Hiking in Þórsmörk | One of the Best Hiking Routes in the World

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When we say that it is a land of incredibly beautiful hot springs, lava fields, lush green plains, notorious volcanoes, rich oases, powerful rivers, black desserts, and glorious glaciers, we are not talking about Iceland in its entirety. All this magnificence can be found in the beautiful little valley of Þórsmörk. Ideally fitted in the midst of highlands surrounded Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull glacier, Þórsmörk or Thorsmork is the most popular hiking grounds of the country and can be experienced to the fullest on a single-day tour as well as multi-day tours – that’s all about the versatility of experience that it offers to the tourists. As evident, the beautiful geology and visuals of the country attract countless adventurers, nature lovers, bird enthusiasts, photographers looking for a snazzy location for their nature photography and not to mention – the avid readers of Norse mythology and Avengers fans. 

Þórsmörk in the highlands of Iceland

Tours to Þórsmörk

Thor’s Forest – Thorsmork

Þórsmörk or Thorsmork is named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor. Thor is the son of Odin, the king of Asgard and all the Norse Gods. He is widely known for his magical hammer – the Mjölnir. Although Iceland is a Christian country predominantly, most people still take on Vikings and Norse gods as their heritage. Þórsmörk is quite endowed with forest lands and wood areas. There are over 170 species of plants that can be found in this rich, green area which is basically a jackpot for all botanists out there, and the fact that horses and sheep have been grazing in the area for over a hundred years also made a significant contribution to the flourishment of the land. Strictly speaking, Þórsmörk is just a valley and a mountain range between rivers Krossá, Þröngá, and Markarfljót. But when locals talk about Þórsmörk they generally include the aforementioned area along with the area that surrounds the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano as well which means that the tours, trips, and hikes offered by the tour companies that you will take to Þórsmörk will include the hikes and attractions in the valley as well the nearby areas.

What is the Landscape Like?

Þórsmörk valley is the ruler of contrasting views and huge unique vistas with white foamy rivers crossing the black sand desserts creating visuals that can be seen nowhere else in the world. The valley itself is covered in a variety of vegetation such as ferns, moss, and birchwood, each one with several differentiating species. The horizon is covered with jagged mountain tops with a black exterior covered in moss and glaciers in the background covered with electric blue and white ice. Several rivers can be seen crawling in from the middle.

Since Þórsmörk is surrounded by mountains from three sides, the weather here is calmer and warmer than it is in the southern and southwest parts of the country. The mountains prevent cold streams of air from entering the valley and hence creating a rather pleasant temperature throughout the year. Although this warmer climate of the valley also results in the creation of a very thick mist around the mountain ranges of Þórsmörk which are lined after the glaciers. The cold wind from the glaciers and the warm winds from the valley meet each other and combine to materialize a rather thick mist around the mountains. This mist is one of the factors that make the hikes starting, ending, or circling in the valley rather challenging and fun.

Even though the weather is warm, Þórsmörk gets a lot of rainfall throughout the year which means that the humidity levels of the valley are on a slightly higher level along with that there is a good chance that every single day will see at least a drizzle of rainfall – another thing that makes hiking in Þórsmörk challenging. However, it is thanks to this regular, hefty rainfall that Þórsmörk has such lush green vegetation that the valley takes so much pride in.

View over Thorsmork during summer in the highlands of Iceland

Hiking in Þórsmörk – Know All the Top Hikes in and Around the Valley

Hiking is probably the top-most activity that can be experienced in the Þórsmörk valley along with horse riding and soaking in the hot springs. Think about it – the world’s top 10 hiking trails either begin or end in Þórsmörk. This clearly states why hiking is the prime attraction of the valley. Let us find out a little bit about the top hikes that you can take in Þórsmörk, will end up in Þórsmörk or will start from Þórsmörk.

