brennisteinsalda top view

Landmannalaugar 1-day hike guide

If you want to have an idea of how amazingly the area around Landmannalaugar looks like from a bird’s eye perspective, there’s a Highlands Virtual Reality tour that will take you there immediately.

When to go?

We went in the summer. This is the safest option, both because of the roads leading to Landmannalaugar are usually in the best conditions and at the same time, the weather should be the most merciful.

There’s much more to say about Icelandic weather though. In very short words – never underestimate the harsh Icelandic weather and overestimate your physical condition.

Two main Landmannalaugar hikes

“Orange mountain”

There are two main, most beautiful, one-day hikes you can do from the Brennisteinsalda campsite. And it can be a bit confusing to understand the difference between them and how to get to each trail. At least for me, it was in the beginning. So let’s get to the point.

The first of the hikes, the easier and quicker one, is the hike ending at the top of the Brennisteinsalda volcano, or “orange mountain”. It takes about an hour to reach the top and some 30 minutes to come back. The ascent is of normal difficulty and everyone should be able to make it.

pointing at brennisteinsalda

Pointing at Brennisteinsalda from Bláhnjúkur hiking trail

“Blue peak”

The second hike, for me even more beautiful, is the hike to the Bláhnjúkur peak or “Blue peak”. It’s a bit longer hike, it took us 1,5 hour to get to the top and some 1 hour to get back to the campsite and you should be in good physical condition to make it, at least compared to other places in Iceland where you just step out of your car and make a 5-minute walk. But it’s definitely doable for everybody and more than just worth it as it’s one of the most beautiful views in entire Iceland. Just be prepared for a mountain hike.

brennisteinsalda top view

View from the top of Brennisteinsalda towards Bláhnjúkur

Map of the area

What helped me the most with orientation was the Landmannalaugar map. I wonder why it’s so hard to find this map online, but this map is basically all you need to know. If you are in good physical condition and the weather is good, I definitely do recommend you to go for both peaks – Brennisteinsalda and Bláhnjúkur as well.

It’s a beautiful loop trail, so you don’t go twice via the same trail and all the views around it are breath-taking. On halfway to Brennisteinsalda, you’re going to cross a lava field called Laugahraun which is interesting as well, although compared to the other peaks it’s not that special.

landmannalaugar map

The most important slice of the Landmannalaugar map for your 1-day trip

There are of course many other trails in the Landmannalaugar area. If you are really into hiking or if you’re planning to spend more days in the area, you’re more than welcome to go for the other trails as well. The longest one is supposed to take some 3-4 days and ends in Thórsmörk, another magnificent valley. You will be probably spending nights in mountain huts along the way if you choose this hike. We didn’t go for it, as we wanted to see as many different parts of Iceland as possible in 12 days, but next time – why not? Just be prepared for rough cold weather even in summer and its sudden changes.

Brennisteinsalda hike

Distance from car park: 5/10 minutes (to the start of the trail, from camping/car park in front of the camping)
Time spent at: 1 hour to the top
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: medium
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
brennisteinsalda hike start

This is how the start of the hiking trail towards Brennisteinsalda looks like

Hike for Brennisteinsalda volcano is quite easy and takes around 1,5 hour round trip. If you either don’t have much time or weather is worsening or you simply aren’t into hiking that much, you can definitely make Brennisteinsalda hike. The trail to the top and the view from the top itself is definitely worth it. We experienced it in slightly foggy weather and it was still beautiful.

brennisteinsalda hiking trail

Easy Brennisteinsalda hiking trail

You start at the main building of Landmannalaugar/Brennisteinsalda campsite where there are red signs pointing to two opposite directions. When coming from the river crossings facing the campsite, the one pointing left is the one for Bláhnjúkur and the one pointing right is the one for Laugahraun lava field and Brennisteinsalda.

The other way how to orientate yourself is simply to go in the direction of the mountain (you can see it throughout almost the entire trail) and use common sense. Although the trail is well marked (it’s important to stick to the marked trail to not destroy Icelandic untouched nature and not get yourself fined heavily), the signs are not very helpful because they contain just the name of the entire trail and they don’t point specifically to Brennisteinsalda.

brennisteinsalda hike

Views from the Brennisteinsalda hike

Your first checkpoint would be crossroads with the Laugahraun lava field where you will continue to the upper right, i.e. above the field. Then you will eventually arrive at another crossroad just below Brennisteinsalda where you should turn right, to face the only little steeper part of the hike right towards the peak. Once you reach the peak, you can enjoy 360° views of surrounding landscapes, Laugahraun field from bird-eye view and also majestic Bláhnjúkur peak nearby.

brennisteinsalda top

View from the top of Brennisteinsalda on a slightly foggy day. Still very windy at the top, despite a calm day.

There was no wind below Brennisteinsalda at the time of our visit, but at the peak, the wind was blowing like crazy. So be prepared for this. After Brennisteinsalda you may either come back to the campsite or continue for the Bláhnjúkur peak – as we did. If you have enough energy and the weather is alright I definitely do recommend to go for Bláhnjúkur as well because the views surrounding that route are even more amazing.

Laugahraun

Distance from car park: 5/10 minutes (to the start of the trail, from camping/car park in front of the camping)
Time spent at: 15-20 minutes
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
brennisteinsalda peak view

View from the top of Brennisteinsalda towards Laugahraun

Laugahraun is a lava field with interesting rock formations formed from volcanic lava eruptions. It takes some 30-40 minutes to reach it from the campsite and it stands on halfway to Brennisteinsalda mountain. It’s a nice place to see but it was not that amazing for us compared to other sights like peaks of Bláhnjúkur or Brennisteinsalda. We didn’t go particularly for it, but we stumbled upon it on our way back from Brennisteinsalda peak and on our path further towards Bláhnjúkur mountain.

