Treks... Trails... the lot!
Earthly... it can take up to a year to turn a guidebook around from delivery to publication. I think some advance information went out saying it was due in July, but the latest word I have is that it will be available in September.
Nearly ALL of Iceland is lava... or do you mean actual molten lava flows? If the latter, then you just have to hope there's an eruption while you're there, and that you can get close to it. The authorities always do their best to stop people getting too close. Mind you, the more recent flows are incredibly interesting, spread across vast areas and solidified in a range of curious forms. Alternatively... take the Hawaiian option!
Meanwhile... you can have a look at the cover of the guidebook... and as usual I'll make a copy the subject of a free draw at a later date. If anyone wants to guess the location of the cover shot, then give it your best shot.
I've been away for the past week... so I'm just chasing up through the threads.
That picture was quite literally a 'grab shot', when I turned round and saw those two people with all that mass of ice towering above them. I'd just packed up after wild camping round the corner, before the place started to get busy. It's actually a short stroll from one of the most popular roadside locations in Iceland, but it still gives the impression of being in the middle of nowhere.
Iceland Express were offering return flights from Edinburgh for £99 which I couldn't resist so I'm now going to Iceland for 2 weeks at the end of July. Current plan is:
I've booked the hostel the first 2 nights and the car hire (as €189 for 3 days seemed a really good deal for peak time) but I'm flexible otherwise. I can even cancel these bookings if need be.
Here's one link I've found useful that may help others:Online mapping of Iceland
Now that I'm back at home...
Staying at Keflavik when your flight arrives at almost Midnight is a good idea. They're well used to people coming and going at odd hours at Keflavik.
Not sure I'd take an 'easy day' in Iceland on only the second day there. I'd want to get cracking straight away... but that's just me! I'd take all my 'supplies' with me. It's much cheaper that way, and you get more choice. You'll realise very quickly that choice is limited and even basic stuff is eye-wateringly expensive.
Car hire... you take your life in your hands! If you got a cheap deal, it won't be cheap when you put fuel in it. Cheap cars can't be taken on 'F' roads, so you can't really explore beyond the touristy stuff. I'd have stuck with the buses.
Climbing Hekla... just bear in mind that it's overdue for an eruption... and it's been grumbling away for a while now. The visitor centre at the foot of the mountain is working on a plan whereby they'd hope, one day, to be able to send you a text and give you 15 minutes notice that your life is about to end. Having said that, it's popular, so why not! Hiking in from wherever you have to park will take a long time. Wild camping really will be wild on that mountain!
Jokulsarlon... doesn't need any guidance. It's a very very popular roadside halt. You can walk in any direction, but you'll only want to walk along the shore. This is possible in either direction, but the glacier itself means you won't get far. Notices ask you not to wild camp in this area, but to use the site at Skaftafell. I didn't see the notices until after I'd camped... one of the joys of turning up at nightfall!
'Deposit some supplies at Skogar' ... Good luck with that. It's a very very busy spot, so you'll need a really good hiding place! Still, the only place you can buy supplies is one of the most expensive, and limited, outlets anywhere in Iceland.
Bus to Landmannalaugar... you'll be seeing stuff you've already seen when you drove to Hekla earlier... but on the other hand at least you'll see what life is like on the roads you weren't allowed to take your car along. Be warned... Landmannalaugar gets horribly busy! Apart from that, enjoy the walk to Skogar. All you need is good weather for the views, and it won't degenerate into a 'Julia Bradbury in the rain' exercise!
End of July... doesn't sound like you need the winter boots, crampons and ice axe given your itinerary so far (but see my later note). I'd cheerfully do all that in trainers!
