Backpacking on Planet Iceland

Two 6-day backpacking adventure that can be combined into a longer hike of 10 days in total with the same guide along

This adventure is initially reserved for hikers 18-35 years old, or older but with a young mind and excellent fitness

Stock of food en-route stocked every 2 days of walking - Large backpack not exceeding 10- 12 kg maximum - Difficulty level challenging (rivers crossing) - International group guided in English - 

It takes place in the heart of the most out of this world volcanic high ground you can imagine, between Mount Hekla to the west and the fault line of Eldgjá to the east and crossing the caldera of Torfajökull / Hrafntinnusker. It takes us along some of the most secret passages of this spectacular volcanic rift.

Occasionally stopping over two consecutive nights in a refuge, or campsite we'll be better able to get a closer look at the intriguing landscape that surrounds us. The pace of the itinerary unfolds at a slightly higher level of adventure as compared to the grand treks of north west Öræfi.

Autonomy and small group size will allow us to cover lots of ground, all the while though, with the pleasure of a comfortable pace. At these high latitudes, camping is a a real treat during favorable weather. However, when bad weather is leading the dance, this too becomes an "unforgettable" experience. This too is a reason to include nights in a refuge where these are found on our path. and that all hikers bless in times of foul weather.

The relative isolation of this trip requires that each of the participants be in optimal physical condition and have an openness to lend a hand in some of the daily chores related to the huts and making the experience as comfortable as possible. These may include helping the guide with meals, clean up, camp breakdown etc...

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.

 

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Day 1:  Reykjavik - Mt Hekla Domadalur
3-4 hours – ca.10 km ( 6 miles) Altitude 135 m to 175 m (443 to 574 feet)
Early morning rendezvous at 7:30 AM with your guide at Reykjavik Central Bus station. Hiking clothes, duffle bag and daypack ready for trekking. The trip begins. Approx. 3 hours (160 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
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 colour 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 2 :  Mount Krakatindur
6-7 hours – ca.17 km (11 miles) Altitude 320 m to 590 m (1050 to 1940 feet)
We begin the steady ascent of the volcanic plateau of Hekla to reach the foot of Krakatindur a strange monolith which stand like the ruin of a fortified guard tower at the end of desolate lava, covered with shreds of old greenish velvet and metallic reflections and here and there the bright red trail of a fault. One of the strangest landscapes that is given to see on our amazing planet!
In the event of abnormal volcanic activity reported in the depths of the volcano, (Of course, an eruption will start some day) we take another route that circumvents it more widely.

Day 2 (VARIANT):  Valagjá – Mont Loðmundur
6-7 hours – ca.17 km (11 miles) Altitude 320 m 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 colours 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 3:  Caldera of Hrafntinnusker
5-6 hours – ca.14km (9 miles) – Alt. 590 > 785 m (1940 > 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 4: 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 5 (or D1): 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.

(Arrival from Reykjavik around 13h for participants taking the journey en route: 6-day Eastern part)

Day 6 (or D2): Mælifellssandur
5 hours – ca. 15 km (9 miles) – Alt. 550 to 563 m (1800 to 1850 feet)

(Departure around 2 pm for Reykjavik for participants who took part only in the first part of the trip: 6-day Western part)

We cross the sand of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell, covered in fluorescent green-coloured 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 7 (or D3): 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 coloured 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 8 (or D4): 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 9 (or D5): Alftavötn – Holaskjol
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 where our hike ends

Day 10 (or D6): To Reykjavik

From Holaskjol we return by regular 4x4 bus to the civilization via Landmannalaugar or with one of our larger vehicles by the South Coast via Vík-i-Myrdal.

By the regular Mountain bus from Holaskjol (Dep.10:35) it takes approximatively 9 hours  to   Reykjavik (Arr.19:35) through Eldgjá with 1,15 hour stopover (Arr.11:00/  Dep.12:15)  and Landmannalaugar with a 2 hours stopover (Arr.13:30/ Dep.15:30) - You have the option to extend this stopover in Landmannalauagar  by taking an other bus later in the day at 17:30 or at 20:00.

Please note that this itinerary is only indicative and can be modified by your guide at any time if he deems it necessary.


 

Composition of the group: In general, participants on our backpacking adventure trips are young people coming from several countries. We generally have French, Swiss, Scandinavians, Germans, Canadians, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese and even Icelanders. Your Icelandic guide is fluent in English and often speaks one or two other languages​​. Travelling with Fjallabak is also a chance to meet, exchange ideas and socialize with friendly people from other countries that otherwise you may never have known and it is therefore a unique opportunity to make friends around the world and wring the neck of certain prejudices and misconceptions.

Food: We pride ourselves on providing the best cuisine in the highlands! Breakfast is Scandinavian-style, with muesli, breads, jams, fish and cheese. Packed lunch, with a variety of sandwich fillings, from smoked meats and fish to local cheeses and salads. Dinners involve fresh, local fish and meat dishes, with pasta, rice or potatoes, fresh vegetables and salad. Vegetarians and those with food allergies can be fully catered for with a range of tasty options. It is essential that you inform our office of any special food requirements at the time of booking!

For usability, but no obligation, you can bring with you a little speciality of your home country to share with your companions as well as a flask of some thing for a short drink in the middle of nowhere.

 

Ennemi n°1, bien sûr = le poids. Essayez de ne pas dépasser 6 à 7 kilos sans l’eau et la nourriture. On vise en-dessous de 10 kg !!

Ennemi n°2, le volume (il faut qu’il y ait encore de la place dans votre sac pour porter le pique-nique).

Vous pourrez préparer quelques affaires de rechange (pas une valise, juste quelques affaires que la logistique déposera plus loin et que nous retrouverons à mi-parcours.

Un sac à dos de 55 à 60 litres, avec un sursac protecteur imperméable et un grand sac poubelle pour emballer vos affaires, qui puisse contenir vos affaires personnelles + l’eau et la nourriture

➢ De bonnes chaussures de rando, bien étanches, ni trop neuves ni trop usées !

 

Clothing
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.
  • Teva-type sandals for river crossing. Absolutely recommended!
  • Gaiters. Highly recommended.


Travel Accessories

  • Comfortable sleeping bag +10°C to –10°C which can be opened all the way
  • Cotton sheet for 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 (from August only)
  • Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
  • Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
  • Moisturizing lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
  • Sunglasses
  • Eye shades. Highly recommended!
  • Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
  • Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Netting hood *

* There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (yet), but at the beginning of summer midges swarms invade the lowlands rivers banks and lakes ias Lake Myvatn "lake of midges". With global warming midges begin to colonize now some wet areas of higher ground covered by vegetation. The outbreak periods are short but not really accurate. It is hell for the hapless hiker who found a windless day in clouds of these very angry bugs You will not regret to have brought with you, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and above a netting hood that you put on over your head rain hat or sun hat. You probably will not have to use it, but you'll be relieved to have it just in case ... and it's not a huge investment.

Optional Travel Accessories

  • Hiking poles. Highly recommended
  • Binoculars
  • 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
  • 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.)