A Quick Guide to the Icelandic Highlands

Coleen Monroe-Knight

(Updated: )
3 min read
A Quick Guide to the Icelandic Highlands

The window for reaching them is just a few summer weeks. The road requires nerve and previous experience with 4x4 driving, with possible river crossings. The scenery is as breathtaking as it is other-worldly. Get ready for the Highlands of Iceland!

It’s not exactly a secret place, but nevertheless it’s somewhat unusual for the average traveller in Iceland to visit these vast expanses in the middle of the country. The Icelandic Highlands are a truly special place with amazing hiking, solitude in nature, and remarkable landscapes.

You need to respect the Highlands. They are also known to be dangerous to the unprepared or foolhardy, even causing preventable deaths. Don’t put yourself at risk. Prepare for adventure with this quick guide!

Don’t Drive a Yaris

For god’s sake, just don’t! The highland roads are almost all marked with an F, which means it is forbidden to drive a Yaris on them. It’s also silly to do so because there are Highland buses that can drop you off in many of the regions popular places.

If you have only recently earned your driver’s license or have never driven a 4x4, now is not the time to start.The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration recommends that you travel with other cars for safety in the Highlands, and check the weather before setting out. Call 1777 on any phone in Iceland for the best information.

Bring Your Swimsuit

The Highlands are famous for the hot pools at Landmannalaugar, the entrance to the Laugavegur hiking thoroughfare. These are beautiful, but there are many other options for the geothermal explorer.

Hveravellir is a large geothermal area in the middle of the Highlands. The geothermal park is fascinating to walk through, listening to the eerie hissing of the Earth itself. Steam escapes from vents that have taken on unique shapes in the thousands of years they’ve been active, and there are blue pools of water colored with heat-loving algae.

There is a well-maintained and perfectly comfortable hot pool at the campsite for guest use. Aim to go in late summer, and you can relax and look at stars from the hot water. You won’t want to leave.

Hike Into a Volcanic Crater

From Hveravellir, take a hike. The camp wardens can provide you with a map of the hiking trails in the area and there are trails for every level of fitness. Hikers can walk comfortably for an afternoon to a large volcanic crater Strýtur on the red trail. The hike is easy-going and you need not be a super-athelete.

This crater is huge and dormant, and there is no mistaking the beautiful isolation of the place, laid bare by the volcanic fields in all directions. The bleakness of the landscape is gorgeous.

Enjoy the Sound of Silence

There is nothing more quintessentially Highlands than the sound of nothing. No cars. No phones in many areas. No people. No towns. The silence of this wilderness is huge and bodily. It seems to move at times, wandering down from the glaciers to say hello.

Even on the paths most used to access the Higlands, this feature of the place will make an appearance. It’s a great time to unplug, get away from Instagram, and remember what life was like before hashtags. Embrace the silence!

The Icelandic Highlands are some of the last remaining true wilderness in Europe. This is just a quick guide, but there is so much more to explore about them. Icelandic folks know of places that almost no one else does, and so much awaits beyond even this guide. Find yourself in the Icelandic Highlands, and you will never regret going.