Fimmvorduhals Hike

A hike that takes you from one of the most prominent glaciers of highlands to the other one, Fimmvorduhals hike is the most popular hike of Þórsmörk. This 25-kilometer-long hike only takes about 12-14 hours to finish if you are quick on your feet and do not stop anywhere for rest and stuff. Many people choose the extended time of 2 days to finish the hike making one night’s stop on the way. The Fimmvorduhals hike starts from Skógafoss waterfall on the south coast and takes you up to Eyjafjallajökull. From there it goes up to Mýrdalsjökull. The hike will take you atop one of the most active volcanoes in the country also known by the name Eyjafjallajökull. The valley gained immense popularity after the 2010 explosion of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that left most parts of the country in clouds of ashes for a really long time and even disrupted the air traffic from Europe. This is probably one of the reasons that this hike is this popular among adventurers.

Fimmvorduhals hike is sometimes taken as an extension hike after the Laugavegur hike that starts at Landmannalaugar and ends in Thorsmork. People who take this hike as an extension, start it from Thorsmork however, people who take it as a single, individual hike, start it from Skógafoss and end it in Thorsmork. People who like to stay for a night on the hike can make a stop at the Fimmvorduhals mountain hut and camping site. Fimmvorduhals attracts countless survivalists and adventurers who would love nothing more than experiencing the notorious Eyjafjallajökull, walking on incredible mountain trails, and getting rewarded with gorgeous sights in the end.

Tindfjöll Circle

Tindfjöll Circle Hike, View over Þórsmörk in the Highlands of Iceland

The longest short hike in Iceland, Tindfjöll Circle is a round-trip of the mountains of Tindfjöll and ends with an Instagram-worthy view of the Thorsmork valley. Experts say that this hike is not for the weak-hearted ones. You will face many challenges here on this hike including narrow ridges, steep moraines and drop-offs, rough terrains, and more on this hike. The hike itself takes about 4-6 hours for completion and is about 6 miles long. Depending on the trial that you take to reach the main circle, the hike can extend up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometers). Most hikers start their hike from the Langidalur hut and circle back at the same place however, many adventurous spirits like to take the additional 4 miles-long hike to the summit head of Tröllakirkja. The hiking trail that leads to the summit not only adds the distance also an elevation of about 1200 ft from the level on which the rest of the hike continues. Apart from the guaranteed fun and thrill that this hike promises, you will also come face-to-face with an incredible view from atop the Stangarháls ridge. The ridge is also a good place to sit down for a while, eat your snacks, and relax before you start back up again.

Valahnukur Mountain

Þórsmörk in the highlands of Iceland

One of the most notable mountains in the heart of Thorsmork, Valahnukur mountain is a hike made for the most experienced of hikers. There is another mountain by the same name on the Reykjanes Peninsula so, make sure that you do not confuse the two. The mountain which is in the Reykjanes Peninsula used to be open for visitors full time and was a great place for bird watching and such activities. However, it is now closed to almost all tourists due to damages to the natural scenery and resources of the place.

It takes about one and a half hours to complete the Valahnukur hike. The mountain is at an elevation level of about 1000 meets which means that once you are through with the hike and have reached the top of the mountain, the views are going to be absolutely spectacular. There are several steep cliffs and precipices along the hiking trails where you can get some pictures which would be beautiful beyond comprehension but you need to be extra careful as the stones supporting these precipices are very delicate and may collapse. Needless to say, it is smart to keep an experienced guide out with you so that you do not have to worry about safety.

Laugavegur Hike

One of the top 10 hikes in the world and the top hike in Iceland, the Laugavegur hike is everything that any hiker would dream to get on the hike of their life. There are hard to cover narrow passages, some very interesting vistas, stays on camping sites with fellow hikers, the hot spring area of Landmannalaugar all of which ends in the beautiful Thorsmork valley. The best part of this hike is that it is not only well structured but also comes with comfortable accommodation options, assigned places to cook food, and is a great way of meeting and greeting new fellow tourists as well.

Most hikers like to start this hike from Landmannalaugar which is the general designated trailhead for the hike. However, there are some hikers who go the opposite way and start either from Thorsmork or Skógafoss on the south coast to cover the Fimmvorduhals hike in the process too. Either way, Thorsmork is an undeniable part or mostly the destination that you gun for on this hike. Laugavegur hike is also known as the hike of the hot springs due to the sheer number of hot pools that are present in the Landmannalaugar area. The hike is a total of 55 kilometers or 34 miles long and it takes anywhere between 3-4 days to cover it. Add an extra day or two to the schedule if you wish to continue on the hike further from Thorsmork valley.

