#4X4

 

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 F35 Kjalvegur 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. 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Kerlingarfjöll on the map of Iceland

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.

 

One of the contributions to the image of Iceland as an exotic place are the frequent eruptions that occur on a regular basis. If you plan to visit the Highland in Iceland and if you are looking for things to do, one option is to visit Holuhraun lava field.  Holuhraun is the name of our latest eruption originating in a large fissure eruption on the black sands north of the ice cap Vatnajökull or Water Glacier. This eruption occurred at the end of August 2014 and lasted for six winter moths until the end of February 2015. In the end, the eruption had produced 85 square kilometers of a lava field, one of the largest in Iceland's geological history.

A quiet but massive eruption

Since the eruption surfaced on sand deep in the highland of Iceland, it was a quiet eruption.  The only threat were the highly toxic chemicals associated with the eruption, steaming out of the glowing lava, so authorities in Iceland banned visits to the volcanic fissure.  This was the main reason Holuhraun eruption did not develop into a tourist eruption like many recent eruptions in Iceland, like the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

New rocks and stones that recently lived in a thousand degree magma

The result from this massive eruption is a large lava field mids in the Highland in Iceland.  Here you can meet to latest members of the Geological family on planet earth. Newly formed rocks and stones in a lava field that lived for ages in the glowing magma under the surface, and ironically under the ice cap Vatnajökull with more than one thousand degrees between the magma and the ice cap.

How to go to Holuhraun lava field

Visiting the new lava field requires a 4X4 vehicle since you need to drive off road tracks and cross rivers. A modified 4X4 vehicle is recommended.  Although there are a few options to drive to Holuhraun, one of the most popular is to drive the mountain road F88 from the Ring Road nr. 1 a few kilometers east of Myvatn and head to Herðubreiðalindir on a road called Öskjuvegur. South of Herðubreiðalindir you take the mountain road F910 to the mountain huts at Dreki or Dragon as the place is called. At Dreki you also find a visitor center with a wealth of information about the Vatnajokull National Park. From Dreki you continue on Road 910 to the lava field to enter the world of new rocks and stones in the Holuhraun lava.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Holuhraun on the map of Iceland

Holuhraun the new lava

The waterfall Ófærufoss (the impassable waterfall) is one of the few interesting waterfalls in Iceland located in the Highland. A waterfall you don't want to miss if you are traveling in Iceland and waterfalls are on your list of things to do in Iceland.  It is a waterfall in the river Nyðri-Ófæra or “The impassable northern river”.  It is a beautiful and impressive fall, and probably one of ten to fifteen most interesting waterfalls in Iceland.  Placed in the great fissure Eldgjá, or Canyon of Fire, it is one of the main attractions in the Icelandic Highland.  The canyon Eldgjá, a 40 km long eruptive fissure, is a geological phenomenon and one of the largest and longest fissures in Iceland formed in an eruption around the time of settlement in Iceland around the year 930. The part where we find Ófærufoss is the most beautiful part of the fissure, and also the most interesting as both the canyon and the waterfall are stunning. The canyon is around 600 meters wide and 200 meters height.  Before 1993 the waterfall was even more stunning with an arch bridge across the lower cascade.  In 1993 the arch collapsed in the regular spring thaw that proved to be extensive at that time.

How to go to Ófærufoss?

Access to the canyon is a bit difficult, and the area is only accessible from the middle of June until late September. The highland roads are closed in winter.  From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in southern Iceland you turn north on road 208 located abut 20 kilometers west of the small village Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  After a short drive, this road changes into a mountain road F203, Fjallabaksleið nyrðri (The northern track behind the mountains). A 25-kilometre drive on this road will take you straight to the mouth of the part of Eldgjá that houses the waterfall. A few kilometers before you arrive at the parking lot for Elgjá you need to drive over a river the can be difficult to pass, so caution is required.  From the parking lot there is a two and a half to three kilometers walk, depending on how near the waterfall you want to go. The whole canyon with the waterfall is such an impressive natural construction that you can easily spend two to three hours here.  Before you drive to the parking lot passing the river, you can take a turn to Gjátindur. This is a road that defiantly requires a well equipped 4X4 vehicle as you drive up by the rim of the canyon, and here you get a new impressive view of both Elgjá and Ófærufoss.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Ófærufoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

The waterfall Ófærufoss (the impassable waterfall) is one of the few interesting waterfalls in Iceland located in the Highland.

 

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. 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Hveradalir on the map of Iceland

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

Things you need to know before you rent a car in Iceland 

There are three things you need to consider when choosing a rent a car for your travel in Iceland. The roads to the places you intend to visit, the time of year when visiting and the weather. Renting a car and driving around the country is by far the best way to travel in Iceland.  By hiring a car people taking a trip to Iceland can choose a road trip that fits their budget and schedule. This way they have the flexibility and independence required in a country with many natural wonders to explore and admire. With a car and a driving plan, you can always take your time, and you can easily modify and change your route. BUT - there are many things to consider when renting a car in Iceland. It is entirely different to hiring a car in other countries.  So we encourage you to read this article carefully before you rent a car in Iceland. 

