“Those who wander are not necessarily lost” - JRR Tolkien
One great 15-Day trek crossing the most spectacular landscapes of the southern highlands from volcano Mt Hekla to Vatnajökull icecap
Our guides, all experienced mountaineers, will lead you safely through this incredible region. Starting at the foot of the imposing Hrafntinnusker caldera over the Landmannalaugar Valley we will walk through the caldera, trough the Desert of Mælifellssandur along the icecap of Mýrdalsjökull and the fault of Eldgjá, to reach the incredible turquoise blue Lake Langisjór near mighty Vatnajökull.
This trek will lead you through a world of volcanic features – huge lava fields, mountains of rhyolite, basalt, obsidian and pumice, through hot springs and fumaroles, blast craters and fissures. You will discover dream-like, moss-filled valleys and drink from the freshest, clearest streams. And always watching over you are the majestic, shimmering icecaps, dormant volcanoes surrounded by vast black sand flats, criss-crossed by a myriad melted water streams.
Presenting no difficulty for good walkers, on most days each member carries only a light daypack as a 4x4 truck carries all personal belongings, heavy equipment and supplies. Every day involves an average of 6-8 hours hiking. Accommodation, during the trek is a combination of some nights in comfortable expedition tents and some nights in well equipped mountain huts, all in beautiful locations. The isolation and severity of the landscape demands each tour member to be in good physical condition and that they actively participate in the trip i.e. the group must work together to set up camp, prepare food etc. This trek is designed for those who wish to fully experience unspoiled nature at its best, and to see what they may never even have dreamed still existed.
This trek is especially designed for those who desire a full immersion in the pristine nature with the discovery of landscapes that are beyond imagination.
- Difficulty level: 2-3 Demanding
- Average walking distance per day: 14-16 km (9-10 miles)
- Total walking distance: ca.230 km (142 miles))
- Total walking time: ca.77 hours
- Resting day: Day 11
- Altitude between: 135 m and 785 m (440-2580 feet)
- Positive gradients: ca.5124 m (ca.16800 feet)
- Downhill gradients: ca.4980 m (ca.163400 feet)
Ultimate trek (excluding the accommodation in Reykjavik the last night):
- 814.114 ISK per person or ca. 6030 EUR/pp based on 4 participants
- 632.777 ISK per person or ca. 4687 EUR/pp based on 5 participants
- 556.809 ISK per person or ca. 4125 EUR/pp based on 6 participants
- 529.235 ISK per person or ca. 3920 EUR/pp based on 7 participants
- 512.458 ISK per person or ca. 3796 EUR/pp based on 8 participants
Price / Estimated
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Day 1 – September 2: Keflavik airport or pick up at Hotel in Reykjavík - Mt Hekla farmland
3-4 hours – ca.10 km (6 miles) – Alt. 135 to 175 m (443 to 574 feet)
You will be picked up at the airport/hotel and drive along the beautiful Reykjanes peninsula before you reach the South Coast. Drive to the first hut/basecamp if you are feeling up to walking a bit this day, have your hiking clothes, duffle bag and daypack read. We can also skip the hiking this first day and enjoy Rjupnavellir.
Approx. 2,5-3 hours (180 km) road transfer to the trailhead. The majestic Hekla volcano rises above a grassy plain and marks the entrance to the high volcanic lands. Probably It is Iceland’s most famous (or infamous!) and active volcano. Hike starts by late morning crossing grassland. The few little farms of the area have had to move many times over the centuries as eruptions have engulfed them. However, much of the countryside is now verdant with some former lava flows covered in green moss and arctic birch. Green moss, « bonsai » arctic birch grove along with the pure water springs, creates the feeling, perhaps, of a real Japanese garden.
Day 2 – September 3: West side of Mt. Hekla – The doors of Hell
6-8 hours – ca.22 km (14 miles) - Alt. 175 to 320 m (574 to 1050 feet)
With day 6 this day is one of the longest.
