Tourists on Icelandic highlands ill-prepared as a rite of passage

Landmannalaugar is one end of Laugavegur hiking path

Landmannalaugar is one end of Laugavegur hiking path Photo: Iceland Monitor/Brynjar Gauti

The most traffic on the Icelandic highlands is in the middle of July. Particularly on Laugavegur, one of Iceland’s most popular hiking paths. Though it has the same name as the famous Reykjavik shopping street, it’s a bit more challenging. It’s 55 kilometres long, and reaches from Heiðmörk to Landmannalaugar. Through beautiful terrain that is also challenging and a bit rough in places.

According to Páll Guðmundsson, foreman of the Iceland Touring Association, most people hiking Laugavegur are well prepared, with the right equipment, food and clothing. However there are always a few that are not.

Cold and wet with a one year old child

He mentions tourists that hadn’t planned to go into the highlands but changed their minds, but don’t have everything needed with them.

He remembers a couple from last summer who hiked from Landmannalaugar to Álftavatn in heavy rain with a one year old child, and had little of what is necessary for such a trip. When they reached a shelter they were very cold, particularly the child. They were ordered to stop, and take the next bus back to the lowlands.

Laugavegur hiking path is one of Iceland's most popular hiking ...

Laugavegur hiking path is one of Iceland's most popular hiking paths Photo: Iceland Monitor/Rax


Plan to be ill-prepared

According to Guðmundsson, rangers and other people of the Association have witnessed a trend among British school groups travelling in the highlands. They don’t have everything they need on purpose. “This seems to be a rite of passage of sorts. They bring little food, and little equipment or warm clothing, and are supposed to “get through it”.” He adds that he really doesn’t understand what they are thinking.

The association has sent comments if they know of plans like this, and made remarks to groups in such trips. He says some groups have brought tents without floors, used blankets rather then mattresses, so the cold would seep up through the ground. He asks travel agencies that know of such trips to explain to them how the Icelandic highland can be, and the dangers of going into it without the proper clothing and equipment.

A beautiful place to visit, with the right preparation

Even though the Icelandic highlands are a popular place to visit, there are many parts of it few venture into. There’s little to none phone reception, and even in summer it can get very cold. It is therefore very important to be well prepared before venturing into the Icelandic highlands.

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