If you are looking to visit Thorsmork Iceland, you are in for a real treat! This nature reserve located in the southern Icelandic highlands and is full of stunning remote nature and wonderful hikes in Iceland. The valley is named after the Norse god Thor and the name translates into “Thor’s Valley” in English. Thorsmork is one of the true last frontiers in Iceland and after you visit just one time it is easy to see why! From Arctic Foxes to canyons and mountains of compressed volcanic ash, Thorsmork Iceland will surprise you at every turn!
The name is spelled Þórsmörk in Icelandic but sounds like “Thorsmork” as the Þ in the Icelandic language sounds similar to “th” in English. As a result, if you are writing the name in English, Icelandic people ask that you spell it Thorsmork and not Porsmork! Now that we got the spelling and pronunciation of Thorsmork straightened out, there are a few things you need to know before visiting this off-the-beaten-path location in Iceland.
5 Things To Know Before Visiting Thorsmork Iceland
#1. The Entrance To Thorsmork Valley Is Located Right By Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
We had been traveling to Iceland for years and had only heard about the mystery of Thorsmork but were never really quite sure where it is. Well, it turns out that the driving entrance to Thorsmork Iceland is located down the same exact road that the very popular Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is on Iceland’s south coast. We were quite surprised to learn that this is where the entrance to such a mystical place is located as we had been down the road to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall many times!
Although the entrance to Thorksmork is marked with a tiny sign from the Ring Road, most people are too busy searching for Seljalandsfoss Waterfall to even pay it any attention! The entrance to Thorsmork Iceland is very unassuming as you drive around past Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and past a few small towns and homes before you really enter the true beauty of the nature park. You will start off driving down a plain gravel road and the fantastic nature will arrive gradually until you are in the heart of Thorsmork!
#2. You Will Have To Drive Through Rivers And Insurance Won’t Cover Your Car
If you plan on driving into Thorsmork Valley, as opposed to a multi-day trek on foot, understand that the driving is dangerous and the roads are not well-taken-care-of. The road into Thorsmork is considered an F-Road which means you must have a 4×4 car when driving into the valley. Check out our guide to driving in Iceland for more tips! Just because you rent a 4×4 vehicle does not mean that it is recommended to drive into Thorsmork.
When you drive into Thorsmork Iceland from the Ring Road the dirt F-road you drive on will seem pretty good. After driving for a few miles, the road will start to get worse and you will come across the all-dangerous river crossings. This is where you must drive through a river in the middle of the road. Initially, the rivers on the road to Thorsmork will be little babies if there hasn’t been much rain so they won’t seem that bad. The deeper you go into Thorsmork the more raging and more dangerous the river crossings will be. If you plan on driving into Thorsmork yourself, you will think that the river crossings are easy, until you get deeper in the valley.
Even if you rent a 4×4 vehicle like we did, that does not mean you will be equipped for driving in Thorsmork. The moment you drive into a river, your insurance automatically STOPS covering anything to do with the car you just put in the water. During our time in Thorsmork Iceland, we saw so many abandoned cars on the side of rivers. This means those 4×4’s tried to cross the river and the water was too high and got into the engine, thus stalling the car and ruining the engine. Since insurance doesn’t cover your car once in the water, these people would be out tens of thousands of dollars.The only vehicles that may be okay to cross rivers in Iceland are defender Land Rovers and even then, it is a gamble!
Besides the insurance not covering your car the moment you get into the water, it is also dangerous, especially if you have never crossed a river before. People die quite often trying to do this in Thorsmork and if they don’t die, they get into trouble and must be rescued. When we were in Thorsmork, a woman had died trying to cross a river on her own just a week before. She was on her honeymoon! We don’t say this to scare you from visiting Thorsmork but we want you to go in with open eyes and take proper precautions!
#3. It’s Strongly Recommended To Hire A Local Guide With A Superjeep To Take You Into Thorsmork
Unless you are an experienced driver with a Defender Land Rover 4×4, you aren’t going to want to drive yourself into Thorsmork. Visiting the entrance of Thorsmork on your own is totally fine, but once you come to the first large river, aka when the sites start to get good, you are going to want to turn back for your own safety and wallet.
We highly recommend hiring a local guide with a superjeep to take you into Thorsmork. The cost of the tour will be well worth it for the knowledge of the individual tour guide as well as your life and your car. $100 now is way better than $50,000 later if your car stalls out and insurance doesn’t cover an expensive 4×4 vehicle or the water in Thorsmork is high and you get swept away [this is a real thing that happens often in Throsmork not a scare tactic we promise!]
