#4X4

Spring has arrived early in Iceland.  April is not always part of spring but more often part of winter, but the weather can change all that. At least in the minds and heads of Icelanders.  We at Hit Iceland are always touring around the country and took a day trip to Þórsmörk yesterday on Good Friday.

Early spring in Þórsmörk

Camping and hiking in Iceland are among the great options for people planning a vacation, a trip, a drive along the coastline or a road trip to Iceland.

Camping and hiking in Iceland

Located northeast of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull by the Highland track Syðri Fjallabak, Brytalækir or “The Pursers Brook” is a beautiful spring fed stream.  The source of the water is near the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the lava partly beneath the sand.  The stream runs through a beautiful green landscape filled with vegetation and flora during summer. It is an unusually lively and luxuriance place for this attitude, almost like a small oasis.  A significant portion of the stream spreads out and gives the illusion that you are standing by a small lake or a pound. The surrounding area on the north bank is filled with small hillocks or knolls that give the place a bit of a mysterious atmosphere. It is one of the gems in the Icelandic landscape that few visit and is also a peaceful place to enjoy.

The name has a peculiar origin like many places at Fjallabak Syðri

A few centuries ago a Purser named Ólafur was working at the famous episcopal see Skálholt. At the same time, a female housekeeper with witchcraft knowledge was also working for the bishop. She was full of anger and had limited tolerance for disagreement.  At one point Ólafur apparently offended the woman who immediately cast a spell over him with her magic. As the magic took over his mind, he ran out of the house as fast as he could eastward to a small mountain called Lyklafell, or Key Mountain, where he left his keys to Skálholt. Then he ran through a mountain pass that since has had his name Ólafsskarð. Not being able to stop running because of the spell he continued to run all the way to this creek, Brytalækir, where he was found dead by the stream.  And when found the stream was named Brytalækir to honor his fate and run.

Part of the 4X4 mountain road and small dirt road Fjallabaksleið Syðri

For those who like to travel to Brytalækir, it is a place that unquestionably requires a good solid jeep or a large 4WD vehicle. It is not even a road that people should try to drive in any other kind of vehicle.  But for those who like to take on a well prepared adventuresome 4X4 jeep tour on challenging roads and crossing rivers, the Fjallabaksleið Syðri is the most exciting option in Iceland. 

Located northeast of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull by the Highland track Syðri Fjallabak, Brytalækir or “The Pursers Brook” is a beautiful spring fed stream.

As one of Iceland's most remarkable place to visit and a natural wonder, Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience plus hiking trails.  A place where you can find peace and quiet and your own little sanctuary by a small creek or under a hunted cliff.  It is an ideal place to take a bus from Reykjavík the capital equipped with hiking shoes, a tent, and supplies for a few days stay.

Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience

When driving in Iceland on vacation between natural wonders like waterfalls, basalt column cliffs, hot spring geothermal pools and glacier lagoons, you will most likely notice animals in the countryside. Especially if you are driving past farms and farmlands.  You will see a lot of sheep and cows, not to mention all the birds, small birds and large birds like geese and Whooper swans. Friendly wonderful animals, and in Iceland you don't have to worry about dangerous wild animals since they are almost non-existing in Iceland.

Overall most of the animals in Iceland are a significant addition to the landscape.

Driving a well-equipped 4WD vehicle through the Highland when traveling in Iceland is an exciting and probably a once in a lifetime experience for most people. Although a spectacular drive the scenery is quite different from driving the great scenic drive in the West fjords or the in the Eastern Region. The Icelandic Highland is a place where you drive mile after mile or kilometer after kilometer through black sands with a view of gray mountains with limited vegetation.  But fortunately, there are some fascinating places in the Highland that we could label as an oasis that are in striking contrast to the black sands, glaciers, muddy rivers, dusty gravel 4X4 tracks and sandy mountains. One such place is Laugafell in the northern part of the highland road Sprengisandsleið.  

A geothermal pool in the middle of nowhere

At Laugafell you will find one of the many fantastic geothermal pools that are located in the Highland in Iceland. On an island that is relatively young on the geological timeline and basically sits on a magma, it is no surprise to find a warm geothermal pool here and there. The pool in Laugafell is one of the best and most impressive geothermal pools in Iceland. Not surprisingly it draws a lot of visitors to the Highland. The temperature is perfect, and The Touring Club of Akureyri has built a very nice facility to make your visit as wonderful as possible. 

A quarantine for the rich lady from Möðruvellir her people and stock

Unlike many spots and places in the Icelandic Highland Laugafell has been known to Icelanders for centuries.  One reason might be the fairly short distance from the lower inhabited areas north of Laugafell. Another might be the fact that here you find vegetation and warm water.  An old folklore tells the story of a very wealthy woman that moved all her family, servants and stock to Laugafell in the middle of the 14th century to avoid contamination from the severe black death plague.   Apparently, this decision saved everyone as the stayed in a kind of a quarantine while the plague killed over one hundred million people worldwide.

