Langisjór – Sveinstindur, Eldgjá and Landmannalaugar

Last year we discovered this region, situated west of the Vatnajökull glacier. The surroundings around the Langisjór lake are very desolate. It feels a bit surreal, it feels like you’re walking on the moon. 🙂 A giant black sand surface, with occasional mountains covered with bright green moss. The contrast between these two is pretty beautiful!

But getting there is not that simple, there is a hiking path from Langisjór to Eldgjá and from Eldgjá there are more options to walk towards Landmannalaugar. So we have to find an alternative route to Langisjór. We decided to let the bus driver drop us off at the intersection of the F208 with an old jeep track to Faxasund. From here we follow the old jeep track to Langisjór.

We are flying to Iceland with Icelandair, which means we have to spend our first night in Reykjavik. The bus to the highlands leaves just too early. We stay in Loki 101 guesthouse, simple but clean and a moderate price. In the morning we walk to the tourist information centre, where the bus to Landmannalaugar leaves. We have chosen for the bus company TREX, normally we take Reykjavik Excursions. But it’s not possible to get back to Reykjavik from Skógar after the 7th of September. We take a hikers pass because, after our hiking trip to Langisjór, we extend our hiking trip together with David. We did the Laugavegur four years ago. But this time we do it in the other direction.

After a long drive, we finally arrive at the Landmannalaugar campsite, we have to wait another three hours for our next bus to Eldgjá with Reykjavik Excursions. Unfortunately, there is a thick fog in the valley so it’s not possible to enjoy the view of the surrounding rhyolite mountains. When our next bus arrives, we inform the bus driver about to drop us off at the intersection. He does not know the correct place immediately, but a colleague knows the place so he can help us. 🙂

This bus ride is a lot shorter, about three-quarter. When the bus suddenly stops in the middle of nowhere, the other passengers wonder why the bus stops. So they are looking a little strange at us when they realise that we are leaving the bus here. The bus driver wishes us luck with our hiking trip. But before our adventure begins, we have to adjust our backpacks a little. We took some fresh food from Reykjavik. The next 17 days will be freeze-dried meals.

Day 1: F208 Faxasund – near Faxasund
Walking hours: 2h
Photo moments: 1h
Distance: 8.5km
Altitude: 185m ascent, 275m descent

It’s quite late when we can start hiking, but our plan is to hike as long as possible. Our plan is to reach lake Langisjór in three days. We walk towards Faxasund, after a while, we pass the first river. We don’t have to ford the river, we can get across of it with the use of some bigger stones. It’s getting darker so we try to find a nice bivouac place. Quite fast we find a suitable place with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and close to a river. When we have set up the tent it’s already dark. So crawl early in our sleeping bag. 🙂

Day 2: Near Faxasund – east of Faxi
Walking hours: 4h
Photo moments: 2h30
Distance: 17km
Altitude: 300m ascent, 300m descent

We wake up with the first sunbeams shining on our tent. When I get up, first I get some fresh water. On my way to the river, a find a perfect spot to photograph the valley. The low-lying clouds in combination with the surrounding mountains are a perfect match for a time-lapse.

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In the meantime, Charlotte is preparing our breakfast, this time we got cruesli with choco milk with us. What a luxury compared to our last hiking trip in Sweden. Then I ate a snack bar for three weeks. The weather is so good that it’s hard to start packing our backpack. 🙂 By noon we have finally loaded our backpacks and are ready to leave.


We are just started and we have to ford the first river of today, we have to ford this river a few times. Because we have to cross a small valley, and the easiest way, is to just follow the river. Now we can test our new trail runners. It’s the first time that we are using them, so no more changing shoes when we have to ford a river. Okay, I admit, after a few river fordings your feet are frozen. But once you’ve been walking for 10 minutes, the trail runners feel comfortable again. After a beautiful hike through the valley, we reach the next river that we have to ford. But before we ford the river, we have our lunch break.  

After the river ford, there follows a short climb through a lava dessert surrounded by imposing moss-covered peaks. Not much later, we arrive at the valley Faxsundsgljúfur, this valley leads out to the glacial river Tungnaá. Here we have to ford a small river. We take a short break to make a panorama. I do not get enough of the beautiful contrast between the bright green moss and the black lava sand. 