The roads

To find a rent a car or car for hire in Iceland is not as simple as finding a car for hire in most other countries.  The main reason is the fact that some of the roads you travel to visit natural wonders and places of interest are often gravel roads, mountain roads or even dirt roads. Keep in mind; there are three kinds of roads in Iceland: Asphalt roads, gravel roads and Highland roads (F roads).

A small rent a car is fine for most roads, during summer

For most of the main roads, a small 2WD car is a good option. It is the cheapest way to drive around Iceland in a car.  A small car like VW Polo or VW Golf, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio or Suzuki Swift that fits four people conveniently (don't forget the space for the luggage you plan to bring). During summer a small car will take you to most of the interesting places, natural wonders and accommodation of your choice. A small car is also fine on the gravel roads during summer, especially if you have a front wheel drive, which most Icelanders prefer. But keep in mind that gravel roads are more demanding to drive and take caution and drive slower than on asphalt roads.  In winter you can also travel the main roads in a small car on roads like the Reykjanes Peninsula drive, the Ring Road, The Snæfellsnes Peninsula drive, The Westfjord drive, and the Golden Circle. But from October until April it is necessary to follow the weather forecast and road conditions before you start your trip, especially if yo are in a small car. If you want to increase your comfort, a midsize car is a better choice during winter, much better and highly recommended for most places and most drives.

Time of year

Driving in Iceland during winter and driving in summer is totally different. For most people living in warmer countries, it is difficult to comprehend that Icelanders change tires on their cars in autumn and spring. Icelanders have “winter tires” and “summer tires.” The reason is the difference in driving conditions. If you have no experience driving in winter, you should consider a private tour with an experienced guide

A larger vehicle is better outside the main roads and during winter

If you decide to travel to places outside the main roads, you are much better off to hire a midsize car, preferably a SUV or a 4WD car like VW Tiguan, Toyota Raf, Dacia Duster, and Suzuki Vitara.  This applies to people that are interested in taking loops and exploring places outside the main road.  People that want to visit places like Mjóifjörður, Látrabjarg in the West Fjords, Rauðisandur in the West Fjords, the Vatnsnes Peninsula or some of the waterfalls natural wonders that are not near the main road.  The roads outside the main roads are most often gravel roads, go over steep mountain passes and conditions change in rain and snow. For those roads, a vehicle with more space and larger tires is much better for your comfort and security. This is especially important during winter.

The weather

The weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Even though we have a great Met Office in Iceland weather can change rapidly in a short period at your location, often contradicting the Met Office forecast. You can also plan to visit a specific area when planning a trip to Iceland, but when you are on your way or arrive the conditions are not particularly inviting. This applies to all seasons but most definitely in winter.

A 4WD is mandatory for the Highland roads in Iceland

A small car will not get you to the Highland if you choose to travel to the exotic part of the country.  The Highland requires a 4WD vehicle, but keep in mind that the Highland is only open from the beginning of July until the middle of September. Most of the roads in the Icelandic Highland are challenging and rough gravel roads often with many rivers to cross.  No one should enter a Highland Road in a small car or a midsize car or a car  that doesn't have a 4WD.  It is simply dangerous, irresponsible and can severely damage the vehicle and even ruin it if stuck in a river that can lead to a cost far exceeding the total cost of a trip to Iceland for the whole family.  If a water is sucked into the air intake of a car the engine is ruined. Not to mention the panic and consequences of being stuck in a small car in the middle of a strong stream or a river. In Iceland to many tourists have lost their lives in such circumstances, the last incident was in September 2018 when a young woman drowned in a river in Þórsmörk.  Keep that in mind when you select a car for the Highland. No insurance company in Iceland covers a drive crossing a river. It can also be dangerous as a 2WD and a small 4WD, or even a midsize 4WD car can easily become stuck on a difficult road in the Highland. Few Icelanders would ever take such a risk based on their knowledge about the Highland.  Not to mention the danger to the passengers. But for the Highland roads a 4WD only is not always enough. For many rugged roads and tracks in the Highland a large and well-equipped 4WD / 4X4 vehicle is required.  For these roads, a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Hilux, Land Rover, or a similar vehicle is highly recommended for your convenience and security.