Weather forecasts for the Laugavegur (Landmannalaugar to Skogar) are a pain. The Icelandic weather forecasting system has the trail on the edge of THREE of its forecasting regions, so you usually end up with THREE forecasts, and on the day none of them will be right! You'll see humorous forecasts in some of the huts that basically tell you to look out of the door! Seriously... they'll have a forecast posted at Landmannalaugar in the warden's window... and it's always interesting to contrast the 'latest' report with what's actually happening while you read it! If you have the forecasting skills, then it's worth checking the 'real' weather forecast data for a couple of weeks before you go (isobars, windspeed, precipitation, temperature, cloud cover), and seeing if this makes you any wiser than looking at the 'idiot' forecast with its pretty symbols.
Snaefell to Stafafell... you mean the Lonsoraefi Trail... in which case you need a really good plan in place. When someone books a tour to Snaefell, usually with Tanni Tours or Jeep Tours, from Egilsstadir, it's often possible to fill a seat and go along for the ride to the Snaefell hut, or the actual start of the trail some distance beyond. Bear in mind you have to cross one big glacier and one small one, as well as ford a dozen glacial rivers, and there are no waymarks or even a trodden path for the first two days. In short, you are all on your own, and if you die, no-one will know about it for ages, if at all. The glaciers are often crossed by people without any special equipment (done that myself, and even guided groups do it like that), but one false step, and you're dead. The last two days are waymarked, and if you want to bail out before reaching Stafafell, then you need to talk to the people at Stafafell (hostel or campsite), and see if they're doing any minibus pickups at Illikambur.
The online mapping link is a good one. I posted that on her some time ago, and it's easily the best free resource I've ever found. You can doodle your own route on the map and it will measure it for you. Nice to know how much distance you're covering, but nothing prepares you for the reality of the ground conditions.
Quick question regarding the end of the Landmannalaugar trail at Thorsmork and buses back to reykjavik.
Do they need reserving or can you just turn up ?
No need to reserve... just turn up. There are two companies running scheduled buses... Reykjavik Excursions and Trex. Before you start the trail, get hold of their timetables, so that you know what time you have to be on the spot to bail out.
Bear in mind that the buses call at different places at different times... so check that as well. They call at the huts at Husadalur and Langidalur, and either of those places serve as the end of the Laugavegur. Ask the hut wardens to point out exactly where the buses stop, and no harm double-checking the timetable again with them.
Trex - www.trex.is
Reykjavík Excursions - www.re.is
Got a pop-up saying that my above post was too long to accommodate this website. Summat's up with the system!
Thanks for the, er, encouraging words Paddy!
Sleeping at Keflavik? I'm a seasoned airport sleeper but Keflavik doesn't sound good according to what I've heard.
I need to get gas for my stove so the Reykjavic City Campsite will be my first port of call. I'm going to be pushed for weight on the way in so might have to stock up on some rice and pasta on my first day. It might mean the difference between taking a tripod or not and its got to be cheaper than excess baggage fares. I want to do some sightseeing in Reykjavic too.
Car hire - Cheapest bus trip I found to Jokulsarlon was £135 for a 14 hour round trip and £35 for a quick afternoon trip round the Golden Circle. Fuel is cheaper than here but I've budgeted £80. It does cost more than the bus if you're just yourself but I reckon it's worth it for the flexibility to avoid the crowds and also visit other sights like Haifoss. I've heard Icelandic hire cars live pretty chequered lives! It seems to be loose gravel that catches most people out. I actually like driving on snow and ice so I'm sure I'll be fine.
Hekla - Thanks for the warning on the camping. It was recommended on Summit Post but I'll give it a miss.
Skogar - Any idea if the campsite owners will be happy to hold a box of stuff for me?
Juila Bradbury - My favourite bit was when she was saying something like "I'd be terrified if I didn't have my guide with me" lol. I'm pretty set on doing it unless it's going to be completely dire the whole time. I've got enough time to spend an extra day or two on the route if need be. Lonsoraefi sounds like one for another time. Can you suggest any better alternatives?
I'm getting my gear sorted out and it's looking a bit breezy just now so I wondering whether to take my extra set of tent poles so I can double pole my Macpac Minaret. Any idea what the lowest overnight temperatures are likely to be at beginning of August on the trail? I think I'll just take my +5c bag as the weight saving will let me take my PHD Minimus jacket. I've bivied comfortably in subzero in the Lairig Ghru with that combo so hoping that should be fine.
