Because we had rented a 4 wheel drive camper from Go Campers, we wanted to make the most of it. There was this ridiculously scenic place that my sister came across – Landmannalaugar – the gateway to Iceland’s highlands. Only reachable by a long stretch of F roads, accessible only by four wheel drives and concluding in a grand river crossing in order to reach the campsite. Totally doable for two people who have never driven a four wheel drive on the wrong side of the road, crossing a river whilst we were at it. We totally did it!! There was nothing getting between us and the mountains and we were so keen to see this incredible place with our own eyes..
HOW TO GET TO LANDMANNALAUGAR:
There are three ways to approach Landmannalaugar. It was incredibly confusing when we were researching this but I’ve got it in a neat summary below:
- OPTION ONE: The easiest and most popular route is to take route 208 in arriving from the North. (From Reykjavik, you’d drive on Route 1 (Ring Road), then turn off onto Route 26, then keep driving until you hit route 208. This is the route we took, and it involved lots of gravel roads (from memory most of route 26 if not all is gravel and so is route 208) and culminated in the grand river crossing
- OPTION TWO: The second easiest route is to take route 225, approaching Landmannalaugar from the west. This is a shorter route than the first one but from what I read online, it is harder to drive
- OPTION THREE: The more difficult and hardest route to drive is to approach Landmannalaugar from the south, taking route 208 in (but from the other direction). I heard this is the most scenic route but expect to cross more than one river.
Our main mission at Landmannalaugar was to do the Mt Blahnjukur (Blue Peak) hike. We wanted to do the hike at sunset to see the golden glow settle amongst the mountains. However, on the day we allocated to be in Landmannalaugar, it was extremely cold and windy (though I heard it’s always cold and windy here) and as a result, we were unfortunately not able to complete the entire hike. However, what we did do gave us a jaw-dropping glimpse into the highlands of Iceland and we were so glad we attempted it despite the weather.
The hike up Mt Blahnjukur is a steep ascent starting from the campsite to the summit marker. It can take about an hour but expect to take longer if you end up stopping every 5 minutes to take a snap. Once you reach the summit marker, what I understand is that you continue along the ridge line to the other side of the mountain, down into a valley and then through the Laugahraun lava field and back to the campsite. This descent takes about 3 hours and is what we skipped because the cold, wind and darkness was not something we had prepared for. Instead, we took the same path down the mountain.
Most of these images were taken from our hike up Mt Blahnjukur. As you can see, it really is quite a breathtaking view from above. The colourful rhyolite mountains here really look like a watercolour painting.
On the other side, there is the view of the lava fields. There are so many lava fields in the area and the ruggedness of it all really feels like you’re on another planet. Here are some more images from the view from above..
ABOUT CAMPING AT LANDMANNALAUGAR:
The campsite at Landmannalaugar is the only campsite in the area for accessing the highlands. It costs 2000 ISK per person to camp there and an additional 500 ISK per person for a 5 minute hot shower. The tricky thing with accessing the campsite is that you need to cross a river. By river, it is actually quite shallow but if you are hiring a rental vehicle and you’re in the middle of no where, you’re going to make sure all goes to plan. With our Go Camper vehicle, the insurance did not cover river crossings so you’re going to be taking a gamble when you do cross one. We were told to check how deep the river is before you cross it, watch how others cross it and ask for help if needed before attempting to cross it ourself. We took the advice super seriously as we had never done it before and ended up watching at least 10 cars cross the river with ease including one super tiny vehicle before we finally decided it was A-OK. It was totally ok, like driving to a humungous puddle. The adrenaline rush was intense!
After that, a family we had consulted with prior to crossing the river (who didn’t dare cross it either) ended up having a go crossing the river right after us just for fun. So great.
All in all, we had an amazing time at Landmannalaugar. The view was stunning and felt so precious. We were so glad we had our 4WD camper or we would never have been able to access such a hidden beauty. Next time, I would love to come back and complete that hike!
Photography: Connie Cao & Rowena Cao