9 days trip (11 days from home) in a small group of 4 to 8 participants, accompanied by Denis Palanque, French professional photographer, assisted by a guide of our team.
This adventure in the heart of the Southern Highlands is not hut to hut trekking in the true sense of the word, but a series of walking loops from two nice remote huts. Two days walk are necessary to make the junction between two base camps, Baggage, equipment and supplies are then transported by a jeep.
A day is generally composed of two hikes lasting from 3 to 4 hours, one beginning often before dawn, the other from late afternoon to dusk. These hikes are adapted to the weather, the light, the spots and the general rhythm and level of the group of hikers-photographers. In general at midday, we have lunch and afternoon tea at the refuge, take a nap if necessary and under the supervision of your guide-photographer you talk about photographic technique and photo experiences.
Some hikes can be longer and then we leave for the day a sandwich and snack in your photo backpack. They can last between 6 and 8 hours, half of which is effective. There are no or few marked trails in this wilderness, but the terrain is quite mild despite some ice-cold but amusing ford passages. The elevations are small and no passage is really dizzying. except a small optional climb that can always offer your guide. You carry your photo backpack on which is attached your tripod, inside your devices, a small bottle of water and your picnic prepared in the morning to the refuge if l.
In his organization, the rhythm of this trip will always allow someone who feels tired one day to stay alone in the refuge to rest peacefully and comfortably, to satiate and make images in the near vicinity
Travel open to non-photographers - Subject to availability
Your spouse, husband or friend who is hiker but is not a photographer as you are, can fully register on this trip with a discount of 100,000 ISK (about 730 €). Non-photographers hike with another guide during the day, while photographers hike with Denis at their own pace with different schedules and goals. Everyone meets in the evening at the shelter and dines together and, of course, sleeps together when it comes to a couple
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Day 1: Reykjavik to Laufafell
1h30 driving on road - 1h30 driving on trail - 4-5 hours walk
Early morning rendezvous at 7:30 AM with your guide in hiking outfit at BSI Reykjavik Central Bus station with your duffle bag and your daypack ready on your shoulder. (Do not forget to take along with you your hiking sandals for a first river crossing)
Departure for three hours by road through prairies, then on the South Fjallabak trail which slowly climbs up to the highlands through pasturelands moors and mossy lava fields. Around noon the bus drops us out in the middle of nowhere. After a first picnic on the banks of the Rangá we set off for the caldera of Hrafntinnusker to reach the friendly refuge of Dalakofi which will become our base camp for the next 3 days.
Day 2 to day 4 - Exploring daily the Hrafntinnusker caldeira and surroundings
+/- 5 to 6 hours daily walks
The metaphor “Black raven reefs” is a perfect example of the natural poetry of the old Icelandic language. (Hrafntinnusker: Hrafn for raven, Tinna for black and Sker for reefs)
This describes a chaos of obsidian, an intense black razor sharp vitrified lava, which spreads among soft colored hills in the center of a vast caldera of the same name: Hrafntinnusker. large loops to explore the incredible caldera. More obvious are the amazing rhyolite mountains, formed in incredible bands of pink, brown, green, yellow, blue, purple, black, white, orange and red and glittering with innumerable black, glass-like obsidian lava… Walking among countless bubbling, steaming hot springs, we cross this pearl of the interior, famous for its incredible natural beauty.
We will see preliminarily the innumerable solfatares with pools of mud, bubbles of powerful and noisy steam. On the edge of the caldera we advance on a platitude of black slag that leads to Mount Hekla which dominates the horizon close to its imposing and legendary mass.
Day 5 : To the Eastern part of Fjallabak
+/- 5 to 6 hours hiking
One of our assistance jeeps arrives in the morning bringing fresh food for the following days. Once the trailer is loaded with equipment and duffle bags, we definitely leave our shelter of Dalkofi and we set off for our new base camp, the beautiful and remote refuge of Strútur.
One can admire here the alignment of mountain ranges, all perfectly parallel and aligned in the same direction: the direction of the mid-Atlantic ridge that crosses Iceland from North to South enjoying a spectacular view of three major ice caps : Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Tíndafjallajökull. Following the course of the Markarfljót canyon, we descend south through hills of rolling grassland, crossing clear streams. Then we cross the sand of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell as a kind of telluric Mt Saint Michael, covered in fluorescent green-coloured velvet. We are able to explore the extraordinary landscapes between the southern flank of the Torfajökull caldera and the mighty dome of the Mýrdalsjökull ice-cap. Beneath this huge sheet of ice lies Katla, another of Iceland’s angriest volcanoes. She last erupted in 1918 and is long overdue for another eruption. (That day the distance being long, either our assistance jeep will make one or two transfers to advance us, or we will make an intermediate night at the refuge of Hvanngil at 2/3 of the distance.)
