Complete Guide To Visiting Thórsmörk (+ Map, Hikes & Tips)
Set under massive glaciers and formed by the confluence of mighty rivers, Thórsmörk is a remote wilderness area in Iceland that is as beautiful as it is mysterious. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Thórsmörk, Iceland.
Thórsmörk (Þórsmörk Nature Reserve in Icelandic and named after the Norse god Thor) is a remote area in the Iceland Highlands where three valleys converge under three imposing glaciers, forming a dramatic wilderness of spectacular scenery.
There are two things that make the Thórsmörk Valley so special.
Firstly, the journey is an adventure in itself. The Krossá river creates a natural obstruction; a wild frontier that can usually only be crossed in specially adapted vehicles. Driving through sand, bumping over rocky terrain and crossing rivers adds to the Thórsmörk allure.
Secondly, there’s something about the Thórsmörk panorama that stays with you. Huge moss-covered mountains dwarfed by even bigger glaciers are divided by a swathe of black containing mesmerising patterns carved out by rivers charging along the valleys. Set off into these landscapes on a Thórsmörk hike and you’ll be enjoying one of the best wilderness areas Iceland has to offer.
Thórsmörk is only accessible in the summer months (except for super-jeep tours), and you’ll need to plan ahead to make the most of your experience. Whether you’re visiting Thórsmörk on a day trip, or staying longer, here’s everything you need to know.
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WHERE IS THÓRSMÖRK?
Thórsmörk is a remote region in the southern end of Iceland’s Highlands, about 150 kilometres from Reykjavik.
Wedged between 3 mighty glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull, Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull, and shaped by the Krossá, Þröngá, and Markarfljót Rivers it’s a unique and beautiful destination in Iceland.
The easiest access is from Hvollsvöllur on the Ring Road, but it can also be visited from Reykjavík or Hella on a day trip.
LAYOUT OF THÓRSMÖRK
Thórsmörk lies in a dead-end valley, the only road access is by the F249 from the west. The area is defined by the Krossá River, notorious for sudden changes in its water level due to the huge glaciers that feed it. Two of the camps at Thórsmörk, Langidalur and Volcano Huts are north of the Krossá, a third, Básar Huts is south.
In summer a moveable pedestrian walkway allows you to walk across the river, however, fording the river in a car or bus is only possible in a specially modified 4×4 vehicle.
The highland bus stops at all 3 camps, however, most of the hiking in Thórsmörk starts from the camps north of the Krossá.
Use the below map to understand the layout of Thórsmörk. We have added the hikes we recommend in this guide, which are coloured to match the colours of the trail markers in Thórsmörk. The brown line shows the route of the Highland Bus including the tricky river crossings.
HOW TO GET TO THÓRSMÖRK ICELAND
Although only around 30 kilometres from the Ring Road, Thórsmörk is a remote location in the highlands, separated from the rest of the country by several large river crossings. There are four ways to get to Thórsmörk: drive yourself, take the highland bus, get a private super jeep tour, or hike in.
DRIVING TO THÓRSMÖRK
Access to Thórsmörk is via the F249 road, one of the most challenging F-roads to drive. F-roads are unpaved gravel tracks that are not regularly maintained and often include river crossings, driving over sand and very bumpy conditions. By law, only 4×4 vehicles can drive on the F-roads. You can read more about them on our comprehensive guide to driving on the F-roads in Iceland.
We strongly advise you NOT to drive to Thórsmörk unless you have a large 4×4 AND plenty of experience crossing deep rivers.
Básar Huts – To get to Básar Huts campsite (south of the Krossá River) there are two tricky river crossings over the Steinsholtsá and Hvanná rivers. In normal conditions, you will need a large 4×4 and good experience crossing rivers. If you do get to Básar Huts then every summer there is a moveable walkway placed over the Krossá river so that walkers can access the hiking trails on the other side.