"112 Iceland" is a cool phone app from the Icelandic emergency services. I'm guessing there's little phone reception in the interior though. I loved this vid they did for it.
I've seen some sites saying 1st of October for your book to be released although Waterstones say they'll post it in 4-7 days!
Geoff... I guess sleeping at the actual airport is to be avoided. On the other hand, walk five minutes along the access road and it's pretty much open tundra where you could easily wild-camp. Less than an hour's walk from the airport is a guesthouse and campsite, which does airport transfers if you want.
One-way on the bus to Jokulsarlon is about £60, and if you only came halfway back to Reykjavik to pick up on another stage of your trip, then it would be a bit cheaper... say less than £50. Go for car hire if you want, but the cheap cars can't be taken much off the Ring Road, and even expensive 4WDs have to be paid for if they get damaged. Be warned... damage is NOT covered by insurance. In theory you could hire a car for the day, damage it sufficiently, and end up buying the car hire company a new car!
The Skogar campsite is pretty basic and I'm not sure where the owners hang out. Whenever I've landed at Skogar, all I've ever wanted to do is flee the place. The campsite is just a flat area of grass between the car/bus park and the waterfall. If you pitch there, keep well away from where people walk, or they'll be tripping over your guylines in their thousands! There is a large hut containing toilets and showers, and I'm sure there's a lockable storage room in there somewhere, but it would mean finding the owners twice... first to lock stuff away... then to retrieve it later. It might be worth asking the nearby hostel if they'd look after stuff for you.
You can extend the Laugavegur/Skogar Trail by adding another three days to the start, following a very quiet waymarked trail from Rjupnavellir to Landmannalaugar. As you'll only be in the country for a couple of weeks, then there's not much point me suggesting remote trails such as the Askja Trail or a DIY exploration of Hornstrandir. The trail nearest to Reykjavik and Keflavik is the Reykjavegur, which is almost exclusively wild-camping, with only one hut. It takes a week to walk and on some days you really need to know where your water is coming from.
Weatherwise... any forecast you read today is only valid for a couple more days. I've had snow in July, and I've been fried to a crisp in July. I've never taken anything but skimpy lightweight kit, and accepted that if it ever got really wild and tent-destroyingly windy, then I'd have to be prepared to alter my plans and move indoors. That's never happened yet, but I guess I'm just lucky. I've seen plenty of people whose tents have been ripped to shreds, but in conditions like that, I just wouldn't pitch a tent.
Publication date for my book... I'll post something on here when I know... and of course I'll do my usual 'Free Draw' for a copy. Might make a nice Christmas present for someone.
I should add...
Mobile phone reception is actually pretty good around Iceland. They're very 'wired' over there, and they've been putting masts on hills in a way that allows for maximum coverage. All the same, if you drop into a deep valley, or turn a rocky corner, you can lose a signal.
I met a hut warden in the middle of nowhere who was tapping away at his laptop, and he told me where the nearest mast was, and how he was able to access the internet. I was later told that the warden was a member of ICE-SAR and had single-handedly re-connected Haiti to the internet after the earthquake!
For anyone heading to Iceland any time soon, meaning this summer, before my guidebook is published, I've put my list of walk and treks online if it helps folk to crystallise their ideas. There are 100 days of walking... and over 1000 miles of trails... so it wouldn't all have fit in a single post here!
I am planning on hiking the Landmannalauger to Þórsmörk next July or August, hopefully staying in the huts there. for an inexperienced hiker how many days worth of hiking would you recommend (I heard it can be done 2-4 days)? are either of the extensions for the hikes good? I am a young backpacker and budget traveller so trying to keep things cheap and exciting. It will also be my first time abroad. Should I fly into reykjavik or another airport? Is there a shuttle or bus of some sort I can take to get to Landmannalauger? i will also be connecting to Faroe Islands (in Denmark) either before or after the trip - if you have any experience with that as well. Hope to get your book when it comes out.