Day 6 to day 8 : Rambling daily from and around Strútur
+/- 5 to 6 hours daily walks
For three days we explore on foot the fabulous region around Strútur:
The narrow and calm lake of Holmsárlón of turquoise color surrounded by strange hills pours out suddenly by a series of waterfalls all more beautiful than the others. Here lies the magnificent torrentous river of Holmsá. She dives into the crater of Rauðibotnar "the red bottoms" belonging to the fault of Eldgjá, the largest erruptive flaw on the surface of our planet dating only from the 10th century.
We also explore the foothills of the Torfajökull-Hrafntinnusker caldera, including strange gorges guarded by dragons and petrified trolls. Unforgettable bath in the hot spring of Strútslaug at the foot of the caldera on the marshes north of Holmsárlon covered with coton grass spots.
By far we disturb some companies of geese or Barnacle geese which fly away at our approach.
They nestled here in complete tranquility in May-June when all this territory is isolated and impracticable. In late July and early August when they are moulting and can no longer fly, it is not uncommon to approach cautiously a flock of Barnacle geese or Pink footed geese barely worried about our presence.
Day 9 : Fjallabak Sud - Reykjavik
+/- 4 to 5 hours walk – 2h driving on trail - 1h30 driving on road.
Luggage and equipment loaded in the trailer of our assitance jeep, we leave our last base camp to join in four hours of walk the Refuge of Hvanngil on the "too' famous Laugavegur Trail. From there we take a 4wd mountain bus that brings us back to Reykjavik central bus station (BSI) in early evening. Back to civilisation!
Please note: The two days of transfers to and from the mountains can be changed by us without notice. It is sometimes possible for us to drive you or bring you back with our own vehicles or to follow other (beautiful) route.
Itinerary and security: the day by day program can be modified or even reversed. However, these changes are rather rare for reasons of safety due to natural phenomena: volcanism, early or late snowfall, bad weather, flooding rivers, exceptionally unfavorable weather ... The guide knows the terrain well and is sole master in interpreting the whims of all-powerful nature on this volcanic earth under these high latitudes, and to make the necessary decisions.
Composition of the group: In general, the participants of our trips come from several countries: French speaking from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Quebec but also English speaking people from Great Britain, Ireland, United States (Democratic trending), Australians, New Zealanders or other nations who know how to express themselves in English like Scandinavians, Germans, sometimes Japanese or Russians, and even sometimes Icelanders.
Your Icelandic or French guide is fluent in French and English and masters very well at least one other European language. Traveling with Fjallabak can represent a unique opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and socialize with companions from other countries than yours that you might otherwise never have approached. A unique opportunity to make friends from all around the world and twist the neck to certain prejudices and misconceptions inked
Languages spoken: the departure dates are all marked as:
- International, (multinational is more accurate) this means that the guide can express himself both in English and in French (possibly in other languages). Participants can be from all around the world if they speak at least one of these two languages: French and / or English
- French, it means that the guide is French-speaking as the group that is composed solely of participants from French-speaking countries (Swiss, French, Belgian, Belgian, etc.) or non-French speakers wanting to improve their French. If you want to test your French, do not hesitate!
- English means that the guide and the group speaks English. That said, this guide probably speaks also other languages, which may be French (please consult). The group is made up of participants from English-speaking countries or participants from non-English speaking countries with good English skills.
Group size: Group of 4 to 14 (+/- 1) participants (Note: for groups of 4-5 people, a small group supplement applies) Fjallabak staff or representatives of Fjallabak accompanying professionals (photographers , Journalists, etc.) and other discounted travelers such as children are excluded from the number of participants (minimum and maximum).
Extra charge per person for small groups:
• ISK 18,000/pp (ca. + € 150) for 5 participants
• ISK 30,000/pp (ca.+ € 250) for 4 participants
Accommodation: in sleeping bag (your own) in a comfortable remote mountain hut: Bunks with comfortable mattresses. Running water and kitchen in the shelter, but the toilets and sinks are usually outside, a few yards in a small building apart. Warm hot showers with charge is available outside the hut. If you want more privacy during the night while we sleep, we offer you the possibility of sleeping in tents that we provide, please notify us in advance.
Electricity: take enough batteries for your camera because you will not often be able to recharge batteries in the hut.
Food: We pride ourselves for providing the best cuisine in the highlands! Breakfast is Scandinavian style, with muesli, breads, jams, smoked fish, charcuterie and cheese. The picnics can be a bit repetitive after a week (we are in Iceland), with a variety of sandwiches, smoked meats and fish, excellent local cheeses, green salad, tomatoes and cucumbers. Dinners, varied and often excellent, include fish and lamb dishes, served with pasta, rice or potatoes, vegetables and a green salad.
