Highlands of Iceland
The Highlands of Iceland (Icelandic: hálendið) are a sparsely inhabited plateau that covers most of the interior of Iceland. They are situated above 400–500 metres (1300–1600 feet) and are mostly an uninhabitable volcanic desert, because the water precipitating as rain or snow infiltrates so quickly into the ground that it is unavailable for plant growth. This results largely in a surface of grey, black or brown earth, lava and volcanic ashes. A few oasis-like areas, such as Herðubreiðarlindir near Askja, are found only in proximity to rivers.
Most of the numerous glaciers, such as Vatnajökull, Langjökull and Hofsjökull, are also part of the Icelandic Highlands. Vegetation is only found on the shores of the glacier rivers. There is also the danger of glacier runs. Volcanically active regions in the Highlands include Landmannalaugar and the region around Askja and Herðubreið.
The Highlands can be crossed only during the Icelandic summer. For the rest of the year the highland roads are closed. Roads across the Highlands include Kaldidalur, Kjölur and Sprengisandur. Most highland roads require four-wheel drive vehicles, because it is necessary to cross rivers. However, the Kjölur route can be traversed in an ordinary car and is therefore one of the more popular highland roads. Off-road driving is forbidden entirely in Iceland where there is no snow, including the Highlands, to protect the environment.
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