A Day Trip To Landmannalaugar In The Icelandic Highlands

Landmannalaugar profile

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This is a guest post from Shweta Singhal.

Landmannalaugar is an area of stunning landscapes in the central part of Iceland. In the summer months popular activities in this area include hiking, dipping in the hot springs, seeing the Rainbow Mountains, and enjoying the vastness of the landscape. This is a guide to exploring Landmannlaugar in one day, but of course you could choose to spend more time on a multi-day hiking and camping trip.

The Geology Of Landmannalaugar, Iceland

Like many other parts of Iceland, Landmannalaugar has an interesting geology. If you embark on an Iceland ring road itinerary you will cross several lava fields, but you will find particularly extensive dried magma fields at Landmannalaugar. The Laugahraun lava field was formed after an eruption in 1477. Make sure you get to see the giant obsidian rocks found here.

The best part of the area is the windswept mountains made of different coloured rocks: red, yellow, blue, green and brown. Hence the name “Rainbow Mountains”. Historically Landmannalaugar was best known for its natural geothermal baths. The name literally means People’s Pool, and it has one of the most scenic geothermal hot springs in Iceland.

Rocky landscape with steam rising from the ground.
Geothermal activity at Landmannalaugar

Best Time To Visit Landmannalaugar

Unlike some other parts of Iceland, Landmannalaugar is accessible only via F-roads (unpaved dirt tracks), which get opened up sometime in mid-June. The camping and on-site store facilities close by mid-September. So it is a short summer season to enjoy this scenic area but don’t let that put you off: Landmannalaugar is one of the best day tours you can take in Iceland.

It is also possible to take a super-jeep tour to Landmannalaugar in the remaining months. However the area will be covered in snow, making it a totally different experience.

Rocky landscape with a wooden signpost showing three different directions.
Visit in the summer for a choice of hiking trails

How To Get To Landmannlaugar

1. Hire A Car

You will have to rent a 4WD with full insurance to get onto the F-roads. There are various different roads that can take you to Landmannalaugar from northern Iceland, from Thingvellir, and from Selfoss in southern Iceland.

There are 3 different routes to this area:

  • Northern route. The easiest way is to follow the F26 to the F208. You can get to F26 either from the south of Iceland or from Thingvellir National Park
  • Hekla volcano route. If you don’t go all the way on F208 but turn right onto F224 to Landmannalaugar, you get to see the Hekla volcano. 
  • Southern route. This is difficult driving but the most scenic route to Landmannalaugar. From the south Iceland ring road take the F208 all the way to Landmannalaugar. This route has river crossings. (We joined the bus in Selfoss and went via this scenic route.)

You do need to be aware that driving is not always easy. We rented a 4WD that was authorised to be driven on F-roads but we couldn’t do the self-drive. It rained hard for two days in the south of Iceland and when we enquired about the state of the roads from there, the report from the government authorities did not give us the confidence to drive ourselves. So we joined a day tour to Landmannalaugar by bus, which turned out to be an unique experience.

Looking down from the top of a rocky hillside to a plain with scattered houses and mountains in the distance.
The astonishing landscape of Landmannalaugar

2. Take A Bus To Landmannalaugar

You can take a bus from Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar. Buses run from mid-June to mid-September. Selfoss is on the bus route, and you can also catch it from here. It takes around 4 hours one-way from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar. And it is about 3 hours from Selfoss.

3. Join A Day Tour

If you are not comfortable driving on F-roads, it is best to join a day tour. There are several options available starting from Reykjavík. It is also possible to take a tour from the nearby town of Hella.

What To Do In Landmannalaugar In A day

With the 6-8 drive to and from Landmannalaugar, this is a long day if you are starting from Reykjavík. But trust me, it will be a beautiful experience soaking up the panoramic vistas. Here are some of the best things to do in Landmannlaugar.

1. Hiking In Landmannalaugar

One of Iceland’s most popular hiking trails, Laugavegur, starts in Landmannalaugar. However this is a multi-day trek. Most people come for a short-day hike to Landmannalaugar and there are several different options. We did the Laugahraun Lava Field hike as part of our day tour. This is an easy trek, and appropriate for all ages (although the tour company recommended a minimum age of 12 years). This is a trail of around 4.5 km through the vast lava fields.

There are other day options, including hiking to Mount Bláhnjúkur or Mount Brennisteinsalda.

A hut on grass in front of mountains. In front of the hut is a sign saying "Laugavegur".
The start of the Laugavegur trail

2. Soak In The People’s Pool

We all carried swimsuits and towel on the day tour. One of the best things to do, especially after a hike, is to soak in the geothermal spring named “People’s Pool”. This hot spring is located close to the camping ground.

Unlike some of the famous ones like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, this hot spring is free! There are outdoor shower and changing rooms, and you get a bathing experience surrounded by wild landscape.

Long boardwalk with grass on either side, leading towards mountains with hot springs at the base.
A path leads to the People’s Pool

3. Watch The Geothermal Activity

As in other parts of Iceland, there is geothermal activity to be observed in Landmannalaugar, and you can see steam rising from some parts of the blocked areas. Just make sure you don’t venture beyond the marked path.

What To Pack For Landmannalaugar

Iceland’s weather is unpredictable and there can be light rain showers. In the warmest month of July the average temperature is about 10-13°C. What to pack for Iceland requires a bit of thought and planning, and it is best to dress in layers, even during the summer months. A rain jacket over T-shirt and trekking pants is ideal.

Even for a short hike, you need to be wearing sturdy water proof shoes with a good grip. Carry a water bottle that you can refill from any river or stream. Also remember to take your swimsuit, flip flops and a quick dry towel for soaking in the hot spring.

Author bio: Shweta has always been passionate about travel and immersing in new experiences. Having been to over 40 countries, she blogs at Zest In A Tote to bring family-friendly itineraries and tips, destinations, and luxury stays to her readers. Her belief is that family travel needn’t be boring and one can enjoy a mix of local culture & food, adventure activities and relaxation, all with the family.


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