If you have enough energy and good weather I recommend you to take the same route as we did so that you can admire all of them. Coming from Brennisteinsalda, if you leave the Laugahraun field at its top-right part, you will find yourself at the beginning of the trail for Bláhnjúkur, the Blue peak.

Bláhnjukúr hike

Distance from car park: 15 or 40 minutes (if you want to go only for Blahnjukur or if you firstly want to go for Laugahraun lava field)
Time spent at: 2 hours to the top, 60-90 minutes back down
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: advanced
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
blahnjukur hiking path

Slippery clay slope at the start of the hike to Bláhnjúkur or Blue peak

Which trail to choose?

For us hike to the Bláhnjúkur, or the Blue peak was the most beautiful, the most rewarding and the most difficult part of our one day visit to Landmannalaugar. We had to find the beginning of the trail, we had to ford the small river, we had to climb the steep muddy hill and then we had to cope with a strong cold wind at the top. All of these were definitely worth the experience. Views encompassing the route are amazing if you are lucky with the good weather and the view from the peak is even more breath-taking. So how do you reach Bláhnjúkur?

You have three options on how to reach the top (including circular round trip we did, starting with Brennisteinsalda and continuing to Bláhnjúkur or vice versa). Arriving from river crossings before Landmannalaugar you may either:

  1. turn left and go directly for Bláhnjúkur or
  2. you may turn right, reach the Laugahraun lava field first and then continue for Bláhnjúkur hike or
  3. of course, you may choose the order we chose, i.e. after reaching Laugahraun continuing for Brennisteinsalda peak, then coming back to Laugahraun and then going for Bláhnjúkur.

I recommend the way we did it, i.e. the circular route so that you can see everything.

blahnjukur hike views

Spectacular views right from the beginning of the hike on Bláhnjúkur and even on the slightly foggy day

How to reach Bláhnjúkur peak

After you leave the upper right part of Laugahraun field (coming from Brennisteinsalda trail), you will arrive at the small river. Despite the river being small, there’s no bridge or a designated place where the river should be crossed. We spent almost 30 minutes searching for the spot where to cross the river to not get our feet wet in this cold weather. And up to this day, I don’t know where was the “official” spot meant for this Landmannalaugar river to be crossed.

What we finally did was going almost 10 minutes to the right along the bank of the river coming to the place where the river was shallow enough with enough pebbles to jump on and pass. Then we had to come these 10 minutes on the other side of the river back again to reach the yellow marks marking the trail towards Bláhnjúkur. So, after 30 minutes of struggle, we managed to ford the river without getting wet, although I’m not sure whether this was the way meant for crossing. Probably no.

blahnjukur hike near top

Bláhnjúkur hike near the top

Afterwards, for us, the most dangerous part followed. The trail is well marked with yellow sticks so you shouldn’t get lost. You will shortly arrive at the steep clay slope going up closer towards Bláhnjúkur. The ascent is not hard or anything, but it’s quite steep and you don’t have a good grip on the ground because of the clay. So with each step, you feel like slipping on the smooth clay. I was equipped with high-quality La Sportiva hiking shoes and those didn’t help either. There are neither stairs nor chains so you can only help yourself by going slowly zig-zag to the top.

Fortunately, this part is not too long and takes some 10 minutes to complete. What follows next is just a typical gravel hiking trail and you shouldn’t have any problems continuing up the trail. Magnificent views will shortly emerge and will accompany you all the way to the top.

blahnjukur peak view

One of the views from the peak of Bláhnjúkur towards Landmannalaugar and 2nd (steeper) hiking trail

We had a semi-clear sky with partially sunny, partially cloudy weather and light fog. This is still supposed to be good weather so we enjoyed every moment of it. Visibility (although not perfect) was fine and the views were, as I already mentioned, breath-taking. We met just a single-digit number of visitors at the peak, so at the time of our visit, the peak being crowdy wasn’t an issue. It was really windy and the temperature felt like 5°C even on a sunny summer day like ours, so be prepared for that. Once reaching the top, you will be rewarded with the best views over the area.

blahnjukur top view

Another view from the peak of Bláhnjúkur towards Landmannalaugar camp, Laugahraun and 2nd (steeper) hiking trail

The way back

We started our descent from the other side of the mountain (the one where you may access Bláhnjúkur right from the campsite), which was supposed to be much steeper, according to guides I’ve read. That definitely wasn’t true and compared to the steep clay part we had to overcome before, this was a piece of cake. I wonder what’s worse – to ascent the clay part or descent? I guess descent would be worse.

The path continued without any obstacles until we reached the point where we could see the small river we’d forded before from above. At this point we’d also seen the campsite from above already, so we continued pursuing that direction. The entire descent wasn’t hard and it took us some 1 hour at maximum to reach our campsite again. We went for a hot chocolate at the nearby snack bar, ate a little, and it was still only before 3 pm so we had enough time to continue with our journey.

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1 comment

We had a question from our reader. I’m gonna repeat it here, so that it possibly helps also some other travellers:

Q: “Thank you for this (next) really nice inspiration. I have been there in August and failed to find my way (I walked only BY the orange and blue/green mountain). Now I would really like to do the circle in June that you did. But despite your nice article, I still do not know which path(s) you took 🙁 So you started with route 1, left the route to go on the orange peak (Brennisteinsalda), than returned and did route 2 over the blue mountain instead of ending route 1. Is that correct? And overall it took you 4 hours?

A: “Hi, thank you for your kind words 🙂 We made a signed map of the route we took. If you have any questions just ask. The entire “loop” took us 5-6 hours including breaks and photo pauses:

MAP – our route

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