At the heart of a land of a thousand colors
Like almost all our days, we begin by leaving the Icelandic capital city in the morning. The route first takes us through the richest agricultural land in Iceland before venturing into the picturesque area of Þjórsárdalur with her glacial river and its famous waterfall Hjálparfoss, near which we mark our first break. We have time to admire the double waterfall and even to climb at the top of a nearby hill to admire the beautiful surrounding landscape. This cannot be seen on the photos, but we are harassed by hundred of small gnats, harmless but very boring!
Back on the road through a desolate landscape on a rocky and gravelly road. Driving is somewhat chaotic and we are balanced on all sides as we follow some kind of “road” leading us to the top of a promontory. Once there, we mark a new stop, right in front of glacier lake Ljótipollur. It occupies the bottom of a maar created by the volcanic eruption of Brennisteinsalda in 1477. It is one of the most famous and photographed lakes in this region of the country because of its beautiful dark blue waters, its reddish lava banks and the frequent presence of snow, these three colors being reminiscent of the Icelandic national flag. The place is gorgeous, enchanting, and I look forward to continuing this journey to admire the other natural wonders of the area!
The scenery begins to change quickly, inexorably. We drive on mountain roads, cross several rivers in this rocky region to finally reach the oasis that is Landmannalaugar. I did not even set foot on land that I am literally overwhelmed by the scenery around me and I seriously lack of adjectives to describe what I see. Thanks to my travel guide, I knew the mountains of the region are known for their multiple range of colors, but what I see goes beyond my imagination: this is a real cacophony of yellow, pink, fluorescent green and purple, brown, black and white, ocher, etc. I will enjoy my time there to make a small hike of about 2 hours through the various sites to the top of Blahnjukur, the “Blue Peak” overlooking the valley to the east.
As and when my climb goes, the landscape changes. I walk between rocks in the middle of an old lava field, and then I get on a grassy field surrounded by snowy peaks on one side and rocky mountains on the other. It’s really beautiful and I am ecstatic at every step! Yes really, the best way to explore Landmannalaugar is on foot, no doubt about it! Armed with sturdy shoes (and a good windproof and waterproof jacket, you never know), one can thus venture closer to the most interesting places of the site. Maps and all necessary information are available at the reception of the camping site. There is something to do for everyone, and for all physical conditions as well: several marked loops ranging from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours are available and go in almost all directions!
The most famous treks in Iceland is probably the Laugavegur, which traditionally begins at Landmannalaugar and takes motivated walkers for 4 days through the most impressive natural and desert sites of the country before reaching the haven of peace that constitute the natural reserve of Thorsmork. It is possible to continue for a fifth day of walk to reach Skogar, located almost on the southern coast. Other treks leave from Landmannalaugar such as Hellismannaleid – 3 to 4 days and 55 km around the volcano Hekla up Rjupnavellir, and Sprengisandur – several days in complete autonomy in the highlands of Iceland’s center. When I tell you that there’s something for everyone! If you enjoy walking, you’re gonna love Landmannalaugar and no doubt you will spend your entire holiday without being bored a single day!
Finally, some information that are important. Access to the site Landmannalaugar can be only done with special cars, because only F roads with several fords leading to it. Even if there are less than 200 km from Reykjavik, the journey take nevertheless several hour drive to get there and travel several kilometers on trails of more or less good condition. Warning: the nearest gas station is located more than 40 kilometers of the site! Several bus companies offer packages with round day trip from Reykjavik as well as connections from Hella, Thorsmork or Skaftafell, which is extremely convenient! On site, it is possible to stay in a shelter, provided you have booked well in advance as the 75 beds which are available get booked very quickly in summer! A campsite is also available, as well as a car park and a bus converted into a small shop where once can find commodity, pastries and hot and cold drinks. It is even possible to do some horseriding or fishing trips directly from the site. Not way to get bored, it’s guaranteed!
On my way back towards my departure point, I even have the time and luxury to soak in a natural source pleasantly warm and relaxing, just a few steps from the campsite. What better way to end this day? And Iceland has many of these natural sources, but know that some are hidden and that you must leave the known tracks to hope to find them! It is said that the landscape of Landmannalaugar form a unique place on the Icelandic land and in summer, the place is adorned with all the colors of the rainbow. Having been there, I confirm that it is exactly that and so much more!
In this beautiful nature reserve, a series of volcanic eruptions have shaped a landscape worthy of a fairy tale, sumptuously set with different color thanks to geothermal features which many can still observed today. This place has become one of my favorites in Iceland and a site not to be missed if you enjoy hiking and love to be dazzled by a wild and untamed Nature. The trip back to Reykjavík is equally picturesque and has great views of the famous volcano Hekla, surrounded by a real “lunar” lanscape, a very nice way to end the day!