least embellish if not actually lie…

    Yes Icelanders all certainly do seem to speak English (good point – must mention that in a posting!).

    And Freemind – don’t know what I’d do without it. I’d certainly be less “productive” and more stressed trying to keep track of everything.

    I run my life from it at work and at home. I just dump everything into it. And it seems easy to keep it all organised since you can just drag it all about if you decide things are in the wrong place. I like it because I don’t spend any time on it (the tool) but spend all my time using it to record the information.

    I’ve used it for about five years now so I’ve got this huge database of knowledge built up.

    This year’s annual Wood Family Bombfire (that is how we spell it) was organised very easily because I’ve been using Freemind to dump all my notes in for five years. I track what still needs to be done then print it out and tick off the items on the day.

    I’ve managed to spread it, virus like, to many, many people at places I’ve worked for the last few years!

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