Weather is a huge factor to be considered when planning to go on this hike. The weather in the valley will be as delightful as ever but the rest of the hike can be pretty troublesome given the fact that highlands are not something to be trusted when it comes to unexpected rain, sharp winds, and even just a cloudy day. The peak season in summer is the best in terms of weather so you can choose to travel at that time if you would like to escape any chance of encountering extra bad weather. However, make it a point to make the booking in the mountain huts well in-advance so that they are not maxed-out on occupancy.

  • You can book guided hiking tours to Laugavegur here. 

Hamraskogar Forest

Located slightly towards the north of the Langidalur valley in Thorsmork, this beautiful little wooded area is on the list of many hikers that travel to Thorsmork. Most of the adventurers choose to explore this area after they reach Thorsmork upon finishing up the Laugavegur hike. River Thronga covers the northern boundary of the forest and if you head further north from the river, you will find some ruins of an old farm named Steinfinnsstadir. The hike to the forest is rather easy and can be covered by both intermediate and experienced hikers.

Mt Heidarhorn

One of the most tempting hiking destinations in the valley, Mount Heidarhorn is a very easy hike that can be taken by any person who desires to. The trail goes from the Strakagil Gully and continues to the depression to the west of the mountains. From there you can continue on the path that goes across the Morinsheidi Plain, the Heljarkambur, and the Brattafonn and reaches the mountain hut of Fimmvorduhals.

Hitchhiking in Iceland

Where to Stay?

Hiking may not require a concrete place to stay because it is all about experiencing the wilderness but you still need to figure the options that you have at your alter when it comes to finding proper accommodation to spend the night whether you are hiking or staying put in a hotel for the time being. Let us find out what options do you have for accommodation in Thorsmork.

1. Private Rooms: There are a few places in the valley where you can rent private rooms for the night. These rooms come equipped with all basic necessities like a hotel so you can be assured that your stay will be nothing but comfortable. Advanced bookings are essential to even hope to get a place in the valley so please make sure that you do it.

2. Dormitories: Hostels and dormitories are a very popular concept all over Iceland and they are a great way to get a nice, warm stay without spending much money at the same time. So, choose to book a dormitory if you want to stay inside the budget. Again. Make sure that you make advanced bookings.

3. Camping: It is not a surprise that most people like to camp when visiting Thorsmork. There is a huge designated camping ground in the valley that you can opt for if you would like to camp. No pre-booking is required here. Following are the facilities that are generally available on the campsites:

  • Toilets and Shower: A shared toilet and shower will be available on the campsite for the campers. So, make sure that you keep everything hygienic for everyone’s and your own sake.
  • Water and Hot Food: Generally, campsites around the valley won’t have any cooking facilities or prepared hot food. However, you can find a few which offer access to barbeque grills for a small fee. Rest, food can be cooked on any campsite using your own stove and cooking equipment. The gas/fuel is provided at the site.
  • Sleeping Arrangements: While you will have a designated campsite, you will have to bring your own tent and sleeping bag, and other necessary things to get a good night’s sleep. The experience is going to completely organic.

4. Mountain Huts: All popular hiking trails across the country have a few mountain huts placed on several stops on the way, especially the ones that require more than one day to get completed. Following are the facilities that you can expect to get at these mountain huts.

