Trekking the Elves Mountains
In 2005, National Geographic nominated this trek for its list of the 25 most beautiful treks in the world. We tend to agree!
In Northeastern Iceland, the Víknaslódir trail (“Trail of the Deserted Inlets”) extends over an area where coastal mountains plunge abruptly into the sea. This isolated region is considered to be the central province of the elves. Their queen resides in her fortress at Álfaborg (Behind the small wooden Bakkagerdi church in eastern Borgarfjördur Bay). The imposing mountain massif of the area displays the entire color spectrum of rhyolite, an acidic form of lava (If you know Landmannalaugar already, just imagine it softer, surrounded by ocean, with the noise from crashing waves and the cries of thousands of nesting seabirds – a truly stunning location!).
From these blue, pink and ochre colors fortresses of dark rock soar hundreds of feet into the sky. In lush, green valleys, limpid torrents run from peat marshes powdered with the white, fluffy seed heads of cotton grass. The ocean’s color changes with its moods – from the most exotic opal to turquoise to oil-black. Almost systematically when the evening comes a lid of mist descends on the landscape, adding to the mystery of the clear night. Just as methodically, the gleaming morning sun burns through these layers which, after some resistance, escape specter-like through the mountain pass. Down on the riverside, there are beautiful cottages, very comfortable and each equipped with a wood-fuelled stove.
With the exception of a lightweight daypack, all equipment and luggage are transported by a 4×4 support vehicle.
(Reykjavik ) Egilstaðir – Loðmundarfjörður
Domestic flight in the early morning from Reykjavik to Egilsstaðir. Check in 45 minutes before departure. An awesome 60-minutes flight over the Icelandic Highlands to Egilsstaðir in eastern Iceland includes views of Mount Hekla, the Vatnajökull ice cap, and Mount Askja. Rendezvous with your guide at Egilsstaðir domestic Airport. From Egilsstaðir we will drive to the colorful village of Seyðisfjörður, an important fishing village and the arrival harbor of the only ferry connecting Iceland to Europe. A dramatic mountain pass to carry on along the side track to the deserted Loðmundarfjörður fjord.
Trekking: 5-6 hours hiking 300 m elevation gain/loss – Loðmundarfjörður Mountain Hut
Wandering in the beautiful fjord which remains for many years one of the most isolated and inaccessible communities in Iceland (it is now uninhabited). There are thousands of nesting eider ducks, as well as seals and reindeers and some wild horses in the vast moorland and swamps on the bottom of the large fjord. If the weather permits, we climb in the rhyolite mountains in the direction to the pass of Kækjuskörð where the view is breath-taking.
Trekking: 5-6 hours hiking – 300-400m elevation gain/loss – Mountain Hut
Loðmundarfjörður – Húsavík
To the West, we can admire countless snowy mountain peaks, to the South and to the North the alignment of fjords and coves and to the East the curvature of the ocean. Somewhere at less than 280 miles away are the beautiful Faroe Islands. Of course, we can’t see them, but we nearly feel their presence. At the pass to Húsavík a large cairn is the only telephone connection possible to receive or send messages. (Otherwise, each shelter is equipped with a radio transmitter that connects us to civilization); Down the pass and through moorland we reach to the foot of Mount Hvítserkur one of the most picturesque and bizarre mountains in the country. Hvítserkur consists of bright ignimbrite, fancifully streaked with darker veins. Descent toward Húsavík. The lodge is located on the site of a small, old farm, deserted in the 1950s after centuries of occupation.
Trekking: 5-6 hours hiking – 300 m elevation gain/loss – Mountain Hut
Húsavík – Breiðavík
We walk up and down toward the beautiful wild bay of Breiðavík. A wonderful place with coastal marsh and black sandy beaches covered with incredible amounts of Siberian driftwood and other treasures of the sea. Curious seals will almost certainly come to observe our evening fire and our strange attitude!
Trekking: 6-7 hours hiking – 400 m elevation gain/loss– Mountain Hut
Breiðavík – Brúnavík -Bakkagerði
We progress across stunningly massive rhyolite mountains displaying an incredible range of all possible ochre and pastel colors from blue to pink. Then we walk, to Borgarfjörður via Brúnavík (“Brown Bay”), At the very foot of the majestic Dyrfjöll Mountain range, we arrive at the small coastal village of Bakkagerði. The rocky hill Álfaborg, right next to Bakkagerði, is the source of the fjord’s name. Acknowledged home to the fairies, it is said to be the dwelling place of their queen in Iceland. We walk to the islet Fagrihóll, the current fishing harbor for the locality. There is a great variety of birds nest here; among common species are the fulmar, kittiwake, eider duck and puffin.
Trekking: 6-7 hours hiking – 400 m elevation gain/loss – B&B Inn
Our trek ends by hiking in the grandiose Dyrfjöll Mountains, whose massive presence dominates the bay of Borgarfjörður. We cross the Vatnaskarð pass, between the faces of the Skeggjaklettur cliff (“Bearded Cliff”) to reach Stórurð (“Big Rocky Ground”), an enormous chaos of large rocks intersected by a calm glacial stream. Between the dark rocks rest calm turquoise-collared basins of icy water surrounded by tender green short grass.