Langidalur or Volcano Huts – Both Langidalur and Volcano Huts are north of the Krossá River, so you’ll not only need to cross the Steinsholtsá (and Hvanná, for Langidalur) you’ll also need to cross one of the fastest and most unpredictable rivers in Iceland, Krossá. Driving across the Krossá should only be undertaken by specially modified 4×4 vehicles and drivers with plenty of experience.
We have hired a medium 4×4 on all our trips to Iceland and had a great time driving the F-roads to many great places in Iceland’s Highlands, but Thórsmörk is just too difficult for most self-drive excursions so we took to bus. The image below is a medium-sized 4×4 that got stuck in one of the smaller crossings getting to Thórsmörk.
HIGHLAND BUS TO THÓRSMÖRK
During summer months, a modified bus makes the difficult journey down the F249 and stops at each of the three campsites. Specially designed to cope with the rough territory and fast river crossings, it’s a safe, easy, and reliable way to get to Thórsmörk.
You can pick up the bus from Reykjavík (4 hours), Hella (2 hours), or Hvollsvöllur (1 hour, 30 minutes) and get dropped off at any of the three campsites. Reykjavík Excursions runs two services each day in either direction costing roughly $80 USD per person return to Hvollsvöllur.
Note that the bus journey between Volcano Huts in Húsadalur and Langidalur Campsite can take 45 minutes to 1 hour as it has to cross the Krossá River twice (see brown route on map below). It‘s quicker to walk between the two campsites, so you may want to get off at the first stop and start exploring earlier.
You can be picked up or dropped off from any of the campsites in Thórsmörk.
SUPER JEEP TOUR TO THÓRSMÖRK
Super jeeps are specially modified vehicles with massive wheels that are designed to navigate Iceland’s challenging conditions. It’s not the cheapest way to see Thórsmörk, but it does allow you to get to places that are not possible in a normal vehicle.
Tours range from 6 to 10 hours, are privately organised and can be tailored to the groups. Most allow for short 1-to-2-hour hikes to some of the most scenic places, while others allow 3 to 4 hours to get up higher.
This super jeep tour takes up to 8 people, helping reduce the cost.
HIKE INTO THÓRSMÖRK
There are two excellent point-to-point hikes ending in Thórsmörk that are considered some of the best in the world.
Laugavegur Trail – The 3-day Laugavegur Trail from Landmannalaugar covers some of the most unique and spectacular landscapes in Europe. This guided hike tour includes all meals and accommodation, an expert Icelandic guide and luggage transportation – so you only need to carry what you need for the day.
Fimmvörðuháls Hike – The second is the 25.7-kilometre trail from Skógar, known as the Fimmvörðuháls Hike. The walk starts from one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, Skógafoss, and provides fantastic scenery under the base of two of Thórsmörk’s glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökul. The walk takes between 8 and 10 hours.
BEST HIKES IN THÓRSMÖRK
Hikes in the Thórsmörk region start from 3 locations: Volcano Huts in Húsadalur, Langidalur Huts, and Básar Huts. Each is a campsite with varying levels of accommodation and facilities.
Different hiking trails leave from different campsites but walking between each of them is relatively easy. Volcano Huts to Langidalur is a 30-minute hike; Langidalur to Básar Huts is another 30 minutes (via the moveable walkway over the Krossá River).
There are colored markers throughout the valley to mark the different paths. Here is our pick of the best hikes in Thórsmörk.
1 – MOUNT VALAHNÚKUR HIKE
The summit of Mount Valahnúkur probably has the finest views in Thórsmörk. Standing on its 465-metre peak, you can look both ways down the Krossá Valley as the river twists and turns through the black gravel. There are also great views of the deep canyon cut by the Hvanná River. The 360-degree views capture jagged green mountains and on a clear day, all three glaciers. It’s the best way to get an overview of the valley.
It’s a relatively easy hike with a clear path that proceeds straight up Mount Valahnúkur with steps, then down around the other side to Langidalur. If you are short of time and only do one walk, this is the one.
