During our trip to Iceland, we wanted to experience what the most remote side of the country had to offer and Landmannalaugar was our top pick. The Highlands, as this area is known, contain the harshest and least accessible terrain in the whole country, including deserts, peaks, valleys, glaciers, and volcanoes.
Let’s say that it isn’t exactly easy to get to or around, particularly at the very end of the season in September, when we were planning on going. With this in mind, we opted to spend one day in Landmannalaugar, one the most popular and go-to places in the Icelandic Highlands! Secretly hoping the weather would be in our favor and roads would still be passable.
Landmannalaugar is part of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the south Highlands. Getting to Landmannalaugar is only possible during the summer months and we were “lucky” enough that the road was still open well into September. The area is best known for its spectacular surrounding landscapes, diverse hiking trails and its natural geothermal hot pool, one the most recognizable in the country.
Read more to find out about our day in Landmannalaugar.
Getting to Landmannalaugar is the tricky part. The mix of unpredictable weather with highland roads comes into play and needs to be taken seriously into consideration when planning a trip to the area. In theory, during the summer months, usually from June to October, the roads should be open. Yet, this is highly variable, sometimes due to the seasons being considerably shorter, other times because of temporary road closures.
All the roads to Landmannalaugar are rough, most of them classified as F-roads and usually only suitable for 4×4 cars, sometimes with high clearance. Expect very tough driving conditions with potholes, rocks, uneven terrain and even rivers to ford. We chose the road 208 from the north, the one that is considered the easiest, plus without rivers. Our 4×4 did just fine on this one, not an F road but definitely not suitable for a regular car. The other alternatives are F225 from the west and F208 from the south. These two are more complicated.
We stayed a couple of nights at Hotel Highland, a mere 15 minutes drive from the start of road 208, along road 26 (becomes F further ahead). The day before, the weather forecast wasn’t great: clouds and light rain. An early morning start and off we went! Fortunately for us, there was little rain yet with persistent clouds. The first portion of the road 208 is still ok until past the power stations area. Great place to stop and admire the big lake.
Speaking of stopping, we did it plenty of times along the way. The scenery is amazing, a very diverse type of awe that goes through your mind and makes you wonder if you’re still on planet earth. We’re suckers for the great outdoors and this definitely made us very happy. It makes you completely forget the roughness of the road. Who said it was rough anyway?
The main places along the way were the Hnausapollur and Ljótipollur craters, and Frostastaðavatn lake. Obviously, you’ll want to stop just one more time to take yet another last picture. Do it, just don’t drive off-road!
The road is well signaled. Not that there are many different routes, but just to keep you on the right track, the first intersection is with road F225 and the second with F224. On the intersection with F224, follow this road as it leads to Landmannalaugar. Very close to the end of the road there’s a small river to cross. If in doubt, the easiest thing to do is to park before the river and cross using the small wooden bridge. From here it’s just a short walk to the hut.
Hiking is the best activity to do here, with different trails for all tastes. The hikes available include the popular 2-hour hike through the Laugahraun lava field to Mt. Brennisteinsalda – Sulphur Wave, and the 1-hour hike up Mt. Bláhnjúkur – Blue Peak. The most popular hike is the 3-4 day Laugavegur trail to Þórsmörk. Another extremely popular thing to do is the natural hot pool. Only a handful of people were using it when we passed by.
Our goal for the day was to explore a little bit and, with limited time, we opted to wander around the Laugahraun lava field. It’s just a small part of what we could have done. Still, enough to get a very good feeling of this stunning area of Iceland!
Here are some of the pictures.
We obviously need to pay homage to a few Icelandic sheep we found roaming around the area.
After a couple of hours, we slowly made our way back to the car, and even more slowly on the road back to the hotel, making a few more stops in places we had already stopped a few hours before.
Had we planned better, we probably should have made other short hikes or a bigger one. On the bright side, this leaves us with a reason to go back. We were definitely not disappointed with our time in Landmannalaugar!
The main advice is to allow enough time to slowly tackle the road. It will be slower than you think unless you’re already experienced with the terrain. We did it in around two hours, accounting for some stops.
Besides the roads mentioned above – F225 and 208/F208, the main alternative during the high season is to take the bus from Reykjavík. We know people who went there for the day using the bus. For more information on the roads and current conditions, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has it all covered here.
Hotel Highland is conveniently close and with acceptable quality. The restaurant is quite good!
There are also campsites around the Landmannalaugar area and further into the highlands.
If you’re planning to hike, come prepared with good clothing and shoes/boots.