Trekking: 6-8 hours hiking – 500 m elevation gain/loss BB Inn
Bakkagerdi – Egilsstaðir (Reykjavik)
Early morning departure (8 am), or in the early afternoon. Drive up the plateau to the little town of Egilstaðir where we arrive one hour later. Egilsstadir is located on the bank of the long turquoise lake of Lagarfljót, where the legendary monster Lagarfljótsormurinn, a close cousin of the one in Loch Ness in Scotland, lives. Fly back to Reykjavik, or continue on self-drive post-tour.
Drive: 70 km
Rates in 2019
Price in Icelandic KronaExchange rate varies
- Does not include the cost for the domestic flight
- If you are traveling alone, choose the single room option at registration for the two nights in the village of Bakkagerdi (single room at the B&B is available at an additional charge).
- Small group surcharge applies:
- 42.000 ISK/pp (ca.+300 €) for a group of 4 participants
- 28.000 ISK/pp (ca.+200€) for a group of 5 participants
The International Airport is located outside of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, in the southwest of the country. It is served by many international airlines, including some discount airlines such as Easyjet from countries all over Europe, Canada, and the United States.
A regular shuttle bus service, which is scheduled to meet each flight, transfers visitors to the city.
This trek requires a domestic flight from Reykjavik to Egilsstadir (60min). Ticket costs can change at any time without prior notice, but on average they are:
- Around 30.000 ISK for Roundtrip flight (approx.240 € > $272)
- Around 15.000 ISK for One-way flight (approx.120 € > $136)
- you can book this flight yourself on Air Iceland Connect, but please pay attention to the departure times:
- Trek departure: Meeting is at 9 am at Egilsstadir airport or at 10 am at Seydisfjordur
Return of trek: Do not book your flight before 9:30 am on the last day of the trip
- English speaking guide
- Bus transfers to and from the mountains
- Transport of luggage, supplies, and equipment by 4×4 assistant vehicle
- Accommodation 4 nights in mountain huts, 2 nights in B&B
- Full board from lunch day 1 to last day breakfast
- Flights to/from Iceland
- Transfers from/to airport
- Accommodation and meals in Reykjavík
- A taxi ride from your hotel to Reykjavik to airport
- Domestic flight
- Showers in the huts
- Sleeping Bag
- Drinks and other personal expenses
- Additional small group surcharge for groups comprising fewer than 6 participants
- Difficulty level: 2-3 Moderate
- Average walking per day: ca. 15-16 km (9-10 miles)
- Total walking distance: ca.48 km (30 miles) / 24 hours walk (4-day version)
- Total walking distance: ca.62 km (39 miles) / 36 hours walk (6-day version)
- Altitude between: 135 m and 600 m (440-1970 feet)
- Positive gradients: ca.1200 m (ca.3900 feet)
- Downhill gradients: ca.1000 m (ca.3280 feet)
Itinerary and security: the day by day program can be modified or even reversed. However, these changes are rather rare for reasons of safety due to natural phenomena: volcanism, early or late snowfall, bad weather, flooding rivers, exceptionally unfavorable weather … The guide knows the terrain well and is sole master in interpreting the whims of all-powerful nature on this volcanic earth under these high latitudes, and to make the necessary decisions.
Composition of the group: In general, the participants of our trips come from several countries: French speaking from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Quebec but also English speaking people from Great Britain, Ireland, United States (Democratic trending), Australians, New Zealanders or other nations who know how to express themselves in English like Scandinavians, Germans, sometimes Japanese or Russians, and even sometimes Icelanders.
Your Icelandic or French guide is fluent in French and English and masters very well at least one other European language. Traveling with Fjallabak can represent a unique opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and socialize with companions from other countries than yours that you might otherwise never have approached. A unique opportunity to make friends from all around the world and twist the neck to certain prejudices and misconceptions inked
Accommodation: sleeping bag (your own) in mountain refuges and huts: Bunks with comfortable mattresses. Running water and kitchen in the shelter, but the toilets and sinks are usually outside, a few yards in a small building apart. Warm hot showers with charge are available in some huts. If you want more privacy during the night while we sleep, we offer you the possibility of sleeping in tents that we provide, please notify us in advance. On the treks where camping nights are planned, the camps are made up of double tents (or single on request) with a comfortable and insulated mattress and a large equipped mess tent.Electricity: take enough batteries for your camera because you will not often be able to recharge batteries in the huts. Also take a normal charger (220v for European standard outlets) as there are some shelter that have electricity.
Food: We pride ourselves for providing the best cuisine in the highlands! Breakfast is Scandinavian style, with muesli, breads, jams, smoked fish, charcuterie and cheese. The picnics can be a bit repetitive after a week (we are in Iceland), with a variety of sandwiches, smoked meats and fish, excellent local cheeses, green salad, tomatoes and cucumbers. Dinners, varied and often excellent, include fish and lamb dishes, served with pasta, rice or potatoes, vegetables and a green salad.