Now it’s just a short climb, once we have reached the plateau, we have a beautiful view of the surroundings of Faxasund and Skaftártunguafrétt. We also see the meandering river Tungna. Soon we pass a weather station. According to this weather station, the weather would remain fairly stable the following days. Fingers crossed :). In the distance, we can see a big lake, when we approach it, we see a cabin. We were thinking to camp at this lake, but now we have seen the cabin. We will walk further to the next lake. On our way to the next lake, we pass a deep river. But we can ford it safely because there is almost no current in the river.
[vimeo 195137968 w=750 h=422]195137968

When we arrive at the second lake, we can put our tent everywhere. It’s a big lava sand beach, a perfect surface to place a tent. We have our own beach for tonight. I’ll wait until the sunset. But unfortunately, she is not really spectacular. When the sun is both we both go to sleep.

Day 3: east of Faxi – Sveinstindur
Walking hours: 2h45
Photo moments: 2h
Distance 11.5km
Altitude: 500m ascent, 200m descent

When we get up we are rewarded with a beautiful reflection of the surrounding mountains in the lake. The weather looks not so good today, quite foggy but it is still dry so we do not complain. 🙂 Today we continue through a giant lava sand desert to the lake Langisjór. We are just started with our hike and it starts to rain or is it just the thick fog that feels like rain. 🙂 There is also a strong wind. We are therefore happy when we arrive at Lake Langisjór, we make our lunch ready at the river Hellnaá. Before we continue our journey we fill in our water supply. Because on the top of Sveinstindur we will not find water. 🙂

When we have reached the foot of the Sveinstindur we can hardly see anything through the fog. We are therefore doubtful about what we are going to do, set up the camp down at the foot of the mountain or climb a bit further towards the summit, hoping for better weather. We take the second option so that we are already close to the summit. 🙂 When the weather becomes better. After an hour we find a suitable place where we can set up the tent. We are about ten minutes from the top. I know from last year that there is no possibility to camp on the top of the Sveinstindur. There is a strong wind and there is almost no sight because of the fog. So carefully we place our tent. Then we crawl into our warm sleeping bag. 🙂

Day 4: Sveinstindur – Uxantindar
Walking hours: 3h45
Photo moments: 5h
Distance: 13km
Altitude: 260m ascent, 600m descent

When we get up we can’t believe our eyes, what a great view we have today! Unfortunately, the top of the Sveinstindur is still in the fog. While we have breakfast, we are hoping that the fog will disappear. While Charlotte is making some coffee, I take the time to photograph.

[vimeo 195137984 w=750 h=422]

[vimeo 195138000 w=750 h=422]

For a moment it looks like the fog is disappearing, but on our way to the top, we notice that the view is as good as nothing. Unfortunately, last year we had a beautiful view of the summit, below some pictures of last year. We will return to the tent.

WWhen we are back at the tent, we’ll start packing our backpacks. Once we are ready we start with the descent. During the descent we meet an Icelandic woman, speaking to us in Icelandic. She soon realised that we don’t understand her. She is therefore surprised to meet foreigners over here. 🙂 The region is not so famous for non-Icelanders, we are very happy that we discovered this region last year. 🙂 After a short chat we walk further, so she can enjoy the view from the top of the Sveinstindur. We follow her advice to take another route to the Sveinstindur cabin. This way is more beautiful than the one we wanted to take. Through a steep slope, we descend to the hut, if you want to do this route in the earlier summer, pay attention that there will be a lot of melting snow. We are walking right next to a stream. When we arrive at the hut we take a short break, there are three Jeeps but around the cabin, there is no one.

After the break, we walk towards the glacier river Skaftá, once we have reached the river we make our lunch ready. Just when we have finished our meal it starts to rain, so it’s time to walk further. 🙂 The terrain has been completely changed compared to the previous days, from a desolate rough landscape to a fairy tale moss landscape. The contrast between the moss and the black landscape is even more intense by the rain. In the distance, we can hear a loud noise, after a while, we know where the noise is coming from. The Skaftá river bends here for almost 90 degrees, the river has clearly left its marks in the landscape.

