Last summer, Jonathan and I decided we should get off the beaten track with our travel adventures and explore the country of Iceland. Iceland is know for its beautiful nature and unique landscapes. To plan for the trip, we read countless travel blogs and decided to drive along the Ring Road, stay in cute Airbnb’s and stop along the way to see beautiful waterfalls and go on small day hikes.
About two weeks before we were set to leave, I got an itch that wouldn’t go away. It might sound a little silly, but occasionally I like to ask myself “When is the last time you tried something new?” I think this type of thinking helps push me outside of my comfort zone and discover something different. I wanted to do something more adventurous in Iceland, something I had never done before.
Jonathan and I began researching unique adventures in Iceland and stumbled onto the Laugavegur Trail, Iceland’s most famous hike and one of the best hikes in the world (according to National Geographic!). Jonathan was totally on board so we researched Iceland trekking companies on TripAdvisor and decided to go with Trek Iceland, as they had great reviews and availability when we would be in Iceland (note that the best time to do this hike is between July – September due to adverse weather conditions in the Fall/Winter. Please plan accordingly!).
Definitely do your research before jumping into this, as it is a serious multi-day hike. For us, it was a magical experience and would recommend this trekking company to others looking for a similar type of trek. Trek Iceland was very communicative, our guide was nice and kept us safe, and our hiking group was full of people from all over the world that we got to know over those few days.
There are a couple of longer 6-day trekking options but we decided to go with the 4-day assisted trek (sleeping in huts vs. tents) since this was my first trekking adventure. We can save the longer tent-sleeping treks for later ;).
Also, this was an assisted hike, meaning that we wouldn’t need to carry all of our food and belongings; there would be a van to drive our bags from hut to hut. We would just need to carry a daypack with water, snacks, and whatever else we needed for the day. This was right up my alley!
Day 1 – the hike begins across fields of lava rocks!
Trek Iceland picked us up in a big bus in Reykjavik early in the morning and drove 3-4 hours to Landmannalaugar, where our hike began! The scenery was beautiful from the start: lush greenery, unique lava rock formations, steaming hot springs, and snow-capped mountains. The trail we followed was a bit hilly but we took rest and lunch breaks throughout the day.
By the afternoon we had crossed into a black desert-like terrain and finally arrived at our hut after a full day of hiking. We spent the night in the hut in Hrafntinnusker, one of the most remote huts in Iceland. It wasn’t luxurious by any means but it provided all the basic amenities: food, shelter and (decent) outdoor restroom facilities (no showers though!).
The night there was quite a rainstorm so we were certainly happy we were dry and warm in the hut rather than being cold and in the rain outside in a tent.
Day 2 – walking through barren mountains and icy glaciers
After breakfast with our trekking group, we set out again to walk along the Reykjafjoll Mountains. The terrain on Day 2 was totally different. It was more similar to barren mountains than the colorful snow-capped mountains that we saw on Day 1. The trail involved small ascents and descents across the mountain caps and we were surrounded by large glaciers everywhere. This was where having trekking poles would have come in handy as the trails were sometime steep and slippery given the weather.
In the afternoon we walked into greener landscape and had to walk down a steep trail to get to our hut, which was on located along the Grashagakvisl River. The first thing I did after setting down my bags: Get in line for the hot shower!! I slept well that night. 🙂
Day 3 – crossing a black sand desert and a surprise from the Northern Lights!
After the standard breakfast, we started out again. The day hike was nice; we had to cross a stream (the water socks we brought came in handy after all!) and we made our way through a black sand desert until reaching a spot of lush green terrain, where our hut was located.
Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on my bucket list and rumor had it that this night was the “perfect” night to see them. I don’t know exactly what this means but I know it was the right time of year (we planned our trip around this) and I think the clear skies and temperature helped too. We ate dinner and went to bed with our cameras next to our heads as some of our friends watched out for the Northern Lights. Around 10pm or so someone barged in and told us all to come outside. The Northern Lights had arrived!
The Northern Lights are a truly amazing sight; we saw the build up of bright green light slowly dancing across the night sky, disappearing, and then re-appearing in another shape nearby. This went on for hours into the night. If we weren’t completely exhausted from the 3 full days of hiking we probably could have laid there all night watching it.
Day 4 – the final day wandering through a forest of mini trees!
We continued our way to Thorsmork. The landscape on this day was much different than the prior days. We began to see a couple trees here and there and all of the sudden we found ourselves in a dense forest (I thought I was on the set of the Lord of the Rings).
For the first time on this hike, I saw flowers! We enjoyed the beautiful walk through the forest before we reached the end of our hike. Luckily there was a little bar at the end so our group had a couple beers together before heading back on the bus. My first trekking trip was a success!
- Practice hikes: The trail was quite hilly at times so I recommend going for at least a few practice hikes (4-7 miles) in the months prior to your trip. The average daily mileage along the Laugavegur hike ranged from 7.5 – 9.5 miles.
- Bring the right gear: The weather in Iceland can be a bit dicey so you should prepare for all types of weather! See the packing list below for our recommendations.
- A great camera: Seriously, the views we saw along the trail were some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. You will want to capture those moments so you don’t forget them.
Here is a video that one of our fellow hikers made that really captures the beauty that we saw:
- 40-50L hiking backpack
- Hiking shoes (waterproof)
- Trekking poles (nice to have)
- Goretex jacket
- Water resistant pants
- Wool socks
- Light fleece jacket
- Down jacket (if going in fall / for the evening)
- Hiking pants
- Synthetic base layer
- 20F down sleeping bag
- Wool pajamas
- Dry bag (for laundry)
- Windbreaker gloves (nice to have)
- Water socks (nice to have)
- Water bottle or bladder
- Pack towel
- Ear plugs