Skælingar

Day 7 – Langisjór Highlands

Day 7 – Langisjór Highlands

Langisjór, Skælingar track, Blautulón track and Sveinstindur hike. That was our schedule for our last day in the highlands of southern Iceland.

In case of a good weather I had planned to visit either Kerlingarfjöll or Thakgil or Langisjór area. The weather at Kerlingarfjöll was either rainy or foggy the 8th day in a row so this wasn’t an option, and also we’d already been there a year ago. Thus, it became a choice between Langisjór and Thakgil, both of them with a mixed weather forecast, but Langisjór area with one which was slightly less rainy. And I really wanted to drive the Skælingar dirt track to Langisjór 🙂 Thus, we went for Langisjór!

Beware, the Skaelingar and Blautulon tracks we drove are just dirt tracks. Not even F-roads. This means they are even harder to drive than F-roads. Always check with your rental company if it allows for such roads, choose your car wisely and study the roads in advance. Mostly only super jeeps are allowed to drive the dirt tracks.

map of langisjor tracks

Map of our day around Langisjór tracks

Weather was merciful to us and the day actually turned out to be pretty nice along our road, despite the mixed forecast. We didn’t experience any rain and the fog was present only at some spots (like Sveinstindur once again…). This night we were based near Hekla so it didn’t make sense to drive to Langisjór from the south (F208 south) and hence we drove from the north.

F225 and F208

I was sure I don’t want to drive the boring, bumpy and full of tourists road 208 (F208 north). We turned to F225, Landmannaleið, which is an “F-road highway” in my opinion. Very good quality F-road and a bit underrated road in my opinion – at least compared to 208 which is much worse in both the views and the quality – that’s my view. Landmannaleid is also shorter than 208 north, so we soon reached the Landmannalaugar area.

f208 north of landmannalaugar

F208, Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri, close to Landmannalaugar

The weather at Landmannalaugar was amazing. It actually seemed like the only place with the clear blue skies and sun shining everywhere. The views from our drive around Landmannalaugar mountains were amazing. And, we faced a though dilemma – whether to go for an unknown (and probably worse) weather at Langisjór or whether to hike again at Landmannalaugar (we’d been there already and done the hikes, though not in such a great weather). Finally, I decided to risk it and go for Langisjór.

The easiest way to get to Langisjór is via pretty harmless F-road of F235, which contains only small to medium sized river crossings and no other real obstacles. I wanted to try a more adventurous track there, though. It is called the Skaelingar track and it’s located north of Holaskjól highlands centre, just next to the river crossing (and the ranger’s hut). Skælingar track is a not much known detour from F208 south that not many travelers pursue, due to it not being well-known. Great highlands destination 🙂

F208 after F235 junction

Road F208, or Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri, after crossing with F235 towards Landmannalaugar

The visibility got much worse 10 minutes south of Landmannalaugar already, much sooner than expected. We drove in a giant fog and couldn’t see more than a few meters ahead of us. However, we knew that all of the river crossings on this route should be harmless – we’d done them a year before in Dacia Duster and this year the water level was even lower. And exactly this was the case – no problems at all with the fords at F208 and really shallow rivers.

Skælingar dirt track

skælingar road to langisjor iceland

Skælingar track before Skælingar hut

After some foggy driving, we firstly arrived at the junction of F208 and F235. We continued driving the F208 and drove by another hidden detour – Faxasund track – which is actually a third track (along F235 and Skaelingar) leading to Langisjór. Faxasund is, however, said to be the most difficult out of these three paths, so this time we chose the second one – Skælingar track. Lastly, we crossed the first river at F208 south, next to the ranger’s hut and north of Holaskjól and finally arrived at the slightly hidden detour towards the Skælingar track.

skaelingar track langisjor

Skaelingar track

There’s a very interesting medium to big river crossing (more medium at the time of our visit) right at the beginning of the track. So, if you don’t feel like doing it, you may turn back right at the beginning. For this kind of river crossings, you should have both the past experience with river crossings and take the proper car, i.e. at least Land Cruiser size or some kind of super jeep. Of course, it may be doable with Dacia Duster if you are lucky, but you may also fly with Dacia Duster if you are lucky – this doesn’t mean it’s recommended, nor responsible!

skælingar track river crossing

Skælingar track river crossing

The first river crossing on Skaelingar track is also the only river crossing. To arrive at the other bank, you have to actually drive tens of meters IN the river bed (similarly to e.g. F210 river crossing or Strútur track river crossing). This is always a very exciting and memorable experience. With our 33” Land Cruiser with snorkel we didn’t have any problems with completing the ford.

Skælingar track iceland

Skælingar track

The Skælingar track then continued in form of the narrow dirt tracks in green surroundings of grass and moss. We passed along the big Mercedes Unimog which was struggling a bit driving these very narrow tracks, but the driver looked to be really enjoying the drive anyway 🙂 He was kind enough to let us overtake him at the earliest convenience.

skælingar hut iceland

Skælingar hut

The landscapes were picturesque almost along the entire road. After some 30 minutes of driving we arrived at the Skaelingar hut situated remotely in beautiful surroundings. It’s possible to take 2 different paths towards Langisjór from here… I already knew I want to take the longer, but much more exciting and picturesque route leading not next to the, but THROUGH Blautulón lake. Yes, through. More about that soon.