  • Sleeping Bag Style Space: The hut will provide you with a room that will have a sleeping mattress. You will need a sleeping bag to sleep in the room as quits and blankets are not offered.
  • Toilets and Showers: Except for the hut in Hrafntinnusker, all huts have toilets with flush and working warm showers. The Hrafntinnusker contains a latrine which is basically an open trench or pit used for defecation.
  • Cooking Facilities: Basic cooking equipment like gas, stove, cooking utensils like pots, and pans, dishwashing liquid, and tea towels are offered at the hut. You will have to prepare your own meals though as there is no serving staff to do so.
  • Food and Water: There are restaurants at Alftavatn and Thorsmork mountain huts where you can find fresh, hot food to eat. For the rest of the hike, you need to bring the food yourself. Consider carrying some canned goods and snacks along with raw material to cook meals in the hut. Fresh drinkable water is available at all huts. Tap water is drinkable in Iceland.
  • Supplies: You will find that some huts sell basic supplies like canned goods, different kinds of chips, soft drinks, energy drinks, biscuits and cookies, sanitary napkins, tampons, band-aids, and some alcoholic beverages like beer, and wine. First aid items and sanitary essentials like tampons aside, it best not to get food from this collection as there is a fair chance it will quite old and not very healthy to consume.

Remember to pre-book the huts as they sell-out really fast, especially in the peak season.

Þórsmörk in the highlands of Iceland

Packing Essentials for the Trip

Hiking comes with a whole new list of packing and this packing exercise will actually be harder than the other kind of packing that you will do since there is only so much that you can carry on foot when traveling on an elevated plain. We have prepared a quick checklist for you totally the things that you have packed so that you pack everything essentials for the ride.

Clothing and other Essentials

  • Comfortable waterproof hiking boots with support around ankles. Preferably the ones which you have worn a few times and are broken in properly.
  • Waterproof breathable shell jacket and trousers to tackle the rain.
  • Down jacket and fleece layers for warmth in the cold.
  • Quick-drying hiking trousers because you will tackle a lot of water.
  • Gaiters or leg warmers.
  • Long/short sleeve T-shirts.
  • Good walking socks preferable thick and wool.
  • Warm hat/caps, gloves, muffs, and scarves.
  • Thermals (top and bottom).
  • 2 Packable towels, preferably quick-drying.
  • Sandals with straps or neoprene hiking boots for wading through shallow water.
  • Flip flops or indoors shoes.
  • Walking poles to assist with the hike (recommended).
  • Head Torches or helmets with a head torch.
  • Dry bag – to have things dry in heavy rain.
  • Small Thermos Flask.
  • First aid kit, including prescriptions, blister plasters.
  • Sunglasses and sun protection.
  • GPS/Map/Compass if navigating.
  • Soap and other toiletries – preferably environmentally friendly and biodegradable.
  • Camera, phone and power bank.

Camping Packing Essentials

  • Cooking Utensils and equipment like a stove, pans, plates, etc.
  • Sleeping Bag, sleeping pillow.
  • Thin mattress or inflatable sleeping pads.
  • Tents
Þórsmörk in the highlands of Iceland

Best Time to Go Hiking in Thorsmork

Weather conditions are a real pain when it comes to visiting Thorsmork. The peak season is all about rushed early bookings, crowded camps, and mountain huts, crossing a hell lot of other tourists on the same hike, and more of the same. If you are someone who likes to meet new people and are kind of an extrovert then the peak season is the best time to visit the valley. The weather is great, there is a lesser chance of encountering heavy rain and you will get to see many interesting fellow visitors. Maybe you’ll even make a new friend.

The hiking trails are open from mid-June to mid-September, depending on the weather condition. The time of the appearance of the midnight sun is the most popular time for the hike aka the peak season. This means that most people book the hike from mid-June to mid-August. This means that the huts are pre-booked months before the hiking season and there is a very slight chance that you will find anything free if you are late. Even campsites are quite busy at this time around. 

If you are someone who would rather encounter the heavy rains and the piercing winds then the peak season may not be the best time for you to go hiking in Thorsmork. Hiking in mid-August, or later till the hiking season is over, is the right time for you to go with. You will find it easy to get accommodations for the neighboring hikes like the Laugavegur hike. We realize that the window is smaller but you are sure to find an ample amount of space in the campsites.

Regardless of the time, place, and hike that you choose for your trip to Thorsmork, one is assured – you will never forget the experience that you will have here and the memories that you will take with you. Make sure that you take advantage of every chance you get and experience mother nature as much as you can while you are here. Safe travels!

Hiking Fimmvorduhals trail from Skógafoss to Thorsmork in the highlands of Iceland
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