#highland

There are not many places on the planet where you can put boiling clay surrounded wit hot steam from the ground and a melting snowdrift into the same motive. A place where heat meets cold. There aren't many places where you can see and view such rare natural wonders, at least not side by side. Especially during summer.

Hveradalir in the Icelandic highland

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

There are many natural wonders worth seeing in Iceland.  Among the best known are waterfalls, hot springs, lagoons, basalt columns, geothermal pools, craters, and cliffs to name a few.  Although not many mountains are on the list of natural wonders there are a few clusters of mountains that are very interesting.  Most of the mountains are quite colorful as they are rhyolite mountains.  One of the reasons that the Laugavegur hiking trail is so popular is the fact that on a large part of the trail, you walk through some very colorful rhyolite mountains.  Actually, the starting point in Landmannalaugar is exceptionally colorful as well as most part of the first day. 

The result of an interplay of hot springs and rhyolite

Ljósártungur is a name for a rather large area east of the hiking trail Laugavegur near Hrafntinnusker.  Although Ljósártungur mountains seem tempting the area is quite difficult to walk as it has many ravines, gullies, and ridges.  It also has many hot springs and here you can even find some ice caves.  The whole area is extremely colorful and in some respect, almost unreal. The mountains are at an altitude of 800 to 1000 meters and like most places in the Icelandic highland covered with snow during winter.  In summer it usually doesn't get warm enough to melt all the snow from winter, so the small snowdrifts from the winter do no melt adding the white color to the magnificent rhyolite color, the smoke from the hot springs, the mountain vegetation and the blue color of the sky.  Almost a perfect recipe for a great photo.

A difficult place to visit, part of the Syðri Fjallabak highland road

Ljósártungur mountains is a fascinating but difficult place to visit. Like almost all parts of the Icelandic highland, the area is only accessible in July until the middle of September.  Driving the mountain road Syrðri Fjallabak you will drive on a ridge that gives a great view of the Ljósártungur rhyolite mountains.

Ljósártungur is a name for a rather large area east of the hiking trail Laugavegur near Hrafntinnusker.

In many corners in every part of Iceland, there is a place connected to folklore.  Even in places that are very popular tourist attractions. Stories of trolls, elves, ghosts, mysterious creatures, demons, and zombies.  Stories of communication between humans and all kinds of beings, creatures and entities from another dimension or another world.

In many corners in every part of Iceland, there is a place connected to folklore.
Nov 23 2016

Yet again we want to encourage visitors to pay extra attention to the various details, hidden in the overwhelming landscape of Iceland. This photo is taken, on a hike we went on in Nýidalur (New Valley) in the heart of the Icelandic highland. Muddy layers next to the turquoise coloured water form an organic pattern that could almost be mistaken for car tier traces, although this bay-mud is much more beautiful. These soil layers of soft, unconsolidated clay, saturated with water are normally in temperated regions that have experienced cyclical glacial cycles.

Muddy layers next to the turquoise coloured water form an organic pattern.

Throughout the centuries Icelanders have been very efficient and almost pedantic in giving names to every small piece of item in the landscape throughout the whole country.  Wherever you go, everything from a high and mighty mountain to a low hill seems to have a name.  Every creek and every river have a name.  Every waterfall in our extensive variety of small and large falls has a name.  And believe me, we have hundreds of waterfalls.  Every cliff, lava field, every lake, every cave, every hot spring and basically every place in the country has a name. 

The river Kaldaklofskvísl (Cold crotch distributary) and Klámbrekka is between the hill in the background and the mountain Stóra Grænafjall.

Many places in the Icelandic Highland are rarely visited due to their isolation and difficulties to visit in a vehicle.  It that sense they are challenging and mostly visited by hikers. This, on the other hand, does not apply to Álftavatn lake, or Swan Lake, located by the popular hiking track Laugavegur and also one of the most exciting 4X4 Highland roads Syrðri Fjallabak. By the lake, there is a popular mountain cabin and a camping site.  Many hikers on the Laugavegur track choose to stay there overnight.  The lake is placed in a beautiful peaceful landscape, surrounded by mountains that are characteristic for the southern part of the Highland. During the summer months, the place is quite busy.