Keep this list in mind when traveling in a rent a car in Iceland

  • There are three kinds of roads: Asphalt, gravel and mountain roads (F) 
  • Iceland is a small island and distance between places usually short
  • Almost all of the roads are narrow two-way roads - THERE ARE NO FREEWAYS IN ICELAND
  • Reduce speed considerably when driving over a one lane bridge (there are many such bridges everywhere).
  • Don't stop on a road shoulder or the middle of the road to take photos
  • The speed limit is 90 KM/hr on main asphalt roads
  • The speed limit in Reykjavík and towns is 50KM/hrs
  • The speed limit in residential areas in Reykjavík and all towns and villages is 30KM/hrs
  • The restrictions on alcohol consumption for drivers are at 0.5 promille, like in most other European countries
  • 4X4 cars are both safer and easier to drive during winter
  • There are plenty of gas stations around the country in all towns and villages
  • A larger 4X4 is required on highland roads the F roads
  • Always check road conditions here, especially during winter
  • Cellular phone connections are good on most roads and around the country
  • Never try to cross rivers on a small 4X4 car
  • There are towns and villages almost everywhere around the coastline on the RIng Road
  • Watch for sheeps on the roads (specially in spring and early summer)
  • Pick the rent a car up at the International Airport in Keflavík
  • Fuel prices are more or less the same around the country
  • Emergency help is available almost everywhere in Iceland
  • When conditions are unsecure (snow, snowdrift, slippery, bad visibility) don't hesitate to drive slower at a comfort level where you feel in controlIn a situation like that remember to slow down, give a right indicator light (blinker) when it is secure for the cars behind you to pass.  Avoid holding down the traffic as other drivers might understand the conditions differently. 

The Car Rental site we use and recommend

Iceland is a small island that has only one International Airport.  Keflavík Airport (KEF) in the city of Keflavik is the place where almost all visitors arrive.  It is the best place to pick up your car and most of the rent a car companies deliver their cars at Keflavík airport.  There are many rent a car companies in Iceland and the airport is a good place to find a car that fits for your tour.  If you want to have everything ready when you arrive you should rent a car online.  This site lets you quickly compare prices from a number of rent a car firms, find an excellent price for a rent a car that fits your tour and season you plan to visit Iceland, both international firms and local firms, and save you a lot of time on internet search. In the process you can add things you need in addition like a child seat, navigation and additional driver.
 

Make sure you choose the right rent a car for the right season when you hire a car in Iceland

 Ht Iceland rental car reference Chart
 

Find a car that fits for your trip to Iceland: Number of passengers, budget, time of year, items in luggage, roads to travel, places to visit and last but not least, a good price.

 

 

Viti, or Hell, is one of the most interesting natural wonders in Iceland.  It is an explosion crater on the northeast shore of Öskjuvatn in the middle of the Icelandic highland.  The crater is around 150 meters in diameter and contains a geothermal lake of mineral-rich warm water.  Although the name isn’t particularly inviting many visitors and tourists visiting the place like to dip into Víti.  The water is not conveniently hot but enough to strip and take a short swim in the strange water floating on a volcano that erupted not so long ago. When you come home you can at least say that you went “skinny-dipping in Hell”. 
There are also many interesting stories connected to Askja. Probably the most interesting is the story of Walther von Knebel, a German geologist that disappeared in 1907 with his associate in a mysterious unresolved accident or some other mishap.   A year later his fiancé Ina von Grumbkow visit Iceland and Askja trying to get to the bottom of her suspicion that her husband to be, had been killed.
This location in the highland of Iceland is not accessible during the wintertime. The most secure and convenient way to visit Askja and Víti is to purchase an organized tour or rent a car during the summer season, between July and October.  The rent car needs to be a four-wheel drive capable of crossing some rather serious rivers.  

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Askja and Víti on the map of Iceland

Viti and Askja in the Icelandic highland

The Icelandic Highland is a huge uninhabited area of Iceland basically covering the center and sometimes stretching to places near the shore.  The whole highland area is loaded with natural wonders, hiking trails, places to visit, fascinating geology, mountains, geothermal pools, waterfalls and much more. It is characterized and defined by altitude as the term Highland implies. It is mostly above 350 meters and thus usually rather cold and seldom specifically warm.  In any sense of the word, it is extremely sensitive. The soil, the lava, the moss, the vegetation, the roads, the hiking trails. 

Most of the time the whole area is under snow.  Almost nine months of the year.  Only in the summer does the Highland reveal itself and starts blooming and exposing its vegetation, crystal clear creeks and beautiful mountains with thousands of colors.  In large areas, it consists of vast black sands, dark lava, suspiciously looking rocks, powerful rivers flooding from under glaciers and long horizons. If there is one message or one thing an Icelander would tell you about the Highland it would be to understand the sensitivity of this harsh landscape.

Like many Icelanders, it looks harsh and tough but under the surface is a very sensitive soul.  It is a place where people need to drive carefully on a good 4X4 vehicle with good preparation on marked tracks only.  Anyone trying to drive the Highland in a vehicle not fit for the task is both irresponsible and possibly compromising a wonderful experience.  If you decide to travel in the Icelandic Highland, please take care and understand the sensitivity of the whole are. And remember that most of the Highland is only open from the beginning of July until the end of September.

 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

 

Pages