Landmannalaugar is one of the hidden pearls of Iceland, a truly magical place. I have been on two tours to Landmannalaugar with two different bus companies. A year-and-a-half ago I wrote a blog on my first tour to Landmannalaugar and now want to write about my second tour on which I went end of August 2015. This tour to Landmannalaugar is an 11-hour truly amazing day-tour.
Our first stop was at Árborg in Árnes, where there is a gas-station and café up-country in South-Iceland, where we bought food to eat in Landmannalaugar (also a toilet stop). Then we drove further on into Þjórsárdalur valley and stopped by the beautiful waterfall Hjálparfoss, Help's Falls.
Hjálparfoss runs in the river Fossá right before it merges into Þjórsá river, Iceland's longest river. Further up this river one can find Iceland's second highest waterfall, Háifoss, on which I have written another blog.
Hjálparfoss is split in two with a beautiful pond in front and surrounded by extraordinary basalt rock formations, one in the form of a bear's head. The name of Hjálparfoss waterfall is the name given to this area, as travellers crossing the barren Sprengisandur highlands could graze their horses there after a long journey. Here, by this beautiful waterfall, we stopped for ca 20 minutes.
From there we drove up to the highlands. We passed several power plants of which there are many in this area, harvesting the energy from the rivers Þjórsá and Tungnaá. We made two stops on the way, one "technical stop" (toilet stop) at Hrauneyjar Highland Centre (remember to bring coins as we have to pay for the toilet facilities in the highlands) - and the other stop was at Hnausapollur, an extinct crater, which is now filled with a lake.
The sun was right in my eyes, so it was unfortunately impossible to get a good photo of Hnausapollar. A good photo can be taken from above, but we didn't stop for long enough to walk up the hill. So this photo has to do for now.
When we had passed the final power plant the road turned into a bad, bumpy road.
After driving for a while on this bumpy road we finally entered the breathtaking area of Landmannalaugar.
Landmannalaugar is in the highlands of Iceland in Fjallabak nature reserve. The Fjallabak nature reserve is 470 km2 area around Landmannalaugar. The biggest rhyolite mountain and the most characteristic for Landmannalaugar is Mt. Barmur. Its highest point is 900 meters above sea level. You can see it on the photo above and on the first photo in my blog.
Landmannalaugar is a very popular area and can only be reached during the summer months, i.e. late June - September. Outside of these months the roads to Landmannalaugar are closed. The bus had to cross a river to get to the main area, and several cars were parked by the river, with people crossing over the river on a bridge.
The main attractions in Landmannalaugar are the colourful rhyolite mountains, which are like out of this world. They have got the WOW factor big time and one feels like having stepped into a magical world. And of course then the hot pool is also a major attraction.
There is a campsite in Landmannalaugar, but seeing that it is very hard ground here and rocky, there is no way to use tent pegs here. So rocks are used instead to keep the tents up. You will see tents here with rocks all around them for keeping them in place.
Hiking in Landmannalaugar
There is a fantastic hike in Landmannalaugar, which we were guided through on this tour. That is the hike through Grænagil canyon, the canyon between Mt. Blàhnjùkur and Laugahraun lava field. It is a ca 1,5 - 2-hour-hike through fantastic terrain. There are of course many hikes in Landmannalaugar, but as we were headed back to Reykjavík on the same day, we could only stop in Landmannalaugar for 3 hours. But that was enough time to have lunch, go on the Grænagil canyon hike and take a dip in the hot pool.
The path on the first part of this hike is a bit narrow, so it was somewhat difficult to meet people coming from the other direction. And the hike through the sharp lava is a bit difficult and one just has to keep one's eyes on the ground and watch where one is going. There have been accidents here and the rocks are sharp, so take care here and don't take photos until you are out of the lava area. Hiking shoes are needed for this hike.
We walked through the lava field and up to one of the landmarks of Landmannalaugar, Brennisteinsalda, a beautiful multicoloured rhyolite mountain. There are rhyolite mountains just every where you look. I was taking photos left and right on the whole hike, apart from when we were hiking through the lava field.
Just before we reached Brennisteinsalda mountain there is a big mud pool on the hill, with the obnoxious smell of sulphur filling the air. I once got sulphur poisoning from the fumes of the mud pools in Námaskarð up north by Mývatn, and since then I have been very sensitive to this smell, as you can maybe see from my photo above ;)
From here are some beautiful photo opportunities, well everywhere in Landmannalaugar there are some fantastic photo opportunities, the rugged beauty of nature here is just amazing - and the beautiful colours all around.
We now hiked back up to Laugahraun lava field with beautiful glistening volcanic glass rocks - obsidian - at every footstep. If you are lucky enough to get some rays of sunshine while you are hiking in Landmannalaugar, I am sure you will be amazed by this glistening volcanic glass rock, it sure takes my breath away every time I see it. The trail here is relatively easy to walk on.
The beauty on this hike is just breathtaking, my photos don't even begin to show you how beautiful this landscape is. Every where you look you see breathtaking colours. When I visit Landmannalaugar I just cannot stop taking photos.
We finished this beautiful hike by climbing down a very rocky path to get back to the main area of Landmannalaugar. As I came to the end of this rocky path I met 2 men measuring for a new, less strenuous path. It is expected that ca 200.000 people will visit Landmannalaugar annually, so a better path is needed.
Bathing in Landmannalaugar
There is a very popular hot geothermal spring in Landmannalaugar. People usually go for a hike and then relax in the warm natural geothermal water in Landmannalaugar.
There are showers where one can shower and change clothes before bathing in the geothermal spring. Then one has to walk, wrapped in a towel, on the timber path leading to the geothermal pool. Or just change on the platform by the pool.
It is just lovely sitting in the water after hiking through this rugged landscape. I did not take a dip this time and got such sore muscles after the hike, so it would have been better to soak in the hot water for 20 minutes. Don't forget to bring a towel and a bathing suit.
After having stopped for 3 hours in Landmannalaugar it was time to head back. On the way back we made 2 stops.
We took a different road back, which was in a better condition than the road on which we arrived, which was quite a bumpy road in some places. On the way back we drove through beautiful highland nature, a lot of beautiful mountains and quite barren landscape, where one can spot quite a few sheep grazing. We had to cross 2 small rivers on this road.
Our first stop on the way back was a photo-stop by Mt. Hekla volcano, as this road is very close to Mt. Hekla, which is one of Iceland´s most active volcanoes. Hekla has been referred to as the gateway to Hell. One never knows when Hekla is going to erupt again and she has actually been due to erupt for some years now.
Our final stop was at Landvegamót gas-station and café, where we stopped for 15 minutes and had a coffee break and were able to use the toilets. Then we headed straight for Reykjavik and the passengers were dropped off at their hotels after a long, but a very fulfilling day.
This tour is just amazing and should not be missed - here one gets to see amazing nature, vast lava fields, glistening obsidian, extraordinary beautiful rhyolite mountains and get a chance to bathe in a hot spring - Landmannalaugar is for sure the hidden pearl of the central highlands.
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