Have you ever been to the middle of nowhere? Iceland’s interior highlands are where man has never made his home and is still a rare visitor. Here, nature is still at its rawest, with glaciers, deserts of black sand, barren glacial moraine, steaming hot springs, active and spent volcanoes and strange oases of vegetation. A visit to this other-worldly place is one you will never forget. Especially as anything from the transportation needed to reach it to each and every natural attraction that comes your way is like nothing you have experienced before!
How to reach the Icelandic Highlands?
Two main overland routes link the north and south. The western route over Kjolur is passable by ordinary vehicles in summer. Onwards around the Langjokull glacier on the way to Hveravellir geothermal field before emerging by the Ring Road in the north. However, the weather can change even quicker in these parts so we recommend either a self-drive trip with assistance or simply joining a guided tour where experts lead the way.
The other more directly central route is over the black sands of Sprengisandur, and with only rough tracks as well as un-bridged rivers that can only be negotiated by big 4WD vehicles. The Sprengisandur route threads its way between glaciers to come out southeast of Akureyri, near Lake Myvatn.
Major attractions in the highlands of Iceland
- Askja Volcanic Area
- Kverkfjoll Mountain Range
- Thorsmork Nature Reserve
- Laugavegur Hiking Trail
- Hveravellir Hot Springs
- Eldhraun Lava Field
- Laki Craters
- Vatnajokull Glacier
- Kerlingarfjoll Mountain Range
- Mountain Road Kjolur
Highland favorites include the area around Mt. Askja, where you can bathe in a naturally warm lake called Viti (Hell), and Kverkfjoll, a high-temperature geothermal field on the rim of Vatnajokull, where the heat creates fantastic but ever-changing caves formed in the ice.
Kverkfjoll Mountain range is another charmer in the Highlands. Nowadays mostly noted for being one of the more active volcanic areas in Iceland.
And let’s not forget to mention two of the biggest highland attractions in Iceland; the Thorsmork Nature Reserve, one of the most popular hiking areas in the country, and the geothermal area Landmannalaugar, with its multicolored mountains, natural hot pools, steaming lava fields and countless hiking opportunities. Between those two gems lies the pathway known as Laugavegur, the most popular hiking trail in Iceland. Moreover, a trail that has been chosen by National Geographic as one of the top 10 in Europe!
More on the Volcanic side
Hveravellir, basically just means hot spring fields and the place is true to its name. The oldest writings found describing this place are from the year 1752 which tells you a lot about its memorability. Situated close to Kjolur highland road this bathing pearl is an absolute must-do!
Next on our volcanic countdown is the Eldhraun lava field. Again with a legendary name, Firelava! It is situated more on the southern end of the highlands and is home to the incredible Laki craters. The Laki craters famously yet tragically erupted from 1783 to 1784 and affected the whole of Europe. Leading to crop failure, disease, and other human and natural disasters. Today you will only see the enormous field of lava rocks and formations that are peacefully covered in soft green moss. It is hard to imagine what took place but the serenity and natural beauty are awe-inspiring!
For more detailed information about attractions and activities in the Icelandic highlands be sure to go through our destination guide.