• Einar Páll Svavarsson

Þórsmörk the oasis and hiking paradise


Þórsmörk in the Highland in Iceland
Þórsmörk in the Highland in Iceland

If you ask an Icelander about the most beautiful place in the country, many will reply with "Þórsmörk." For many Icelanders, Þórsmörk is their favorite place for camping and visiting during summer and the number one place if they had to set up a list of favorite locations in Icelandic nature. The place is romantic and comparable to our sacred National Park Þingvellir except in the Highland. It is an oasis surrounded and protected by mighty rivers, mountains, mountain ridges, cliffs, and glaciers. Although defined as the Highland, the altitude is not as high as in most of the Highland, which is why Þórsmörk has more vegetation than most places in the Highland. It is an area of magnificent landscape, interesting rivers, endless creeks and peaks, beautiful canyons, impressive hiking trails, continuously moving glacier tongues, excellent camping areas, and infinitive ways to have an outdoor adventure. Another noteworthy aspect is its proximity to active volcanos that have recently disgorged glowing lava down into some of the nearby canyons.


Map of Iclandic Highland home of Þórsmörk oasis
Map of Iclandic Highland home of Þórsmörk oasis

Þórsmörk is hiker's paradise:

A view from Strákagil canyon to Básar camping area
A view from Strákagil canyon to Básar camping area

There are many excellent hiking trails in Þórsmörk. Some of them are moderate, and others quite challenging. Two of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland end in Þórsmörk: Laugavegur hiking trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk and Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail from Skógar and Skógafoss waterfall to Þórsmörk. Both trails are spectacular and so are most of the places and landscapes in Þórsmörk. If your trip to Iceland and travel in Iceland takes you to Þórsmörk, we recommend spending at least two to three days hiking and enjoying nature in this remarkable place.


Accommodation and camping:


Langidalur camping area from Valahnúkur
Langidalur camping area from Valahnúkur

Two Icelandic travel clubs carry out substantial operations during summer in Þórsmörk. In Básar, the travel association Útivist has a hut and a rather large camping area. All the facilities here are excellent, and wardens offer great service. Here, you can find exciting hiking trails and places to visit. Básar is a small valley on the east side of the river Krossá, which is very difficult to cross in any kind of vehicle. So Básar is a good choice for those who rent their large jeep to drive to Þórsmörk.

The unpredictable and dangerous river Krossá
The unpredictable and dangerous river Krossá

During summer, there are walking bridges to cross the river, so you always have the option of hiking over to the other side of the river. Langidalur valley is on the west side of the river and operated by Ferðafélag Íslands, the Iceland Touring Association. It is also a great place to stay, and the service, both in the hut and at the camping site, is as good as it gets in the Highland. Here, you can also get all the information you need about hiking trails and places to visit. If you choose to stay in Langidalur, you should NOT and NEVER cross the river Krossá. It is a hazardous river, and if you have a vehicle that you think can cross the river, contact the hut in Langidalur before going ahead with the idea. Both Básar and Langidalur are excellent places to visit with a local guide as well as to take a bus and stay there for a few days. Like all the places in the Highland, Þórsmörk could be visited only in summer.


Access is not easy and requires a good 4X4 vehicle:

Þórsmörk is not a place to visit in a small car, even though the car might have some kind of 4WD
Þórsmörk is not a place to visit in a small car, even though the car might have some kind of 4WD

Although it is pretty easy to find the way to Þórsmörk by taking a turn on Road Nr. 1 to Road Nr. 249, which also leads to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the road to Þórsmörk is a rough and challenging one. As Road Nr. 249 continues from Seljalandsfoss, it turns into Mountain Road Nr. 249 within eight kilometers. From there, by the old bridge over the river Markarfljót, it is a rugged road that can be traversed only with a large 4X4 vehicle. There are some streams, creeks, and rivers you need to cross, and most of them can change from "small" to "big" in a heartbeat due to rain, temperature changes, and all kinds of climate-related matters. Driving to Þórsmörk in a small car is irresponsible and can be very dangerous. One of the best options is to take a bus if you don't want to go through the expense of hiring an excellent 4X4 vehicle or take a tour with an experienced tour company.


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