A Guide to Exploring Thórsmörk in Iceland

A Guide to Exploring Thórsmörk in Iceland

James Taylor James Taylor
17. Apr 2024 ∼ 13 min. read

Thórsmörk is one of Iceland’s most beautiful destinations, promising some beautiful hikes amongst an impressive array of landscapes marked by volcanic eruptions, glittering glaciers, and basalt valleys. This nature reserve is nestled in a quiet location in the southern highlands, and one of the most popular spots to throw on your boots and hit the trails.  

If you’re thinking about adding Thórsmörk onto your campervan trip in Iceland, it does take some planning, as this is not an easy place to get to. The F-roads that lead into the reserve require crossing some of the country’s most powerful rivers, which isn’t recommended even with a 4x4 campervan. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible – keep reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting Thórsmörk in Iceland, including how to get there, the best hikes to do, and where to sleep.  

Getting to Thórsmörk 

Getting to Thórsmörk while you’re renting a campervan might seem like too much hassle – but it’s not, and an overnight trip into the nature reserve is worth it. The best way to get there is to catch the public bus, leaving your campervan parked safely in Hvolsvöllur.  

Getting to Thórsmörk by Bus 

  • Reykjavik Excursions Bus to Thórsmörk 

There are two operators who operate buses to Thórsmörk. The first is Reykjavik Excursions, who travel all the way from Reykjavik, with stops at Selfoss, the supermarket in Hella, and the N1 gas station in Hvolsvöllur before heading into Thórsmörk.  

This bus runs from the 24th of June until the 15th of September, with two buses per day during the high season (from June until the end of August).  

You can book your seat here. It’s important to note that the same day the return bus offered by Reykjavik Excursions leaves Thórsmörk Volcano Huts at 3:15 PM, which doesn’t give you a lot of time to spend on the trails.

  

  • Southcoast Adventures Bus to Thórsmörk 

The second operator is Southcoast Adventures, who have a base camp at Brú, north of Seljalandsfoss. Their bus also stops at the N1 gas station in Hvolsvöllur, and then travels to their Brú basecamp before going to Thórsmörk.  

This bus has three departures a day during the summer, from the 1st of June until the 15th of September. There’s also one bus a day during the shoulder seasons, in the month of May and from the 16th of September until the 1st of November.  

View the full schedule and buy tickets here 

As you can see, Southcoast Adventures offers a better schedule when it comes to catching the bus back to your campervan on the same day in the summer. They have two options for your return: the first is at 5:00 PM, the second is at 8:00 PM. 

Whether you go with Reykjavik Excursions or Southcoast Adventures, you’ll be able to safely leave your camper for a night from wherever you choose to be picked up from. We recommend either the gas station in Hvolsvöllur or Brú basecamp for more affordable bus tickets and a shorter ride back to your campervan when you’re done in Thórsmörk.  

Getting to Thórsmörk with a 4x4  

In general, we don’t recommend attempting to drive to Thórsmörk, even if you have a 4x4 campervan. Yes, it’s allowed, but you’ll have to cross some of Iceland’s most dangerous and unpredictable rivers to get there.  

These rivers are full of rocks and soft, black sand, making the riverbeds shift and change with the ebb of the river; it’s very easy to get stuck if you don’t have years of experience crossing rivers in Iceland, which is why we recommend taking the bus rather than risking your own safety. The chance of causing significant water damage to your campervan (which would come with a big bill) is simply too high.  

Accommodation & Facilities in Thórsmörk 

When planning your trip to Thórsmörk, before you book your bus, you’ll also need to decide where you’ll be staying so you know where to be dropped off. There are a few different options to choose from within Thórsmörk:  

The Volcano Huts 

In the heart of Thórsmörk, the Volcano Huts offer a variety of accommodation options to suit a range of budgets and preferences, making this the most popular choice for accommodation in Thórsmörk.  

Accommodation Types: 

  • Campsite: The most affordable option for staying in Thórsmörk is to pitch a tent at the campsite. Although if you’re already renting a campervan, you don’t want to cart around a tent as well, in which case one of the following options is better.  
  • The Katla Mountain Huts (dormitory): The next step up in accommodation is to stay in one of two multi-person dorms, known as the Katla Mountain Huts. Cozy, hostel-style sleeping makes this a sociable choice, with each hut sleeping between 16 to 32 people.  
  • The Sheepherders Cottages: Next we have the Sheepherders Cottages, private cabins that are ideal for families or groups looking for a bit more privacy. Each cottage comes equipped with a small kitchenette for cooking.  
  • Eyjafjallajökull Cabin Rooms: Inside the Eyjafjallajökull Cabin there are 14 private rooms, which can be used as doubles or singles. Ideal for solo travelers and couples who don’t want to stay in the dorm.  
  • Glamping Tents: Finally, for a touch of luxury in the great outdoors, the Volcano Huts also offer a range of glamping tents (heated, of course!).  

