Iceland Traverse Hike – North to South

Iceland Traverse Hike – North to South

Iceland Traverse Hike – North to South 300 300 Hiking Blog

14 days

410 km

hard/difficult

4128 m

4390 m

Logo-Iceland-crossing

Crossing Iceland on foot

A 14-day trek across Iceland on the north-south traverse. The trekking tour leads through the volcanic highlands and also follows the well-known Laugevegur.

Experience the Iceland traverse hike with us in our video!

Our stages and maps.

Iceland Traverse Hike – Our summary

The Iceland traverse hike in a north-south direction. There is no continuous long-distance hiking trail. Only in the south do we follow the Laugavegur. The gravel roads in the highlands and the red/yellow marking pegs provide orientation here. Detailed information about the route for our Iceland hike can be found below.
The journey to Reykjahlid (north) and departure from Vik (south) is easily possible by bus. Disembarkation en route is only possible in Nyidalur, Landmannalaugar and Pörsmörk. Unless someone picks you up in a 4x4 jeep along the way. Inquire in good time about bus routes and bus times.
For the 400 km you should be in good physical and above all mental condition. We often hiked 30 km a day. Mountain hiking experience is not a requirement. Be careful when planning your daily stages, this often leads to overconfidence!
You should also take some cash with you on this tour. With 200€ you can get along well if you want to consume a beer (10€) or chocolate bar (3-4€). There are no opportunities to get cash along the way.
Our route for crossing Iceland takes you along fewer places to stop for refreshments. Along the route you will encounter a few mountain huts and campsites. The Nyidalur and Landmanalaugar huts are well equipped. Using the huts (kitchen) always costs money! Likewise if you only want to drink tea in the hut.
You can find more information about specific mountain huts or campsites in our detailed report! As always, you can find the exact locations on our maps. It is expressly pointed out that camping in the national park is prohibited. It is important to us: We leave the bivouac as we found it! An important note about camping, you need good pegs and, above all, a storm-proof tent.
The route is characterized by endless gravel roads, lava fields, snow fields, waterfalls and turquoise glacial rivers. A real wilderness landscape!
Many rivers have to be crossed on the route. Never underestimate traversing the glacial rivers! Some sections of the trail are not marked, and there are no visible footsteps or lanes. Carelessness can be fatal here! Beware of sudden weather changes! There is no drinking water on longer stretches!

Our stages:

  1. Reykjahlid – Myvatn, 11km
  2. River- Dungjufell hut, 32km
  3. Dungjufell hut – stone desert, 27km
  4. Stone desert – Kistufell ermergancy hut, 25km
  5. Kistufell ermergancy hut – river, 32kmm
  6. River – Nyidalur hut, 25km
  7. Nyidalur hut – river, 28km
  8. River – pony farm, 27km
  9. Pony farm – lake Porisvatn, 34km
  10. Lake Porisvatn – border Fjallabak Nature Reserve, 29km
  11. Border Fjallabak Nature Reserve – Landmannalaugar, 15km
  12. Landmannalaugar – Alftavatn, 21km
  13. Alftavatn – Pörsmörk, 31km
  14. Pörsmörk – Skogar, 24km

Many people associate hiking in Iceland with the only 55 km long Laugavegur in the south of Iceland. That’s why we wanted to cross Iceland on foot. As is so often the case, time is a limiting factor. Therefore, the question arose as to which route we should work out for our tour. Aspects such as food, drinking water and orientation were the decisive factors.

Possible route

We didn’t have enough time for an east-west variant (700-900 km). It quickly became clear that we would choose the north-south route (400-550 km). We didn’t want to hike from south to north because the route with the most infrastructure is in the south. This is an advantage if you have already been on the road for many days. Furthermore, it was too risky in terms of time to start at the northernmost tip of Iceland. A suitable entry point was then quickly found, the town of Reykjahlid. So the Iceland traverse hike could be planned.


Our Iceland crossing on foot should be a mixture of cross-country, gravel road and hiking trails. Realizing the Iceland Traverse Hike also means crossing rivers. Some rivers in the central highlands cannot be crossed. Therefore, the routing must be given special attention. The water level of the rivers can also vary greatly. Still passable in the evening and no getting through in the morning. Bridges lead over the big rivers if you follow the gravel roads. Snowmelt can block roads and hiking trails even in early summer. Overall, the tour results from the amount of time that is available and your own condition.

Food issues

Food

Iceland has various hikers’ huts in the highlands (https://www.fi.is/en/mountain-huts). These are often managed by the Iceland Touring Association, others are private. Some huts are looked after on site in summer. However, there is only limited food for a lot of money. We wanted to set up a food depot in Nyidalur. Unfortunately, the Corona Pandemic has meant the end for some bus companies. So we couldn’t send our food surplies by bus for the second half of the tour. Some hikers set up time-consuming depots in which they drive to points on their tour with a rental car or bus. That makes sense, only we didn’t have the time for it. As a result, we had to pack all the food in the backpack.

Drinking water

Because of our hiking experience, we are good at Lightweight backpacking. So we started our Iceland Traverse Hike with 18kg, the food alone weighed 7kg, per person! Another very important point is drinking water! The highlands of Iceland are volcanic and all rainwater disappears into the ground. The Sprengisandur is famous for its dryness. Under unfavorable conditions you need water for up to three days! The uninhabited huts often have “emergency drinking water”. This is filled up by rangers when they pass the hut. The water course of many small rivers can change significantly. The milky glacier water should definitely be filtered. Since it contains no minerals, adding salt is also recommended, otherwise dehydration will set in after days. The section between Askja and Kistufell is particularly dry.

Orientation

For our Iceland crossing hiking our we took copied map material with us for rough orientation. The highlands are criss-crossed by some gravel roads. These are always marked by an “F” and a number. Apart from the Laugavegur in southern Iceland, there are no long-distance trails worth mentioning. So that we could safely hike through Iceland on foot, we used the Garmin (eTrex 32x) for orientation. Logically, we only activated it when we weren’t on the gravel road. It has served us well. Furthermore, wooden pegs with a yellow-red marking can be found along the paths. This was mostly the case. During our north-south crossing on foot, we were often able to orientate ourselves in the open landscape using mountains.

You should be extremely careful when walking across lava stone fields. The ground is often hollow and can cave in or you get stuck with your foot between the stones. What is entered on some maps as a 4x4 route turns out to be a barely recognizable route in reality.

Precautions

If you plan to cross Iceland on foot on your own, then realize that there is almost no infrastructure or people in the highlands. You will find people at some huts or you will meet a car on one of the gravel roads by chance. Before you start you should visit the office of ICE-SAR, the local rescue organization. Here you can get up-to-date information about the situation in the highlands. The office is in the main tourist office in Reykjavík. You can also register on the ICE-SAR website http://safetravel.is/. If dangers arise, you will be contacted via your telephone number. You can also install the 112 Iceland app. In the event of danger, all you have to do is start the app and your signal will be sent directly to the rescue unit.

Hiking across Iceland should not be classified as naive. Hence our urgent advice: plan with caution and be well prepared!

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