Iceland - Hiking around Landmannalaugar

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Reykjavik, Iceland's tiny capital, is a city of low rise, brightly coloured buildings and a surprising mild climate. It is also a hub for transport around the country's main road - the ring road - which circles the island. It is worth spending a few days in Reykjavik to enjoy the view over the ocean, perhaps go whale-watching, and just wander through the streets. I stayed at the Hotel Leifur Eiriksson, a nice clean hotel directly opposite the famous Hallgrímskirkja church (the view below is taken from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja's tower).

Colourful, low rise buildings in Reykjavik
Downtown Reykjavik
Sculpture in Reykjavik
Landmannalaugar
Located in southern Iceland, Landmannalaugar is a centre for outdoor activities and easily accessible by bus from Reykjavik. Iceland's volcanic landscape gives rise to numerous multi-coloured mountains, volcanoes, and hot springs, while the climate means patches of snow are often found on the ground even during summer months.

Frostastaðavatn and Ljótipollur Lakes
The Landmannalaugar campsite is perfectly situated between an old lava field and a wide, open valley, and even has its own on-site hot pool. One of the easier walks in the area is to the well known Lake Ljótipollur ("ugly lake" in Icelandic), which fills a volcanic crater. A good way to reach the lake is to travel along the dirt road north-west from Landmannalaugar then turn off at the signpost for Frostastaðavatn on the left. This small climb takes you to the beautiful lake and avoids walking on the road. From the viewpoint on the rim there are excellent views - on a clear day - towards the Norournamur, which you can also climb as part of this hike.

View from Landmannalaugar campsite

Frostastaðavatn lake
The Earth opens up
Ljótipollur - "Ugly lake"
Descending from the ridge and crossing the road, Ljótipollur is an easy and mostly flat walk. The surrounding rocks range from red to green, and you can see the area's rocky crust as it slowly breaks off and falls into the crater.

Brennisteinsalda and Bláhnúkur
Brennisteinsalda is a famous multi-coloured volcano on the south side of the Landmannalaugar campsite. The volcano is still active and there are steam vents at its foot on the north side. The path from Landmannalaugar is alongside a small river and the one small section of steep scrambling can easily be avoided by taking a detour. The path passes between Brennisteinsalda and its neighbour Bláhnúku, which can also be climbed from this direction.The Brennisteinsalda summit path starts from the east and is well signposted. If you miss it and carry on, you will soon find yourself on the Laugavegur path to Hrafntinnusker!

First view of Brennisteinsalda
View from Brennisteinsalda

Bláhnúkur viewed from Brennisteinsalda
View from Brennisteinsalda
View from Brennisteinsalda's slopes
From the summit there are fantastic views across neighbouring hills and volcanoes, over towards the Laugavegur route, and back over the lava field to Landmannalaugar. Rather than returning to Landmannalaugar the same way, you can descend the south western side of the volcano then walk back through a wide valley and across the lava field.
Looking back towards Landmannalaugar with the old lava field visible on the left


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