These 55 kilometer, through the highlands of southern Iceland. That’s what I was planning to hike within 4 days together with my mom, with whom I met up halfway in between the US and Germany. The „Laugavegur“ is said to be one of the most beautiful trails in Iceland. ‚Laugavegur‘ is Icelandic for ‚Path of the Hot Springs‘ – and yes, only a couple of kilometers in we saw steam coming up from the soil and boiling water bubbling to the surface.
How diverse can a trail of 55 km be? Oh my! … such a varied and mind-blowing stretch of land. Every single kilometer is spectacular – canyons, glaciers, amazingly colorful mountains.
To get to the northern trailhead we had to take a SUV-bus that is able to travel over gravel roads and through rivers. After having started in Landmannalaugur around noon we soon climbed up through old lava fields to a plateau of amazing volcanic landscape. Patches of snow, mineral rich and therefore colorful mountains, steam rising from the ground. We wisely planned on doing short days as we were spending much time on marveling on that landscape. As the weather in Iceland might be very unstable, cold and rainy (and also because I hiked with my mom 😉 ) we decided to rather stay in the mountain huts along the way then in a tent. It’s been great not having to pitch the tent in the afternoon and rather sit inside and have a tea while watching the wind outside, picking up in the evening.
The second day we continued our hike over the plateau and over little snowfields. In the morning we had some mist, but this just added to that mystic landscape. Later in the day we descended into a valley that just seemed unreal from the distance: we stood on the rim of that moon-like plateau and looked into a green wide valley where volcanic cones determine the scene.
On day 3 we hiked through a flat desert of rocks and sands towards two very prominent landmarks: the glaciers Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull. The latter is one of the reasons that Iceland became better known. When the volcano Eyjafjöll, that is located under the glacier, erupted in 2010, it was all over the news. The eruption had a huge impact on international air travel and consequently on the interest of the world on Iceland.
It is an … interesting … feeling to hike through that considerably young area, knowing that there is something bubbling and boiling not too far underneath the surface. The evacuation plans in the huts along the way for the event of a new eruption added to that weird feeling. On our last day we hiked further towards the glaciers and eventually descended in to the Þórsmörk Valley where we caught a 4-wheel-drive-bus back to Reykjavik.
All in all we were incredibly lucky with the weather. We expected rain, maybe even snow, heavy winds and cool temperatures. But to our astonishment we never got rained on, it didn’t snow, we only had mist one morning and on day 3 I even had to dive into my backpack for some sunscreen. Well, the Icelanders say it is way warmer then it’s been the years prior. Climate change is happening.
However, what an amazing hike! The only downside it that one never really experiences solitude on that trail. That the Laugavegur is such a beautiful trail is far from being a well hidden secret. So we had to share the experience with up to 80 other hikers around us. But that trail is not about solitude, that trail is about the beauty of our earth.