Landmannalaugar: Closer Than You Think – So Go There, Right Away. Or Don’t.

Landmannalaugar: Closer Than You Think – So Go There, Right Away. Or Don’t.

Haukur S. Magnússon
Photos by
Julia Staples

Landmannalaugar is a staple visit for many tourists to Iceland. In fact, some folks involved with Icelandic tourism frequently yield complaints that it is by far too popular, that it feels more like a supermarket or Disney resort than respected and treasured nature reserve during the peak months of summer.

So it is maybe questionable of us to be running an article – during the apex of the tourist season, no less – proclaiming how utterly breathtaking and awe-inspiring Landmannalaugar is, and how easy it is to get there on your own. Far easier than most visiting travellers believe, at least according to a lot of the enquiries that come our way every now and again, Landmannalaugar is indeed very much within anyone’s reach.

You don’t even need a crazy mountain jeep or anything. A normal car will do, even a tiny one if you pick the right roads. Of course, you can always take a bus or tour service or, hell, try and hitchhike. In any case, getting there is easier than you think.

Going the easiest, most car-friendly road, Landmannalaugar is around 200 km from Reykjavík. You simply drive west on Miklabraut, take a right on the Vík exit and keep driving on route 1 until you reach the turn to route 30. Exit at route 32, then go route 26 for a while. There are signs on the way, but do bring a map. Finally you’ll get to route 208, and you pretty much take that ‘till you’re there.

This amounts to around 2-3 hours of driving, depending on your speed and road conditions. This means that you can go there for a simple daytrip or short hike and be back in 101 in time for that FM Belfast show – there’s no need to pack camping equipment or provisions or anything.

Once there, look around. Walk around. Check out the campsite, pitch your tent if you brought one (and remember to pay the fee). There are good people from Ferðafélag Íslands operating the campsite and huts on location that will provide guidance and answer most of your questions.

There is a nice old billboard there that marks the hiking trails in the area. You of course brought along your hiking boots, so put them on, pick a suitable hike and hike it. This will blow your mind. After your hike, why not bathe in the hot spring on location? Or feast on some BBQ? Or just stare into infinity, wondering why the hell everything looks the way it does. Pretty much whatever you’ll get up to in Landmannalaugar will be good.

Anyway, if you go there, you gotta promise to be respectful. Landmannalaugar is a haven, a treasure; one of our world’s many reminders of how utterly beautiful life can get (and death, and desolation. It is a pretty desolate place). You should treat it as such. Don’t leave any garbage or waste. None at all. Don’t be loud or bothersome. Remember that those present are probably there to experience something otherworldly and transcendent. Respect that. Do not stray from the trodden path, do not leave anything behind and do not take anything with you, save for a sense of calm and well-being.

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