Thorsmork Valley is a protected nature reserve and part of Katla UNESCO Global Geopark. The Geopark covers an area of 9,542 sq. km (5,929 sq. mi) and is a sanctuary to waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches, and moss-covered fields.
The name Thórsmörk (Þórsmörk or Thorsmork) translates to “The Valley of Thor” and refers to the god Thor in Norse mythology. Thor is the god of lightning and thunder and associated with strength and fertility.
The valley is one of the greenest and most fertile places in Iceland. The landscapes encompass everything from lush birch forest and moss-covered fields to active volcanos and glacier rivers cutting through black sand deserts.
Thorsmork is the name of the valley and mountain ridge within the Markarfljót, Þröngá, and Krossá rivers. Many people, including locals, use the name to describe the area within three glaciers: Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull, and Tindfjallajökull.
Thorsmork Valley is enclosed by jagged mountains topped with blue glacier caps. The mossy slopes contrast with the black plains carved by glacier rivers. The area is also dense with birch forests, a rare sight on the barren island. In summer, wild arctic flowers bloom in the green fields.
Some of Thorsmork’s mountain peaks hide active volcanoes. After the notorious Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, two new craters formed at the valley. They’re named Magni and Móði (Modi) after two sons of Thor. These names mean brave and strong.
Thorsmork stands out from the rest of Iceland’s landscapes with its birch forest and green fields of fern and moss. Because of Iceland’s geological history and frequent volcanic eruptions, the island is nearly treeless. This flora makes Thorsmork even more special. The valley is also a popular hiking location among locals who love to spend time outdoors surrounded by trees.
The lush trees are a big draw for local birdlife. Hikers also often come across the arctic foxes that live in the valley. Some of these fluffy wild animals are keen to pose for pictures!
We recommend buying a hiking map in Húsadalur or Langidalur. You can also download a hiking app on your phone. Keep in mind that network coverage isn’t always available. If you’re planning on a longer hike, it’s a good idea to download an offline map beforehand and use a GPS device.
The valley is located in the southern Icelandic Highlands around 160 km (100 mi) from Reykjavik. The drive to Thorsmork from the capital takes about 2.5 hours. This close distance from the city means you can easily take a day tour from Reykjavik to the valley. Hike the area for a few hours before heading back to the city.
Between mid-June and the end of September, visit Thórsmörk in larger 4X4 Jeeps. You can either join one of the super jeep tours that run in the area or travel with a large rental car.
From Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, leave the Ring Road and take Road 249 to the Highlands. This road leads to an F-road that is only suitable for very large Jeeps. You will have to drive on rough, unpaved roads and cross 15-20 rivers without bridges. If you have a rental car, make sure to check with your rental company to see if you are permitted to drive on F-roads.
Note: There is no insurance coverage for river crossings in Iceland. Also, bare in mind that crossing Krossá can be really dangerous, even for those who’ve done it many times.
Follow Road F249 for approximately 25 kilometers (15 miles) and park your car in the Krossá Car Park right by the sign for the huts. Even though the Krossá River is very close to the final destination, never attempt to cross the river because it is especially dangerous. Only specialized super jeeps are able to cross it.
Another way to get to Thorsmork Valley in summer is on a specialized Highland bus. The bus departs from Reykjavík daily with a few stops along the South Coast. Catch the bus from late June up until the first week of September.
The Highlands aren’t accessible by rental cars in winter. The roads are covered in deep snow. The best way to get to this part of Iceland is on a guided snowmobile or super jeep tour.
The Volcano Huts campsite is open all year round. It’s usually not busy during the winter. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere in a heated hut far from civilization. Enjoy the sight of the Northern Lights above the valley!
Hiking in the Highlands of Iceland
Thorsmork has a special microclimate. The valley is protected by high mountains so the winds are weaker and the temperatures are slightly higher than in the surrounding area.
While you can expect slightly milder temperatures than in the rest of the highlands, the weather in Thorsmork can change every minute. Proper equipment and clothes are essential when hiking the valley. You should have sturdy, waterproof hiking boots and multi-layered clothing designed for outdoor activities.
