Outdoor activities are not really my thing. I’m a city rat, I love strolling downtown, enjoying the nightlife. Hiking has always been last on my list of leisure activates. I loathe everything about it; It’s long, you usually have to wake up super early and it’s terrifying. Seriously, it brings you one step closer to death. I have always hated it, until I arrived in Iceland.
So ‘what changed my mind?’ – Iceland has the most beautiful scenery there is and I’ve made peace with the idea of putting my life at risk to experience its nature first hand. As a native Torontonian, I’ve adopted the aphorism ‘YOLO’. So I bundled up, laced up my boots and got on the bus to Landmannalaugar. Shout-out to Drake for helping me live to the fullest.
Upon meeting our mountain guide, Maksim Kachanzhi, I found myself asking him the most important questions – the life threatening ones. Such as “do you get a lot of injuries on these hikes?” or “what’s the wildlife like around here?” Maksim informed me that under his supervision, no one has been injured and that I don’t have to worry about being attacked by a wildebeest. I sought comfort knowing that I won’t encounter anything wild–it’s just me against the elements. A new fear I have yet to develop.
Screensaver or real life?
Landmannalaugar is a gem in the southern Icelandic Highlands and the trip there can be incredibly bumpy so beware. I heard groans of discomfort from my fellow travellers, but I for one enjoyed the ride–it was like a free massage! However, once the three-hour drive was over, the real fun began. The famous hiking trek, Laugavegurinn falls between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk – another vivid landscape worth checking out. The route is 55km and wraps around stunningly colorful mountains, glacial rivers, and fumaroles. All the landscapes Iceland has to offer can be covered in this one trip.
The journey starts off at Mt. Bláhnjúkur, also known as Blue Peak on account of its blue-black shades from sulfur and oxidized copper. Afterwards, the hike through the Laugahraun lava field brings you to Mt. Brennisteinsalda, meaning sulfur wave. From the base of the mountain emits strong sulfur fumes, the smell can be uncomfortable, but it makes for a great instagram photo! When you get to the top, the view is remarkable. The contrasts of colors are produced by various elements such as lava, iron, sulfur, and moss. It’s like seeing your desktop wallpaper come to life.
More than just a view
Beyond the photo-shopped looking mountains of Landmannalaugar, there is more to enjoy. There’s a family owned mountain mall consist of 3 vintage school buses that sell all your hiking and camping essentials. Store manager, Katla Sif Þorleifsdóttir, and her cousin Íris Þóra Sverrisdóttir both run the shop, hoping to bring a full functioning kitchen into the mix one day.
After a long hike and a quick snack, there is a geothermal hot spring. Scalding water arises from under the lava and mixes with a cold flow creating the hot spring. It’s just a matter of finding the spot with the right temperature. When in doubt, just follow the herd of humans.
Despite falling three times, the view and experience was totally worth it. Staying in my comfort zone is nice and all – but once you experience Landmannalaugar in its purest form, you’re left wanting to see more.