The Ultimate Guide
The Icelandic Highlands. The last true wilderness.
So you’ve heard about the waterfalls, the ring road, puffins, whales, volcanos, glaciers, mountains, rivers, endless black beaches, and the northern lights. But there is so much more to discover! The Icelandic highlands – or hálendið- is the interior of Iceland. It covers over 40,000km² and is one of the most extensive uncultivated and uninhabited territories in Europe. Here you can discover hundreds of waterfalls, ten glaciers, 20 active volcanos, 15 different geothermal regions, and countless rivers. The tectonic divide is actively splitting the country in two. As a result, there are many stunning mountains with abundant hiking trails and natural hot pots to soak in afterward. It truly is an adventurers paradise.
What are the best places to visit in
the Icelandic highlands?
This geothermal and colorful mountain range is located on the edge of an ancient lava field and is peppered with hiking trails and natural hot pools. It is one of the most popular hiking locations in Iceland. The Laugavegur long-distance hiking trail starts in the valley, and ends in Þórsmörk, with small huts along the way. You can reach Landmannalaugar with a 4×4 vehicle, via the F208. A recommended visit for any nature lover.
Road 550 from Þingvellir to Húsafell is sometimes referred to as the beginner’s F-Road, due to the good condition of the road and there being no unbridged river crossings along the route. This road will take you past glaciers Þórisjökull and Okjökull (Which has sadly become extinct- a plaque of its existence is all that remains) and a volcano called Skjaldbreiður.
An active volcano caldera that last erupted in 1961. The area is so lunar-like it was used as a training ground for astronauts in the Apollo program. It’s out of this world!
Kjölur is Iceland’s most famous mountain road by far. The route takes you from Geysir on the Golden Circle, right through the middle of Iceland to the north.
One of the most popular places for hiking enthusiasts, Þórsmörk, is a wide river valley surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, in the milder climate of Iceland’s south. It’s a bit tricky to reach, though. There are some big rivers you need to cross. We recommend you check out this day tour into the valley and back.
Hekla is an active volcano located 30 kilometers west of Landmannalaugar. The volcano has erupted violently frequently since records began, most recently in February 2000. The hiking trail to the summit takes around 3-4 hours and offers incredible views from the top.
A highland mountain range accessible by road F35, the landscape is unlike anywhere on earth. There are few places where you’ll find such a large geothermally active area at a single destination. During a 2-3 hour walk in the mountain range, you’ll see multiple hot springs and pools. Yes, even one for bathing. There are glaciers and volcanic landscapes covered in patches of snow, with steam rising in places, and the area is not far from Hveradalir, which means Valley of Hot Springs in Icelandic.
Our Favourite Highland Plans
This journey requires a 4x4 campervan to drive the F-Roads through the centre of Iceland. See the home to the world's oldest surviving parliament, the power of Geysir (where the word geyser comes from), the amazing geothermal area of Kerlingarfjöll, and more.
An excellent 12 day 4x4 Adventure that will take us to places a regular camper cannot reach. Including the Highlands, Westfjords, Snaefellsnes and hidden gems on the South Coast. Loads of geothermal activity, and hot springs.
When are the highlands open?
The roads to the highlands open in late June, most years, and are open until late September. Occasionally you’ll have to wait until early July for the roads to clear and for the annual maintenance to be performed. You can see more precise opening times via the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration here.