Welcome to the last of the Iceland Honeymoon blog. The off-road bus picked us up in downtown Reykjavik and we were off to Landmannalaugar. The route turned from highway, to dirt road, to what resembled a dirt road, to braided rivers, and riverbed. We arrived to Landmannalaugar, this remote location was a bustling hiker city. I was surprised at the amount of people. When we hiked in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, the few people that we did run into mentioned they noticed a huge difference in the amount of the people between the two locations. We were stoked to get there, but decided to go for a hike and have dinner away from the crowds. When we were eating a group of Icelandic horses rode by. I had a feeling we were in for a great trip.
Horseback ride through the river at Landmannalaugar
Our planned itinerary was as follows:
Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker
Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn
Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur
Day 4: Emstrur to Þórsmörk
It averaged about 9 miles per day which would allow us to arrive at camp early, drop gear, and explore the surrounding area by day hiking.
Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker
Thermals along the Laugavegur Trail
Day 1 arrived, which happened to be my birthday, and we woke up to spectacular weather. We wanted to get ahead of the crowds so we got up with the light and were one of the first groups on the trail.
Hikers near a thermal feature on the trail Colorful formations near the thermals Corrie and colorful formations on the Laugavegur Trail Colorful formations on the Laugavegur Trail
Immediately we were greeted with spectacular views. Colorful geology and hydrothermal features dotted the landscape. It was a hybrid of Yellowstone and Denali: two of my favorite places.
Morning light on the colorful formations of the Laugavegur Trail Corrie takes in the views of the thermals along the trail Thermal areas and mountains along the Laugavegur Trail Birthday self-portrait along the Laugavegur Trail
Around each new bend in the trail was another photo op. Since we only had to do about 9 miles, we were in no hurry. The trail to Hrafntinnusker was uphill and eventually we hit snow fields.
Laugavegur Trail hiker Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker
Seeing the contrast of white snow and black volcanic sand was pretty awesome.
Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker (2) Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker (3)
We arrived to Hrafntinnusker around noon and spirits were high.
Corrie arrives at Hrafntinnusker
I went to the warden hut to check in and pay for the night. Just then a winter storm warning came in over the radio. The storm was headed our way on what would be the morning of our third day. The warden recommended pushing on to the next spot because strong winds were expected to arrive before the storm and there was no cover in this location. I went outside and talked it over with Corrie. After some deliberation about our ability to do 18 miles with a full pack in a day, we decided that it was probably best to keep hiking since the days were long and the weather was good. So we ate lunch strapped on our packs and continued along the trail.
Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn
Hikers head to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker Views heading to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (3) Corrie takes in the views along the trail Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (2) Views heading to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (5)
In the 8 or so miles we hiked to get here, the landscape had completely changed. Even though it was late season, there was green vegetation near the melting snowfields. The section was mostly high plateau hiking with views in all directions. I still couldn't believe that there was this much snow in late August. I'm curious what it's like doing this hike early season.
Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (5) Hikers crossing a snowfiled along the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (2) Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from the pass Waterfalls from the pass between Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker
Eventually we reached the highpoint where we could see our destination: Álftavatn. From here it was all downhill or flat.
Views along the trail to Álftavatn from the pass Álftavatn from the pass
As we descended from the pass, the miles started to take their toll. We needed to stop more frequently for breaks and food.
Corrie hikes the trail dropping down to Álftavatn from the pass Corrie arrives at Álftavatn
We made it and were one of the first groups to arrive for the day. We found a nice flat spot to set up our tent and then headed over to the warden hut to celebrate. As we were enjoying our freeze dried dinners, a local guide came over to say hello. He had just finished making Icelandic meat soup (lamb stew) for his guests. He said they had too much and asked if we would like some. I offered him a trade: meat soup for some of the bourbon we brought on the trip. He was more than happy to help lighten our load. As we sat there having second dinner, drinking bourbon, enjoying the birthday Oreos that Corrie packed, it began to lightly rain. We had timed our day perfectly. It was time to hit the sack after 18 miles. We decided that we should get up early, hike to Emstrur, recheck the weather, see how we felt, and make a decision to stay put or to push all the way to Þórsmörk.
Campsite at Álftavatn
Álftavatn to Emstrur
We woke up around 6 am and the wind had picked up. It had stopped raining so we took advantage of packing our gear when it was still dry. We moved over to the hut, ate breakfast, and the rain began to fall. The low clouds and rain had brought out the vibrant color in the vegetation. Bright green on black soil. This particular stretch would be the longest of the 4 we were covering so we made sure to keep a good pace.
Views between Hvanngil and Emstrur (2) Corrie crossing near Hvanngil Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil
After a couple miles the rain stopped and the sun started to poke through the clouds on occasion. Again, this section of the trip was drastically different from the previous two. Black volcanic rocks with green vegetation patches on the steeper hillsides. This section of the trail was also lower in elevation and the rivers were much larger. This allowed us to filter more often so we didn't need to carry as much water.
Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (2) Views along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (2) Waterfalls along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (3) Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (5) Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (6) Views along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (6) Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (7)
Eventually the clouds raised enough that we were able to see Eyjafjallajökull in the distance.
Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (8)
Just as we were debating whether to stop and each lunch or try to push on to Emstrur, the warden hut came into view in the distance.
Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (9)
Upon arrival we checked in with the warden and the storm was supposed to hit around 10 the following morning. We were pretty exhausted at this point. We figured we should make the call to stay or go after lunch. After going back and forth and chatting with some other hikers, we decided to make some coffee and push on. Again, the weather was on our side at the moment and the days were long. We figured it was better to do the hike tired in good weather versus rested in snow.
Emstrur to Þórsmörk
Not too long after leaving Emstrur, the landscape changed again. Giant glaciers backdropped the trail and rivers roared through canyons.
Hikers on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (4) Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (5) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (4) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (5) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (8)
The weather continued to stay dry until we hit mile 15 for the day. We could see the rain in the direction we were headed although it hadn't reached us yet.
Hikers on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (2) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (11) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (14)
When it did reach us, we decided it was a good time to stop and take a break. We were about 34 miles into the hike with a few more to go, but we were toast. Since we were carrying 4 days worth of food with us and didn't want to carry the food for no reason, we decided to sit there and start housing it. It was really hard getting up after that break. Tired legs, sore feet, and full bellies made the last few miles extremely slow going.
Corrie not not smiling along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (6)
Ahead of schedule and nearly 40 miles later, we made it to Þórsmörk. The rain cleared up for the rest of the day and we celebrated with more Oreos and bourbon. It had been a long time since we had hiked that hard. The bonus is that we made it ahead of most of the other groups, so we were first on the waitlist to catch the shuttle out 2 days early.
Corrie smiling as we arrive at Þórsmörk Our campsite at Þórsmörk Views at Þórsmörk
The following morning, as we got on the off-road bus, the storm finally arrived. We were lucky to be off the trail only having to deal with slight rain. The other exciting thing is that for the remainder of the trip we would be spending it at Blue Lagoon. Since we were staying at the hotel we had a private pool to soak in. We spent the following days soaking, eating, and drinking. We still had a bottle of vodka that we needed to finish and nothing to do. Well, except our appointments for our in water massages!
Corrie soaking at Blue Lagoon Sunny morning at Blue Lagoon Sunrise sunburst at Blue Lagoon Colors of Blue Lagoon It was the perfect ending to a spectacular honeymoon in Iceland.
Corrie and I at Blue Lagoon