After a short climb we reach a higher plateau, the mountain Uxatindar is already in sight. At the foot of the mountain there is a lake, here we hope to camp this night. We soon arrive at the valley Hvanngil, as you can see it’s a beautiful valley. We take the time to enjoy this beautiful view. In our travel guide, there are two routes, both have an unclear description. So we have to choose which route looks the best. We decide to follow the red route as I subscribed to the pictures.

The descent into the valley goes smoothly, and immediately there is a first flow of water. Again, we are not experiencing any problem. But then the misery begins! In the beginning, everything is fine, it’s still fun. Shoes under the lubrication but we can laugh about it. 🙂 Until we have to go through the last river when I just want to put my foot back on the shore, I’m falling hip deep in the quicksand. But I’m fine, I can pull me out of the quicksand with my upper body on the shore. Charlotte happily finds a better place to cross. We only come to realise that the slope along the river is a lot is steeper than we thought. After a lot of struggle, we can safely cross this steep slope. But neither of us found this a pleasant passage, both frightened to slide out and fall into the water. We are therefore relieved when we both have a solid surface under our feet. This passage has cost us so much energy that we need to take a moment. We never thought that this beautiful valley would be such a difficult obstacle. There was no mention of the presence of quicksand in the guide. The yellow route I signed up seems to be a bit safer.

Through a short but steep climb, we leave the valley. Now we get a better view of the lake near Uxatindar. And as we had hoped, there is a perfect place to set up our tent. I take a moment to take a panorama, what a beautiful view. We have already forgotten our frustrations about the quicksand. Through an easy descent, we walk to the lake at the foot of the Uxatindar. Soon we find a good bivouac spot with a beautiful view of the Uxatindar and the lake. Immediately one of my most beautiful bivouac spots of this trip. After such an exhausting day, we are happy when we can crawl into our sleeping bag.

Day 5: Uxantindar – Gjátindur
Walking hours: 4h30
Photo moments: 4h
Distance: 16,5km
Altitude: 750m ascent, 515m descent

In the morning we are rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake and the Uxatindar, we have a beautiful reflection in the lake. We pack our backpack and start to follow the right bank of the lake. Once we arrive at the end of the lake we walk towards the narrow gorge of Uxatindagljúfur. Through a winding path we are climbing out the gorge, we have to ford the river several times. Towards the end, the gap becomes narrower and narrower. At one point we will continue to walk in the river bed, our trail runners are already been soaked wet from yesterday and we can keep a good pace.

When we arrive at the end of the gorge Uxatindagljúfur, we take a short break. We now have a beautiful view on the mountain Uxatindar, in the distance, we see a glimpse of the Sveinstindur. After a short walk, we pass the beautiful viewpoint of Biðill. Here, therefore, we take a break to make a panorama. 🙂

We are following an unclear path, but soon the path disappears. We then set course on the nearby jeep track so we don’t have to walk every hill up and down. The jeep track is usually the easiest way through the landscape. 🙂 After a while, we find a shorter route to Skælingar. Over a hillside, we descend to the valley Stóragil. Here we follow the river to the cabin Skælingar. A large group is busy unloading some jeeps, so we decide to walk further. We are heading to Gjátindur mountain peak, at the beginning we follow a jeep track. But soon we leave the road, we follow a blurred path towards the top. In the beginning, there are sporadic some yellow wings, but suddenly we lose sight of it. Earlier we encountered some who were fallen down. But in the distance we see yellow piles again, we set back course in the right direction. Even we arrive at a fairly steep point but we can pass it safely. From here we are back on the marked route. Not much later we arrive at a viewpoint on the Eldgjá valley. Eldgjá is the world’s largest volcanic canyon, about 40 km long, 270 meters deep and 600 meters wide. We take a short break to enjoy the view. 🙂

The view is phenomenal, at the end of the canyon I asked Charlotte to marry me last year. Meanwhile, we are happily married, the more a reason to pass by the waterfall Ófærufoss. After the break, there is still a long climb to the mountain peak Gjátindur. We try to keep a solid pace, we hope to reach the summit before the sunset. When we approach the top, we find a good place to set up our tent. Just when we are ready for setting up the tent, the sun begins to go down. What a beautiful sunset, which unfortunately does not happen a lot in the highlands. 🙂 It’s really cold over here, so it does not take long before we crawl into our sleeping bag. During the night I check the sky for the Northern lights, but there is only a Milky Way visible. I managed to make a photo before I crawl back into my warm sleeping bag.

