#highland

Laugarvellir is probably the best and most impressive geothermal, natural pool in Iceland. The heat in the pool is perfect, around 39 to 41 degrees Celsius (although you should put your hand into the water and check the temperature before jumping in).  If you are visiting the northeast region in Iceland and you are looking for something to do, you might want to visit this fantastic place.  Although situated at an altitude of approximately 600 meters deep in the Highland in Iceland; the valley Laugarvellir is considerably green as it has more vegetation than usual, and almost looks like a place 300 meters lower.  In high contrast to most of a vast area surrounding the valley, you will find endless sand and spreads of volcanic ashes from the many eruptions from neighboring volcanos. The reason is the warmth that comes from underground and the short distance to the sleeping magma underneath that produces heat and heated water that changes everything.  This is the reason why the small creek at Laugarvellir farm is warm. It is a fantastic place and a bit deceptive and might give an indication of being in lower altitude.

The farming experiment that ended with disaster

In hard times in Iceland's history, small farms developed near the Highland in a higher altitude. These were, of course, more complicated farms to cultivate, than other good and valuable estates. One poor farmer built a house and moved to Laugavellir in the benign of the 20th century. This was a hard land to farm and a difficult place to stay during the whole year.  The decision was devastating and after only a few years, he took his life.  He and his wife were the only people that ever tried to live at Laugavellir without success.  The houses are still standing. 

It is not complicated to visit Laugavellir today

Access to Laugavellir today is quite simple although a 4X4 vehicle is preferred.  From the town of Egilsstaðir in the East Region, you drive south on Road 1, the Ring Road.  About seven kilometers south you take a turn to the east to Road 931 all the way over the bridge and take a turn to the south again on Road 933. You drive a short distance on 933 and turn to Raod 910 and drive all the way to Hálslón, the new reservoir by Kárahnúkar.  Once you pass the dam, the distance to Laugavellir is only about seven kilometers.  Since the road from Egilsstaðir to Hálslón is paved you can drive a small car almost all the way to Laugavelllir. The rest, if you prefer, is a seven to five-kilometer hike.

Laugarvellir is probably the best and most impressive geothermal, natural pool in Iceland.

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.

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. 

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

This week we are traveling in the Icelandic Highland collecting content and photos for our website Hit Iceland.  We started by driving the Línuvegur road south of Langjokull glacier. Then we drove to Kjolur and took the eight-kilometer drive to Hagavatn lake.

 This picture is taken at Hveravellir and shows the many ways you can enjoy Iceland and what it has to offer.

 

Landmannalaugar is one of the most remarkable and fascinating places in the Icelandic Highland. It is a place most people fall in love with from the moment they visit this extraordinary creation of Mother Nature. Landmannalaugar is also one of the five most fascinating natural wonders you can visit in Iceland.  Although this unique place in the Icelandic Highland, located 600 meters above sea level, is best known for its cozy geothermal pool and bath, and as a starting point for the famous 54 km. four days hiking trail Laugavegur, it is much more. Landmannalaugar offers other shorter, exciting, and breathtaking hiking trails with stunning sceneries and landscape.  It is a wonderland for photographers with an endless variety of geological formations, smoking hot springs, lava fields, rivers, creeks, gullies, ravines, canyons, and rhyolite mountains that change colors from one hour to the next depending on the mood of the sun and the clouds. It is a remote place only open from the first weeks of July until the end of September. A place that is always reluctant to show its colors and beauty outside this period as it is often packed with snow or under attack by severe blizzards and cold during winter. It is a place you should not visit or think about visiting from the beginning of October until the beginning of July.

Landmannalaugar opens for traffic in late June every year

Landmannalaugar opens for traffic in late June every year. Service center and hut seen from the geothermal pool.

Service center and facilities in Landmannalaugar

In recent years Landmannalaugar has become a kind of a Base Camp for people starting the hiking track Laugavegur to Þórsmörk. It is also popular among tourists visiting for a few days to hike the shorter trails and admire this pearl in the Highland. The Icelandic Touring Association FÍ (Ferðafélag Íslands in Icelandic) has a service center in Landmannalaugar.  The service center consists of a hut built a hut in 1969 that houses 80 people, a camping ground, and toilets, showers, and facilities to wash. The service center has hot and cold water and is an excellent place to change your clothes if you plan to take a dip in the geothermal pool.  Some prefer to switch to swimming suits the traditional way outside by the pool.  But here you might take into account that there is no electricity to charge your phone, shaving machine, use a hair dryer or other electronic devices. There is also a tent where you can have a meal and do some minor cooking. The service fee is 500 Icelandic kronur pr. Day.

