Trekking Tours through Iceland
In our final article about the outdoor-paradise that Iceland is, we’d like to introduce you to three traditional trekking tours through the country made of fire and ice. The island invites you in so many different ways to an extensive exploration.
To ensure that your outdoor adventure in Iceland will be successful, a comprehensive and safety-oriented planning is essential. You should always register in the hut landlord’s guestbook and give specific information about your tour. Only then, in the case of emergency, your tour can be reconstructed and you can be found. Furthermore, inform yourself about alternative routes, if streams are impassable due to heavy rain and melt water, or if a sandstorm makes it difficult for you to see.
Laugavegur in Four Sections – from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk (Thórsmörk)
Annually, this trekking tour soaks in thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and is said to be one of the most beautiful tours world-wide. In good weather it can be classified as a starter and pleasure tour, on which, however, you cannot rely on. This is why it is recommended to plan one to two additional days. Sudden falls in temperature with strong winds, dense fog, and snow are even during the summer months no rarity and require your highest attention. Due to extensive snow fields, the route between Landmannalaugar and Álftavatn can be particularly challenging in terms of difficulties with orientation.
The first section of the Laugavegur tour is, because of its steep ascent and the challenging orientation, known as the most difficult part and should only be commenced in good weather conditions. The starting point is the hut of the Icelandic hiking community F.Í. at a height of 580 meters. From here you should follow the marks along the lava field of Laugahraun. Moving right, past the lava, a path leads towards Brennisteinsalda, from where you can see the steaming flags of the solfatara. Above the lava, at about 890 meters, you reach the hot spring Stórihver, from where you follow the tour across old snow fields on the top of the pass (1.027 m) between the mountains of Söðull and Hrafntinnusker. From here you can already see the first destination, the huts of Hrafntinnusker.
The second section of the trekking tour leads you from Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn Lake. First, you should follow the stakes across wide snow fields towards Kaldaklofdfjöll. Watch out for possible creek incisions, which indicate an undermining of the snow and thus a potential collapse. At the edge of the plateau you are rewarded with a breathtaking view over the whole area of your tour. Also, you can already see your second destination for the day. Descend the steep slope and walk through the glacial creek Grashagakvsl. Along idyllic moss and grass slopes you ascent to the hut of Álftavatn (540 m).
The third section of the tour is the longest, but leads you predominantly through flat terrains; hence it’s not that challenging. In the Southeastern direction, the path leads you along several mountain streams and rivers, which you might need to wade through. From Hvanngil canyon you first cross the glacial river Kaldaklofskvísl and then Bláfjallakvísl waterfall along the Laugavegur. Through the black sand desert Emstrur (watch out for sandstorms) walk towards the impressive Hattafell. From here you’ll have an amazing view of the glacial tongue Myrdalsjökull and Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon.
The final section of the Laugavegur tour leads you out of the highlands downhill into the forests of Þórsmörk. Descend east into the imposing canyon of Fremri-Emstruá River and follow the path into Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon. Cross the Ljósá River and the Kápa ridge which leads you to the biggest challenge of the route: the ford through Þröngá. The torrential glacial river can, depending on weather conditions, be quite deep and thus should only be crossed with extreme caution. Through the birch forests of Hamraskógar you finally reach your destination.
Fimmvörðuháls Tour: From Básar to Skógar
The short and yet alternating trekking tour over the pass of Fimmvörðuháls needs head of heights as well as surefootedness, and gives you breathtaking insights in the original landscape of Iceland. Usually, the tour is done in two sections.
The first part of the tour leads you from Básar uphill on the Fimmvörðuháls. The landscape is characterized by deep canyons and glittering ice tongues of the Goðalands. Follow the Kattarhryggur ridge to the plateau of Morisheiði, which you cross towards Heljarkambur – the so-called hell ravine. Boulders, slippery rock plates, and extensive old snow fields demand highest attention as well as climbing experience from time to time. The pass of Fimmvörðuháls stretches towards the South. This is a wide snow area, which is limited by the ice caps of the volcanoes Myrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull.
The second section of the tour leads you downhill towards the Skóga River. After you have left the snow boarder behind, a path is winding through the idyllic slopes of Skógaheiði and offers you an amazing view of the coast. Walking along the Kvernahólsá the tour leads to the Skógar farm, whereby you pass several breathtaking waterfalls. Alternatively, you can also take the little longer path along the eastside of Skóga River. The end of the tour is at the Skógafoss waterfall.
Trekking Tour through Jökulsárgljúfur National Park: From Àsbyrgi to Dettifoss
North of the active volcanic zone, this impressive tour leads you through the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon to the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Separated in two easy sections and characterized by spectacular waterfalls and bizarre lava formations, this route is recommended for inexperienced trekkers. You can increase the challenge with a variant across the Hafragilsfoss.
The first section starts at the campsite in Àsbyrgi canyon and leads you across an east wall in the neighboring canyon of Tófugjá. Along the edge of the canyon, you walk towards the viewing point of Klappir, where you have an amazing view of the hoof-shaped canyon. Across the heaths of Þúfur the path leads you to the canyon of Jökulsá á Fjöllum and to the ridge of Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, your first destination.
The second section of the route leads you up and downhill towards the main sight of the national park. Towards the Southeast, follow the marks to Dettifoss. First you need to cross the small river Stallaá and then follow its right side. Terraced slopes lead you to the idyllic Hólmatungur and finally through sparse sand and rock deserts of the Icelandic highland. Passing a series of craters, the path first leads you towards Hafragilsfoss and then turns across a sandy slope and lava steps towards Dettifoss. The waterfall is framed by vertical basalt pillars and falls into a 44 meters deep canyon.
You can find detailed information about the trekking tours as well as further hints about safety regulations and planning details in Outdoor Handbuch, Der Weg ist das Ziel, Band 28: Island: Trekking-Klassiker. For proper trekking backpacks and weatherproof outdoor apparel, Tatonka is your choice.
Here, you find further information for planning a trekking tour through Iceland: