Guide to Thorsmork - "Thor's Valley", Home to Some of Iceland's Most Striking Landscapes

Thorsmork is a mountain range nestled between major glaciers Tindfjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull. The ridge, named “Thor’s Valley” in Icelandic, is a dramatic landscape of towering peaks, glacier rivers, and black deserts. Craggy mountains and ice-topped peaks slope down to lush birch forests and mossy gulches. Luckily for visitors, it’s also home to some Iceland’s most beautiful hiking routes.

Intro to Thorsmork 

Landmannalaugar's Rhyolite Mountains
Landmannalaugar's Rhyolite Mountains

Many Icelanders swear that Thorsmork is one of the best outdoor playgrounds and hiking destinations in the country. Hikers in Thorsmork can choose from single- and multi-day treks, of varying distances and difficulty. Pitch a tent on a campsite or sleep in a mountain hut. No matter where you hike, the breathtaking viewpoints are endless. You can spend days hiking up mountains, along cliffs, to waterfalls, volcanoes and glaciers.

The choice is yours, but Thorsmork does contain two of the most popular trails in Iceland: the Fimmvörðuháls and the Laugavegur Trail. You’ll understand why when you get there. The Fimmvörðuháls trail crosses 24km that delves just beneath the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano, and passes the steaming volcanic craters Magni and Móði. The Laugavegur path takes you through 55km of the richest geothermal area around--Landmannalaugar, known for its hot springs and colorful rhyolite mountains.

Before you head out, be sure to collect a detailed hiking map from the Volcano Huts. This useful piece of paper also has a wealth of information about the landscapes and history. The trails are generally in good condition, marked in parts, and always start from the Volcano Huts. 

Signpost in Thorsmork hiking area between Thorsmork and Eyjafjallajokull and Krossa riverbed
Signpost in Thorsmork hiking area between Thorsmork and Eyjafjallajokull and Krossa riverbed

Hiking Trails in Thorsmork

Thorsmork Panorama (1.5-2 hours)

Depending on your trekking skills and endurance, you have a plethora of trails to choose from. The simple Thorsmork Panorama leads you up through Valahnúkur mountain, for an impressive 360° view of the valleys below. Then head down to the Langidalur Hut before you circle back through birch woods to the Volcano Huts.

Thorsmork Highlights (3-4 hours)

The highlights circlet rewards the trekker with the best views of the terrain, from the Húsadalur Valleys to the foothills of the Tindfjöll mountains. You’ll hike a small portion of the Laugavegur Hiking Trail before you come back to the Volcano Huts.

Tindfjöll Circle (5-6 hours)

Tindfjöll Circle is a steady full-day hike with challenging routes and breathtaking views. You begin from the Langidalur hut, and ascend up to the Tindfjöll Mountains. As the slope is steep, cross it with caution. The trail takes you up over the Stangarháls Ridge, down to the Krossá riverbed. Once here, you can either head back to the Volcano Huts or take one more hour to cross the Valahnúkur mountain or stroll over the forests in the Langidalur and Húsadalur Valleys.

Landmannalaugar
Gray ridge in Thorsmork

Merkurrani Plateau (2-3 hours)

This trail takes you through the foothills of Valahnúkur Mountain and onto Merkurrani plateau. Head southward to the very end, where you’ll have to maneuver your way across sharp rocks on the steep Merkurrani Cliffs. From here you have great views over the Krossá River, Eyjafjallajökull and the surrounding mountains of Þórsmörk. Once you’ve drunken your fill of the panorama, head down to the black sands of Markarfljót Riverbed, and back to the Volcano Huts, stopping briefly at Sóttarhellir Cave.

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon (2-4 hours)

Hop a 15-minute bus ride from the Volcano Huts, which leave once a day at 12:30pm. The bus lets you off at the mouth of the canyon and picks you up again two hours later. Alternatively, you can hike there in one hour, crossing the Krossá River via a footbridge. Stakkholtsgjá Canyon stretches for about two kilometers, and the trail is ornamented by mossy cliff faces that tower above nearly 100 meters. You’ll have to navigate many small rivers, so expect to get a bit wet. The riverbed leads to a narrow passage, where you enter the Stakkholtsgjá Ravine and continue on until you reach an enchanting waterfall. Watch out for any falling rocks or ice from the cliffs. You can choose to hire a guide, the price is 10,900 ISK per person.