The view from hiking trail Sudurnamur towards Landmanalaugar service center

The view from hiking trail Sudurnamur towards Landmanalaugar service center

The camping site and space for 4X4 campers

The camping ground is a bit rough with tough soil and thus a bit resistant to tent pegs.  You might have to "pin" your tent down with rocks. So usually people camping in Landmannalaugar must fasten their tents with rocks and stones, which are plenty in Landmannalaugar. There is also a good space for 4X4 campers that are also required to pay the service fee.  Even campers and people with tents on top of their car who camp on the other side of the river must also pay the service fee.  It is essential for FÍ to continue to build and improve their service and facilities. 

Camping site in Landmannalaugar

The camping ground is a bit rough with tough soil

Other services in Landmannalaugar

During the summer from late June until the end of August, there is a small convenience store in Landmannalaugar offering basic necessities. It does not mean that you can rely on this store for all your food or need lesser preparation if you are taking the Laugavegur hiking trail or staying in Landmannalaugar for a few days. It is mostly for an emergency.  Also during summer, the Icelandic Rescue Squad has a small service center to increase security in the area and help visitors and hikers that have problems and accidents.

The store or highland mall in Landmannalaugar

The store or highland mall in Landmannalaugar is housed in old green busses

The geothermal pool in Landmannalaugar

Taking a dip in the geothermal pool in Landmannalaugar has been very popular among tourists visiting as well as Icelanders for decades. The pool is only a few steps from the service center at the edge of the lava field Laugahraun.  It is a pool fed by the cold and hot streams coming from under the lava blending in the stream by the pool.  Most visitors take off their cloth and put on their swimming suite by the pool.  It is part of the freedom in the mountains and the relaxed highland experience.  For hikers that visit Landmannalaugar for a day or even a few days to hike the many short hikes in the area, it is very relaxing to dip into the pool after a walk to Brennisteinsalda or Bláhnjúkur. 
 

You only need to take a short hike to see some spectacular landscape in Landmannalaugar

You only need to take a short hike to see some spectacular landscape in Landmannalaugar

Part of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve

Landmannalaugar is part of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, which in size is approximately fifty thousand hectares of land in the south of the Icelandic Highland. It was established in the late eighties to protect the sensitive nature in the Highland. The Highland Road Fjallabak nyrðri runs through most of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve and is one of the easiest Highland roads to travel in Iceland, although a 4X4 is recommended. As always when people are traveling the Icelandic Highland we emphasize that it is a very sensitive area and driving outside market roads is strictly forbidden.

Landmannalaugar geothermal pool

The geothemal pool in Landmannalaugar is a must for all visitors

Finding your way and how to drive to Landmannalaugar

There are actually two main entrances to Landmannalaugar from the west. When you drive from Reykjavík, you find your way to Dómadalsleið Nr. F225, often referred to as Landmannaleið, or Nyrðri Fjallabak mountain road Nr F208.  Usually, Nyrðri Fjallabak opens sooner than Landmannaleið in early summer. We recommended that you rent a good 4X4 vehicle if you intend to drive a Mountain Road in Iceland marked as a F road on maps.  So from Reykjavík, you start from the Ring Road Nr. 1 and drive eastward. Soon after you pass the bridge on the river Þjórsá, you look out for the road Landvegur Nr. 26.  You need to drive approximately 50 kilometers north on Road Nr. 26, and by the mountain Búrfell, you take a right turn on Dómadalsleið mountain road Nr. F225.  If the road is closed, you continue for approximately 25 kilometers on Road Nr. 26 until you come to the mountain road Nr.F208 Nyrðri Fjallabak mountain road. Both Landmannaleið and Nyrðri Fjallabak lead to Landmannalaugar.  Both roads can be a bit difficult and we can only emphasis to rent a 4X4 vehicle. Both roads usually open in early July and sometimes F208 opens around the middle of June. Both roads close around the middle of September.  Both roads require that you cross rivers. 

The best way to travel to and see Landmannalaugar is to take a tour and hike with Hit Iceland in a 4X4 vehicle with a knowledgeable guide by your side -
Check It Out Here.
 