Thorsmork is the base camp for two of Iceland’s favorite treks: Laugavegur and Fimmvörduáls. Both trails run into the valley but from opposite directions. The Fimmvörðuháls Hike is 25 km (15.5 mi) long and starts in Skógar on the South Coast of Iceland. The trail leads through the mountain ridge between the Eyjafjallajökull and Myrdalsjökull glaciers and ends in Thorsmork.
The world-famous, 55-kilometer (34-mi) long Laugavegur Trail starts in Landmannalaugar, at the northern end of the Highlands. It runs southwards through the colorful rhyolite mountains and finishes in Thorsmork.
Many hikers connect these two trails. They start the trek in Landmannalaugar, take a break in Thorsmork, and reach the finish line in Skógar. Naturally, it can be completed starting in the opposite direction, too. The landscapes are equally beautiful in both directions.
Thorsmork is also great for day hikes that vary in distance and difficulty.
The Fimmvörduháls Volcano Hike lasts from 5 to 7 hours and takes you to the newly formed volcanic craters Magni and Modi. During this hike, you’ll see the valley from above as your guide leads you to the highest point of Fimmvörduháls Pass. The view encompasses everything from glaciers to snow-capped mountains to volcanoes.
The Tindfjöll Circle is a 4-6 hour hike offering some of the most beautiful viewpoints in Thórsmörk. It features a few challenging parts, where you will face rough terrains such as narrow ridges and steep moraines. The Tindfjöll Circle is a popular trail, but the hike is not for the faint of heart. However, it’s fun and guarantees a memorable experience for skilled hikers.
Thórsmörk has many valleys, but Húsadalur, Langidalur, Básar, and Slyppugil are the most visited. There is a campsite in each of the valleys. The best-equipped facilities are at the Volcano Huts in Húsadalur. It’s also a popular overnight location as most hikers finish their longer treks in Húsadalur.
Húsadalur Valley has cottages with private bedrooms and dormitories available as well as glamping (glamorous camping) beds. There is a restaurant that offers a buffet breakfast and hot meals throughout the day, mainly serving up Icelandic home-style cuisine.
The Iceland Touring Association operates a hut in Langidalur Valley. It’s a spacious two-story hut that accommodates 75 people. The ground floor has a large heated entrance hall for storing wet equipment. There are two fully-equipped kitchens and a large dining hall where you can sit down to eat comfortably. Altogether, there are two large sleeping halls and three separate quarters with bunk beds. Also, there’s a small shop where you can get snacks and drinks.
Langidalur has a large campground. Campers must bring their own stoves. A large shower block and toilet facilities are located outside of the hut. Showers are accessible for a small fee.
Básar Valley has a campground with showers and huts that accommodate 83 people. Gas stoves and kitchenware are available at the huts for free, but there’s a fee for using the showers.
A small and quiet campsite in Slyppugil offers toilet facilities and showers for an extra charge. There are no electric outlets or kitchens, but the campsite offers a playground and barbecue facilities.
Most campsites are open from May or June until October. You don’t need to book campsites in advance, but you do need to book huts. If you book a hiking tour with us, we’ll take care of your accommodation and guarantee your place once you’ve completed your booking.
If you’re traveling without a guide, make sure to check the weather forecast and weather warnings before heading to Thórsmörk. Upon arrival, stop at the information point to ask about trail conditions before heading out on your hike. It’s a good idea to download the SafeTravel app and make sure that you submit your travel plans before leaving.
For those who are traveling alone or aren’t experienced hikers, we recommend joining a guided tour. The guides for these hikes have been trained to lead you safely through the terrain and know how to cope with the sometimes challenging conditions that hikers can face in Iceland.
If you’re not traveling on a guided tour, hut wardens are a great source for valuable information. They know Thorsmork like the back of their hand and they’re always up to date with all that happens around. Wardens can advice on weather and give you hiking tips, so make sure to approach them!
Thorsmork is a highly protected area. Please note that camping in nature reserves outside of the designated campsites is both illegal and unsafe. There are plenty of huts and campsites in the area where you can pitch your tent or reserve a place to sleep.
Respect any closures. Even if it’s muddy, always stay on the hiking trails. Do not step on the moss. Be considerate of others and respect nature — never leave any waste behind.