Day 6: Gjátindur – river Syðri-Ófæra
Walking hours: 5u
Photo moments: 2u30
Distance: 20km
Altitude: 700m ascent, 975m descent

In the morning when we get up the tent is frozen. The wind makes it pretty cold, but we still want to walk up to the top. The view is not as good as yesterday, it looks like it’s gonna rain today. When we are back at our tent we pack our backpacks. Just once we are ready to start with the descent it starts to rain.

Carefully we descend to the viewpoint from yesterday. At some places, the ground is frozen. Once we are at the viewpoint we have two options, or we follow the plateau, or we will descend into the canyon of Eldgjá itself and from there we walk through the canyon to the waterfall Ófærufoss. We choose the second option, the descent goes really fast, in a couple of minutes, we have passed the lava sand slope. From here we follow a dry riverbed, soon we reach the waterfall. Here we take a short break, we are surprised that we are alone at the moment. I quickly take a picture with an ND filter. My photo material is just back in the backpack and the first tourists are coming towards us. 🙂

Via a clear path, we continue to Eldgjá’s info centre, where you can also find a toilet. It’s always nice to use a normal toilet. 🙂 At those moments you appreciate the simple things that are normal in your daily life:) Via the map we navigate to the point Kvíslarholmar. Via a beautiful path along the banks of the river Nyrðri-Ofæra, while we are walking we see an otter catch a fish that is twice as big as himself. With a bridge, we cross the river Nyrðri-Ofæra. Here we have our lunch break, here we have plenty of water. So here we prepare our hot meal.

After the break we follow a clear path, soon the path breaks into several paths. We already have the idea that these paths are created by the sheep. But it is not hard to navigate here. We are navigating towards the mountain Mórauðavatnshnúkar. The terrain is a little bit boring, the only thing that we see is moss. After a while, we are both tired. But since there is no water available here, we need to move further. Eventually, we reach the foot of the first nameless top. Here we hoped to find a river but unfortunately.

Now we start to descend towards a large sand desert, where there is a river. We take fresh water. So we have the opportunity to set up the tent if we pass a beautiful place. We don’t want to camp on the sand plain, there is a grisly atmosphere. We have to ford the river before we can cross the sand desert. Once we have passed the river we find some possible bivouac sites. But we decide to cross the mountain range and continue towards the river Syðri-Ófæra. On the mountain pass, we take a short break to make a panorama. Then we descend towards the valley, quite quickly we find a perfect place to set up our tent. Tonight we can sleep both, there is no chance that we will see the Northern lights tonight.

Day 7: river Syðri-Ófæra – Strútslaug
Walking hours: 3u
Photo moments: 2u30
Distance: 12,5km
Altitude: 275m ascent, 175m descent

When we get up, there is a low-lying cloud formation, but when we are ready with our breakfast the clouds are almost gone. I think it will be a sunny day today. Immediately we have to ford the river Syðri-Ófæra. A fairly wide river with a strong current. After we have forded the river we start with the climb towards the mountain range of the Svartahnúksfjöll. When we are almost above we see a clear path. Not much later, we’ll take a break to enjoy the view.

From now on, the path goes up and down through the landscape. At one point we pass a beautiful little valley that is covered with moss. There are intact raindrops laying on the moss, a nice photo moment. 🙂 Soon we arrive at a beautiful viewpoint, the glacier Torfajökull is visible for the first time. A panorama will certainly come true. After the short break, we descend to the valley of Ofærudalur. Again we are walking back along the river Syðri-Ófæra. This valley would be perfect to set up our tent. But the hot springs of Strútslaug are calling us. 🙂

We begin with the last climb of today and soon the mountain Strútur comes in sight. Not much later we get a beautiful view of the lake Hólmsárlón, Strútur and Hólmsárbotnar. In the distance, we can see some fumaroles. So, the hot springs can’t be far away. 🙂 When we arrive at the hot spring we are alone. So as quickly as possible we set up our tent and go into the hot spring 🙂 What a blissful feeling a warm bath, and it’s so quiet over here. Landmannalaugar’s hot spring is more proper, there are more algae in this hot spring. But it doesn’t matter for us.

