Natural wonders are by far the most appreciated and the most popular attractions in Iceland.  When you are traveling and taking a vacation, it is priceless to have the option to stop by a beautiful waterfall, a rare sight by a lagoon or to view a hot spring with boiling clay and blasting steam.  But while driving it is also priceless to have a spectacular view of mountains or drive through a beautiful fjord.  Although natural wonders are the main attractions in Iceland, some places and areas can stand alone as a spectacular scenic drive.

Five most interesting scenic drives in Iceland

The Icelandic highland is a vast area in Iceland and a large portion of the island. It is the inland area mostly above the altitude of 500 meters. There are many interesting places in the Highland, natural wonders, hiking trails, and roads. The whole area, without exception, is highly sensitive and requires caution from everyone traveling in the Highland.

Kjalvegur - Kjolur - Highland road

There are not many waterfalls in the Icelandic highland that have become popular or major attractions.  One of the reasons is the relatively short time that the Highland in Iceland is open, only from the middle of June until late September. That doesn't mean that Iceland lacks spectacular waterfalls in the Highland.  Waterfalls like Fagrifoss, Ófærufoss, and Sigöldufoss are good examples.  One of the beautiful waterfalls in the Highland is Gýgjarfoss located near the Highland Road Kjalvegur or Kjölur Nr. 35, just by the road Nr. F347 leading to Kerlingarfjöll and Hveradalir. The waterfall is in the river Jökulfall which has its source in the glacier Hofsjökull, and the mountain ridge Kerlingafjöll along with many small spring-fed rivers.  Eventually, the river joins the mighty river Hvítá that provides the stream for our most spectacular waterfall Gullfoss.

Gýgjarfoss has spectacular surroundings

Although the waterfall is only about 5 meters high and around 20 meters high, it is fed by a powerful source which has an impressive volume. The flood can vary depending on the season with more volume during spring and early summer. Sometimes on a warm day the flood is much more in the afternoon than in the morning. The surrounding area around Gýgjarfoss is quite impressive with the mountains in the background and the fascinating gorge downstream. It is a wonderful place for photographers. 

Quite accessible during summer although a 4X4 is recommended

Gýgjarfoss waterfall is a convenient part of the drive Kjölur or Kjalvegur road trip. When you are driving the Road Nr. 35 and turn to Kerlingafjöll and Hveradalir the waterfall is as near the road as possible. So if you are interested in seeing this waterfall, there are many other wonderful natural wonders you will see on this road trip in addition to the magnificent scenic drive in the Highland.

Nearby interesting places

Hveravellir - Hvítárvatn lake - Kerlingarfjöll - Hveradalir hot springs - Nýjifoss waterfall - Jarlhettur

One of the beautiful waterfalls in the Highland is Gýgjarfoss located near the Highland Road Kjalvegur

Some lakes in Iceland are placed by the edge of a glacier. Probably around five or six.  All of those lakes get their source of water from the melting glaciers and glacier tongues, and in many cases, also from spring-fed water flowing from mountains hidden under the ice cap. In some cases, the lake is full of icebergs falling from the glacier tongue, like the famous Icelandic tourist attractions Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón. Hvítárvatn (White River Lake)  is one such lake in the Highland near the highland road Kjalvegur or Kjölur by the glacier Langjökull and the glacier tongue Norðurjökull. In addition to the sources mentions above the lake has other sources from rivers and creeks in the surrounding area.  Icebergs are seldom seen on this lake or lagoon. As the primary source is glacial rivers, the lake always looks a bit milky which probably contributed to the name.  The size is approximately 30 square kilometers, and the average depth is about 30 meters and the deepest part around 90 meters. Hvítárvatn lake is placed at an altitude of 420 meters. The lake is the main source for one of Iceland's largest rivers, the river Hvítá (White River).  Just south of the lake in the river Hvítá is Iceland's most spectacular waterfall Gullfoss.

The haunted hut and the young female ghost

On of many huts in the highland is the mountain hut at Hvítárnes, Sæluhúsið í Hvítárnesi, near the lake, famous for being one of the most haunted places in Iceland. The hut was built in the forties in the last century.  According to many stories and complaints, stories from the forties up until last year a young female is often seen in the hut.  Many guests, particularly male guests, complain about disturbances from a young female ghost while in the state between awake and sleep.  Many visitors have also claimed to have seen her in one of the windows from outside when arriving late at night, and then learning that the house was empty. A particular bed in the hut is believed to be particularly unsafe and almost impossible to sleep in. And on many occasions, guests have been kicked out of the bed during the night, by “no one”! It is a mysterious place and a challenge for adventurers who have the courage to "sleep in her bed." 

