As promised in a previous post, here’s a guide to help you prepare for hiking the Laugavegur trail (or Laugavegurinn) in Iceland. National Geographic named this trek one of the Top 20 World’s Best Hiking Trails, and for good reason. WSJ also featured the trail in an article from 2014. We had bought our plane tickets to Reykjavik and had to decide if we were going to drive around Iceland’s Ring Road or walk the Laugavegur. We chose walking, of course.
“Walking… is how the body measures itself against the earth.” — Rebecca Solnit
Me, traveling to other worlds to find you.
At about 34 miles (55km) long, Iceland’s Laugavegur trek takes you through everything you could have dreamed that Middle Earth would have looked like. Most travelers start in Landmannalaugar and end in Þórsmörk (Thorsmork), although you can also opt to trek the other way. Who wouldn’t want to visit a place called “Thor’s Wood”? The scenery is incredible. I previously wrote: just when you think the last landscape you crossed *had* to be the MOST-BEAUTIFUL-and-best-thing-on-this-earth and there is no way anything can top it — a new one comes into view and takes your breath away.
On the banks of the lake
I would suggest allocating 4-5 days for the Laugavegur trail. There is an optional final leg from Þórsmörk to Skógar, which we skipped because we were limited on time (and we heard that the terrain is much more difficult). There are only 2-3 months out of the year during which it is possible to hike the Laugavegur trail (another reason to reserve accommodation ahead of time, since it will be in demand during the hiking months). Outside of mid-June through mid-September, the roads leading to and from the trail are impassible and buses do not run. Residual snow may make this trek difficult even in June. We played it safe by planning our trip towards the end of July/beginning of August. Definitely research snow/weather conditions before your hike to ensure a safe trip!
(I have included a complete gear list later in this post.)
reprise (see notes on traveling with a backpack from 2013 — all of which still held true this time, too!)
thoughts on hiking/backpacking, unedited.
- are you a little bit afraid of what lies ahead? good, that means you’re doing the work you need to do.
- gorge yourself on all the online personal accounts of what it’s like to hike a trail. then forget it all, because it will be different for you.
- have hope for the future. anticipate it. but don’t let it stop you from enjoying the present.
- learn to improvise.
- go at your own pace if possible. this is not a competition.
- your body will be different as you get older. listen to it, it’s ok if walking takes longer. be kind to yourself.
- rocks are very useful for holding tent stakes down.
- always bring a snack. practice making it last longer. save some for the uphill climbs.
- i’ve never had short hair while completing a thru-trail hike until now, and it is AWESOME. no dreads this time, +++
- perform small rituals to grow as a person. here, while out of the way of connectivity with the world, take the time to connect with yourself.
- hiking to lose weight never works because afterward all you want is cookies and cake and you also feel like “f*ck it, I deserve it”
- meet other travelers. talk to them. learn things about the land, the country, the animals (or lack thereof). ask questions.
- bring a notebook. write your thoughts down.
- read at night. it feels like a luxury.
- don’t be too proud to ask for help.
- if you can’t sleep, it’s still pretty amazing to walk outside at 3am and see nothing but land and sky and remaining (or impending) light.
- don’t drink too much water before bed because it might be freezing outside and you’ll have to suffer the “do i get out of my sleeping bag or hold it?” dilemma.
- note to self: a fanny pack would be really awesome next time.
- pack less than you want to. but recognize the small luxuries that will be worth their weight.
- you will not feel clean. and that’s ok.
- bring really good socks of different colors. even when dusty, they will make you happy. and you’ll be able to tell them apart!
- don’t worry, everyone else’s socks smell just like yours do.
- don’t be anxious, be prepared.
- wear your f-in’ sunscreen!
- keep your receipts.
- figure out the humidity so you know how quickly (or slowly) your stuff will dry.
- indulge when it’s in front of you. cake is cake. you quickly learn the value of cake when it’s offered to you in the middle of nowhere.
- ziploc bags are super-duper handy.
- go with someone you love talking to, but with whom you can also be silent comfortably.
- … preferably also someone who will belt out Disney songs with you on the last stretch!
- have a reward waiting for you. a meal, a song, dessert, puffins, cartwheels, whatever floats your boat.
- put down your backpack when you arrive at camp. go for a walk, and marvel at how light you feel.
- just when you think the last landscape *had* to be the MOST-BEAUTIFUL-and-best-thing-on-this-earth and there is no way anything can top it — a new one comes into view and takes your breath away. meaning, it will all be ok. leave your past behind you. take a photo. remember it, carry it with you because you are human and to be human means you must carry it. but go forward, knowing that the next turn will bring you joy and be every bit as beautiful in a different way.