Landmannalaugar - a Geothermal Tour with breathtaking Rhyolite Mountains
Landmannalaugar is one of the hidden pearls of Iceland, a truly magical place in the highlands of Iceland. I have visited Landmannalaugar several times on a guided tour.
My following account is of one of my visits to Landmannalaugar:
Top photo: Hiking in Landmannalaugar
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. 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, you will find Iceland's second-highest waterfall (not counting the one in Morsárjökull), Háifoss, about which I have written another travel-blog.
Hjálparfoss is set in beautiful basal rock formations - one of which looks like a bear's head. Can you spot it in the left corner of the photo? The waterfall is split in two with a serene pond in front.
Here, by this beautiful waterfall, we stopped for some 20 minutes.
Now we were entering the highlands. We drove by several power plants of which there are many in this area, but they harvest the energy from the rivers Þjórsá and Tungnaá.
A lake-filled crater - Hnausapollur
We stopped twice 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 lake filled.
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 the in Fjallabak nature reserve, a 470 km2 area around Landmannalaugar. You will see rhyolite mountains all around the place, but the most characteristic mountain for Landmannalaugar is Mt. Barmur (900 metres above sea level). You can see it in the photo above.
Landmannalaugar is understandably a popular area, which can be visited in the summertime i.e. late June - September. There are also some winter tours.
The bus crossed a river in order to reach the main area. You can also leave your car by the river and cross the river via a footbridge.
The main attractions in Landmannalaugar are the colourful rhyolite mountains. They have for sure got the WOW factor and one feels like having stepped into a magical world. And of course, the hot pool is also a major attraction.
On the campsite in Landmannalaugar, you will notice that the tents are fastened with rocks. The ground is so rocky that tent pegs cannot be used here. You will see tents here with rocks all around them for keeping them in place.
Hiking in Landmannalaugar
Hiking in Grænagil canyon
There are many hiking routes in Landmannalaugar. We were guided through Grænagil canyon, the canyon between Mt. Blàhnjùkur and Laugahraun lava field. It is a 1.5- 2-hour hike through fantastic terrain.
The path on the first part of this hike is a bit narrow, so it was difficult to meet people coming from the other direction. Hiking boots are needed here as we walked through a rugged lava field.
Hiking in Landmannalaugar
We hiked through the rugged lava field and reached Brennisteinsalda, a beautiful multicoloured rhyolite mountain, which is one of the landmarks of Landmannalaugar. You will see beautiful rhyolite mountains everywhere you look. Landmannalaugar is such a feast for the eyes.
I was taking photos left and right on the whole hike, apart from when we were hiking through the lava field - there one has to pay attention as one false step could lead to injury.
By a geothermal area in Landmannalaugar
Just before we reached Brennisteinsalda mountain we passed 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 in 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 there are beautiful colours all around.
Glistening obsidian in Landmannalaugar
We now hiked back up to Laugahraun lava field. Here you will find loads of glistening volcanic glass - the obsidian. If you are lucky enough to get some rays of sunshine while you are hiking in Landmannalaugar, I am sure you will be as amazed by this glistening volcanic glass rock as I am.
The trail here is easy.
Hiking in Landmannalaugar
The beauty of this hike is just breathtaking, my photos don't even begin to show you how beautiful this landscape is. Everywhere you look you will see extraordinary colour combinations.
When I visit Landmannalaugar I just cannot stop taking photos - and as you can see from my photos, then so does everybody who visits this beautiful place :)
We finished the 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 some 200,000 people will visit Landmannalaugar annually, so a better path is needed.
Bathing in Landmannalaugar
Bathing in Landmannalaugar
You will find one of the natural geothermal hot pools at Landmannalaugar. Do bring a swimsuit and a towel and take a shower before entering this pool for sanitary reasons. The pool is very popular, and hikers soak in it after hiking on the busy Laugavegur hike.
Just a word of warning - I never dip in as Swimmers Itch (SI) has been identified in the pool. So you bathe at your own risk. This is nature and this SI is derived from some duck species nesting in this area. This only happens from time to time and most people don't get affected by it.
The warning sign by the pool
After having stopped for 3 hours at Landmannalaugar it was time to head back. On the way back we made 2 stops.
We took another better road back, which was nice as the alternative was quite bumpy. We drove through beautiful highland nature, with mountains and quite barren landscape, where I spotted a few sheep grazing.
The Guide to Iceland staff exploring Landmannalaugar
We had to cross 2 small rivers on this road and a 4x4 is needed here.
Our first stop on the way back was a photo-stop by Mt. Hekla volcano, as this road passes Hekla, which is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes. Hekla, which has been referred to as the gateway to Hell, has been due to erupt for some years now.
Our final stop was made 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 Reykjavík and the passengers were dropped off at their hotels after a long, but a very fulfilling day.
Visiting Landmannalaugar is spectacular, try not to miss it; here one gets to see a beautiful waterfall on the way to the highland, big lava fields, glistening volcanic glass, amazing rhyolite mountains and to bathe in a hot spring (if you wish).
Landmannalaugar is for sure the hidden pearl of the central highland.
Unfortunately, this tour is no longer operating, but you can check out the many other various guided tours to Landmannalaugar.
Have a lovely time visiting Landmannalaugar, the Pearl of the Central Highland of Iceland :)
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