Visiting and hiking in Landmannalaugar was the absolute highlight of my trip to Iceland! The drive through the volcanic mountains and through the rivers is a sight to see. Yes, I did just say through the rivers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Landmannalaugar area is mountainous and colorful with shades of brown, grey, green, black and white. The white, of course, is snow.
Like I wrote above, you must drive through small rivers to get to Landmannalaugar. In addition to this, the road is dirt and is rough and narrow in places. Due to all of these factors, a four wheel drive vehicle is required. There are a lot of rentals that are four wheel drive, but once you get onto the rougher roads, many of the rental agreements will not cover you if you have trouble.
If you don’t want to drive, Reykjavik Excursions has several buses that go to Landmannalaugar and return daily. Since four wheel drive vehicles are so expensive, as is gas, and driving through rivers isn’t for everyone, I can say riding the bus is a good way to go. A nice thing about the bus is that the driver stops in several places to let you off to view your surroundings and take pictures, which is a nice touch.
Staying in Landmannalaugar
Camping in Landmannalaugar is easy and cheap. Upon arrival, go to the booth to pay and place the tag on your tent, proving that you have paid. No need to pay for all nights at once. In fact, they encourage you to pay for one night at a time as they do not offer refunds if you change your mind. If you want to camp, but don’t want to bring all your gear to Iceland, there are places to rent camping gear. Make sure you locate and get the gear before heading to Landmannalaugar as they are not the people who rent it.
Bring the food you need as the offerings are limited once you are there. The facilities are quite nice, though. They have a covered semi open-air bathroom with sinks, toilets, showers and changing areas. There is plenty of delicious potable water, too.
The campground is wide open and rocky. It is difficult to drive your tent stake into the ground, but there are a lot of good size rocks laying around to use instead. With the lack of trees, it can be quite breezy here, so be sure to secure your tent well and earplugs can be useful for sleeping.
It can get quite cold at Landmannalaugar, even in the middle of the summer, so bring warm layers. You will want warm clothes and a jacket for nighttime, as well as a rain jacket. I even wore my winter hat in the summer. The weather changes quickly here, and being prepared for all weather will ensure that you are comfortable.
There is also a small hut that some people stay in. You need reservations well in advance, so plan ahead.
There are a lot of really great day hikes to do at Landmannalaugar. They have a map at the small store when you arrive, and the rangers have good tips on the hikes. Some hikes go uphill into the colorful volcanic sand, others through a geothermal area, some through some good sized lava rocks, some across the valley floor and through the icy waters, and any combination of these. There are options for all abilities and distances. Some people hike from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork, or vice versa, backpacking for 3-4 days.
There is a natural hot spring near the camping, which is a nice way to spend your evening after hiking all day. It also helps warm you up in the often chilly area. Try not to wear a bathing suit with white in it as it may turn an orangish color from the natural minerals in the water.
Other Good Information
The road to Landmannalaugar is only open from about mid June to mid September.
The bus has wifi, so if you need to be connected, you’re in luck.
Some cell phone companies, surprisingly, have service at Landmannalaugar.
If you decide to leave Landmannalaugar early, you can take the bus back as long as there are seats available.
There is no way to book camping ahead of time, but there is plenty of room.
Even when the campground looks like there are a lot of people, it is easy to get away from people when hiking.
For more to do in Iceland, check out my post Why Visit Iceland?