In the afternoon two other hikers join us, Christopher and Élodie. He is from Austria, She is from Luxembourg but they now live together in Paris. We have a nice chat in the hot spring. We talk about each other’s hiking plans for the coming days. Originally they wanted to hike to Landmannalaugar via Álftavatn. But after hearing our plans, they are thinking to do the same. Especially that this route is going through a remote part of Landmannalaugar, appeals to them very much. And this route will be a lot quieter than the Laugavegur.
and it will be a bit quieter than on the Laugavegur. Fairly late
we crawl into our sleeping bag, not knowing what we are going to do tomorrow. If we stay for another night, we’ll enjoy the hot spring for one more day. 🙂 We still have enough days to get to Landmannalaugar.

Day 8: Strútslaug ( rest day ) 

In the morning when we get up, we both have the same opinion when we look outside the tent. Today we take a day off, there is almost no visibility because of the dense fog. We can barely see the hot spring that is just 10 metres from our tent.
We first thought to hike towards the mountain Strútur. But since sight is nihil, it makes no sense to climb to the top. And an extra day in the hot spring sounds great. 🙂 Christopher and Élodie are going to do the same, they also decided to take the same route as us to Landmannalaugar. In the evening, the weather is changing, hopefully, that’s a good sign for tomorrow. Then we would like to hike towards the border of the ‘National Reserve Landmannalaugar’. Just before we are going to sleep, I climb a little higher to take some pictures of the valley during the sunset.

Since there are almost no clouds when we go to sleep, I set my alarm to see if there is any Northern light. And yes we are lucky, there are some Northern lights present but behind the clouds in the valley of Ofærudalur, where we were walking yesterday. Perhaps we have more luck during the following nights. 🙂

Day 9: Strútslaug – border of Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve
Walking hours: 3h
Photo moments: 3h
Distance: 10km
Altitude: 525m ascent, 365m descent

In the morning when we get up there is an ice cold breeze, so we make our backpacks as quickly as possible. So we can start hiking because it’s too cold to stand still outside the tent. Christopher and Élodie would like to walk with us but they are still not ready to leave. But we will see each other later today, as we walk in the same direction and want to camp at the same place. We are going to bivouac just before the border of the Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve. Once we are hiking, we are looking for an old cabin not far from here. It would be somewhere on the mountain flank of the Laugarháls.

Pretty soon we find the dilapidated cabin, there is a myth that it was built by someone from the United Kingdom. It was built tens of years ago, as shown in the picture it is now completely expired. There is a lot of construction trash in the area. 🙁 We follow the mountain flank further towards the river Syðri-Ófæra.

Once we have reached the river, we follow the riverbank towards the valley Muggudalir. In this valley we take a short break, just when we want to leave, Christopher and Élodie pass us. They will try to follow the route on the map, but there are no clear paths over here. 🙂 We have a different route, the one that goes through the valley. Gradually, we climb further through this beautiful valley.

After a while, we leave the valley and immediately we see Christopher and Élodie walking on the other side of the valley. They have to cross some steep snowfields, we have clearly chosen for the safer route. We take a short break to enjoy the view and take a panorama of this beautiful valley. We climb further towards the mountain pass, not much later we pass a small stream. Where we take some extra water. We are not sure that the water at the bivouac place is drinkable because of the geothermal nature of this region. We begin with the descent through this beautiful valley towards the bivouac place. On the way, we pass a big snowfield. We have just arrived at the bivouac place when we see Christopher and Élodie already appearing in the distance. So we are looking for a suitable place to set up two tents.

While Charlotte is preparing our dinner, I’m going to take some photos. We have a beautiful view of Landmannalaugar and the glacier Torfajökull. After eating, we crawl into our sleeping bag. Tonight I want to get up, there are almost no clouds when we go to sleep. It’s a new moon and we have a KP index of five so there is a good chance to see the Northern lights tonight.

