Central Highlands, Iceland

Icecap and skidoos, Iceland

Traveling in the Central Highlands

This is an uninhabited wilderness area in the middle of the country with many mountains, glaciers and their moraines as well as lava fields and geothermal sites.

This is a true wilderness and as such travel can be difficult so most is done with local guides and in groups. There are bogs here which will swallow you and your backpack whole so do not go here alone.

If traveling in a small group let people know your route, and make sure your navigation skills are adequate.

Weather in the region is particularly changeable.

Routes and paths alone are not to be relied upon or are non existent, so highly detailed maps, and a quality compass with polar deviation tables are essential items. Also consider a GPS system.

Main Attractions

Vatnajokull Icecap in Vatnajokull National Park – the largest in Europe with the country’s highest mountain – Mt Oraefajokull – near the centre. This icecap dominates the south east highlands.
Of interest to tourists are skidoo tours for much of the year including June, hiking various ‘tongues’ of the massive glacier, walking along the shore or taking amphibious tours of the iceberg strewn Jokulsarlon Lake, the ice caves in the Kverkjoll section, formed by warm underground rivers, but you cannot do serious caving here.

Hofsjokull and Langjokull Icecaps – the second and third largest icecaps in Iceland respectively, the former is near the western edge of the highlands, the latter thirty five miles further east.

Hveravellir ‘Hot Spring Fields’ – a geothermal area with coloured pools and hot springs. You can soak in the natural warm waters here.

Beinaholl ‘Bony Mound’ – a hill where some unfortunate 18th C sheep left some mementos as they and their shepherds perished in the snow.

Kerlingarfjoll ‘Witch Mountains’ – an attractive and rather pointy mountain range, less volcanic looking than others in Iceland.

Hvitarvatn ‘White River Lake’ – lumps of the Langjokull ice cap fall into this, the source of the Hvita river.

Aldeyjarfoss – an attractive waterfall over columnar basalt formations, part of the Skjalfandafljot ‘Shivering River’.

Dynkur – another pretty waterfall, this time in a barren area.

Veidivotn – lots of small lakes in the bare volcanic basin.

Herdubreid – a volcano with a glacier on top blew, resulting in a cylindrical flat topped mountain. Nearby is its namesake green oasis, considered the most beautiful in Iceland. The impressive Kolltandyngja volcano is nearby.

Dyngjufjoll Range – an old volcanic range, the Drekagil ‘Dragon Ravine’ is so called due to its likeness to great winged creatures, and the Askja caldera is a monstrous, must see basin with accompanying Viti crater lake (picture above left) – good for a swim. Also the deep blue Oskjuvatn lake in Porvaidsfell crater.

Fjallabak ‘Behind Mountains’ Nature Reserve – contains the Torfajokull volcano and glacier, one of the most scenic glacial regions in Iceland with good views of the beautiful Markaflot gorge and surrounding mountains, including the Landmannalaugar.

Consider also: the Ljotipollur ‘Red Crater Lake’; Eyjabakka, a boggy area which is the main breeding ground for Pink Footed Geese; Hrafntinnusker ‘Obsidian Skerry’, a mountain with a well known Obsidian lava field; and Emstrur, a black desert-like place.