However, vegans will have to supplement their luggage even though we can accommodate their needs.
For conviviality, but without obligation, you can bring with you a specialty of your country as well as a good bottle of alcohol.
Accommodation during the trek: Sleeping bag accommodation in mountain huts and huts (usually a comfortable and mixed lodging) and according to the itinerary and the conditions, at the peak of the season a few nights might be spent in spacious double tents equipped with comfortable mattresses. Showers are available in some huts, not all.
Special diets: It is essential that vegetarians specify what is banned from their menu, such as those suffering from food allergies (lactose, gluten, etc.). It is important that you advise us of your special food requirements at the time of booking. If the list is long or there is danger with certain allergies, please send us the details by mail. so that the team of our warehouse/storage can take this into account in the preparation of food. Your guide will be aware of your plan, but it does not necessarily mean that he is a specialist in that matter, so it’s up to you to tell him about it at the beginning of the journey when preparing the first meal! It is also up to you to control at each meal what suits you.
Each day a 4×4 vehicle carries the luggage and the food from hut to hut. We do not see this vehicle during the day, because it takes tracks that we rarely encounter. Someone feeling tired one day can make the trip with the driver (often a friendly guide of our team) which will make him discover another aspect of the highlands. A 4×4 assistance vehicle carries the luggage, food supplies and equipment between shelters and camps. We do not see this vehicle during the day, because it takes tracks that we rarely encounter. Someone feeling tired one day can make the trip with the driver (often a friendly guide of our team) which will make him discover another aspect of the highlands. Our carbon impact is lower because the kilometric average of the vehicle does not exceed 30km / day.
Preparation of the trip and notes: This is an assisted hut to hut trekking. At the peak of the season, we might camp for a night or two. The level of walking is moderate to sustained. You only carry a light bag containing what you need for the day. This trek does not present any serious difficulty for people in good physical shape having at least some experience of long walks in the mountains. An experienced guide leads the trek. This trek passes through totally desert areas. Most of the walking is off-trail, with ever-changing terrain conditions. Therefore, sturdy hiking shoes that fit well your feet are a must. Most days involve river crossing, so it is essential not to forget your sandals. See our kits list for more information. You hike 6-7 hours per day, on average, but it can be longer, depending on the weather, the average level of the group. The maximum altitude does not rise more than 1000m. The change of altitude for most days does not exceed 300 m.
Participation: An experienced Icelandic guide leads the trek. As we are not in Nepal but in Iceland, it is expected that the members of the group lend a helping hand to their guide in the preparation of meals, washing the dishes, cleaning the floors before leaving the huts, setting up and taking down the tents when camping. Once in the mountains, the group becomes an independent entity. Fellowship, teamwork and forged friendships add much to the richness of each person’s experience.
You’ll need to bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold and wet weather, such as polypropylene, Capilene, or pile. Wool and wool/synthetic blends are also suitable – though wool, if wet, dries slowly compared to synthetic fabrics. We discourage the use of cotton in wet conditions it dries very slowly. When camping, tents are provided. You will be responsible for bringing your mattress and sleeping bag.
When layering, the innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or wool shirt, and pants. The outermost layer must be a breathable waterproof jacket such as a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-pants.
For quantities for each item listed, use your own judgment, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.
- Regular underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry
- Synthetic thermal underwear
- Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
- Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
- Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
- Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Down jacket from mid-August to September (optional)
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Pile/fleece pants, ideal for around the camp
- Sun & rain hat
- Wool hat
- Gloves (wool or pile)
- Waterproofed shell gloves
- Medium weight synthetic socks
- Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
- Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
- Hiking boots, medium-weight, all leather, with padded ankle, good arch support, and a lug sole traction. Your hiking boots should be waterproof, well broken in, and suitable for rocky terrain or possibly snow.
- Comfortables shoes to wear when not hiking (optional) Teva-type sandals for river-crossings. Absolutely recommended! Gaiters.
- Comfortable sleeping bag +10°C to –10°C which can be opened all the way
- Cotton sheet for hut’s mattress
- Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
- Swimsuit and towel for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
- 1-to-2 liters capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos
- Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (from August only)
- Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in a duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
- Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
- Moisturizing Lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
- Sunglasses. Highly recommended!
- Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
- Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
- Personal first aid kit
- Netting hood
Optional Travel Accessories
- Hiking poles. Highly recommended
- Repair kit with needle, thread, and safety pins
- Reading and writing material
- Your favorite snack food such as raisins or chocolate
- Protein supplements for vegetarian
- 1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger
This itinerary is run both ways, regular and in reverse order.
- Jul 7 – 13, 2019 (regular)
- Jul 11 – 17, 2019 (reverse)
- Jul 17 – 23, 2019 (regular)
- Jul 21 – 27, 2019 (reverse)
- Aug 4 – 10, 2019 (regular)
- Aug 8 – 14, 2019 (reverse)
- Aug 14 – 20, 2019 (regular)
- Aug 18 – 24, 2019 (reverse)
- Sep 1, – 7, 2019 (regular)
- Sep 5 – 11, 2019 (reverse)