Viktória Komjáti

Viktoria has recently been travelling around Europe, most of the time with only a single backpack and a tent. Hiking on Iceland's less known paths and volunteering on farms have led her to decide to settle down in the country.  

5 minute read 25 Oct 2017

Six reasons to visit Landmannalaugar the geothermal paradise

Landmannalaugar is a fascinating geological wonder, a geothermal oasis in the Highlands of Iceland, surrounded by colorful mountains and steaming lava fields. Here are six reasons you should visit one of the most beautiful places in Iceland!

Photos: Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove

"Is that a painting?" - asked one of our customers the other day. I was not surprised, this is one of the most common questions that I get from customers visiting our office.

"No, it’s actually a photograph of Landmannalaugar. A remote place on the Icelandic Highlands." I reply with a smile on my face, pointing out the people that can bee seen hiking.

"My goodness, that is unbelievable!" -  Comes the honest answer. Impressed by the sight, they step closer to take a look at the photo. I see the wonder written on their face. Slowly, with wide sparkling eyes, they turn back to me and say, enchanted: - "Take me there now!"

1) Colorful mountains and steaming lava fields

Deep in the deserted wilderness of Iceland, isolated from all populated areas, lies a rare and almost unbelievable geothermal paradise. A natural warm pool sits in a valley, surrounded by fascinating colorful hills. Dark lava fields stretch for many kilometres, with patches of thick, green moss.

Colorful mountains in Landmannalaugar Iceland

Rare geological elements paint the landscape with amazing colors. Rhyolite tints the slopes chocolate-brown and golden yellow. Yet patches of purple, red, and white come from iron and snow, adding the effect that we are walking in an oil painting. Steam rises from boiling puddles, making the view truly magical.

2) A natural geothermal pool in the wilderness

Hot water springs coming up from the lava mix together with colder streams, forming a warm river that flows into a small, natural pool. With a temperature of around 36-40 degrees celcius (96 to 104 F) it is perfect for bathing all year around, even in winter.

The geothermal pool is open to the public for free. Showers and changing rooms are available in the lodge just a minutes walk from the pool. Be sure to soap and shower naked to get clean before entering the hot river.

3) Off the beaten track on the Icelandic Highlands

There are places on Earth that leave us in awe and inspire us to wonder about the world and life. Fjallabak (“the Mountain’s back”) Nature Reserve, in the Highlands of Iceland, is most certainly one of those places. Thanks to the challenging road conditions, this particular location remains unspoiled by conventional tourism.

SuperJeep drive off the beaten path in Iceland

When planning your trip to Iceland, you will surely run into this hard to pronounce name - Landmannalaugar. It means “the people’s pool,” which truly describes it very well. It has served as a warm oasis for the few explorers adventurous enough to travel the highlands over the centuries. Today, it does the same for an increasing number of visitors.

Rough gravel roads lead through the wild landscape where the power of nature is as harsh as it is under the arctic circle. There are no bridges over the rivers. Everyone must battle the natural elements for themselves, crossing the rivers by car.

To complete this challenge, you will need a 4-wheel drive car. If you take the wilder road, you will need a vehicle with higher tires, Icelanders call this a “Super jeep”. Specialized highland buses run daily from Reykjavik, with stops in Selfoss and Hella. While some of these modern tools do come in handy for making the trek possible, the nature in the area remains untouched and well worth the visit.

River crossing in a Superjeep in Landmannalaugar

4) Hiking in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is possibly the most beloved spot in Iceland by hikers, photographers, and geologists. If you are none of those when you begin your journey, you may be inspired to become one of them after visiting Landmannalaugar!

The area is home to several mountain huts and a large campsite. A vast network of hiking trails guide you around this beautiful land, providing easy one-day hikes, suitable for everyone. Challenging multi-day hikes attract those more adventurous and experienced among visitors.

Lonely man standing in the steam on the Icelandic Highlands

5) Iceland’s best hike, the Laugavegur

The most spectacular and most popular trail of all is called Laugavegur, the Hot Spring Route. This trek leads 55 km (34 mi) through the wild landscape of the Icelandic Highlands and ends at the vibrant valley of Þórsmörk (Thór's forest). Walking this trail takes around 2 to 4 days. There are mountain huts along the way with limited facilities to assist hikers on the exciting trek.

Wanderers can buy hiking maps and get a good night's rest in the base camp. It is also highly recommended to have a GPS device with a detailed map downloaded. If you are not an experienced hiker, don't worry. Plenty of local companies run guided tours to Landmannalaugar with pickup from Reykjavik.

6) One of Iceland's most beautiful places

Although not a very large country, Iceland's landscapes are far too varied and too unique to be described in any simple words. The exceptional geographic visions that the nature here offers are few of those things that must be seen and experienced to be fully understood.

Thankfully, Iceland is also abundant in experienced tour guides willing to show off their little corner of the big, wide world. At least when nature and the weather permits.

Vibrantly green moss covered mountains

How to get to Landmannalaugar

By car: getting to Landmannalaugar, you need a car that is approved to drive on F marked mountain roads (Superjeep). Take the Ring Road (road no1.) that leads you out of Reykjavik to the south-east. After passing by the city of Selfoss, take either road 30 or 26 to the north.

Adventurous river crossing by a white SupetJeep in Landmannalaugar, Iceland

The most easily passable road is via the paved road to Hrauneyjar. It leads through deserted landscape of the highlands. The road from the west has several creeks to cross which may be challenging. The road from the east is the wildest and most beautiful, yet demands the most river crossing.

By bus: There are several companies that run highland buses to Landmannalaugar. They departure from BSI daily. To be on the safe side, highland buses run only in the summer season.

Visiting Landmannalaugar in Winter

In the harsh Winter and Spring months a thick layer of snow covers the Highlands, making it very difficult to access. There is no fixed date when roads through the Highlands open or close, as it always depends on the year’s weather conditions.

Snow covered Landmannalaugar

However, some specialized tour operators organize Superjeep tours to Landmannalaugar in winter. Soaking in the natural hot pool in the middle of nowhere while admiring the northern lights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

For more beautiful photographs of Iceland, contact Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove: JVN Photography and follow his Instagram page.

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