Landmannalaugar – The Middle of Nowhere Never Felt So Good

The area known as Landmannalaugar is legendary among Icelanders. Not only is it quite difficult to reach (a big plus according to the Icelandic way of thinking), but it’s also alive with geothermal activity and distinguished by a striking landscape of unreal rhyolite mountains and lava fields.

A History of Warm Wellbeing

The Landmannalaugar area was originally a cherished stopping point for the tired bones of sheepmen from the Landsveit region. They would ride into the interior in the fall to round up their sheep from the highland pastures, a tradition that has remained nearly unchanged for centuries. After a long day of herding through the otherworldly rhyolite mountains, the weary sheepmen would renew their spirits by soaking in the thermal pools with only the starry night sky overhead and only their birthday suits under the water.

Into the Wilderness

The area has since become a recreational wonderland for nature-lovers, hikers and other adventurers. While most visitors aren’t following sheep on horseback anymore, the road to Landmannalaugar is still a thrillseeker’s delight. Coming in from the southwest, travelers delve into a lush, green river valley past waterfalls and a reconstructed Viking-age farm with turf roof and drystack walls.

Leaving the pavement and starting on the mountain road, the green fields outside the windows almost instantly turn to inky black lava fields. These are Iceland’s highlands: stark, expansive and alien. Taking a cue from the landscape, there is often a somber mood that descends on travelers at this point. This awe peaks around the time we ford the river, which, depending on conditions, can be a breathtaking experience. Literally. It’s always surprisingly silent venturing out into the water as we hold our collective breath.

Seeing is Believing

Reaching Landmannalaugar is like coming out on the other side of a dream. The landscape bursts forth with light-colored mountains streaked in surreal colors—red, yellow, orange, green, purple—an unusual feature of rhyolite hillsides. And here we begin our exploration of this dreamworld on foot. Any hike around Landmannalaugar will bring you into remarkable landscapes. Even short walks are rewarded with bubbling mud pots, lava fields, magnificent rhyolite mountains, craters and great hunks of obsidian jutting up from the ground.

After a romp through the wilds of Iceland’s interior, what better way to enjoy Landmannalaugar than to soak in its waters. Like the exhausted sheepherders before you, there’s no better way to stop, relax and reconnect with the world than sitting in the soothing waters of a natural geothermal pool surrounded by unbelievable beauty and calm.

Let ILT take you away to Landmannalaugar and discover just how magnificent the great big middle of nowhere can be.


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