#highland

Fagrifoss is an impressive waterfall although not a mainstream tourist attraction in Iceland. One reason is the rough highland road leading to Fagrifoss that both requires a 4WD vehicle and some river crossing.  For people only used to asphalt roads and bridges on rivers, this can be difficult. But if you are somewhat adventures and prepared to spend the extra money on a four wheel drive car in addition to driving at a speed of 15km per hour, you should defiantly visit this waterfall.  Most of those visiting Fagrifoss also continue on the highland road to Laki, Tjarnargígur and Lakagígar, the craters that produced most of the surrounding lava in the massive eruption in 1784.

Among the highest waterfalls in Iceland

Fagrifoss is 80 meters high and is in the river Geirlandsá.  There is a good parking lot near the waterfall in an area that seems to be all lowland. It is almost impossible to see until you stand in front of it. But when you approach Fagrifoss a deep and rather a large gorge opens below where the river Geirlandsá falls in this beautiful waterfall.  You can view Fagrifoss from the edge, and just recently a viewing panel was set up which gives a fantastic view of Fagrifoss.  Probably the best spot to really enjoy the magic of such a natural wonder. 

Access is difficult but a new kind of fun if you are careful

The waterfall Fagrifoss or The Beautiful Waterfall is located just a few meters from the highland road Lakavegur Rod Nr. F206.  Although part of the Icelandic Highland it is only 17 kilometers from the Ring Road Nr. 1.  On the south shore near the small village of Kirkjubærjarklaustur, you turn north on the Ring Road to Holtsvegur Nr. 206. After driving just two kilometers, you turn north again to the Lakavegur Road Nr. F206 that will lead you to Fagrifoss.

Fagrifoss is an impressive waterfall although not a mainstream tourist attraction in Iceland.

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

If there is a place that can claim the title of being in the middle or the center of the Icelandic Highland, it is Nýidalur or New Valley. It is a place you must visit if you choose to drive your rent a car or your 4X4 vehicle through the Icelandic Highland Road Sprengisandur between the Southern Region and the Northern Region.  You should seriously consider stopping for a night or two in the mountain cabin or at the camping area; although you should probably keep in mind that the altitude is 1.100 meters, and it is rarely warm here in the middle of the Icelandic Highland.

The name New Valley came from a search team in 1843

For centuries there was a suspicion among farmers in the northern region in Iceland, around the valley Bárðardalur and also in Eyjafjörður that deep in the Highland was an area with considerable vegetation.  A place where sheep would wander, a place too far and too deep for farmers to go and collect sheep in the autumn. Any such suspicion at that time would also entail stories about outlaws living in unusually pleasant conditions as the level of misconception was lifted to an oasis. So in 1843 and 1844 three men traveled from Bárðadalur to explore this place. To their surprise, the vegetation was considerable in the middle of the enormous black desert of Sprengisandur. They came to a valley that they called New Valley, a name that has stuck with Nýidalur ever since.

A place to stop and visit with many interesting hiking options

Nýidalur is conveniently located in the middle of the Sprengisandur Road, or Road F26. It is an ideal place to stop when you are driving this Highland Road.  Not only to take some exciting hiking tours, but also to drive the 4X4 track north and east of the tiny glacier Tungnafellsjokull and take the exotic hiking path to the geothermal area near Vonarskarð.  At least Nýidalur is not a place that you want to drive through in a hurry although everything seems to be cold and black.

 They came to a valley that they called New Valley, a name that has stuck with Nýidalur ever since.

At some point in your life, you want to fill you head with peace. You want a peace of mind. There are places in the Icelandic Highland that are still calm and quiet, and few people visit. The only sound is a small stream and songs from birds; places that put you in a relaxed mode. One such place is the wonderful world of unusual lava formation at Skælingar.  A place where everything is calm and quiet but yet a place that looks strange and exotic.  It is a place where you can easily come to the conclusion that elves or creatures of another dimension actually exist, and you don't want to disturb them.

Skælingar was at one point a farm

Although Skælingar is now part of the uninhabitable Icelandic Highland, it was a farm "up in the Morse" in the centuries following the settlement. That was also before the devastating eruption Skaftáreldar that changed this area dramatically in 1783 and 1784. It is a part of the fascinating Eldgjá area.  In Skælingar there is an old cabin that ones belonged to the farmers in this part of Iceland. One of many such cabins in Iceland that were used in the autumn in the sheep round-up, when farmers collected sheep from the Highland.  It now belongs to the outdoor life association Útivist and is part of one of their hiking trails.

The interesting lava formation

During an eruption, the lava that floods to the surface can take on many forms. The lava also changes in the years, decades and centuries that follow. In Iceland, lava from various eruptions around the country throughout the geological history is visible almost everywhere. Most of the lava today is covered with moss. This company between lava and moss can form a beautiful combination as we can so easily see in Skælingar. For photographers, it is also interesting to know that there is quite a difference in the moss color after a dry week and a rainy week. The most exciting time to photograph moss in Iceland is on a sunny day after a few days of rain.

There are places in the Icelandic Highland that are still calm and quiet, and few people visit.

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.

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.

Drekagil or Dragons Gully bears a rightful name.  It is a dark and narrow place loaded with geological formations that can only remind you of another world with dragons and fairy tails.  Although not exactly difficult to walk from the jaws of the gully to the end where you find a beautiful waterfall, it is a bit of a climb. Along the way you enjoy all the interesting formations.  If you look up, you might see some of the dragons that watch over the canyon as if there is a hidden treasure somewhere. 

Part of the Dyngjufjöll  Mountains.

Drekagil is located on the east side of the famous Dyngjufjöll mountains. The mountains that foster the volcano Askja.  In 1968 the Touring Club of Akureyri built a hut by the Canyon.  Today there are both cabins, a camping site, and an information center at Drekagil.  It is one of eight to ten places in the Icelandic highland that have the kind of basecamp atmosphere where adventures traveler stop for the night, chat and compare their plans. It is a cold hard place that you can visit on a 4X4 vehicle and a place that totally lacks vegetation.  It is all about stones, rocks, harsh lave fields, volcanic ash and mysterious lakes. 

How to go to Drekagil

Visiting Drekagil 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 road options to drive to Drekagil 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 Drekagil or Dragon Gully.     

It is a dark and narrow place loaded with geological formations that can only remind you of another world with dragons and fairy tails.

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.

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.

Holuhraun the new lava

Our next stop was Holuhraun right by Vatnajökull, Iceland’s biggest glacier. It feels unreal to imagine rocks being only 2 years old. Nevertheless this 85 square km lava field practically just dried up and cooled down. With smoke still steaming up in a few places it is magical to see and feel this newly born mass of lava. We are still traveling in the Icelandic Highland collecting content and photos for our website Hit Iceland. Follow our adventures.

Holuhraun right by Vatnajökull, Iceland’s biggest glacier.

Pages