By Michael Lanza
We follow the trail upward through innumerable, short switchbacks to the summit of a battleship-gray, steep-sided peak called Bláhnúkur in the remote Fjallabak Nature Reserve of Iceland’s Central Highlands, one of the most active geothermal areas on Earth. At the summit, we turn a slow 360, gaping at a mind-boggling, kaleidoscopic landscape painted in more colors than there are probably species of plant life on the volcanic slopes surrounding us. An old, hardened lava flow pours down one mountainside in a jumbled train wreck of razor-sharp black rhyolite. Barren peaks and ridges wearing the white splotches of July snowfields reach to every horizon.
I’ve come with my wife and our college-age son and daughter to spend six days trekking hut to hut on the roughly 54k/33-mile Laugavegur Trail followed immediately by the 25k/15.5-mile Fimmvörðuháls Trail—a trip I’ve wanted to take with my family since I first set foot in this place on another raw, windy, and wet July day 16 years ago.
It has been my considerable good fortune to have hiked many of America’s and the world’s great trails over the past three-plus decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.
But very few, if any, compare with the world-famous Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails—where every day presents fresh, new, jaw-dropping vistas ranging from highlands littered with steaming hot springs and fumaroles to river valleys and small, starkly barren peaks, some of them vividly green despite their lack of vegetation more than calf-high, a high plateau carpeted with snow and black lava rock, and a river with more thunderous waterfalls than I have ever seen in one day on one trail.
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But I will let the photos in this story speak to the scenery on these two trails.
The photo gallery below includes some favorite images from the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails. Click on the gallery to open it and use right and left arrow keys to scroll through it.
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Watch for my upcoming feature story about our hut trek on the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails. Meanwhile, see my story about my first trip to Iceland, “15 Adventures on Earth That Will Change Your Life,” “My Top 10 Adventure Trips,” “The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips,” and all stories about international adventures at The Big Outside.
I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable hiking and backpacking adventures. Want my help with yours? See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn more.