We cross the river Western Rangá, then we hike the last series of hills made from palagonite rock (sub-glacially formed) that protects the last fragments of burned countryside. On the far side, we arrive onto a moon-like surface at the foot of Mount Hekla and cross a stretch of perfectly flat volcanic slag. The black surroundings, so dark they resemble the blue color of a crow’s feathers. Tiny, we are moving in a completely mineral world of infinite slag plain along the eastern flank of the volcano, which has been vomited most of the cast of the latest eruptions.
Day 3 – September 4: Valagjá – Mont Loðmundur
6-7 hours – ca.17 km (11 miles) - Alt. 320 to 590 m (1050 to 1940 feet)
We walk away from “the Gateway to Hell” (as Hekla was known in the middle ages) and the landscape begins to soften; the green colors of the mosses slowly covering lava fields and the pumices that rain on the land with each eruption. Crossing the “pass of the lambs” we walk in the direction of the majestic monolithic crown of Mount Loðmundur, surrounded by marshland and rich pasture, reflecting in the beautiful lake Loðmundarvatn reflecting Mount Loðmundur a flat-topped volcanic monolith that erupted through glacial ice during the Ice Age. Landmannahellir has been for ages and it is still used now by the shepherds as a base when catching thousand sheep in fall after having been grassing free the whole summer. We are in a legendary place with thousand stories to tell.
Day 4 – September 5: Climb to the caldera of Hrafntinnusker
5-6 hours – ca. 14km (9 miles) – Alt. 590 to 785 m (1940 to 2575 feet)
Slow climb to the colorful caldera of Hrafntinnusker (or Torfajökull). Walking among countless bubbling, steaming hot springs; we cross this pearl of the interior, famous for its incredible natural beauty in all shades and colors. The notorious Landmannalaugar Valley is just below us, but we stay away from the crowds and discover the extraordinary caldera
Day 5 – September 6: The Black Raven Reefs
6-7 hours – ca. 17 km (11 miles) – Alt. 785 to 785 m (2575 to 2575 feet)
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) A big loop 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
Day 6 – September 7: Hike Ljósártungur to Hvanngíl
7-5 hours – ca. 21 km (13 miles) – Alt. 785 to 550 m (2575 to 1800 feet)
With day 2 this day is one of the longest.
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 icecaps: Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Tíndafjallajökull.
Following the course of the Markarfljót canyon, we descend south through hills of rolling grassland, crossing clear streams.
Day 7 – September 8: Mælifellssandur
5 hours – ca. 15 km (9 miles) – Alt. 550 to 563 m (1800 to 1850 feet)
We cross the sand of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell, covered in fluorescent green-colored moss. We are able to explore the extraordinary landscapes between the southern flank of the Torfajökull caldera and the mighty dome of the Mýrdalsjökull icecap. 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.
Day 8 – September 9: Strútslaug - Lake Hólmsárlón
6-7 hours – ca. 19 km (12 miles) – Alt. 563 to 563 m (1850 to 1850 feet)
Proceed to the shores of the long and narrow Hólmsárlón Lake. We reach the place nicknamed the red baptismal fountain. The waterfalls at the end of the turquoise colored lake plunging into the red crater, is a sight to behold. Of course, we cannot resist taking a bath in Strútslaug, a nearby, natural hot spring pool.
Day 9 – September 10: Strútur - Alftavötn
6-7 hours – ca. 22 km (14 miles) – Alt. 563 to 444 m (1850 to 1460 feet)
We follow the fault of Eldgjá, the longest eruptive fissure on earth, today covered by moss and crossed by a clear stream. As large as the Laki eruption was, it was exceeded by Iceland's A.D. 934-940 Eldgjá eruption, which occurred in the same mountainous region. During the six years that this eruption was active, lava erupted from several vents along a discontinuous 75-km-long (47-mile-long) fissure system and buried more than 781 square km (302 square miles) of southern Iceland. Fortunately, huge eruptions like those at Eldgjá and Laki are very unusual; otherwise, life as we know it would probably not be. Though the hazards posed by lava flows and volcanic gas here on the “Big” Island are understandably important to us, they are still tiny in comparison to what our big blue planet is capable of.