However, vegans will have to supplement their luggage even though we can accommodate their needs.
For conviviality, but without obligation, you can bring with you a specialty of your country as well as a good bottle of alcohol.
Accommodation during the trek: Sleeping bag accommodation in mountain huts and huts (usually a comfortable and mixed lodging) and according to the itinerary and the conditions, at the peak of the season a few nights might be spent in spacious double tents equipped with comfortable mattresses. Showers are available in some huts, not all.
Food, special diets: It is essential that vegetarians specify what is banned from their menu, such as those suffering from food allergies (lactose, gluten, etc.). It is important that you advise us of your special food requirements at the time of booking. If the list is long or there is danger with certain allergies, please send us the details by mail to these two addresses <email@example.com> and <firstname.lastname@example.org> so that the team of our warehouse/storage can take this into account in the preparation of food. Your guide will be aware of your plan, but it does not necessarily mean that he is a specialist in that matter, so it's up to you to tell him about it at the beginning of the journey when preparing the first meal! It is also up to you to control at each meal what suits you.
A 4x4 vehicle carries luggage and the food supplies to our hut and back on the last day. Our carbon impact is low as this vehicle drives less than 250 km for this trip.
Preparation of the trip and notes: The level of walking is moderate to sustained. You only carry a light bag containing what you need for the day. This adventure does not present any serious difficulty for people in good physical shape having at least some experience of long walks in the mountains. An experienced guide leads the trek. This trek passes through totally desert areas. Most of the walking is off-trail, with ever-changing terrain conditions. Therefore, sturdy hiking shoes that fit well your feet are a must. Most days involve river crossing, so it is essential not to forget your sandals. See our kits list for more information. You hike 6-7 hours per day, on average, but it can be longer, depending on the weather, the average level of the group. The maximum altitude does not rise more than 1000m. The change of altitude for most days does not exceed 300 m.
Participation: An experienced Icelandic guide leads the trek. As we are not in Nepal but in Iceland, it is expected that the members of the group lend a helping hand to their guide in the preparation of meals, washing the dishes, cleaning the floor before leaving the hut. Once in the mountains, the group becomes an independent entity. Fellowship, teamwork and forged friendships add much to the richness of each person's experience.
You’ll need to bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold and wet weather, such as polypropylene, capilene, or pile. Wool and wool/synthetic blends are also suitable - though wool, if wet, dries slowly compared to synthetic fabrics. We discourage the use of cotton in wet conditions it dries very slowly. When camping, tents are provided. You will be responsible for bringing your mattress and sleeping bag.
When layering, the innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or wool shirt, and pants. The outermost layer must be a breathable waterproof jacket such as a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-pants.
For quantities for each item listed, use your own judgement, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.
- Regular underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry
- Synthetic thermal underwear
- Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
- Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
- Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
- Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Down jacket from mid-August to September (optional)
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Pile/fleece pants, ideal for around the camp
- Sun & rain hat
- Wool hat
- Gloves (wool or pile)
- Waterproofed shell gloves
- Medium weight synthetic socks
- Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
- Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
- Hiking boots, medium-weight, all leather, with padded ankle, good arch support, and a lug sole traction. Your hiking boots should be waterproof, well broken in, and suitable for rocky terrain or possibly snow.
- Comfortables shoes to wear when not hiking (optional) Teva-type sandals for river crossing. Absolutely recommended! Gaiters. Highly recommended.
- Comfortable sleeping bag +10°C to –10°C which can be opened all the way
- Cotton sheet to cover the hut’s mattress
- Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
- Swimsuit and towel for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
- 1-to-2 liters capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos
- Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (essential from August onwards)
- Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
- Eye shades. Highly recommended from April to last July!
- Wax ear plugs
- Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
- Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
- Moisturizing lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
- Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
- Personal first aid kit
Optional Travel Accessories
- Hiking poles. Highly recommended
- Repair kit with needle, thread, and safety pins
- Reading and writing material
- Your favorite snack food such as raisins or chocolate
- Protein supplements for vegetarian
- Your own food reserves if you are vegan
- 1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger
- Netting hood in June and July *
There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (not yet), but in early summer midges swarms invade the banks of rivers and lakes in the lowlands like Lake Myvatn "Lake of gnats." With global warming now midges start to colonize certain areas of higher land with swamps vegetation. The outbreak period is short, but extremely difficult for the hiker. Gloves a long sleeve shirt and especially a safety netting hood that slips over your hat or cap can save you if you find yourself a day without wind in the midst of clouds of these very annoying critters. You will certainly not use it but in case... and that's not a huge investment.