MOUNT VALAHNÚKUR ROUTE
Volcano Huts – Mount Valahnúkur – Langidalur – Volcano Huts
Distance – 2.5 miles (4.3 kilometres) | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Difficulty – Easy | Markers & Map – White
2 – THÓRSMÖRK HIGHLIGHTS HIKE
This is a lovely circular hike in the Húsadalur Valley that heads through birch trees and up to the foothills of the Tindfjöll mountains. It then ascends to the Slyppugil Ridge for fine views over Slyppugil Canyon before bending back down through the trees to Langidalur Campsite.
It’s an interesting and varied hike that includes lots of different types of scenery from shady forested paths to impressive mountain vistas. Get an appreciation for the Thórsmörk landscape that feels like an oasis hidden behind the notorious Eyjafjallajökull glacier.
HÓRSMÖRK HIGHLIGHTS ROUTE
Volcano Huts – Thórsmörk Highlights Red Path – Slyppugil Ridge – Langidalur – Volcano Huts
Distance – 5.25 miles (9.0 kilometres) | Time – 3 hours 15 minutes | Difficulty – Easy to Medium | Markers & Map – Red
3 – TINDFJÖLL CIRCLE
This is a wonderful, if slightly challenging circuit, around some of the best scenery Thórsmörk has to offer. The route heads east from Langidalur along the north edge of the Krossá valley. At Slyppugil Hut, it turns left and heads up the Slyppugil Valley. The trail slowly rises before bending right – following the edge of a dramatic and precipitous canyon. The path here is narrow with steep drops on one side and the towering face of Tindfjöll mountain on the other.
Exiting the canyon, the path turns right and reaches a glorious viewpoint before winding its way along the edge of a ridge and then dropping (steeply at times) back to the valley floor where you follow the river back to Langidalur.
This is a medium to challenging hike with more ascent and trickier paths than the first two. It helps if you have a head for heights and good grip on your shoes.
Langidalur – Slyppugil – Slyppugil Canyon – Tindfjöll Viewpoint – Krossá River – Langidalur
Distance – 5.25 miles (9 kilometres) | Time – 4 hours, 30 minutes | Difficulty – Medium | Markers & Map – Orange
4 – RJÚPNAFELL HIKE
This is a challenging extension to the Tindfjöll Circle and involves climbing the 964-meter-high peak of Rjúpnafell. The dramatic summit is ascended by tight zigzags up its very steep face. The views are magnificent but it’s a very challenging hike, both physically and mentally.
You need to be very cautious on this hike as the path is very steep and indistinct in places. Do not attempt the ascent if the top is covered in cloud or if it’s windy when you get to the base of the mountain. This is not a hike for anyone with a fear of heights. It’s a good idea to check the conditions at the information desk at Langidalur before you set off.
Add 3 to 4 hours to the Tindfjöll Circle to complete the Rjúpnafell hike.
Langidalur – First half Tindföll Circle – Rjúpnafell – Second Half Tindfjöll Circle – Langidalur
Distance: 9.75 miles (16 kilometres) – Time: 8 hours – Difficulty: Challenging
5 – MERKURRANI PLATEAU HIKE
This is an easy hike that not only gains wonderful views over Krossá from the top of the plateau but also descends to the Markarfljót River as it cuts its way through the black riverbed.
The trail leaves from Volcano Huts and follows the white posts towards Mount Valahnúkur, but just before the summit, turn right and follow the green posts across the plateau. Wonderful views over the cliffs are revealed before the path drops down to the river and heads back to Volcano Huts.
MERKURRANI PLATEAU ROUTE
Volcano Huts – Towards Mount Valahnúkur – Merkurrani Plateau – Markjaflot River – Volcano Huts
Distance – 2.5 miles (4.25 kilometres) | Time: 1 hour 45 minutes | Difficulty – Easy | Markers & Map – Green
6 – STAKKHOLTSGJÁ CANYON HIKE
Stakkholtsgjá is a 2-kilometre canyon in Thórsmörk with steep-sided moss-covered walls and a series of streams, culminating in a beautiful waterfall that was used in Game of Thrones. The walk up the canyon is not particularly challenging, however, there are several streams to cross and you should expect to get wet, at least once.