Access to drive to Laugafell is not simple

As the Icelandic highland is only open from the beginning of July until the middle of September, it defines the time you can visit Laugafell.  If you are driving north on F26 Sprengisandsleið, you need to take a turn west on the mountain road F752 and follow that road. If you are in the northern part of Iceland, you drive from Akureyri south on F821 up to the Highland and the road will take you to Laugafell.

Laugafell and the geothermal pool is located at the northern part of Sprengisandur in Iceland

It's already September, and that means that the Highland roads in Iceland are more or less closing down.  Most of the cabins and service on the Highland is also closing, and any service has been terminated. It is the beginning of winter and soon the whole area will be covered with snow.

A mistake many visitors make when traveling in the Icelandic Highland is to hire a small car and to drive it into a river and put themselves in danger when they get stuck in the middle of the stream.

In the Highland northeast of the glacier Langjökull, and between the two glaciers Langjökull glacier and Hofsjökull glacier, is a fascinating geothermal area Hveravellir right on the Highland Road F35 Kjalvegur. Kjalvegur is a route that Icelanders used for centuries to travel between the north region and south region.  So Hveravellir is a place with a long history and probably one of the best-known spots in the Highland. Probably because during summer you could travel on a horse in one day to Hveravellir from Skagafjörður in the north and the second day south to the area around Gullfoss.  It is a place most Icelanders know, and many have visited.  Another reason is, according to folklore, the highly admired outlaw couple Eyvindur and Halla had their home in Hveravellir for a short time.  It is also a beautiful area with a variety of hot springs that have interesting names and an endless spectrum of activity and colors.  And we should not forget that Hveravellir has one of the most famous natural geothermal pool in Iceland.

Kjalvegur is the best option to travel in the Highland in Iceland

For anyone planning to see and visit Hveravellir, one of the best options is to driver Kjalvegur.  Here you need to keep in mind while preparing a trip to the Highland that the road is only open from the end of June until the middle of September. In the winter it is covered with snow.  Although possible to drive the road in a small vehicle it is not recommended.   The road is often tough to drive and the road usually not maintained to standards.  It is a rough gravel road, so a 4X4 vehicle is highly recommended. The route is enjoyable with a magnificent view of glaciers, mountains, and highland lakes.

Access to Hveravellir is easy both from the south and the north

The Highland Road F35 practically runs from Gullfoss and Geysir, two of the most famous landmarks and natural wonders in Iceland, to the Ring Road in the north.  The whole drive is about 170 kilometers, but the drive from Gullfoss to Hveravellir is approximately 80 kilometers. This is the easiest way to drive to Hveravellir, from the South to the North.

And we should not forget that Hveravellir has one of the most famous natural geothermal pool in Iceland.

These days Hit Iceland is exploring the Highland. We are driving to places in the Highland for photos and content and like anyone else, admiration of the wonderland that the Icelandic highland is. There are so many places one can visit in the Highland.  We visited Kjölur and Askja and Herðubreiðalindir last week and the week before, and the new lava Holuhraun.  This week we have been driving Sprengisandur, one of two main roads over the Highland. The other one is Kjalvegur or Kjölur.

While driving Sprengisandur we came across this formation on our way down to Eyjafjörður.

Kerlingarfjöll “The old woman's mountains, ” is an exciting place to visit in Iceland and a must, if you are planning to travel in the Highland and looking for things to do in the Highland. Positioned in the middle of the Icelandic Highland Kerlingarfjöll is a cluster of rugged mountains.  Most of the mountains are steep and around 800 to 1500 meters high. Although all of the mountains in the cluster have their individual names they are usually referred to by their common name, which is rare in Icelandic landscape, as most mountains have their own strong identity. This is probably due to the fact that the mountains were barely visited and feared for centuries, as they were believed to be the hiding place of outlaws.

A feast for photographers and a joy for hikers

The mountain cluster Kerlingarfjöll is a paradise for both hikers and photographers.  There are many convenient and scenic hiking trails leading from the camping ground and accommodation at Ásgarður.  Most of the mountains are rhyolite and this the colors vary along the track depending on the weather, mostly the sun, to a point where it almost comes unreal in Hveradalir, and you can quickly feel like nature hypnotizes you. Although the altitude of most of the trails is about 1000 meters there is a surprising amount and variety of vegetation.

How to find and go to Kerlingafjöll

For years the road to Kerlingafjöll was a 4X4 trail with two to three rivers to pass. You could only drive there on a modified 4WD vehicle.  Today the rivers have bridges, and you can turn to Ásgarður the camping site on a small 4WD vehicle. The best way to drive to Kerlingafjöll is to take the F45 Highland Road from Gullfoss and drive the approximately 55 kilometers to the highland road to Kerlingafjöll. You turn to the east on F347 and the distance to Kerlingarfjöll is only 10 kilometers.  We recommend an overnight for at least one night and an early morning hike for a few hours.  Here you must keep in mind that the Highland roads are only open from early June until late September.  So the window to enjoy this magnificent landscape is only about three to four months each year. 

Kerlingarfjöll “The old woman's mountains, ” is an exciting place to visit in Iceland and a must, if you are planning to travel in the Highland and looking for things to do in the Highland.

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