The geothermal natural pool has always been one of the major attractions in Landmannalaugar

The geothermal natural pool has always been one of the major attractions in Landmannalaugar

Below is the location of Landmannalaugar on the map of Iceland

 

Many trails in Landmannalaugar have great view

 

Lakagígar, the Laki craters, is composed of a 25 kilometers row of craters near the eastern side of Vatnajökull ice cap in the Icelandic Highland. In June 1783, the largest eruption in historical times Skaftáreldar began here with terrible consequences for people, not only in Iceland but also in Europe, America, and Asia.  Skaftáreldar eruption is considered to have killed more people around the world than any other eruption. Some have even made the claim that Skaftáreldar initiated the French Revolution as it caused crop failure and devastation in France.  It is the biggest volcano activity on the planet in the last one thousand years, and the lava flow streaming from the craters covered little less than 600 square kilometers of land.   Even the well known Eyjafjallajokull eruption pales in comparison with the consequences of Skaftáreldar. 

A dangerous event produced a stunning landscape

Although an enormous area of land glowed with lava flow and threatened life with toxic steam only about 230 years ago, Skaftáreldar eruption also formed a breathtaking landscape. The activity was such, that enormous carpets of lava flowed on both sides of the mountains between them all the way to shore.  On the west side, the lava filled the (then) largest canyon in Iceland which was 25 kilometers long and is now sleeping under the lava. The whole event changed a large area of landscape forever.

Location in Highland requires 4X4 vehicle

Located in the Icelandic highland it is only accessible from late June until the beginning of October.  It is approximately 40 km from the Ring Road number 1 in the South Region in Iceland on a rather rough road with two unbridged rivers to cross.  The visit requires a good 4X4 vehicle and proper preparation. But although the trip is rather harsh the scenery and the craters are just stunning. 

Lakagígar in the Icelandic highland it is only accessible from late June until the beginning of October.

Fimmvörðuháls, the Five Cairn Ridge, is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland.  Although quite challenging, and even dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors walk this 22 km and 1000 meter high track every summer. Obviously, it has something to offer.  It is a spectacular hike with stunning views and many natural wonders: waterfalls, craters, canyons, glaciers and breathtaking landscape.   In 2010, a small eruption started on the track almost by the most challenging part of the track, Heljarkambur or Crest of Hell.

Most of the hikers walk from the well-known waterfall Skógarfoss to Þórsmörk. At the peak, the track is on the east side of Eyjafjallajokull and west side of Mýrdalsjökull.  Both glaciers house powerful volcanos that can erupt with short notice.  Even the most notorious volcano in Iceland's history as well as geological history, Katla in Mýrdalsjökull, has been due for a long time. 

In 1970, a group of eleven hikers started the trail in good weather determined to walk to Þórsmörk. There was nothing exceptionally unusual about the weather or the condition.  On the top near Heljarkambur, a severe weather hit the mountain and three of the hikers became exhausted and died within hours.  The rest of the group made it to Básar in Þórsmörk with enormous hardship and difficulties.  The story is a constant reminder of the unpredictable weather that two glaciers can produce. It is also a reminder of the necessity to prepare to hike over Fimmvörðuháls thoroughly and take all the percussion possible. 

The track is only accessible from late May until September and is only for highly trained and experienced hikers at any other time of the year.   

Although quite challenging, and even dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors walk Fimmvörðuháls 22 km and 1000 meter high track every summer.

If you are traveling to Iceland, bear in mind that it is a perfect place to find peace and quiet. Even though you are driving the Ring Road, you can always find a peaceful place in the grass by a small river or a waterfall for a picnic. Your trip to Iceland should energize you with relaxation and a peaceful mind. There is never a need to hurry. If you can’t cover what you intended, just come back later. Neither nature nor the volcanoes are going anywhere. Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) has been for a long time a favorite place among Icelanders.

For a long time a favorite place among Icelanders

Langisjór or Long Sea is a lake in the Icelandic Highland near the west side of Vatnajokull. The lake is on our top ten list of the most interesting places in the Icelandic Highland. It draws its name from the unusual length of the lake, 27 kilometers. Photographing the lake is popular because the water is exceptionally clear that gives the lake an unusual blue color. It is located in the deeper part of the Highland and only accessible by well-equipped 4X4 vehicles. It is also only accessible in the summer months and the beginning of autumn, from the beginning of July through September.

Langisjór or Long Sea is a lake in the Icelandic Highland

Sveinstindur is a mountain accessible from the highland road Northern Fjallabak. It is not a particularly noticeable mountain, but a great mountain to climb because of the breathtaking view that waits on the top on a clear day. The peak is a little short of 11 hundred meters and has a marked trail to the top. It is not difficult to climb and only requires the usual, good hiking shoes and fairly good physical shape. This photo is taken on top of Sveinstindur to the east with a view over the river Skaftá towards the famous Lakagígar.

This photo is taken on top of Sveinstindur

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