Adventures in Iceland

Chapter 5a - Landmannalaugar to Skogar Trek - Will we walk it or not ?

After making only one trek out of 4 due to bad weather conditions we are more than motivated to succeed walking the last planned trek, the - Landmannalaugar to Skogar Trek. This trek is considered the best (but also the most difficult) in Iceland. It starts in Landmannalaugar, the site of a rather big hot water spring at an altitude of 600 m. It is a remote and exposed place in the highlands bordering a big lava field from which Hekla volcano can be seen. This place is obviously popular with the tourists who visit it during the summer time. In the winter time, when a thick layer of snow covers the surroundings, it is left alone for the locals, who come to bath naked in the hot springs. The trek to Skogar is 70km long, and usually takes a week to walk. It is considered unique in the world as it passes through lava fields, volcanoes, hot springs, geysers as well as genuine alpine scenery of eternal glaciers, a high snow-covered mountain-pass and numerous snow fields.

Landmannalaugar hot springs.

There are only 3 access ways to the trek: a 4WD way to the start point, Landmannalaugar; a paved road to the end point Skogar and a 4WD way to Thorsmork, a glacial valley which is situated two thirds of the way from the start. There is only one daily bus from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar. It operates from the 1st of July till the 7th of September. It leaves Reykjavik in the morning, arrives to Landmannalaugar around noon, stops for around an hour and a half and then leaves Landmannalaugar to reach Reykjavik in the evening. We decide to take the bus of the 6th of September. Like this if it isn't possible to walk to Skogar, we will still have one day in order to explore Landmannalaugar and its surroundings before taking the last bus of the year (on the 7th of September) back to Reykjavik.

In order to give you the perspective of time, I write from now on a daily basis:

September 5th: We wake up late and have a swim (+Jacuzzi !) in the public swimming pool. The pool is 100 meters from Reykjavik campground where we sleep. Around noon we go to the bus terminal and buy the tickets for tomorrow. Then we go to Kringlan shopping mall (we will surely miss its marvels during our trek...) and buy some previsions for the trek as well as salmon fish and sheep ribs from which we make a BBQ in the evening at the camping ground. The only disadvantage we find in our BBQ is that it's sooooo cold outdoors...

September 6th: We wake up early and go to the bus terminal. Our bus is discovered to be a minibus. Our bus ride companions are 3 German (two girls and one boy), one French girl and one Belgian couple. Talking with them we discover that only the 2 German girls and the Belgian couple intend to walk the trek. The way to Landmannalaugar is through the black frozen desert of the Highlands and is interesting by itself. We have a stop for taking pictures of Hekla volcano. When arriving to Landmannalaugar it starts to rain. The nearby hut warden welcomes us, the new tourists, and says that the ones who intend to sleep overnight in tents should pitch them in designated areas only (i.e., on a stony area) and not on the comfortable grass. He adds: "Make sure to pay before pitching the tent". As he looks a bit stressed I offer to pay right away. He looks at me surprised and replies "Take it easy". After half an hour, when our tent is pitched, and while eating lunch he comes to collect the money. I feel that he wants to shout at us for pitching the tent before paying, but in the last moment he remembers that we offered to pay beforehand and says nothing.

The weather deteriorates and we renounce on exploring our surroundings. We go strait away to the hot spring which is next to a small river. The hot spring is too hot to bare while the nearby river is glacial. We go to the place where the hot water joins the river. If it's too cold, we get a bit closer to the hot spring and if it's too hot, we retreat a bit from it... There are even several ducks who swim nearby... It's awesome ! We feel so hot while outside it's cold, cloudy and rainy ! Actually, we enjoy it so much that we get outside only 3 hours later...

We enjoy it so much that we get outside only 3 hours later.

In the hut we meet 2 Israeli girls (we recognize them by their adventure sandals...) and collect information from the fellow tourists. One German couple has returned. They walked only a part of the trek and couldn't cross a river which was flooding. They say the snow is one meter deep. Another French couple did make it. They walked from Skogar and when arriving to the river they saw a 4WD car which took them across the river and until the hut. The warden says that the weather forecast is bad and all the tourists are strongly encouraged to go back with tomorrows last bus. We're hesitating. On one hand we want eagerly to walk the trek. If we don't do it we will really feel that our trip to Iceland is a failure. On the other hand, if the weather forecast is bad, we should not go by ourselves. In these weather conditions it isn't safe to walk only two in such an exposed trek. The Belgian couple and the two German girls agree with us. We go to sleep with doubts, and hope the weather conditions will improve. Somehow, the warden as well as the two groups of tourists who arrived today from the trek, don't look so reliable. Are they experienced enough for this kind of trek ? Didn't they exaggerate ?

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Last modified: Wed May 30th 17:05:00 IST 2001