Access to Hvítárvatn is not for small cars

Hvítárvatn lake is located in the Highland on the Kjölur highland road Kjalvegur nr. 35. If you drive from Reykjavík or the southern part of the Ring Road by the south shore to Gullfoss, you are basically on the road to Hvítarvatn when you pass Gullfoss. The road is quite rough, and we recommend a good 4X4 vehicle.   

Nearby interesting places

Hveravellir - Gýgjarfoss - Kerlingarfjöll - Hveradalir hot springs - Nýjifoss waterfall - Jarlhettur

Some lakes in Iceland are placed by the edge of a glacier. Probably around five or six

The mountain ridge Jarlhettur, “The Earls Cap" is easily visible from many places and many angles in southern Iceland. The ridge is 15 kilometers and consists of 20 mountains where each peak is similar to the next, although the height and diameter differ. It is a spectacular sight seen by most visitors driving the Golden Circle with the ice cap Langjökull glacier in the background. The direction of the ridge is the same as most geological fissures in the area, from southwest to the northeast. The visibility is on the east side, and most of the west side is attached to the glacier. It is almost odd to find the name Earl in the Icelandic landscape since Iceland hardly ever had any real Earls governing the land or the people. On the other hand, Icelandic Viking traveled a lot to Europe and was acquainted with Earls and Kings. Unfortunately not alway not always in a polite manner.

Jarlhettur mountain ridge is in contrast with many natural wonders in Iceland

The mountains are of palagonite nature and almost entirely lack vegetation. The lakes and small rivers at the bottom of the mountains are all glacial waters, so everything is gray and somewhat from another planet.  This contrast with many of the magnificent natural beauties in the Icelandic nature makes Jarlhettur ridge, also interesting. Most of the mountains are around eight hundred to nine hundred meters high but the highest one Tröllhetta or Troll Cap, little less than eleven hundred meters.  Most of the mountains are barely climbable as the surface of the steep palagonite mountains is made of small rocks and hard to climb. But those who prepare and dare will enjoy a spectacular view.

Access by car to enjoy the view to Jarlhettur requires a good 4WD car

There are mainly two roads to see Jarlhettur in proximity.  One is to drive from Þingvellir north on the Road Uxahryggjavegur Nr. 550 and take a turn on the rugged mountain road Skjaldbreiðarvegur F338.  On the second part, a few kilometers before you reach Kjalvegur you will have a good view to Jarlhettur in the north.  The second one that will bring you to a proximity of Tröllhetta is to visit Nýifoss waterfall.  

The mountain ridge Jarlhettur, “The Earls Cap" is easily visible from many places and many angles in southern Iceland.

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.

Nearby interesting places

Kerlingarfjöll - Hvítárvatn lake - Gíýjarfoss waterfall - Hveradalir hot springs - Nýjifoss waterfall - Jarlhettur

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

Hveradalir (The valley of hot springs) is one of the largest and most fascinating geothermal and hot spring area in Iceland. The area is quite vast and exciting both from a geological perspective as well as a unique place for photography. It is a place where you can concentrate on both micro and macro photography. Small items in colorful hot springs and large scale landscape with glaciers in the background.  It is located in Kerlingarfjöll in the Highland and is one of the main attraction when driving the Highland road Kjölur (F35) of Kjalvegur. It is a place you don't want to miss if you are traveling in the Highland on your tour to Iceland.  There is a good camping site at Ásgarður in Kerlingarfjöll approximately 10 kilometers from Kjölur road. From Ásgarður it is ideal to hike the five kilometers to Hveradalir geothermal area.  You can also drive to a parking lot near the geothermal area. Hveradalir is only accessible during summer from late June until the middle of September, or possibly the end of September, deepening on the arrival of King Winter. It is a well-maintained area with good trails and neatly built steps to all the main hot springs and interesting sights. The variety in color and landscape is just stunning, and you will defiantly feel like entering another world when you arrive at the colorful, smoking, boiling or even glacial valleys that the area offers. 

Hveradalir (The valley of hot springs) is one of the largest and most fascinating geothermal and hot spring area in Iceland.