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2. Bláhnúkur Mountain

Bláhnúkur Mountain with rocky outcroppings and boulders in the foreground.
Landmannalaugar’s mountains rise up around the Laugahraun Lava Field.

The trek up Bláhnúkur Mountain is short and sweet. And by sweet I mean steep.

Bláhnúkur translates to “Blue Mountain” 

The name comes from the blue-toned ash that’s settled on its slopes, which you’ll become well acquainted with on the relentless 350 meters (1,148 ft) climb up. While only about six kilometers (or nearly four miles) out-and-back, because of the steep terrain and a narrow path that quickly drops off on either side, I wouldn’t say Bláhnúkur is a beginner’s trail. But if you have some hiking experience and are up for feeling the burn, this is a good one. 

It’s worth it for the views. Along the way you’ll look down over the Landmannalaugar hut and all the tents bubbling up around it. From the top you’ll also be able to see the lava field spilling across the valley and a couple of glaciers. It’s almost grating seeing those landscapes pressed against each other—green mountains rising up behind a black desert, the cool blue of glaciers in the distance. 

How to make the most of your day

Leaving right from the Landmannalaugar campground, It takes most people only a few hours to scale Bláhnúkur and return. Many will bus in from Reykjavík in the morning, hike Bláhnúkur, and head back to the city in the evening, bypassing any logistical struggles of staying overnight. 

I personally think Bláhnúkur is too short to do on its own, especially if you’re taking the time to travel all the way out to Landmannalaugar. I typically recommend tacking Bláhnúkur onto another trail, such as the Laugahraun Lava Field, or tackling it in combination with neighboring Mount Brennisteinsalda. 

On the other hand, a short hike means you’ll have plenty of time for Landmannalaugar’s crown jewel—the hot spring.

Hot springs: Delights of great magma-tude

Hot springs are bodies of water that sit above a magma chamber and are heated by that geothermal activity. There’s one right near the Landmannalaugar hut, a modest little pool, void of any glamorous development like railings or steps. But that’s what I think makes it one of the best in the country. 

Often, when people imagine Icelandic hot springs, I think they envision a network of bridges and docks across a blue lagoon. But here in the highlands, the hot springs are just pools of water, set in the lush grassy valleys. It’s just you and the landscape.

Of course, they’re not always marked, and anyone who’s spent a good amount of time exploring Landmannalaugar will have their own favorite secret spot. 

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