International flights don't land at Reykjavík. The international airport is Keflavík, and it's an expensive bus-ride from the airport to the city. It's also expensive to get a bus to Landmannalaugar, and it's expensive to get a bus away from Þórsmörk. So much for the budget! Marathon runners cover the Laugavegur in as little as 5 hours, experienced walkers take 2 days, and most people take 4 days. Much depends on the weather and how 'inexperienced' you are. I'd recommend any long-distance walker to extend the Laugavegur both ways... starting with an extra 3-day trek, and finishing with an extra 2-day trek. There are several fine day-walks that could be added to that, so that you could spend two weeks on and off the trail.
I haven't been to the Faroe Islands. I understand the scenery is stunning, but there are areas that you aren't allowed to visit... too much private property, compared to Iceland, which is more free-and-easy. You might check out the ferry from Denmark which links the Faroes and Iceland. Maybe it will work out cheaper than flying everywhere. The ferry docks at a remote village in East Iceland, and if you really have set your heart on the Laugavegur, then it's going to be expensive to reach from that side of the country. On the other hand, there's a nice, easy, quiet, scenic hut-to-hut trek you can do northwards from the ferryport. Hardly anyone knows about it, and it ends in a village where a couple of fairly cheap bus rides would get you back to the ferry.
Just to add to Paddy's information from my recent trip.
re: Gas canisters - there were some left in the camping kitchen section of Alex's guesthouse nr the airport - see Paddys link above, 'only' a 30ish min walk,basicaly the first place you come to - along with other bits and pieces. I actually thought I saw someone dump some beer but must have been mistaken! More washing up liquid than tesco in half containers lying around as well. I even saw a cannister lying around the airport at the main check in desk, so it may be worth asking when you arrive or also checking the bit where people jettison their water etc before passport control. Also found one at my guesthouse so def. worth checking before spending dosh. I bought mine at a outdoors shop on the main high st, but I believe Petrol stations sell them cheaper.
One point to note if you are staying at the main campsite in Rekky. It's around a 20min walk to the BSI bus station, maybe longer with a heavy pack The buses don't start till later on the weekend, on Sunday not till around midday for some major routes. Most the of the buses that leave across the country depart at 8ish from the BSI so factor that into your plans. There is left luggage at the BSI bus station, 500K per bag per day (2.50ish), but some places will look after your bags for you if you are coming back to stay with them.
There's a slightly cheaper bus from Keflavik to the BSI bus station www.sbk.is which doesn't call at the blue lagoon, although I don't know if it calls at the airport itself, as I got dropped in Keflavik around 15mins walk from Alex's guesthouse. This was useful around 6pm ish as there wasn't any buses from the BSI till 8pm.
The buses are expensive, if you are going to be based/start in the North or East, it might be cheaper flying internally from the airport in the centre (not Keflavik). On my next trip, I intend to fly to Egilsstaðir and then backtrack ultimately to Reykjavík calling at Jokulsarlon / Skogar en route. A lot of the trips around the Vatnajökull glacier are a fair bit cheaper if you start at Skogar rather than Rekky and don't involve an extra 4h in the bus and consequently more kip.
A final point about the Laugavegur trek maybe worth mentioning is that if you are starting like the majority from Landmannlaguar, a fair amount of the people on the bus with me didn't leave when they got to the start (at 'only' 1pm) but waited till the next day. The very grim campsite at the Hrafntinnusker Hut has a number of stone made windbreaks for tents but by the time we got there (around 7ish, we hung around in the 'spa') they were all occupied. I'm gussing that the others leaving first thing from the start intended to do 2 stages in one day and bypass this place.
We had the same weather that Julia Bradbury did in her programme on the plateau and the camping was a bit of character building exercise - wet black sand trying to get into everything, toilets with a smell that even a seasoned festival goer balked at, and a pretty cold spot as you are 3500ft up. Fantastic scenary though on the way there and really did feel like I was heading off to Mordor.