The southern part of the Icelandic highland

Like many places in Iceland, lakes, caves, stacks by the shore, hills, cliffs and other places in the landscape, Álftavatn lake has a folklore story. Early in the eighteenth century, a farmer traveled with his thirteen-year-old daughter to Álftavatn lake to hunt Swans. As he took his horse from the shore into the lake he fell off the horse and drowned.  The daughter traveled back home, a day's journey, and gathered some men and help. Despite a thorough search, the farmer was not found. The next night her mother had a dream where her husband asked the search team to come back a fetch his body under a certain cliff by the lake. The next day the search team went back and found the body of the farmer under the cliff. Although a folklore, it is a true story. A lot of people in Iceland believe that a message from the deceased can be sent through dreams. Well here is your prove, by Álftavatn lake in the Icelandic Highland.

Access is not simple

Driving to Álftavatn is quite challenging and requires a good modified 4X4 vehicle. The Highland track Syðri Fjallabak is the most difficult highland road open to travelers in Iceland.  And it is only open from the beginning of July until late September. But at the same time the most fascinating with such variety of places that we label it as one of our most favorite roads.   

 

Álftavatn lake

In many places deep in the Highland in Iceland, you can find unusual and almost strange sights. Sometimes dark sites, boiling sites, vast view, strange lava formation and much more.  One such place is near Lakagígar where we have vast carpets of lava, a lot of ash, dust, and black sands.  This is also at an altitude where vegetation has difficulties to grow and sustain.  Sometimes while traveling in the Highland you can experience the dark sand continuing all around you form kilometers after kilometers into the horizon.

A strict line was drawn between the black sand and the vegetation

Hrafntinnusker is a mountain in the Icelandic Highland a few hours hike from Landmannalaugar.  It is a volcano that most geologists assume is not going to erupt anytime soon, though.  The mountain takes its name from the black glass rocks, obsidian, formed when a rhyolite flowing magma cools extremely fast in an eruption. The Obsidian is a fascinating geological phenomenon. Such rocks are scattered around the whole are at Hrafntinnusker. Although a mountain, the second half of its name is Skerry, but not a mountain, and this is believed to be in accordance with naming traditions in the eastern parts of the lowland around Syðri Fjallabak, in Skaftafell.

An exotic place with many unusual ingredients

Hrafntinnusker is a unique place, even in the diverse landscape flora in Iceland.  It is a mountain with a small glacier on top. A relatively large active geothermal area with much of the activity under the ice. The ground is constantly delivering smoke while you visit the place. It is located in a very remote part of Iceland. It has ice caves because of the heat under the glacier and it offers a grand view because of the height of the mountain. As fascinating as the ice caves are they are also very dangerous as no one really knows how and when parts fall from the ceiling or inside the caves.  It is recommended that people do to enter the caves as vast and lethal parts can fall from the walls and ceiling of the caves.

Access only available for hikers and well equipped 4X4 vehicles

There are basically two ways to visit Hrafntinnusker.  One is the hiking trail from Landmannalaugar on the east side of the mountain, and the other is the 4X4 trail from the west side. Although a fascinating place not many visitors get an opportunity to come here.  Most of the people hiking the Landmannalaugar hiking trail only see the east side, and might stay overnight in the hut located there, but miss the west side.  The west side is very interesting and requires a well equipped 4X4 vehicle as the road is quite difficult with many rivers to cross.

Below is the location of Hrafntinnusker on the map of Iceland

Hrafntinnusker is a unique place, even in the diverse landscape flora in Iceland

We have often discussed the highland of Iceland.  It is by any measure a very exciting and fascinating place.

The Highland in Iceland is soon covered with snow

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