Landmannalaugar: Iceland's Hidden Gem in the Highlands

With its otherworldly landscapes and vibrant geothermal hues, Landmannalaugar promises an unforgettable adventure for nature enthusiasts and explorers alike


blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    Nestled within Iceland's wild Central Highlands, Landmannalaugar, the 'People's Pools,' is a treasure waiting to be discovered. Like a patchwork quilt of vibrant hues, this geothermal paradise boasts a captivating mix of multicolored rhyolite mountains, steamy hot springs, and vast lava fields.

    It is a mecca for hiking enthusiasts and the starting point for the famous Laugavegur Trail. Landmannalaugar is a storybook that folds out into an unforgettable journey, weaving a unique narrative of geology and nature.

    How Was Landmannalaugar Formed?

    Landmannalaugar's captivating landscape is from the ancient and active Torfajökulseldstöð volcanic system, believed to have formed 800,000 years old.

    Its terrain carries traces of lava fields dating back 400,000 years, revealing the longevity of this geological phenomenon. The most transformative event occurred in 1477 when the Torfajökull volcano erupted. This eruption not only sculpted the terrain but also led to the formation of the largest rhyolite area in Iceland, giving Landmannalaugar its signature multicolored scenery.

    Therefore, the interplay of millennia-old volcanic activities has resulted in the formation of the unique and enchanting Landmannalaugar.


    What Makes Landmannalaugar Special?

    Landmannalaugar is a remarkable gem within Fjallabak Nature Reserve, known for its exceptional natural attractions. It offers a blend of diverse geology, rich biodiversity, and impressive outdoor activities that contribute to a memorable visitor experience. Let's delve into what sets Landmannalaugar apart:

    • Rhyolite Mountains: The area is graced with multicolored mountains painted with hues of pink, brown, green, and yellow due to volcanic activity, forming an otherworldly landscape unique to this region.
    • Hot Springs: As one of the most famous Iceland hot springs, the geothermal pools in Landmannalaugar offer a relaxing sanctuary amidst the stunning wilderness, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.
    • Hiking Trails: For hiking enthusiasts, the Laugavegur Trail and other routes offer a deep dive into Iceland's dramatic and diverse landscapes. This memorable experience is second to none.
    • Flora and Fauna: The region hosts nearly 200 plant species, moss spreads, and scarce yet diverse Icelandic wildlife, including 23 bird species, minks, Arctic foxes, and around 90 small animal species.

    Rhyolite mountains

    Do You Need a 4x4 to Get to Landmannalaugar?

    Yes, you will need a 4x4 to get to Landmannalaugar. The Highland roads, or F roads, that lead to this remote destination consist of gravel tracks, potholes, and frequent river crossings that present significant challenges.

    Choosing a 4x4 is the first step. It's critical to check with your rental car company in Iceland to ensure that your selected vehicle is suitable for these demanding conditions. Remember, it's not just about the car, but also the driver's experience and confidence in navigating such terrain.

    Another factor to consider is the weather conditions. Typically, F roads are only open from late June to September. However, if a particularly snowy winter has occurred, some roads might not open for the year. Therefore, confirming your road status is crucial before embarking on your adventure.

    Driving in Landmannalaugar

    How to Get to Landmannalaugar By Car

    You can use three paths to get to Landmannalaugar by car. Each of these paths offers unique challenges and views. Let's explore each in depth:

    • Northern Route (Easiest Route): Begin either from Route 1 on South Iceland or the famed Golden Circle and follow Route F26. A right turn onto F208 South leads you to F224, the final stretch to Landmannalaugar. From the hydroelectric station on F208, prepare for 26 km/16 mi of tough, unpaved terrain.
    • Central Route(Hekla Volcano View): Start from route 26, then switch to F225, known as Landmannaleið. A right turn onto F208 and another onto F224 will guide you to Landmannalaugar. This route offers a glance at the Hekla volcano but can be slightly more challenging than the Northern path.
    • Southern Route (Most Challenging but Scenic): Embark from the Ring Road on South Iceland and follow F208 directly to Landmannalaugar. This is the toughest route, with river crossings and bumpy road sections, yet it offers the most captivating scenery.

    Landmannalaugar routes

    How Long Does It Take to Get to Landmannalaugar?

    Reaching Landmannalaugar from Reykjavík via the easiest route typically takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes. However, considering the return journey, you're looking at approximately six and a half hours of driving time in total. 