I decide to stay awake, just waiting in my sleeping bag. So I do not get it cold. And yes, it’s just astronomically dark and I see the first signs of the Northern lights appear. I wake up Charlotte before I go outside with my camera. Charlotte also makes Christopher and Élodie awake, they certainly do not want to miss this spectacle. After two hours I crawl back into my sleeping bag. It takes a while before I get it warm. But it was definitely worth it! 🙂

For those who do not know it when you click on the photo, they enlarge in a gallery. 🙂

Day 10: Border of Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve – Landmannalaugar campground
Walking hours: 6h
Photo moments: 4h
Distance: 18km
Altitude: 725m ascent, 900m descent

In the morning everything takes a little bit longer, we have breakfast inside the tent. When we are finished with our breakfast we begin to pack our backpacks. Today we want to walk to Landmannalaugar together with Christopher and Élodie. Around eleven we are ready to leave.

We try to find the route that’s on the map. But it seems to be that it’s not the best route. First, we have to cross a river, then we gradually climb over a mountain flank. Not much later we have a beautiful view of Landmannalaugar and the surrounding valleys. Here we also come to the decision, that we have made a serious detour. We can see our bivouac place at the foot of the mountain. Luckily the hike was worth it. 🙂 Here we take a break to make a panorama. Christopher looks for a good route on the map, we are heading towards Sveinsgil.

We try to find the best way through the rhyolite landscape. The hill up and down … each time we get a better view of the Sveinsgil. This valley is immediately recognisable into the landscape, the colour of one of the mountains is azure. At one point we arrive at a beautiful viewpoint, here we have our lunch break. We do not pause too long because it’s still a long way to Landmannalaugar. And the terrain will not be simpler until we are at the valley Hattver.

After several passages on snowfields, we begin to get closer to the valley of Sveinsgil. Not much later we get the river that runs through the valley of Sveinsgil in sight. There is one more steep descent to the valley. This year a fatal accident happened in this valley. A Frenchman slipped out when he was crossing the river on a snow bridge. I felt under the snow bridge. More than 200 aid workers helped with the rescue operation. We have to ford this river, there is a strong current in the river. But we get all four safely across the river. Now we just have to climb a small hill that lies between us and the valley Jökulgil. We choose the mountain flank on the left side of the Sveinsgil. The climb goes very well but the descent is more difficult than we hoped. The descent is pretty steep, slippery. At the end of the descent, there is a snowfield. I can pass it safely but I notice that it is extremely thin on the last few meters. Because I try to push away the thin pieces, the whole snowfield drops about thirty centimetres. But luckily nobody was on the snowfield. 🙂 Minutes later all four of us are standing in the valley Jökulgil.

Now the fun can start, Christopher and Élodie put their wading on. Several times we have to ford the river Jökulgilskvisl. But everything goes smoothly. The combination of light rain and sun creates a beautiful rainbow in the valley. 🙂 Not much later we arrive at Hattver, here we turn right to the Skalli mountain peak.

Because of the sun, the colour of the rhyolite mountains is even more beautiful. First, we have to climb a steep hill before we arrive at a narrow ridge, for those with fear of height, I wouldn’t recommend this ridge walk. At one point the ridge is as wide as two feet next to each other. I would also not do this part when there is a lot of wind, rain or fog. Because then it can be slippery. One false step can be enough to make a deadly fall. But we’re lucky, we’re just getting off the ridge when the weather is changing. I rush to make a panorama of the surroundings. Because this is phenomenally beautiful, what a rough landscape!

We have to climb a little bit further until we are on the signposted route, a route that goes from Landmannalaugar to Skalli in a loop. We take the NE route to Landmannalaugar. This seems to us the shortest, it was already a long tiring day, and it’s getting darker. After a long descent, we take a short break at Reykjakollur. Now it is to so far to the campsite of Landmannalaugar. When the sun is just gone we arrive at the campsite. We are immediately disturbed because of the bragging generators and the crowds. Here we will have to stay for three nights. Within two days, David arrives, to hike the Laugavegur together with us.


Here you can find the gps track.

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