Landmannalaugar is at the heart of the Fjallbak Nature Reserve, an area home to volcanoes, hot spots, lakes, rivers, and a variety of vegetation. The campsite itself is at the edge of hardened lava field called Laugahraun, and it dates back to an eruption that took place over 500 years ago. The reserve is open between late June and early September, and many people visit here on a daily basis. A large portion of campers will be embarking on, or completing, the Laugavegur, Iceland's most renowned backpacking adventure. A four-wheel drive vehicle is absolutely necessary to travel to and throughout this region. Upon arriving at the campsite, most vehicles will need to park across a small river, but within sight of the campsite, while high buses with large tires will plow right through the deep water. There is footbridge to help you walk back and forth. Register with the camp wardens, ask about the weather conditions, and begin exploring the area.
Camping is only allowed in the designated camping areas, and there is a tariff of ISK 2.000 per person per night (2017). It is prohibited to camp elsewhere. At several of the campsites there are large rocks that you can tie your tent to and stone walls to block some of the harsh winds. There are also cleared areas with a hard but flat surfaces where many others have camped before you.
This is an area that you will really enjoy taking time to explore. There is a large variety of hiking opportunities and an incredible diversity of landscape:
This is the starting point for the Laugavegur, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring treks in all of Iceland. It is so renowned that it has been rated by National Geographic as one of the best hikes in the world. This adventure is a 54-kilometer (34-mile) one-way route that begins in the hardened lava fields of Landmannalaugar and ends in the glacial valley of Þórsmörk. It is typically completed over two to four days with potential overnights in Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil, and Emstrur. Throughout the trek, you will experience a grand spectrum of landscapes that include red rhyolite mountains, vibrant turquoise sands, bubbling thermal vents, neon green mosses, glistening white glaciers, hardened volcanic spew, cold river flows, and eroded gravel floodplains. The terrain is a dream for volcanologists and geological enthusiasts who want to experience a raw and untouched landscape scourged and molded over millennia of explosive activity. The trail is only safe to traverse between late June and early September, after high glacial water flow, during long days of sunlight, and before consistent low temperatures. It is highly trafficked with over 100 people beginning each day. Wooden post markers are very clear along the route, and the amount of people seen throughout the trek make it easy to remain on the path.
The Brennisteinsalda Hot Spring is a favorite feature of the region. Many people will spend hours at a time basking in this naturally formed hot spot that has wide temperature variability around 38 degrees Celcius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Some trekkers make their decision to hike in the northern direction solely based on the presence of this warm water at the end of their journey. This raw and untouched bathing area is at the intersection of a cold stream and geothermal runoff; therefore, the water temperature is nowhere near consistent. You will be continually amused by bathers moving about the water to find the perfect balance of temperatures. Enjoy the soothing nature of the water and relax those muscles for the long trek ahead.
If you realize you forgot something, or need a chance to resupply, the Mountain Mall is on site at Landmannalugar. It is a small shop built into a series of dark green buses. You can buy a variety of trekking necessities, or relax in their small café section with tables and benches. Fresh water is readily available, and 5-minute hot showers can be bought for ISK 500. If the hot water runs out, the showers are free! Take note that there are no garbage drop-offs; everything you carry in must be carried out. If you need to charge your phone, electricity may be available for ISK 1.000.
For those looking to alleviate the weight of a tent, there are six cabins along the way owned and operated by Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association, FÍ). They are open from late June to mid-September and cost ISK 8.000 per person per night. These huts are typically booked long before the summer hiking season due to the region’s high popularity, so be proactive and early with your reservations. Inside you will generally only have a small space of floor to sleep on: This is no luxury experience! There are impressive kitchens and cooking supplies available to use if you are bringing any food that should be cooked. You have to leave your shoes at the door, and there are usually nice drying racks. (Campers are not allowed inside unless the conditions become extreme.)
The Jokugil and Vondugil valleys around Landmannalaugar have long been used for sheep grazing; however, there was a time when they were avoided due to the alleged presence of evil spirits. If there were sheep that strayed away into this region, they were generally abandoned. This changed in 1852 when the area was explored and mapped by surveyors who reported no mysterious activity. The following year, farmers returned to these valleys and reclaimed the lost members of their flocks. One such shepherds’ hut is located upon the hardened lava field overlooking the Landmannalaugur Campground. There are many others located along the trek.
The nature reserves of Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, and Skógar are all reachable by bus during the summer. The most economical means of transport is the Reykjavík Excursions Hikers’ Pass, which offers a discounted round-trip to and from any combination of the aforementioned campsites and the BSI Terminal in Reykjavík. (Reykjavík Excursions and Airport Express also serve bus transportation to and from Keflavík Airport and the BSÍ Terminal.) There are two or three departures per day, and the bus is regularly filled, so it is best to be in line early or risk having to wait several hours for the next ride. There is also a bus from Hella to Álftavatn once a day during the summer.