Blautulón lake track

blautulon track iceland

Blautulón track shortly before the Blautulón lake

The dirt track towards Blautulón lake led in between little hills and was a track consisting of both the gravel and the volcanic ash without any major obstacles, nor river crossings. It was steeper at times but definitely manageable. The most exciting part of the Blautulón track was about to come. Once you arrive at the lake, the road suddenly disappears. Where it leads, I already knew because I had studied it and was really looking forward to it 🙂

Skælingar blautulon track langisjor iceland

Between Skælingar track and Blautulón track to Langisjór

We were lucky to have an amazingly beautiful weather at Blautulón with partially blue skies, little fog, no wind at all and an occasional sun. We were even able to make a picnic at Blautulón wearing just T-shirts! God bless this kind of Icelandic summer. And all of that in between stunningly beautiful mountains and the blue lake just in front of us. And us being completely alone there. A once in a lifetime moments for us.

blautulón lake drive iceland

Unforgettable drive on the edge of the Blautulón lake.

As I already hinted, after we moved on from the front of the Blautulón lake, the road didn’t just continue in an ordinary way. The Blautulón track leads through the edge of the lake itself. You have to drive inside the lake, at the bank of the lake, for several hundreds of meters. For me as a roads’ enthusiast, this was an amazingly unique drive. After passing Blautulón, the track soon connects to the final part of F235.

Sveinstindur hike

sveinstindur hike iceland

Hiking to Sveinstindur peak next to Langisjór lake

Sveinstindur is the highest accessible peak in the Langisjór area with amazing views around the surrounding landscapes in every direction. When the visibility is good. And this was the catch once again for us. A year ago, I had a plan to propose to my (at that time) girlfriend after climbing up the Sveinstindur. However, the weather had different plans 🙂 There was no visibility at all and it started to rain a lot roughly around a midway towards Sveinstindur. Hence, we decided to turn back. Hence, I proposed (just) on the hiking trail.

sveinstindur hike trail

Sveinstindur hiking trail ridge

A year after, our weather was much better. Blue skies with occasional clouds and even a shining sun. However, the peak of Sveinstindur, as the only one, was covered in a fog for the entire time we drove and hiked around. We gave it a try anyway and climbed a few meters further than last time, but we still arrived at the point where everything above this point was entirely covered in fog. And it wasn’t getting any better. The trail from this point above is also pretty exposed with huge falls at both its sides. Thus, for the second time we gave up on our plans to reach the top.

langisjor lake view from sveinstindur

View over the Langisjór lake from Sveinstindur trail

Nevertheless, the views around the area were still stunningly beautiful. Judge it yourself, here are the pictures 🙂 This time we were lucky enough to see almost the entire Langisjór lake. Langisjór is a giant glacial lake and a hiker’s paradise with numerous trails close to its banks. With its crystal-clear waters, Langisjór is also a fishermen paradise.

langisjór lake iceland

View over the Langisjór lake from Sveinstindur trail

Sitting in the car for almost entire day, we were still hungry for a nice hike. However, the weather at Sveinstindur started to worsen. Fog was falling down and the clouds were coming. We hiked back to our car when it started to rain. We decided to drive back towards Landmannalaugar to see if the situation is still as good there weather-wise as was the case in the morning. On our way there, it started to rain considerably with an entire area covered by fog. Luckily, we had already seen an amazing F235 a year before.

Bláhnúkur hike

landmannalaugar from blahnjuku

One of the best views over Landmannalaugar is from the peak of Bláhnúkúr

The daylight was slowly approaching its final hours when we arrived at Brennisteinsalda campsite in Landmannalaugar. The weather remained wonderful there. Although being already pretty tired, I persuaded my wife to go for a quick Bláhnúkur hike. This meant, we would probably be dead-tired after the hike, but I simply couldn’t resist doing it in such a wonderful weather and close to the sunset.

blahnukur view over landmannalaugar

Another view from Bláhnúkúr over landmannalaugar

The year before we went for an entire Brennistensalda – Bláhnúkur loop, which took us more than 5 hours to complete, including pauses and attempts to find the correct path. This time we just wanted to get directly to Bláhnúkur and back via the same trail (west from the campsite). My wife was skeptical whether we will be able to do the Bláhnúkur round-trip in 2 hours, as I had expected. More specifically, she really doubted, we would get up under 1.5 hour.

best view in landmannalaugar

Looking from the peak of Bláhnúkúr

In reality, we climbed to the peak of Bláhnúkur in 38 minutes 🙂 Yes, we hiked pretty quickly, without pauses. But still – Bláhnúkur maybe looks as a distant peak – but it’s actually pretty close to the Landmannalaugar campsite.

Why we even bothered to climb Bláhnúkur? Because the views from Bláhnjúkur are the best views you can get over an entire fairytale-like Landmannalaugar area in the shortest time possible. And we were not disappointed! Hiking in the T-shirt, we arrived at the peak and admired all the surrounding beauty with the sun shining all over the mountains. Great decision to go. Great views. Great memories.

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