Facilities & Services: 

  • Restaurant & Bar: One of our favorite things about staying at the Volcano Huts is the onsite restaurant and bar, serving up warm, homecooked Icelandic cuisine and cold beers – the perfect way to end a day of hiking in Thórsmörk.  
  • Thórsmörk Baths & Sauna: A new geothermal sitting pool and sauna make for another relaxing way to spend your evening after hiking the trails in Thórsmörk.  
  • Packed Lunches: If you like, you can schedule in advance to pick up a packed lunch in the morning from the restaurant.  

Langidalur  

Nestled alongside northern banks of the Krossá River is Langidalur, equipped with a campsite and a mountain hut that can sleep up to 75 guests in a dorm-style beds spread over two levels. There’s a communal dining area downstairs, and an area outside where you can grill some dinner after returning from a day’s hiking.  

Also on site is a small store, offering an assortment of simple refreshments like chips, candy bars, tea, coffee, and beers. The staff are also happy to help with any details about trekking routes and the latest weather reports.  

Básar Huts 

There are two mountain huts at Básar, which can sleep a total of 83 people. There’s also room to pitch a tent. This mountain hut is located on the south side of the Krossá River where most of the hiking trails begin on the north side. However, you can get to the trailheads via a movable bridge that is put up to facilitate river crossings on foot, although in bouts of severe weather when the river runs high it must be removed, which would leave you stuck on the southern side of the river.  

The Best Hikes in Thórsmörk 

Thórsmörk, Iceland, is a hiker's paradise, offering trails that cater to every level of experience and adventure. From the challenging treks to the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers on the Fimmvörðuháls Pass to the breathtaking panoramic views from Valahnúkur Mountain, the variety of landscapes and difficulty levels ensure that every visitor finds their perfect path.  

For every hike in Thórsmörk, it's essential to come prepared. The unpredictable weather and challenging terrain require waterproof and windproof outerwear and sturdy hiking boots. Additionally, a portable charger, waterproof bag cover, and enough snacks are crucial for a comfortable and safe hiking experience.  

Here are some of the most recommended hikes in Thórsmörk: 

1. Valahnúkur Mountain

Length: 1.5–2 hours. 

Difficulty: Easy 

The summit of Mount Valahnúkurhas 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 magnificent views of the deep canyon cut by the Hvanná River. The 360-degree views capture jagged green mountains and on a cloudless day, all three glaciers. It’s the best way to get an overview of the valley. 

It’s an easy hike with a clear path that proceeds straight up Mount Valahnúkur with steps, then down around the other side to Langidalur.  

2. Merkurrani Plateau

Length: 1.5–2 hours. 

Difficulty: Easy 

Embark on a leisurely trek that offers a feast for the eyes with panoramic views over the Krossá River from atop the plateau, and a descent to the Markarfljót River, slicing through the stark black riverbed. Setting out from the Volcano Huts, the trail is marked by white posts guiding you towards Mount Valahnúkur. Before reaching the summit, a turn to the right following green markers leads you out onto the plateau, with gorgeous vistas over the entrance to the Thórsmörk valley. The path then meanders down to the Markarfljót Riverbed, following it back toward the Volcano Huts.  

Merkurrani Plateau

3. Thórsmörk Highlights 

Length: 3–4 hours. 

Difficulty: Moderate 

This circular hike takes in the best of Thórsmörk, from the seclusion and quiet of the forested trails to the grand mountain vistas, all set against the backdrop of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. To begin, the trail leads you through the birch forests of Húsadalur Valley, ascending the foothills of the Tindfjöll Mountains. Then, you’ll loop back to the Langidalur Hut either by descending into the valley floor via the Slyppugilshryggur Ridge, or through the Slyppugil Canyon.  

If you’re heading back to the Volcano Huts, you can continue your hike by scaling the Valahnúkur Mountain from Langidalur, descending the other side to soak in the hot springs or a nice meal at the restaurant.  

