Mt. Blahnúkúr and Mt. Brennisteinsalda are two very popular hikes to do in Landmannalaugar, Iceland. If you can’t decide between the two, it’s possible to do both, combining the hikes into one big loop.
If you are looking for an epic experience in Landmannalaugar, it’s hard to beat this hike. You will walk through lava fields, past steaming fumaroles, up and down zig-zagging trails, and you will summit two mountains. The Blahnúkúr Brennisteinsalda loop is one of our favorite hikes in Iceland.
Distance: 9.7 km (6 miles)
Total Ascent: 610 meters (2000 feet)
Length of Time: 4 to 6 hours
When to Go: Mid-June through mid-September. This is when the trails and the roads to Landmannalaugar are free of snow.
On this hike, you will first summit Mt. Blahnúkúr and then Mt. Brennisteinsalda. By doing it this way, you get the toughest climb over with first. It is possible to do this in the opposite direction, but the biggest climb of the day will come near the end of the hike.
Mt. Blahnúkúr is also called the Blue Peak. It’s blueish-gray color gives it a much different appearance than the yellow, orange, and brown mountains of Landmannalaugar. The trail to the summit of Blahnúkúr features multiple sections of steep climbs and switchbacks. It is a tough climb and it earns the distinction as the most challenging hike in Landmannalaugar, but the views along the way are incredible.
Mt. Brennisteinsalda is also called the Sulphur Wave. This colorful mountain also features a steep climb, although it is not as challenging as Mt. Blahnúkúr. From the summit, you have great views of the Laugahraun lava field and trekkers on the Laugavegur Trail.
Elevation profile of this hike. The first peak is Mt. Blahnúkúr and the second peak is Mt. Brennisteinsalda. This elevation profile starts at the trailhead (at the base of Mt. Blahnúkúr) which accounts for the slight difference in total distance. The 9.7 km round trip distance accounts for the walk from the campground to the trailhead.
Getting to the Trailhead
From the campground, walk along the riverbed in the direction of the Blahnúkúr (if you are not sure where to go, ask at the Information Desk). It is a flat, 0.8 km (0.5 mile) walk from the campground to the trailhead. At the base of the mountain, there is a sign marking the trailhead.
Hiking from the campground to Mt. Blahnúkúr. You will cross a bridge over a small river before arriving at the trailhead.
Hiking Up Blahnúkúr
From the trailhead, it’s a steady uphill climb. At times, the trail will be steep, with switchbacks and short, steep ascents.
Along the way, there are many places to stop to take a break and to take photos. In fact, we hardly had time to get out of breath, simply because we stopped so frequently to take photos. This is one hike where you probably won’t mind the climb, simply because the views just keep getting better and better.
View over Landmannalaugar.
Mt. Brennisteinsalda is the colorful mountain off in the distance.
Looking back at the hiking trail.
Another view of the hiking trail.
The Summit of Blahnúkúr
From the summit, enjoy the panoramic views over the rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar.
Hiking Down Blahnúkúr
From the peak of Mt. Blahnúkúr, the trail heads to the east and eventually drops down to a riverbed. From the peak to the riverbed, it is an easy, downhill hike.
On the way down you will come to a fork in the trail. If you take the trail to the right, it will be a very steep descent back down to the canyon. The trail to the left is the longer way to go, but it is much less steep, so it’s a lot easier on the knees. We chose the trail to the left.
Below is the view of Blahnúkúr from Brennisteinsalda. The white line is the longer, easier hiking route that we took. The red line is the more direct but very steep hike down the mountain.
Here is the view along the trail.
Hiking down Blahnúkúr, with Mt. Brennisteinsalda in the distance.
The last section of the trail, just before reaching the riverbed, is very short and steep. We walked down this without any problems, but the trail at this section is slippery. Good hiking shoes are a must and hiking poles will help, and we did see a few people slip and fall.
Hiking Up Brennisteinsalda
Once you make it down to the riverbed, turn right to head back in the direction of the campground. You will cross the small river (look for a bridge of stepping stones to help you cross the river) and then follow the yellow trail markers into the lava field.
Follow the yellow trail until you get to this sign. Turn left to hike the Laugavegur Trail towards Hrafntinnsuker.
Once you hike up out of the lava field, the trail markers will change to red. At this point, you will hike past steaming, sulfuric vents and colorful geothermal features. From the top of the climb, you have a great view over the lava field.
Another hefty climb brings you to this trail sign (below). Turn right to continue up Brennisteinsalda. Now you are on a trail labeled with green trail markers.
Now, it’s just one more big climb to the peak of Mt. Brennisteinsalda. Here is the view from the summit.
The view of Blahnúkúr from Brennisteinsalda.
Trekkers on the Laugavegur Trail.
The Hike Back to Landmannalaugar
From here, it’s a mostly downhill walk to get back to the campground. Continue to follow the green trail downhill, in the direction of Vondugil.
It’s a very pretty walk and now that you are walking downhill, it’s easier to enjoy the views of the multi-colored rhyolite mountains that make this region so unique.
At the bottom of Mt. Brennisteinsalda, turn right and walk through the flat valley towards the lava field. Now you are a trail with white and green trail markers.
Once in the Laugahraun lava field, the trail markers change one final time to red and white and now you should follow the signs to Landmannalaugar. This part of the trail is easy to walk, since it’s a wide, gravel trail. Most likely you will see a lot of people here, since the hike through Laugahraun is the most popular hike to do in Landmannalaugar.
Summary of the Hiking Trails
- Walk 0.5 miles from the Landmannalaugar campground to the trailhead for Blahnúkúr
- Hike Mt. Blahnúkúr
- Once in the riverbed, follow the yellow trail markers into the lava field
- Turn left onto the red trail, the Laugavegur Trail
- Turn right on the green trail to the Brennisteinsalda summit, towards Vondugil
- Follow the white and green trail through the valley towards Landmannalaugar
- Follow the white and red trail through the Laugahraun lava field to Landmannalaugar
If combining these two hikes into one larger hike sounds like too much to do, you can choose between Blahnúkúr and Brennisteinsalda (or from one of several other day hikes in Landmannalaugar). Read our individual posts about each hike:
Tips to Have the Best Experience
Wear hiking shoes. This trail is a mix of dirt, gravel and clay and it can be slippery in spots. If you have hiking poles, they can be helpful as well.
It can be cold in Landmannalaugar, even in the summer. Bring several layers and make sure you bring a rain jacket.
Check the weather before you go. This hike is best done on a clear day.
More Information about Landmannalaugar
- The Essential Guide to Landmannalaugar for First Time Visitors
- One Day in Landmannalaugar (with Háifoss and Sigöldugljúfur)
If you have any questions about hiking Blahnúkúr and Brennisteinsalda as a loop, comment below.
More Information for Your Trip to Iceland:
- ICELAND ITINERARY: 10 Days in Iceland: The Ultimate Adventure Itinerary
- BEST HIKES IN ICELAND: 10 Great Hikes in Iceland for Your Bucket List
- TRAVEL ADVICE: Iceland Travel Tips: Things to Know Before You Visit Iceland
- GLYMUR WATERFALL: Hike Glymur Waterfall: Iceland’s Second Tallest Waterfall
- SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA: 20 Best Things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- FIMMVORDUHALS HIKE: Fimmvörðuháls Hike: A Step-By-Step Guide to Iceland’s Best Day Hike
- GLACIER HIKING IN ICELAND: Iceland Glacier Hike: Complete Guide and Best Tours
Read all of our articles about Iceland in our Iceland Travel Guide.
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