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Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands - in Thorsmork the valley of Thor

5 minute read - 13 Jun 2018

Even if you have driven already popular Ring Road many times and you are an experienced traveler not discouraged by always changing rough Icelandic weather, you cannot say you have visited Iceland if you weren't in the Icelandic Highlands.

Icelandic Highlands

Exploring the highlands is even more tempting as only in Summer the roads are open and you can choose between several trekking trails. Icelandic Highlands with its volcanism and glaciers are one in it kind and as the number of tourists visiting the Land of ice and fire is growing every year there is a plan to create a National Park on the area of the highlands in order to protect them.

Thorsmork - The Valley of Thor

One of the most popular hiking destinations in Southern Icelandic Highlands is Thorsmork named after the Norse god Thor. The name Thorsmork refers to the valley lies between three glaciers covering the volcanoes EyjafjallajökullMýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull. But also to a mountain range between three rivers Krossá, Þröngá, and Markarfljót.

In the wider meaning name, Porsmork refers to the nature reserve between Eyafjallajokull volcano and Porsmork. Porsmork is rich in several types of landscapes and geological forms from green areas abundant in moss, Icelandic yellow birch woods, and fern to the valley covered in volcanic ash cut by the glacial rivers and glaciers draining from the Eyjafjallajökull Ice cap: Gígjökull and Steinholtsjokull. Spectacular views guaranteed!

Hiking in Thorsmork

The area is abundant in several trails you can choose for a hike. The most famous trails the Laugavegur Hiking Trail and the Fimmvörðuháls Hiking Trail are also the most demanding ones and suitable only for experienced hikers. It is important to choose a trail suitable for your abilities, especially in Icelandic always changing the weather. Most of the trails are well marked and some with man-made steps but you should always have a map, plan your hike and check the weather conditions. Laugavegur hiking trail stretches 55 kilometers across the southern Icelandic highlands and connects Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork. The hike takes approximately 3 - 5 days, but I you want to make your hike even longer you can end it in Skogar.

Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail is shorter as it takes approximately 1 day of the hike, but it's even more difficult. It stretches 30 kilometers across the southern Icelandic highlands from Skógar to Thorsmork and gives you breathtaking views on the hills nearby Eyjafjallajökull – infamous volcano erupted in and other craters created during the eruption in 2010 that stopped air traffic over Iceland. But even if you have only 1 day to spend in Porsmork you can choose a shorter trail that takes from 2 to 5 hours with as spectacular views.

One of the ideas is to hike to the foothills of the Valahnúkur Mountain and to the Merkurrani plateau from where you can see the panoramic view of Thorsmork valley and it's volcanic bottom cut by glacial rivers. You can also take a 2-3 hours hike in a riverbed along the Stakkholtsgjá Canyon. While hiking you can admire breathtaking approximately 100-meter high cliffs, towering above your head. The  Stakkholtsgjá Canyon was one of the filming locations of the Game of Thrones. The hike is not demanding even for inexperienced hikers and it ends with a view of a cascading river and a waterfall. Totally worth it!

Driving in Thorsmork

In winter from mid-October till May the road to Þórsmörk is impassable. Driving in Thorsmork is forbidden for cars from the rental agencies unless you will be renting a Land Rover. If you aren't experienced in crossing rivers the more reasonable idea is to book one of the guided tours with an exprienced professional driver-guide. Then you will be able to visit also additional attractions like Nauthusagil ravine that ends with a waterfall and a Gluggafoss called the waterfall with three windows.