4. Tindfjöll Circle

Length: 4.5–5.5 hours. 

Difficulty: Moderate 

This exhilarating circuit highlights the splendor of Thórsmörk’s landscapes. Begin at Langidalur, following a trail that traces the northern boundary of the Krossá valley towards the east. Eventually the trail veers left, ascending into Slyppugil Valley. Gradually climbing, the path then takes a dramatic turn right, skirting the edge of a breathtaking canyon with sheer drops to one side and the imposing Tindfjöll mountain to the other. From here, the route leads to a stunning viewpoint, and then snakes along another ridge before a steep descent back to the valley base. Here, you can follow the river’s course back to Langidalur.  

Tindfjöll Circle hike in Iceland

5. Rjúpnafell Hike

Length: 8–10 hours 

Difficulty: Challenging 

An addition to the Tindfjöll Circle trek, you’ll need another 3–4 hours to ascend the peak of Rjúpnafell. Rising to a height of 964 meters, the journey to the top is via a series of sharp switchbacks, hugging the steep incline. The panoramic views from the summit are truly incredible, but it’s a challenge. Check in with the staff at the Volcano Huts or one of the mountain huts before any attempt.  

One-Day Itinerary in Thórsmörk 

If you’ve left your camper parked on the south coast and are catching the bus into Thórsmörk, here’s a good itinerary for your trip:  

The Bus into Thórsmörk:  

As we’ve covered above, the bus into Thórsmörk leaves in the morning. Whether you’ve chosen to leave your car in Hvolsvöllur or at Brú basecamp, and whether you’ve booked with Reykjavik Excursions or Southcoast Adventure, you’ll be arriving at the Thórsmörk Volcano Huts around 10:30 AM.  

If you’re staying the night here, give yourself 30–45 minutes to check into your accommodation, prepare your backpack for the rest of the day hiking, and study the maps at the main visitor’s center. That means you’ll be hitting the trails at around 11:15 AM. 

Choosing your hiking route:  

Of course, which direction you head in will come down to personal preference and whether there are any trails closed (ask the staff at the Volcano Huts). But you’ve got the rest of the day, so my recommendation is to do the Tindfjöll Circle Hike, and then combine that with a hike up to the top of Mount Valahnúkur on your return.  

Dinner and a Hot Spring: 

After you’ve returned, it’s always nice to simply take it easy a bit, enjoying dinner at the Volcano Huts and having a soak in their hot spring. If your feet are still itchy after dinner or you just want to enjoy Iceland’s midnight sun, then the Merkurrani Plateau is a nice and peaceful way to end your day.  

Exploring Thórsmörk in Iceland offers an unparalleled opportunity to hike some of the most amazing trails in the country. Nature lovers will appreciate the rugged and remote terrain, with glaciers glinting above and rushing rivers braiding their way through the valleys of black sand. There’s really no place quite like it in Iceland.  

Read more: The 5 best places to visit in the Icelandic Highlands 

FAQs 

Is a Trip to Thórsmörk a worthwhile experience?  

Absolutely, Thórsmörk is a breathtaking destination. Named after the Norse god of thunder, Thórsmörk is a marvel nestled between massive glaciers, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in diverse Icelandic nature. With its secluded waterfalls and stunning vistas, your memories of Thórsmörk will be cherished for a lifetime. 

How much time is required to hike in Thórsmörk? 

The duration of the hiking trails in Thórsmörk varies – however, visiting in one day and hitting some trails is entirely possible. You can get the bus in the morning and then return later that afternoon or evening on the return bus. See the section on getting to Thórsmörk by bus for more information.  

Is it possible to drive to Thórsmörk in Iceland? 

You can drive to Thórsmörk using the F249 from the main Ring Road. However, this journey is not recommended unless you have a robust 4x4 vehicle and significant driving experience. The F249 is known for its challenging terrain, including several deep and potentially hazardous river crossings that have claimed many a visitor to Iceland. It’s an easy way to ruin your campervan trip to Iceland – just take the bus!  

Can I hike the Fimmvörðuháls Pass from Thórsmörk?  

Yes, you can hike the Fimmvörðuháls Pass from Thórsmörk. This popular day hike will take you up and out of Thórsmörk, crossing the mountain pass between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Then, descending to the other side, you’ll arrive at Skógafoss. Read our article here about hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Pass with a campervan.  

Looking for a campervan to journey through Iceland’s Highlands? Browse our range of capable 4x4 campervans here and book your adventure today.  

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