When we visited Thorsmork, we went with Logi from Into The Wild. Logi has actually lived his whole life in one of the small towns in the Thorsmork Valley entrance so to say he was knowledgeable was an understatement! Logi owns not one, but two super jeeps and runs lots of tours in Iceland including to Thorsmork. You can also hire him privately if you want the whole tour customized as we did. Crossing rivers in a superjeep was fun and safe with Logi, but scary when we thought out trying it in our own small 4×4 as we passed stalled vehicle after vehicle during our drive into Thorsmork.
Logi knew all the best places to take us in Thorsmork as he has been visiting for decades and knows off-the-beaten-path gems that you would never find on your own. Logi also had an iPad full of informational photos and videos as well as apps where he could track the location of the sunset, milky way, weather and more. As photographers, this was very helpful so we could track exactly where we wanted to be for sunset and Logi was able to show us the way and help us when hiking in Thorsmork and exploring the valley.
For your own safety and enjoyment, we highly recommend making the investment and hiring a local guide such as Logi from Into The Wild. You will find all the best areas with a knowledgeable local and will be safe while exploring Thorsmork!
#4. Valahnukur Hike Offers Some Of The Best Views In Thorsmork
When we were planning to visit Thorsmork Iceland, we knew there was one particular view we wanted to see. We asked Logi, our guide, about it and he told us it was called the Valahnukur Hike. The Valahnukur Hike in Thorsmork takes about 1.5-2 hours round trip, depending on how long you stay at the top. We aren’t seasoned hikers and it took us 45 minutes each way to complete.
Valahnukur is essentially an ancient volcanic ash mountain located in the heart of Thorsmork. Once you hike to the top, you are standing at the very peak of the small mountain and have incredible 360-degree views of Thorsmork and even all the way into nearby Landmannalaugar. From this Thorsmork hike, you can see down into the valley where you came from, all the way out to the Ring Road/south Iceland coast, over glaciers, and through canyons. The view is incredible and well worth the hike up.
The Valahnukur hike in Thorsmork is a steep upward hike that lasts for 45 minutes. We took quite a few breaks and still completed it faster than we had anticipated. The trail either starts from the Volcano Huts property on the west side of the mountain or at the camping and hiking store at Slyppugil on the east side of the mountain. We ascended Valahnukur from the east side but you can complete a similar hike if you are staying at the Volcano Huts in Thorsmork.
#5. Wild Camping Is Not Allowed In Thorsmork And You Must Stay At Approved Campsites
One of the main reasons people visit Thorsmork Iceland is to go hiking, trekking, or camping. After all, one of the most popular treks/hikes in Iceland is the hike from Skogar to Thorsmork. That being said, wild camping is not allowed anywhere in Iceland. When camping in Iceland, you must stay at a designated campsite, even when visiting more rustic places such as the Highlands and Thorsmork.
People do still camp wherever they want in Thorsmork, whether that is tent camping or camping in their cars if they drive, but it is illegal and not allowed and you will get in trouble if caught. Unlike other parts of Iceland where people literally drive until they see a campground or hotel and book for the night, we highly recommend planning ahead if you want to camp in Thorsmork and especially if you plan on doing an overnight or multi-day trek through Thorsmork and other parts of the Icelandic Highlands.
The Thorsmork Volcano Huts are a popular accommodation choice for people visiting Thorsmork and they offer glamping and camping options. If you plan to hike or trek or are looking for more options for camping in Thorsmork, this website gives you a list and location of all the campsites in the Highlands of Iceland, including details for Thorsmork. Make sure to plan ahead if you plan on camping in Thorsmork or staying the night as wild camping is illegal in Iceland!
We highly recommend planning a trip to Thorsmork Iceland if you are looking to get off the beaten path and want to see real and untouched Iceland far away from any tourists. When visiting Þórsmörk, always make sure to “leave no trace” and take out whatever garbage you bring in. This goes for using the restroom outdoors as well. There are designated restrooms in Thorsmork but if you must “go” outdoors, make a hole in the ground 1 foot deep and bury any evidence. Bring a plastic bag and take your toilet paper out with you too. Together we can keep Thorsmork wild and beautiful for many years to come!
Please note: Our trip into Thorsmork was provided by Visit South Iceland for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own!