Highlands of Iceland

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Crossing a river in Iceland Highland
Crossing a river in the Icelandic Highland
  Icelandic Highland
Desert dominates the central Highland, through which the Kjölur road winds its way

The Highland (Icelandic: Hálendið) or The Central Highland[1] is an area that comprises much of the interior land of Iceland. The Highland is situated above 300–400 meters (1000–1300 feet) and is mostly uninhabitable. The soil is primarily volcanic ash, and the terrain consists of basalt mountains and lava fields. Snow covers the Highland from October until the beginning of June.[2] A few oasis-like areas such as Herðubreiðarlindir and Þórsmörk are also found in the Highland. The Highland has many notable natural features and hiking trails.[3]

Natural features in the Highland[edit]

The Highland is made of various geological features, including Landmannalaugar, Torfajökull, Eldgjá, Þórsmörk, Herðubreið, Askja, Hveradalir, Lakagígar, and the Fagrifoss waterfall. Sites in the Highland are difficult to access and may be accessible only during summer months. Most sites in the Highland require all-wheel drive or all-terrain vehicles for access, due to unpaved dirt roads. Careful planning is recommended when traveling in the Highland.

Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic Highland
Landmannalaugar provides some of the most interesting vista points to visit in the Icelandic Highland, for instance this point located at the northwest part of the colorful caldera Torfajökull, showing characteristic rhyolite lava fields and mountains

Glaciers and volcanoes in the Highland[edit]

The largest glaciers in the Highlands are Vatnajökull, Langjökull, Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Hofsjökull with multiple runoff outlet glaciers. Many glaciers occur atop volcanoes, some of which erupt regularly, such as the Bárðabunga volcano.[4] The most famous of these volcanoes in recent times is Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010. In the sandy Highland, vegetation is found only at the edges of glaciers and near rivers and creeks that flow through the Highland. There is a pervasive danger of glacial outburst floods, or "glacier runs," at times of eruptions and volcanic activity. The radiating heat causes the underside of glaciers to melt, creating large pockets of water that collect until they burst. This phenomenon is specifically unique to Iceland and is internationally known by the Icelandic term jökulhlaup.[3]

Recreation in the Highland[edit]

There are several hiking trails in the Highland. A popular trail is the 54 km Laugavegur hiking trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. Other notable hikes are Fimmvörðuháls and old Kjalvegur.

Highland roads or F-Roads[edit]

The Highland can be crossed only during the Icelandic summer.[5] For the rest of the year, Highland roads are closed. Driving off-road is forbidden,[6] to protect both drivers and environmental features.

The best-known Highland roads are Kaldidalur, Kjölur, Kjalvegur, Fjallabak syðri, Fjallabak nyrðri, Lakavegur, Kverkfjöll, and Sprengisandur. Most Highland roads require four-wheel drive vehicles, which also assist in crossing rivers. However, the Kjölur route can be traversed easily in an ordinary car and is therefore one of the more popular Highland roads.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bishop, Michaël Virgil; Ólafsdóttir, Rannveig; Árnason, Þorvarður (February 2022). "Tourism, Recreation and Wilderness: Public Perceptions of Conservation and Access in the Central Highland of Iceland". Land. 11 (2): 242. doi:10.3390/land11020242. ISSN 2073-445X.
  2. ^ "Weather and climate in Iceland". www.visiticeland.com. Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  3. ^ a b "Visit Iceland - Official Tourist Info for Iceland". www.visiticeland.com. Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  4. ^ "The 2014 Holuhraun eruption". www.visiticeland.com. Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  5. ^ "Mountain Roads" (PDF). Environment Agency of Iceland. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Driving safely in Iceland". The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration. Retrieved 2023-07-11.

External links[edit]

Media related to Highland of Iceland at Wikimedia Commons