Midnight sun in Thorsmork

Climate

The valley, protected by its ridges, is warmer and calmer than usual in south Iceland. Mist collects on the crests as the warm valley air mixes with the glaciers on the summit.

Be aware though that strong winds, heavy rain, hail, fog or even snow can occur with little warning, or there may be severe drops or rises in temperature. Always check the weather forecast and make sure you stay as warm and dry as possible.

Stay safe with the Icelandic Emergency App 112, which registers your location with locals rescue teams.

Gear & What to Wear

Always equip yourself with excellent, tried-and-true hiking boots. The terrain will vary wildly, and at times you may traverse glacier river crossings or jagged frozen lava. Weather in Iceland is notorious for its ever-changing nature, so be sure to pack warm, insulating underwear, hat and gloves, wind- and waterproof jacket, fleece or wool sweater, and some light shoes to wade rivers. When in doubt, be over-prepared.

When to Go

The summer months are weather-wise the best time to visit. In June, July and August, days are longer and temperatures are milder. Keep in mind that in June there still may be snow and ice at the higher elevations.

That said, Winter can be an incredible experience as well, when the landscape is covered in ice and snow and the only access is via highly-modified super-jeeps on a guided tour.

How to Get There

Special mountain buses run from the BSÍ bus terminal in Reykjavik to Thorsmork during the summer months, from May 1 to October 15. You could drive yourself, just be sure to bring a raised 4WD car--the only type allowed on the F-roads in the area. Not all 4x4 vehicles will have high enough clearance to ford some of the rivers. Be sure to confirm any vehicles with the rental company (or ask our kimkim specialists for guidance!).

Canyon and River near Skogar

Where to Stay

Once you’ve arrived, you have a choice of budget cottages, private rooms or dormitories at the Volcano Huts Thorsmork. Alternatively, you can always pitch a tent on the campsite. Accommodation is very popular and fills up quickly, so be sure to book them well in advance.

All cottages feature a kitchenette, seating area, private terrace. All accommodations have shared toilets and showers. From here, you can arrange private tours, super jeep adventures, or trips to the on-site sauna.

Where to Eat

The LavaGrill Restaurant & Bar is the place for a wholesome meal or packed trail lunch, though expect high prices. To keep costs minimal, shop for groceries in Reykjavik before your Thorsmork adventure. Tea, coffee, and snacks are available all day. Here you can also swap hiking stories with other adventurers around the campfire, or read a book from the library. There’s also a small children’s playground and equipment for fun activities like frisbee, football, croquet and other games. If the weather is warm, take your meals out on the terrace.

Laugavegur Trail

LavaGrill Restaurant & Bar in Þórsmörk

The Lava Grill Restaurant & Bar offers a hearty breakfast of homemade bread, eggs, fruit, vegetables, biscuits, ham, cheese, jams, cereal, coffee, and tea. It’s served between 7-10am and costs around 2,200 ISK. The lunch buffet offers light options such as soup, salad, coffee and cakes, served between 11:30am-5pm and costing around 2,700 ISK. You can pick up a lunch package for your day hike, a sack of sandwiches, snacks, chocolate, and juices, for 2,500 ISK. Dinner is a two-course buffet of lamb, fish, pork or chicken, served with fresh salad, soup, bread, and potatoes. It’s served between 6pm-9:30pm and costs 4,500 ISK. The kitchen closes up at 9:30pm, though the bar stays open until midnight. The restaurant also offers gluten-free, dairy-free, or (upon request) vegetarian options.

LavaSPA Natural Pool and Sauna

At the edge of the Húsadalur forest is a small geothermal pool, sauna, and showers. The pool is man made, but its waters heated naturally to around 89°F (32°C). There’s a small fee, but guests at the Volcano Huts can access the pool at no extra cost. At the main building’s reception, you can purchase soaps, toiletries, and towels. The spa also offers massages, bookable online.” Showers are located in a building close by and outdoor showers are located right by the sauna and pool.