This hike is magical. There is something so captivating about traveling over landscapes that change so much it seems as if you entered a new season. Parts are devoid of life, others are brimming. You can go long stretches not seeing another soul, feeling as if you are the only person in the world. You being no bigger than the specks of sand your feet are taking you over. This hike will change you.
I did this the hard way, but also my way. All by myself. I did not stay at any huts, tent camping all the way! The trail is extremely well marked. At no time did I ever feel lost, but I got lucky with weather. What will the weather be like? All of it. It will be hot, cold, windy, rainy, foggy, overcast, with a sulfur bath sprinkled in here and there. Running water, toilets, sinks, and showers are available at huts along the trail. If you want a cozy way to camp with less weight then pamper yourself.
Get your hiking passport! I went through Reykjavik Excursions. It was really easy and simple to use. And if for some reason you can’t finish the whole trek, you might be able to get picked up at whatever hut you landed at. It’s about a 4 hour bus ride from the BSI terminal in Reykjavik. Make sure to sit on the right side of the bus for better views of Hekla. The driver will make one stop at a gas station convenience store, as it is on route to the stops along the way. The mountain mall, (if up and running), offers fresh pastries, hot soup, snacks, and beer. That snickers bar is always worth 300 isk. Check in with the warden, camping is 2000 isk and includes the use of toilets. Showers are an extra 500 isk. The warden also sells gas canisters, maps, and basics you may have forgotten. There are plenty of campsites and rocks to secure your tent, it gets windy there. Bring earplugs, it also gets rowdy at night. After you set up camp, relax from a long day of travel with all of your campmates in the hotsprings. There are pockets were hot jets, but if you aren’t near one it gets pretty cold. Look for people with red faces and sit near them. There is a spot to hang all your clothes and towels for the run on the boardwalk back to camp. It is not uncommon to awaken to sheep in the campsite. They roam freely all over the trail.
Amenities here: hot food, snacks, supplies, showers, restrooms, water, trash
The start of the trail is near the bathrooms. Most people do this hike in 3 days, as did I, by combining the first two huts together for a 15 mile day. It’s about a 3,000 gain over the first 8 miles before it becomes rolling hills and then eventually drops into Alftavatn. Almost immediately you will get a sulfur facial before you’re greeted by the wildly photographed Brennisteinsalda. The summit is 2800 ft if you choose to take a detour.
Keep following the uphill path. At the top is a great place to take a break before reaching the Storihver hot springs. This area is even more active than by Brennisteinsalda.
You will continue to climb up and down, and may even cross a snow patch before you crest your final hill before Hrafntinnusker hut. All huts on this trail you will see long before you reach them. This area is the highest point on the trail, so expect it to be colder. Probably also the reason less people camp here. This is a great halfway point to the day to sit down, stretch, and refuel.
Ameneites here: Toilets, showers, water, NO TRASH PLEASE TAKE IT WITH YOU
Here’s the view from one of the picnic tables at the hut:
Yes, from Hrafntinnusker to Alftavatn is a net loss of 1600 feet! But the big drop doesn’t really come until the you’re almost on top of it. Pictured below is your first view of the chocolate hills. That lake that looks so tiny is your camping spot. Take a a break here before the descent. It’s a little intimidating steep with loose rock. There is also a demanding river crossing. So switch out your shoes, hold your poles tight, and unclip your pack.
Woohoo, the end of day 1. There is a restaurant here! I really needed to eat some of the weight in my pack, so I am unable to report how good the food is.
Amenities: Bar/restaurant, showers, toilets, water, NO TRASH TAKE IT WITH YOU!
You can also opt to go a little further to Hvanngil to camp. No lake nor restaurant, but you may dump your trash there. Always ask the warden about river crossings in case they add another bridge or one is out. The next one is typically knee deep length. Make sure you find a place to cross about 50 feet upstream. Don’t cross where the vehicles cross it is too fast and deep there. But some crossings have a bridge, yay!
Today is a very long flat walk through the black sand valley.
Before arriving to Ermstrur you can turn right to visit the Markarfljotgljufur Canyon. Don’t ask me how to say that. You can see it from the trail. Exhaustion from the time change was getting to me, so I opted not see it. You will cross two bridges over a canyon tomorrow, it’s just a much smaller version than Markarfljotgljufur.
This campground is tiny. You will be very close to your neighbor. The wind also rips around there.
Amenities: Shower, toilets, water, NO TRASH TAKE IT WITH YOU!
The trail leaves from camp and you start your decent to cross a canyon. The ground is loose sand and steep. I actually fell here and decided it was a great spot for a photo. No injury, it was graceful landing. Before you get down to the bridge crossing there is a chain link rope. It gets pretty slick. The canyon is so cool!
Continue on over more rolling hills until you get to the plateau. You’ll be surrounded by shrubs and then finally, your first tree! It’s a signal that you are about to enter the jungles of Thorsmork. If you’re lucky you’ll be out on a sunny day that will set the fields on fire as you hike by.
There’s one more canyon to cross, one more ridgeline to take in. Then descend to your final river crossing. The trail travels along a dirt road, so pay attention to any cars, there isn’t very much room to get out of the way. Eventually you’ll come to a T. Go straight if the Laugavegur is the end of your trip. Relax in the hot springs on this side of Thorsmork. If not, turn left and enter Godalands.
The landscape here is so green and refreshing. I could not stop singing the Jurassic Park theme song. There are plenty of dayhikes here, but I had to start on the Fimmvorduhals the next day, so I went on to Basar. Cross the two bridges set up for your safety. You will notice the buses look like monster trucks, you are not a monster truck so please cross at the bridges.