Day 10 – September 11: Alftavötn - Hólaskjól
2-3 hours – ca. 8 km (5 miles) – Alt. 444 to 330 m (1460 to 1080 feet)
After wandering the soft landscape of Álftavötn, the “lakes of the swans”, in a short and beautiful walk we join the trail of Fjallabak North at Hólaskjól in the pastures of the Skaftá district, bordering the Skaftá river and the enormous lava fields of Laki.
Day 11 – September 12: Resting day at Hólaskjól
Appreciate resting day at Hólaskjól (Literally: Sheltered by hills) situated in very gentle landscape on the edge of the surreal immensity of volcanic highlands. The perfect place to rest, repair and recharge.
Day 12 – September 13: Eldgjá – Öxnatindar
5-6 hours – ca. 16 km (10 miles) – Alt. 330 to 450 m (1080 to 1480 feet)
We walk again throughout the Eldgjá break, “throat of fire”, the biggest eruption break on our planet. Despite all these superlatives, tiny little landscapes are comfortable: springs, streams of clear water, small Zen gardens...We reach the heavy Skaftá and its powerful and worrisome waters. On the other side lies the endless lava of Laki, which is the largest lava emission of historical times (1783-1785).
Day 13 – September 14: Skaftá – Sveinstindur
5-6 hours – ca. 18 km (11 miles) – Alt. 450 to 600 m (1480 to 1970 feet)
We reach Sveinstindur, the first cone of the divided chain of Fögrufjöll, with its conical black and green volcanoes. Easy ascent of Mount Sveinstindur, from where you can admire a fabulous panorama view. To the north and the mighty Vatnajökull the fabulous jade green narrow lake of Langisjór. At the South lie the strange lava fields of Laki, covered with green fluorescent moss, and partly flooded by the overflows of Skaftá.
Day 14 – September 15: Langisjór and Fagrifjöll
7-8 hours – ca. 20 km (12 miles) – Alt. 600 to 600 m (1970 to 1970 feet)
Along Langisjór and up on easy hills we follow the narrow ridge of the Fagrifjöll. Their name means the beautiful mountains. Knowing the sobriety of the Icelandic language, they must be on to deserve such an appellation. We are moving on the narrow green and black backs of Fagrifjöll, sometimes on the shore of the lake, sometimes the easiest buttes.
Day 15 – September 16: We leave the highlands and head to Reykjavik 3-4 hours – ca. 10 km (6 miles) – Alt. 600 to 650 m (1970 to 2130 feet)
We leave Mount Sveinstindur and walk back west on the extensive sand and along palagonite ridge until we reach with the help of our jeep the track of Northern Fjallabak. From there we return by regular 4x4 buses to the civilization via Landmannalaugar or with one of our larger vehicles by the South Coast via Vík-i-Myrdal. Late arrival in the capital around 19 pm.
Accommodation of your own choice tonight.
Many good restaurants in downtown Reykjavík that we recommend.
Tents: All nights in a camp. Single tents and with a large kitchen tent with stools. The tents will be put up by the guide and/or driver.
Nice and charming country hotel during the self-drive Lovely accommodation with private facilities during the driving discovery on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Food: The guide prepares meals
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
Level: Hiking on trails between mountain huts with only a daypack while larger luggage is transported hut to hut. Hiking involves an average of 14 – 16 km (9-10 miles) per day, most of the time on unmarked trails. On many treks you will need to ford rivers. Don’t forget your sandals!
Difficulty level varies from 2-3 (Moderate to Challenging) to 3-4 (Challenging-Demanding). General level of fitness is required. Participants should be able to hike for up to 6 hours without much difficulty. Some experience of basic traveling in mountainous terrain and/or hiking on rough trails is useful.
Luggage storage: A bag or suitcase you do not need for the trek can usually be kept in your accommodation in Reykjavik. (This baggage can also be stored in our office in Reykjavik or in our warehouse in Hella, a village on the way to the starting point of our trek. Contact us in advance about it to see if it works.
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
- 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
This is an interactive map. Click on the icons and the trail to get more information and photos.
(If you zoom in very close, the landscape changes to a winter wonderland. That is because the satellite images were taken in winter. There will be no snow on your trek.)