    While this might seem long, the immersive experience and breathtaking landscapes you'll encounter on this journey make it a worthwhile endeavor.

    What Are the Best Vehicles To Use for Landmannalaugar?

    When embarking on a journey to Landmannalaugar, it's crucial to select a reliable and capable vehicle. Here are some of the best options to conquer the challenging terrain:

    • Dacia Duster 4x4 Manual: This affordable and robust 4x4 vehicle offers excellent ground clearance, making it well-suited for Landmannalaugar's rugged roads. It provides a reliable and budget-friendly choice for adventurers.
    • Jeep Renegade 4x4: With its impressive off-road capabilities and higher ground clearance, the Jeep Renegade 4x4 is a fantastic choice for tackling the challenging terrain en route to Landmannalaugar. It offers both comfort and capability for a memorable journey.
    • Suzuki Jimny: Known for its compact size and exceptional off-road capabilities, the Suzuki Jimny is a popular choice for Landmannalaugar. Its sturdy build, high ground clearance, and maneuverability make it well-suited for navigating rugged paths.

    4x4 in Landmannalaugar

    All 4x4 rentals available at Reykjavik Cars are F-roads approved and can be used to drive to the highlands, providing you with peace of mind during your Landmannalaugar adventure.

    How Long is the Landmannalaugar Trail?

    The Landmannalaugar Trail, also known as the Laugavegur Trail, spans approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles). This scenic trail takes hikers through stunning landscapes, including colorful mountains, geothermal areas, vast lava fields, and glacier tongues.

    The typical duration to complete the Landmannalaugar Trail varies depending on the hiker's pace, weather conditions, and overnight stays. On average, it takes around 3 to 4 days to complete the entire trail, allowing for a leisurely exploration and ample time to appreciate the natural beauty of Landmannalaugar and its surroundings.

    However, it's important to note that individual preferences and fitness levels can influence the duration of the hike.

    Laugavegur hike

    Is the Laugavegur Trail Hard?

    The Laugavegur Trails is considered a moderate to moderately challenging trail. The difficulty level of the Laugavegur Trail can vary depending on individual fitness, experience, and weather conditions. Here are some factors to consider:

    • Terrain: The trail covers diverse terrain, including rocky sections, steep climbs, river crossings, and uneven surfaces. Some parts may require careful footing and scrambling.
    • Weather: Weather conditions in the Icelandic Highlands can be unpredictable and harsh. Hikers may encounter strong winds, rain, snow, or fog, making the trail more challenging and increasing the need for proper gear and precautions.
    • Distance: The total length of the trail, approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles), requires several consecutive days of hiking, carrying necessary supplies and equipment.
    • Elevation Changes: The trail involves significant elevation changes, with some uphill and downhill sections. Proper conditioning and preparation are important to handle these changes.
    • Remote Location: Landmannalaugar is a remote area, and hikers must be self-sufficient and prepared for limited facilities and services along the trail.

    While the Laugavegur Trail offers stunning landscapes and rewarding experiences, hikers should have a moderate level of fitness and proper gear and be prepared for potential challenges that can arise during the journey.

    Laugavegur scenery

    Is Landmannalaugar A Year-Round Adventure?

    Landmannalaugar is not a year-round adventure destination. The best time to visit is from mid-June to mid-September when the snow has melted, roads are generally open, and hiking conditions are optimal. During this period, visitors can fully enjoy the remarkable landscapes and outdoor activities of Landmannalaugar.

    If you plan to self-drive, it's important to note that F-Roads, the mountain roads leading to the area, are closed outside of the summer months. The F208 from the north opens around early June, while the F225 and F208 from the south open in late June. All F-Roads close with the arrival of snow, typically around mid-September.

    While super jeeps provide access to Landmannalaugar throughout the year, allowing you to witness the landscape covered in snow, hiking outside of the summer months can be challenging. The colorful mountains may be blanketed in snow, altering the typical summer adventure experience.

    Your Landmannalaugar Adventure Awaits

    Landmannalaugar is a breathtaking destination that offers an immersive adventure experience. The best time to visit Landmannalaugar and enjoy its stunning landscapes is from mid-June to mid-September, when the roads are open and hiking conditions are optimal.

    Whether you plan on driving yourself or taking a super jeep tour, it's important to be prepared for potential challenges such as unpredictable weather conditions, elevation changes, and remote locations with limited facilities and services along the trail. With adequate preparation and the right 4x4 vehicle of choice, your Landmannalaugar journey will surely be rewarding!

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