The SBK buses don't run from the airport. Reykjavík Excursions buses have a monopoly on that run. However, it's not much of a walk from the airport to Keflavík, so anyone staying overnight in town might as well use the cheaper SBK bus service.
Regarding camping at Hrafntinnusker... at least there's no charge for hunkering down among the rocks. I watched some American hikers dig themselves into the snow when I was last up there. Everyone felt a bit sorry for them, but in the morning their tents were really soaking up the sun!
Shame about the Julia Bradbury weather... but at least you completed the walk and didn't bail out with a truck ride. When I first walked the route the weather was absolutely horrendous, and they actually stopped people walking the Laugavegur. Needless to say... I kept going... but I was glad to be able to return and walk the route in excellent weather less than a year later.
Well I did (regrettable) pay to camp at Hrafntinnusker, think it was 5 quid each (ahem), only did so as we signed in the book at the hut and were charged- although it turned out to be located in the porch so didn't need to speak to the Warden in the end.
We didn't also complete the walk, - it was so grim on day 2 when we awoke and our tent had got a bit wet where the pegs had slid overnight in the sand and fly touched inner (another reason to utilise the rock windbreaks so you can tie into the rocks on it) and more excuses,excuses so we turned back and headed back to Landmannalagur. Glad though in retropsect to a certain degree as we managed to get some outstanding views on the way near the start that we missed completely due to the rankness on the way up.
Something to do next time possibly, already making plans for next year. What are days 2,3 like though Paddy in terms of scenary ? - I understand Thorsmork is v.scenic so was wondering whether just to do some trekking from there rather than do the whole trek again and miss out the centre bits of the trail if they are nothing spectactular ?
Shame you didn't get the weather for the Laugavegur. Believe me... I've had worse... but it's worth going back. Next time, keep an eye on the weather and go there as soon as good weather is forecast. That's easy enough to do if you're staying around Reykjavík, Hveragerði, Selfoss, Kirkjubærklauster or Skaftafell, because you can just get the very next bus to Landmannalaugar. It's not the sort of trail where you can arrange everything in advance and expect the weather to be good.
Anyway... Day 2 from Hrafntinnusker to Alftavatn would have been splendid in good weather. Last time I did that, there was good snow cover, which makes the walking much easier, and the views were magnificent. On the other hand, I've done that in howling gales, mist and rain, and without the snow cover the high parts are criss-crossed with confusing gullies... and I wouldn't recommend that to anyone.
If you get back there, it's worth taking a break at Hvangil, between Alftavatn and Emstrur, because there's an excellent short mountain ridge walk, which you can tie in easily with a valley walk and lots of waterfalls. So... if you walk for a couple of hours from Alftavatn to Hvangil, dump most of your gear at the hut, then spend a few hours on the ridge and waterfall walk, then that makes a splendid day.
The walk from Hvangil to Emstrur is mostly very easy gradients, but the day starts with a river crossing that can sometimes be quite difficult. Last time I was there, a party came across the river and were absolutely drenched. Next day, when I crossed the same river, it was knee-deep and no big deal. Anyway, apart from the river, it's an easy day with scenic fells nearby that you don't actually climb. At Emstrur, you HAVE to make the detour to see a deep canyon at Markarfljótsgljúfur. This is only 15 minutes off-route, but even if you walk there from the hut, it's barely half-an-hour. Some Americans said it was more impressive than the Grand Canyon!
The day after Emstrur starts very well, crossing a deep gorge using a tiny footbridge, but later the scenery is less impressive, and it seems to take a while to reach Þórsmörk. Before you get there, you have to ford a glacial river. Last time I forded it, it was pretty easy, but the first time I forded it, it was quite dangerous. If you can't ford it, then you're stuck!
There are lots of walks you can do from Þórsmörk, and the best thing is just to get the local map, the pick routes from a dense network and just go for it. The main thing would be to climb Valahnúkur for the view.
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