It takes around 1-hour to walk from Básar Huts to the start of the Stakkholtsgjá canyon hike, then about another 1.5 hours to reach the end of the canyon. If you are coming from Langidalur, you’ll need to cross the moveable walkway over the Krossá River then walk down to the start of the canyon.
The issue is that you will somehow need to get across the Hvanná River. The highland bus may drop you off, otherwise, it might be better to organise a private tour through Midgard Adventure.
STAKKHOLTSGJÁ CANYON ROUTE
Stakkholtsgjá Canyon entrance to the end of the canyon and back
Distance – 1.75 miles (3 kilometres) | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Difficulty – Medium | Markers & Map: Purple
7 – FIMMVÖRÐUHÁLS HIKE
This is one of the great hikes of Iceland. Over the course of 15 miles and 1,400 metres of ascent and descent, the trail passes 25 waterfalls, two glaciers, one volcano, and miles and miles of rock.
Most people start at Skogáfoss on the south coast and hike over the ridge between Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers, before descending into Thórsmörk. If trying it all in one go sounds a bit too challenging then you can break it in two and spend the night at Baldvinsskáli hut. It accommodates 16 people, and you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.
You can either do the Fimmvörðuháls hike on your own or book a guided tour.
Skógar – Baldvinsskáli –– Fimmvörðuháls – Básar Huts in Thórsmörk
Distance – 15.5 miles (25 kilometres) | Time – 10 hours | Difficulty – Challenging
8 – LAUGAVEGUR HIKE
The most famous multi-day hike in Iceland and chosen as one of the “20 Best Hikes in the World” by National Geographic, the Laugavegur trail crosses the highlands from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk.
Over the course of 3 days, the hike delivers some outstanding scenery including lava fields, colourful rhyolite mountains, canyons, glaciers and active volcanoes. There are also hot springs to soothe the aching limbs along the way. It can be difficult to coordinate your accommodation, so this is a good hike to do as an organised tour.
Landmannalaugar – Hrafntinnusker – Álftavatn – Emstrur – Langidalur in Thórsmörk
Distance – 34 miles (55 kilometres) | Time – 3 days | Difficulty – Challenging
ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES IN THÓRSMÖRK
There are three places to stay in Thórsmörk.
Volcano Huts in Húsadalur has glamping tents, single or double cabins with shared bathrooms, cottages with bunk beds and dorm rooms. You can also camp on site. The cabins and cottages tend to book up well in advance and it is often running at capacity over the summer months, so book early.
There is a restaurant on site which serves breakfast from 8am -10am, soup buffet from 11:30am to 3pm and dinner from 6pm to 9pm. Coffee, cakes, muffins and alcohol is available throughout the day.
There’s an information desk with knowledgeable staff who can provide information about the different hiking options.
Langidalur occupies a beautiful setting on the edge of the Krossá River. There’s a hut that sleeps up to 75 people on two separate floors (bunkhouse style), a dining hall and a BBQ area. There’s space for camping and a toilet and shower block.
A small shop sells basic snacks (crisps, chocolate bars) as well as tea, coffee, and beer. The helpful staff will be able to provide information on hikes and mountain conditions.
The shop opens from 8am to 7pm and again from 8pm to 10pm. There’s no restaurant or café at Langidalur.
Básar has huts accommodating 83 people as well as pitches for your own tent. There are gas stoves, grills and kitchenware as well as a shower and toilet block.
Básar is on the south side of the Krossá River but most of the day hikes start from the north side. So, you’ll need to get across the river on the moveable walkway which takes around 30 minutes. If you intend to do a lot of hiking in Thórsmörk, it’s generally more convenient to stay in Volcano Huts or Langidalur.
