Iceland - Laugavegur
The finest trek in the world (August 2017) - map
Laugavegur is the name of the most popular trek in Iceland. I can humbly say that it is the most beautiful of those I visited so far. It surpasses others mainly due to its incredible diversity - in a few days you meet hot springs, the most colourful mountains in the world, glaciers, lava fields, the greenest moss on Earth, black desert, meadows full of flowers, deep canyons and tens of waterfalls. The terrain is easy to go, it is the weather that can dramatically change it from a simple walk to fight for life. And indeed, every few years someone dies there. We had an incredible luck, it rained only for about ten minutes during the whole week in Iceland.
We roll in the bus into the Icelandic inland in a bad mood. It's drizzling the whole way, vegetation disappeared, we're surrounded only by a black desert. No one wants to leave the bus after our arrival to Landmannalaugar - the centre of the Rainbow Mountains. We accidentally pay about twenty times more for accommodation in the local campsite and the staff apologizes for an error and says that they will try to put the money back to my account. However, we do not want to risk these situations anymore and we always stay in the wilderness since.
Both evening and morning photography sessions suck, the landscape, however, is incredible. We're surrounded by the most colourful mountains on Earth, interspersed with hot springs and meadows full of flowers. We can see an incredible number of phalli all around. A true paradise for us, the real men and photographers. At the end, I regret that we leave this area the next morning right after the bath in a hot spring. I would certainly stay longer next time.
We leave the Rainbow Mountains after a few hours walk and so we leave the crowds of easy-peasy-backpackers coming to this area for a one-day bus trip. Through the black lava field, we enter the Icelandic highlands. There's only a few moss left on the ground, mostly where hot springs are, but its green colour surpasses the one of the whole Amazonia. A fresh wind starts to blow, luckily to our back. It's pretty cold and windy at the first campsite, so we skip it in hope to find a more friendly place to stay overnight.
We're amazed by an incredible view to lake Álftavatn surrounded by ancient volcanoes, once we're on the edge of the highland. The landscape completely changes for the third time this day. We spent almost two hours building a stone shelter on the slope to be protected from the wind, however it does not work and we are unable to build our tent here. We descent to the valley below in the coming darkness and manage to find a tiny calm place for the campsite. I'm completely exhausted and I hardly enter the tent leaving the dinner preparation on my friend. At least I have enough energy in the morning to climb up again and take pictures of the gorgeous view again.
During the first river crossing, we meet our friend Milan. Milan is a well-trained superman, who walks the route in the opposite direction. He plans to finish the trek at noon this day. Instead of normal 5 days walk, it takes him 36 hours to finish it. Milan becomes our hero for the rest of the trip. A few hours later we try to hide behind the shelter at Álftavatn lake to eat at least. The people from all campsites on the way say, that they could not sleep at night because of the strong wind.
The character of the landscape changes again. We enter a black flat desert without any vegetation. We're surrounded by several sand storms. Even when not hit by any, our eyes and all other places on our bodies are soon covered by lava sand. It's so hot, that we welcome all the icy cold river crossings. We reach the end of the black desert after few hours walk and suddenly an incredible view appears with green hills and two glaciers on the horizon. We have to sneak through them to get to the coast.
We visit an anonymous canyon, quite comparable to Grand Canyon in Arizona. Then we seek for a place to sleep again for almost two hours. The third morning on the trip is windless, so we become really lazy and enjoy the heat. We descend slowly to Thórsmork, or Thór's forest - the largest forested area in Iceland. Thórsmork is also the favourite weekend destination for Icelanders. Therefore you can see the biggest off-road cars in the whole island here.
The exposure of the Thórsmork landscape is absolutely breathtaking. It's like if an ancient giant smashed a huge piece of black ice cream on the ground and powdered it with green moss. We spend the afternoon by climbing up one of the canyons in hope to take some sunrise pictures and to make the next day shorter. Instead of the rising sun, we are woken up much later by the first hikers passing around our tent. The rest of the climb to the pass in about one thousand meters is easy. We can see almost the whole route when looking back from the pass. The way to the seacoast begins as the most boring part of the whole trek, however, as we descend, the river which we follow becomes stronger and first waterfalls appear. The following incredible waterfall series is finished by famous Skógafoss where we appear in the middle of a huge crowd after days of relative solitude. The toilets on the parking place mark the end point of our trek.
The last two days, we just hang around the south coast. On Dyrhólaey we spend hours taking pictures of puffins. It's pretty difficult as they're incredibly fast.
We sleep at the seacoast near Keflavík airport the night before departure. Pepa wakes me up at three o'clock by telling me that there's a good chance to see Aurora Borealis, which is quite rare this time of the year. Finally, we stay on a cliff above the sea, watching and photographing the beautiful theatre while we mention two or three whales right below us - one of them can be seen as a spot on the picture below. It's an incredible moment and the best ending of our trip. Hope to see you again, Iceland.