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Landmannalaugar can be enjoyed in day tours, afternoon visits, and 2-hour bus layovers, but 2 to 4 nights is ideal. Arriving by bus one afternoon and leaving the next just doesn't allow time for hikes that take the better part of a day. Fjallabak is often drizzly, so it's smart to include an extra day for weather insurance. A surefire itinerary is to spend 3 nights in Landmannalaugar, 3 nights on the 4-day Laugavegurinn, and a final night or two in Þórsmörk.

Available at the hut for 1,000kr ($16/£8), maps of the Landmannalaugar area lay out the trails in detail. Wardens and other travelers are happy to detail routes of any length or difficulty. Recommended destinations include Brandsgil Canyon, Frostastaðavatn Lake, the summits of Bláhnúkur and Brennisteinsalda, and the unjustly named Ljótipollur (Ugly Puddle), a red crater with a lake full of brown trout. Almost all visitors complete the day with a dip in the famous hot spring near the hut.

East of Landmannalaugar, the roughest stretch of Route F208 leads to Eldgjá, or the "Fire Canyon." This 30km-long (19-mile) volcanic fissure reaches a depth of 270m (886 ft.) and width of 600m (1,969 ft.), revealing reddish rockslides and a pretty waterfall named Ófærufoss. The bus heading east stops at Eldgjá for 45 minutes, and the westbound bus stops for an hour and 45 minutes. Eldgjá is also included in some organized tours.

The Laugavegurinn -- This 55km (34 miles) route between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk is Iceland's best-known trek, and for good reason. The scenery is breathtaking, endlessly varied -- from ice caves and geothermal fields to glacial valleys and woodlands -- and perfectly choreographed through each leg of the journey. Sleeping-bag huts with kitchens, toilets, and usually showers are spaced at roughly 14km (9 miles) intervals. Some energetic hikers sprint the entire route in 2 days, but four or even 5 days is ideal for fully digesting your surroundings. The trail opens up anytime from late June to mid-July, and remains passable through some point in September. The season could be extended a little on either end by bringing an ice axe and crampons for the steep, icy sections of the trail.

Either bring a tent or book accommodations well in advance. Ferðafélag Íslands (tel. 568-2533; www.fi.is) runs the hut at Landmannalaugar, all three huts along the route, and one of the three huts at Þórsmörk. The costs and payment procedures are the same as for the Landmannalaugar hut. It's a great luxury to have your bags carried from hut to hut by 4WD. You must pack in all of your own food, unless provisions are part of your organized tour.

You'll also want good hiking shoes, a full weatherproof outfit, extra footwear for fording rivers (supportive rubber sandals are best), and a map and compass, even though the trail is heavily trafficked and well-marked. The Landmannalaugar hut sells a standard hiking map of the route, as well as a small book (The Laugavegurinn Hiking Trail, by Leifur Þórsteinsson) with good detail on sights along the trail as well as potential side trips.

The route can be done in either direction, but most trekkers head from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. This route evens out the strenuousness of each day, and has a slight net loss of altitude. Many hikers continue from Þórsmörk on the 2-day trek to Skógar.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.