Summer is the best season in Iceland, especially for all the hikers out there. And Laugavegur Trail in Iceland is probably the most desired by hikers. But is planning necessary? Is it safe for solo hikers? What are the most important tips to keep in mind when hiking the Laugavegur Trail?
A little backstory: before moving to Iceland I have never hiked by myself. Or at least not real hikes, more like 20-minute walks in a harmless forest. Like everyone else, I’ve started with easy hikes. Solo hitchhiking and hiking became soon enough my way of exploring the country I was deeply falling for. So I had to move to Iceland to learn that I am way stronger than I thought. And the challenges in front of me were just there to understand and accept what my limits are.
Winter is here, but summer is approaching. Combining reality with Game of Thrones is what I am gonna do for the next 6 weeks. I mean, isn’t this what we are all going to do? And what other country is more inspiring if not Iceland? I used to live in that stunning country and *spoiler alert* I actually lived in Winterfell for a few months. *wink* *wink*
Right from the start: I was never planning on solo hiking in the highland of the country. Circumstances made it that way. So July 2017 was when I trekked the Laugavegur trail all alone in four crazy-scarry-life-threatening-stunning days. Actually, my challenge started in May of the same year. I didn’t know what to expect. I prepared as well as I could, but looking back at that, I can honestly say I didn’t do a very good job.
Back then I was still trying to vlog for a bit so I have short videos of the four days of hiking. The vast majority of the people are walking this trail from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. I have done it the other way around, which some say is more difficult. I used a trail booklet the whole time. However, it was for the regular itinerary, you can easily imagine this added to my confusion during the trek. And I didn’t know how the elevation would be, and as it turns out, for the most part, I was constantly gaining altitude.
Day 1 | Thorsmork and the surroundings | 5 km
I arrived at the Langidalur Hut around 8 pm. My plan was to go as further as I could, then camp in the wild and get ready for a very long walk the following day. I had to cross a river, you will see in the video how excited I got after, thinking it is the only one. I found a sweet place surrounded by small trees and around midnight, after I pitched my tent, ate and got ready for the next day, I fell asleep.
Day 2 | Thorsmork – Hvangil Huts | 23 km
I remember when I woke up the following day. The sky was clear and the sun was shining, like a legit summer day. I started the day rather late, probably around 8 am, and that actually proved to be one of the biggest mistakes. I knew there is a long day ahead but my spirits were still very high. At that time my plans were still to do this whole trek in just 3 days. But they got crushed pretty bad later in the day.
I stopped at Emstrur-Botnar Hut just for lunch, so around 20 minutes but I had to continue. Another mistake. That area is so lovely, I regret I didn’t stay longer. Especially since there are quite a few short hikes around too. There were way too many people around so I didn’t snap any pictures of the actual hut. So I kept walking.
Around 5 pm I felt already tired. The wind was strong and the sun was burning my face. I thought I will stop, camp and try to sleep a few hours and continue my trip very early in the morning. Unfortunately, I tried for one hour to pitch my tent and I just couldn’t. So I had to pack it back and keep on going. I got mad at myself because I lost time. I was exhausted and I was in the most mundane part of the trail.
At the same time, I was approaching the most dangerous river, the powerful Nyrdri-Emstrua. I knew the river crossings were best in the morning, because of the low water levels. So once again I was considering stopping and camping, this time by the river. I was sure that if I put my backpack down I won’t be able to lift it again or at least with no help. And like always, there were no more people around since it was getting really late.
Exactly like in the movies, the moment when I wanted to put my backpack down, three French guys showed up and, after asking them for help, they agreed for all of us to cross the river together. I remember how scared I was, one of the guys was holding my hand and kept telling me it is going to be alright. Not only that the river strong and the water was all the way to my butt, but it was also extremely cold. It took me so long to get back on my feet and keep going. I reached Hvanngil Huts around 10 pm, pitched my tent and went straight to sleep. Too tired to think about snapping pictures, even though the sky was quite clear.
Day 3 | Hvangil Huts – Hrafntinnusker | 16 km
Once again I started the day late. It was almost 9 am when I left and the nice weather was all gone. I was in fog, but that changed quite fast. Little did I know the weather was to become my biggest enemy that day. I had to deal with another river crossing, but being early in the morning, there were no problems. I easily made it to the Alftavatn Volcano Hut, where I stopped only for 15 minutes. The difficult part was just approaching.
Since most of the people do this trail the other way around, they hike the mountain down. While I had to go all the way up. I felt invincible when I looked back and saw where I came from. And it was still a long way ahead.
The weather got worse and worse. I was passing one of the most beautiful areas of the whole trek, and still, I could barely see in front of me. I was in the middle of a snowstorm! The wind was so strong it was really pushing me off the track, and most of the hiking trail signs were blown away. For at least two hours I had to simply follow the other people’s steps. And it was a non-stop up and down and up and down walk. I remember I couldn’t see anything with the glasses because they were soaking wet and I can’t see well without them.
It was then when I got close to glacier cavities, and the bad thing was I couldn’t know for sure what is the correct direction. At some point, there was a couple coming from the opposite direction and when I asked them where they come from, their answer made me laugh so much. The man said from the cabin. And since I asked for clarification he said, “Oh.. from Switzerland”. After I told him I only wanted to know the actual path because I got lost, he started laughing as well.
Hrafntinnusker was actually a surprise. It was so foggy I didn’t know I made it up until I was five minutes away from it. It took me one hour to pitch my tent, even with the help of a kind man. The wind was that strong. I didn’t manage to sleep that night. Mostly because of most of my wet stuff, including my sleeping bag. I was shaking a lot and I kept trying to warm up by rubbing my hands all over my body. It didn’t work out.
Day 4 | Hrafntinnusker – Landmannalaugar | 12 km
I woke up the following day feeling exhausted and, rather unmotivated. The weather forecast was looking way better after midday, so I decided to take it slow. I didn’t want to miss more amazing spots. I was sure this might be the only time when I am there. And finally, the weather didn’t disappoint.
I passed by Brennisteinsalda Volcano and the colourful Mountains of Bláhnjúkur like it’s nobody’s business. The Grænagil Canyon impressed me more than a lot. I even decided to add an extra hike just to get a nice last view of all the wonders of this trail.
I ended up arriving at Landmannalaugar just in time for the bus. I didn’t plan it like that. When the bus driver told me he will leave for Reykjavik in 10 minutes, I wanted to hug him. And then I started crying.
Hiking Laugavegur Trail by myself shaped my solo South American trip. However, I didn’t even know that at the time. The following days, my feet were sore as you can imagine, but I had no blisters and not even bruises. I lost a glove and destroyed my little tripod. How ironic it is that my red, burnt nose was the only downside?
Have you ever hiked Laugavegur Trail in Iceland? What are your best memories from it?
Originally published on April 18th, 2019
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