DAY TRIP TO THÓRSMÖRK
If you don’t intend to stay overnight in Thórsmörk, there’s plenty you can see in this beautiful area in 1 day. Here are some suggestions for what you can do in Thórsmörk if you’re visiting on a day trip.
THÓRSMÖRK 1-DAY ITINERARY
UP TO 2 HOURS
Hike up to Mount Valahnúkur and take in the view
UP TO 4 HOURS
Combine the Mount Valahnúkur and Merkurrani Plateau hikes.
UP TO 5 HOURS
Combine the Mount Valahnúkur and Thórsmörk Highlights hikes.
UP TO 7 HOURS
Combine the Mount Valahnúkur and Tindfjöll Circle hikes.
We highly recommend trying to spend as long as possible to see the area. On our latest visit, we took the morning bus to Volcano Huts (arriving at 10:30am), then hiked up Mount Valahnúkur (11:30am) for the spectacular view.
We ate a packed lunch at Langidalur (12:30pm), then hiked around the Tindfjöll Circle (5:30pm) and made our way back to Volcano Huts (6pm) where we had a couple of pints and some snacks while waiting for the evening bus back home (7:15pm).
WHEN TO GO TO THÓRSMÖRK?
The best time to go to Thórsmörk is from late June to early September when the snow has melted, the roads more accessible and the hiking at its best. The high ridges and glaciers that surround the valley trap the warm air, creating a strange micro-climate that keeps Thórsmörk warmer than most other areas in southern Iceland.
The F249 road to Thórsmörk is closed for most months of the year but usually opens from mid-June to early September.
Huts can be booked from the beginning of May to end of October, with tent pitches available from mid-June to mid-September.
The Highland Bus usually starts in early June and runs daily till mid-September.
Super jeeps can make the journey all year round, although hiking would be a challenge outside of summer.
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU TO THÓRSMÖRK
In spite of the micro-climate, the weather in Thórsmörk can change fast. As you will probably be hiking most of the day, bring waterproof jacket and trousers, as well as good quality hiking shoes or boots with a decent grip.
Warm layers including a woolly hat and gloves are advisable.
There is food available at Volcano Huts and a small shop at Langidalur but otherwise, it might be better to bring snacks and lunch with you.
Water bottles can be filled up at all the campsites.
Make sure you download our map onto your phone to help you get your bearings when you arrive.
WHERE TO GET SUPPLIES?
Apart from the shop at Langidalur and the café at Volcano Huts, there are no other facilities at Thórsmörk.
The best place to stock up is at the N1 fuel station in Hvollsvöllur, where the bus from Reykjavik makes a stop. The shop is well-stocked for snacks and premade sandwiches/pastries, but they don’t stock things like ham, cheese or bread to make your own sandwiches. You can also get a coffee to go.
Opening hours are from 7am to 10pm daily.
HOW DO I GET TO THÓRSMÖRK?
Thórsmörk is 30 kilometres along the F249 mountain road from the Ring Road at Hvollsvöllur. The best way to get to Thórsmörk is via the highland bus which leaves from Reykjavik, or by taking a private super jeep tour.
WHERE IS THÓRSMÖRK?
Thórsmörk – the Valley of Thor – is in the Iceland Highlands, 150 kilometres from Reykjavik. It’s wedged between 3 glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull, Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull, and shaped by the Krossá, Þröngá, and Markarfljót Rivers.
CAN YOU DRIVE TO THÓRSMÖRK?
It is not recommended to drive into the Thórsmörk Valley. There are 2 large river crossings that can only be undertaking in a large 4×4 with an experience driver, and 1 very large river crossing – Krossá – which requires a specially modified vehicle to get across.
PLANNING YOUR ICELAND TRIP
Iceland is an excellent destination for semi-adventurous travellers who like to get off the beaten track and immerse themselves in stunning scenery. Here’s some more reading from us to help plan your journey to the land of fire and ice.
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