The total hiking distance is close to 53 km and the route from Thorsmork to Skogar on the south coast adds 24-26 km.
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The hiking trail between Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork or from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland. National Geographic listed it as one of the most beautiful trails in the world.
It is unusual to find so much variety in the landscape. The trail goes through incredibly colourful rhyolite mountains, black obsidian lava, wheezing hot springs, lakes clear as a mirror, black sandy desert and ends in a lush forested area.
Besides allowing for plenty of time to enjoy the hike itself, it is strongly recommended that hikers use the opportunity and stay some time in Langidalur in Thorsmork at the end of the hike. Thorsmork is a veritable hikers paradise with great many beautiful hikes, both long and short. Hut wardens will provide all necessary information.Many choose also to end the trek with a hike over the magnificent Fimmvorduháls and end up in Skogar.
Below you will find all necessary information about the hike and detailed description of each hiking day.
This first part of the route is the shortest in kilometres, but as the accumulated elevation is close to 500m and this is the first day of the hike, many people find this part a little strenuous. The weather is unstable in these areas, and it is often necessary to walk in snow, which further increases the difficulty. The reality is that hikers may need all the energy they have, to get through this first part of the trail.
The first part leads up to the lava field of Laugahraun, crosses it, then heads downhill before heading up again to the plateau, just below Brennisteinsalda. It is a good idea to stop here and look around at the stunning views, flora, mountains and gorges in all colours of the rainbow.
The trail then continues further up on to the plateau, where small ravines cut into the landscape as the rivers shape the soft mountain. The way ahead is all uphill, but it not extremely steep.
The next destination is Storihver, a beautiful vegetation spot right next to a whizzing geyser where you can stop, rest your legs and get a bite from the provision box. It is approximately an hour walk from here, up to the hut Hoskuldsskali at Hrafntinnusker. This part of the trail is often covered with snow. Here is also the greatest risk of fog. It must be stressed that hikers must be careful and follow the waymarks.
The path from Hrafntinnusker runs along the slopes of Reykjafjoll. The area is a valley bottom which is mostly flat, but there are a few ravines that should be crossed extra carefully, since they are often half-full of snow. Next, the direction is taken to the west of Kaldaklofsfjoll and up to the spine (GPS N63°55.123 ‘- V19°09.208’) between them and Jokulgil.
If weather and visibility is good, it is recommended to take the extra hike up to Haskerdingur, the highest mountain in the area, 1281m. The hike takes about 1-1,5 hours. Tread carefully, there are often crevasses in the ice just below the peak. The peak however is usually snowless during summer.
The trail now goes up and down through few ravines until it reaches the edge of Jökultungur, with incomparable views over the whole trail and the three glaciers Tindfjallajokull, Eyjafjallajokull and Mýrdalsjokull.
The road down Jokultungur is quite steep and rocky, so be careful. At the bottom of Jokultungur the Grashagakvisl river awaits and can in some cases be crossed on a snow bridge. If not, you need to ford by wading on foot. The water in Grashagakvisl has fresh and good water to drink. From there is an easy route southwest to the hut in Alftavatn lake.
From Álftavatn, the trail goes in an easterly direction over Bratthals and continues east to Hvanngil. The Bratthalskvísl river is without a bridge and needs to be forded by foot which in most cases is relatively easy. From the hill above Hvanngil the view is magnificent.
In Hvanngil hikers can use the toilet facilities. Some hikers prefer to stay there instead of Alftavatn. From Hvanngil, there is a short walk to the river Kaldaklofskvisl, which can be crossed on a footbridge. Just south, is another river, Blafjallakvisl without a bridge. In most cases, it is not so difficult to cross but care is needed, especially during heavy rain when the river can grow fast.
Now the route lies mostly on the main road until the river Innri Emstrua is reached. It has a bridge. Occasionally you have to tread through some water as there is an overflow that bypasses the bridge. Just south of it, the trail turns from the main road to the left and south to Emstrur, where the land is practically without vegetation. If the weather is dry, with strong wind, especially from north, the sand can drift. The trail lies between two mountains called Utigonguhofdar and in about an hour the Botnar huts in Emstrur is reached. The cabins are not visible until you are almost completely next to them.
The trail heads towards the east from the huts in Botnar. Shortly, the bridge over the river Sydri-Emstrua is reached. The river flows into a narrow deep canyon that reaches most of the way to Entujokull. People with vertigo sometimes struggle to get to and across the bridge. From there, the path lies along Langhals and towards the junction of the rivers Markarfljot and Sydri-Emstrua. It is recommended to walk to the edge of the gorge where the rivers meet, before hiking south through Almenningar.
Soon the trail runs through two small ravines, Slyppugil and Bjorgil. In each of them there is a little creek with drinkable water, making this an excellent spot to rest and have lunch. After hiking up from the latter ravine, Bjorgil, the trail leads to Fauskatorfur and gradually to an area with more vegetation. It is called Utholmar. The hill upwards from the river Ljosa is called Kapa or Coat, and is the last steep on the trail.
When the trails comes down from Kapa, hikers have to ford the river THrongá which in most cases is not difficult but can be quite rocky. The river marks the boundary of Thorsmork and now there is only a bit more than half an hour hike through the pleasant woodland Hamraskogar until you arrive at Husadalur in Thorsmork.
Please note: Phone connection can be unstable on the trail and you might have go to the nearest hilltop to find a network.
Remember: Hikers only leave their footprints and only take memories back home!
Alftavatn – Emstrur – Thorsmork Hike
Coordinates: 63.854954° N 19.248147° W
Hiking time: 2 days
Length: 30 km
Highest Point: m
About Alftavatn-Emstrur-Thorsmork Hiking Trail:
1. day: Álftavatn – Emstrur (Botnar)
Distance 15 km., estimated walking time 6-7 hrs., elevation decrease 40 m. The trail takes us over the ridge “Brattháls” into “Hvanngil” ravine, wading across the river “Bratthálskvísl”.
In “Hvanngil” are two huts, one built for sheepherders in 1963 and one for tourists, built in 1995.
A short walk from the huts is the river “Kaldaklofskvísl” with a bridge for hikers. On the eastern bank of “Kaldaklofskvísl” the trail branches, one branch leading eastwards to “Mælifellssandur” (Road F 210) but the other one southwards to “Emstrur” and we choose the latter.
Less than one km from “Kaldaklofskvísl” another river has to be waded and approximately 4 km further we come to the river “Nyrðri Emstruá” but this time there is a bridge to cross it.
Soon we will be overlooking the huts in “Botnar” (40 persons, GPS 63°45.980 – 19°22.480).
A fine walk in the evening is to the “Markarfljótsgljúfur” canyon.
2. day: Emstrur (Botnar) – Þórsmörk
Distance 15 km., estimated walking time 6-7 hrs., elevation decrease 300 m. First we have to go around the canyon of “Syðri – Emstruá” and there is a very steep path down to the bridge so be careful.
Then a walk through the area known as “Almenningar” with crossing of among other rivers “Þröngá”. It is good practice when wading to go hand in hand and head downstream.
After crossing “Þröngá” a 30 minutes walk takes us to the hut in “Langidalur” in “Þórsmörk” GPS 63°40.960 – 19°30.890) Landscape and vegetation is changing rapidly. Birchwood and all kinds of plants a welcome change after the desert now behind us.
Remember: Hikers only leave their footprints and only take memories back home!