After having reached Hella, we had a nice chat with our host about our plans of going to Landmannalaugur for only one afternoon, he confirmed that it is indeed doable and that you only need 90min to get there from here. He also indicated that most tourists though, usually stayed there much much longer. Unfortunately we didn’t have time. We also checked with him that the road was in good condition and that we wouldn’t have to cross any fords.
Now, I don’t know how crazy the drivers in Iceland normally are, but by respecting maximum velocities and driving carefully it took us a little more than two hours (of pure driving and 30min of stopping for views) to get there. This, obviously, cut a bit into our time at Landmannalaugur itself. We did not regret that though, as the landscape leading up to Landmannalaugur is already impressive in its sparse and minimalistic ways. What we originally thought to be mist among the mountains just added to the landscape. Looking back though, this very likely was dust and not mist.
Once we reached Landmannalaugur, we could already see some of the colourful mountains that make this place so famous. We also were facing two big fords. This we had expected and we also knew that the crossing was not mandatory as you could park in front of the crossings and just cross by a footbridge. On our way back to our car we would see anything from big touristic buses down to motor bikes make the crossings safely and we felt that we’d caved in to our fears too easily.
Landmannalaugur is a hiking paradise, you can do hikes as long as you want in that area and you will constantly see new things. Our request to “find the shortest possible tour, ideally about an hour” originally created some problems though, but the helpful lady at the touristic information soon had figured out a way how we could do a short trip and see all the major sights next to the camping place itself by combining several hikes and using multiple shortcuts.
The hike started out into a lava field, surrounded by the yellow mountains, that looked a bit like oversized sand dunes. Every time a sunbeam would hit them, they would glow brightly. After reaching the top of the lava field, the next mountain range was revealed, which featured also black and red coloured mountains. Then we slowly started descending into a large valley,which was covered in cotton grass. Up to this point we had been following always the same path, but now it was time to break off. According to the lady we should “take a left turn at the steam”. I couldn’t really picture how this would work out, when she described it, but I figured I’d understand once I got there and indeed I did. I had reached the volcano Brennisteinsalda, it is very colourful and features a wide variation of reds, greys and yellows on its flanks. It is probably also responsible for all the lava fields lying around everywhere and making it somewhat difficult to find your way.
Brennisteinsalda was emitting a lovely sulphuric stink in form of steam all along its side, which was what the info-centre had told me to look out for. Somewhere hidden in the middle of this exhaust our path separated from the current one This was my “point of no return”. In a big loop I started heading home along a different way than I had come. If the way towards the Brennisteinsalda had shown me how big and imposing the mountains here can be, the way back showed me that the same diversity I had seen in the mountains also existed on a much smaller scale. The path was following a small river, that was winding it’s way back towards the parking lot and with every turn I took, the visible mountain flank would change colour. Once the opposite slope was red, than dark grey, then yellow, then almost green, while my side was still covered in yellow-green mosses. Towards the end, we needed to pick up the speed a bit since we wanted to be back on a tarred road before it got dark. The planned stop in a hot spring had to be cancelled due to lack of time, by the time we had read all the disclaimers, telling us how many brain parasites may or may not be living in the water currently, none of us was really all that eager to swim in the water anymore.