Landmannalaugar is a volcanic hotspot in the country’s southern highlands. Rhyolite rock and geothermal gases interact to create the multicoloured mountains that are the hallmark of Landmannalaugar.
Driving there is difficult; the road is difficult for a car, but a jeep handles the bumpy route considerably better. There are three roads that lead to Landmannalaugar, and since each one requires crossing a river, be sure your car is 4×4 and watertight. You ride might be smoother if you let half the air out of your tyres. Only do this if you are sure you can inflate them again.
The Landmannalaugar mountains are situated in an area called “Fjallabak” meaning behind the mountains. This illustrates the remoteness of the area. The Landmannalaugar area is a geothermal hotspot and has seen a lot of volcanic activity. There are many steam vents, which give the mountains a unique appearance.
The unique quality which make this area famous is the colour of the mountains. There are many different shades and colours and the mountains appear as if they have been painted.
There is a naturally heated bathing area in the middle of the Landmannalaugar campsite. This is totally natural and it can be strange to be swimming with the wildfowl. Apart from a few birds and the mossy vegetation, the area is void of life. The water is undrinkable due to the geothermal properties. The most abundant form of life is the campers, photographers and hikers who frequent the hills. For the fit adventurer there is a famous 4 day hike from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. For the semi fit photographer, there are several hiking routes from the campsite to the summits of each surrounding mountain.
The featured photograph was taken from the top of the red mountain which can be see from the campsite. A popular route to this spot is up and through the Lava Field that towers over the campsite building. The trek through the lava field has photo opportunities in all directions. Lava is tricky to compose, but there are plenty of good foreground opportunities, try using a 50mm in the lava field because the background mountains are not so high. Also be sure to stick to the path because the Lava is extremely tricky to traverse and could lead to injury.
The hike to the top of Red Mountain is about an hour from the Landmannalaugar Campsite.
Where to Stay
There is a campsite offering cooking and cleaning facilities right in the middle of the park. If you are not keen on camping, I would recommend staying at the Highland Centre Hrauneyri. This busy traveller centre offers private and shared accommodation as well as a restaurant serving Icelandic food & snacks. They also have a gas station & compressed air.
Hrauneyri Highland Centre
The highland centre has a good range of overnight accommodation, from shared to private bathrooms. Breakfast buffet & restaurant are also good.
Landmannalaugar is a hiking area, so be prepared with good walking boots, hat, gloves and waterproofs. A lightweight tripod or mono-pod is convenient. Do take notice of weather warnings and keep to established paths. You will be rewarded with great wide-angle vistas and incredible telephoto scenes. The main challenge is hiking with enough lenses to cover several focal lengths, a good tripod and waterproof clothing for surprise weather without breaking your back.
In most cases a 24mm lens will work. Mountains are big and fill the frame at 24mm. But, it would be a shame o visit the Landmannalaugar mountains without some sort of telephoto. You don’t really want to hike with a 400mm f/2.8. Something like the 70-200mm would be suitable.
Best times to visit
Winter: It may be possible to visit Landmannalaugar in the Winter, this requires either serious team of 4×4 Super Jeeps or an experienced Skidoo team. But really you are missing the colours, but I have never been so I don’t know what I am missing. If you want to see Landmannalaugar in the Winter, it can be arranged – at a cost.
The roads leading to Landmannalaugar are completely closed during the melting season. During this vulnerable time, any cars using the roads have the potential to seriously harm them. Anybody breaking this rule faces steep fines.
The roads open around mid June. If you can get in during these first few weeks you will see beautiful snow patterns on the mountains. The Landmannalaugar mountains are beautiful on their own, but having delicate snow patterns adds even more magic. Later in the Summer the snow is gone, but is replaced with Cotton Grass. In general, the roads are in much worse condition towards the end of the Summer.
If you can access the park in September, you could see the Northern Lights over those beautiful mountains.
Here, you can book a tour online. The road usually opens around mid-June – September.