Thirty kilometres east of Hekla via the four-wheel-drive F225, Landmannalaugar is an astonishing place, a hot springs area set in a flat gravel plain between a glacial river and the front of a fifteenth-century lava flow. The rugged landscape oozes grandeur, with sharp-peaked rhyolite mountains, brightly streaked in orange, grey and green, rising to a snowy plateau. Despite its proximity to Hekla, the area has provided summer pasture for sheep since medieval times, and was once a stage on back-country routes to the coast when flooding from Katla had closed the preferred coastal trails. Today, hikers have made Landmannalaugar a popular destination in its own right, not least for its position at the start of the exceptional four-day Laugavegur trail down to Þórsmörk, though many campers simply come to enjoy a hot soak amid the wild scenery.

Note that accommodation should be booked as far in advance as possible, and that the area is closed from September to mid-June.

The hot springs

Your first stop at Landmannalaugar has to be the celebrated hot springs, which are in a patch of green at the end of a boardwalk up against the lava front. A scalding stream emerges from underneath the lava and merges with a cold flow; you simply wade up the latter to where they mix, find a spot where the temperature is just right, and sit down up to your neck. You have to keep shifting every time a fellow bather moves, which alters the water currents and temperature, but you couldn’t ask for a better place to unwind. Be aware that some unidentified parasite in the hot pools has caused paralysis in ducks; the effects on humans are unknown but locals certainly don’t care.

 

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Iceland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Hot tub happiness: the dos and don'ts of Icelandic spas

Hot tub happiness: the dos and don'ts of Icelandic spas

Going to a spa in Iceland can feel wonderfully alien. Against a backdrop of barren moonscapes and denuded hills, the waters are so preternaturally blue, so exag…

02 Mar 2018 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

An outdoor soak is an essential part of the Icelandic experience – a surreal way to spend a dark winter's day, or to unkink those muscles after a long day's h…

02 Mar 2018 • David Leffman insert_drive_file Article
Tackling overtourism: where next for Iceland?

Tackling overtourism: where next for Iceland?

Last year, there were six tourists in Iceland for every local. As overtourism becomes an increasingly hot topic, Keith Drew looks at the effects of Iceland’s …

01 Mar 2018 • Keith Drew local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right