Iceland’s Highlands are a land of breathtaking landscapes, rugged terrains, and unparalleled natural beauty. For adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, hiking in the Highlands is an experience that immerses you in the raw, untouched wilderness of this remarkable country. In this article, we will embark on a journey to discover the magic of hiking in Iceland’s Highlands, providing insights and inspiration for travelers seeking to explore this awe-inspiring destination while on vacation.
The Vastness of the Highlands:
The Highlands of Iceland comprise a vast expanse of uninhabited wilderness, covering over 40% of the country’s landmass. This remote region is characterized by rugged mountains, glacial rivers, expansive lava fields, and majestic volcanoes. With its untouched landscapes and sparse population, the Highlands offer a unique opportunity to experience nature at its most pristine.
Landmannalaugar: A Hiker’s Paradise:
Located in the southern Highlands, Landmannalaugar is a true paradise for hikers. This geothermal wonderland is renowned for its colorful rhyolite mountains, bubbling hot springs, and stunning hiking trails. Begin your adventure with a hike through the Laugavegur Trail, one of Iceland’s most famous hiking routes. Traverse diverse landscapes, including moss-covered lava fields, glacial valleys, and dramatic mountain ranges. As you ascend, be prepared for awe-inspiring panoramic views of Landmannalaugar’s unique geological features. Take a dip in the soothing hot springs to rejuvenate your body and savor the serenity of this extraordinary place. [READ ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE]
Þórsmörk: The Valley of Thor:
Nestled between three glaciers in the southern Highlands, Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) is a hiker’s paradise named after the Norse god Thor. This lush valley is a haven of biodiversity, with vibrant flora, glacial rivers, and towering peaks. Begin your exploration by hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, a challenging yet rewarding route that connects Þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar. Traverse through diverse landscapes, crossing volcanic deserts, crossing glacial rivers, and passing by stunning waterfalls. The grand finale awaits as you reach the magnificent Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers, with their icy landscapes and commanding presence. Þórsmörk offers a true immersion into the untamed beauty of the Highlands.
Askja Caldera: A Volcanic Wonderland:
Located in the northeastern Highlands, Askja Caldera is a geological wonder that transports hikers to a lunar-like landscape. The caldera is home to Víti, a volcanic crater filled with stunning turquoise waters that tempt you for a refreshing swim. Embark on a hike to the caldera, traversing the barren landscape, black deserts, and ash-covered plains. As you approach Víti, the otherworldly scenery unfolds before you, offering a sense of adventure and exploration unique to the Highlands. Be sure to visit nearby Drekagil (Dragon’s Gorge), a dramatic ravine with its towering cliffs and hidden waterfalls, adding to the mystical allure of Askja Caldera.
Kerlingarfjöll: Geothermal Wonders:
Kerlingarfjöll, located in the central Highlands, is a geothermal wonderland that promises a unique hiking experience. This mountain range is characterized by its colorful rhyolite peaks, geothermal hot springs, and steaming vents.
Embarking on a hike in Kerlingarfjöll allows you to witness the power and beauty of Iceland’s geothermal activity up close. Choose from a range of trails that wind through this extraordinary landscape, providing opportunities to explore vibrant hillsides, cross bubbling streams, and witness the steam rising from the Earth’s surface. The geothermal hot springs offer a chance to soak in the therapeutic waters, surrounded by the stunning scenery of Kerlingarfjöll.
The Highlands’ Wild Rivers and Waterfalls:
As you traverse the Highlands, you’ll encounter magnificent rivers and breathtaking waterfalls that add to the allure of this untamed region. The powerful glacial rivers, such as the Kaldaklofskvísl and the Krossá, carve through the rugged landscapes, leaving behind dramatic gorges and cascading waterfalls. Witness the raw power of nature as the glacial rivers rush through narrow canyons and plunge over cliffs, creating thundering waterfalls like Háifoss, the second-highest waterfall in Iceland, and the picturesque Aldeyjarfoss with its basalt columns. These natural wonders are sure to leave you in awe and provide ample opportunities for stunning photographs.
Safety Considerations and Guided Tours:
Hiking in the Highlands requires careful planning and preparation due to the remote and challenging nature of the terrain. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the necessary equipment, weather conditions, and navigation techniques. Additionally, always inform someone of your hiking plans, carry essential supplies, and be aware of potential hazards, such as unpredictable weather and river crossings. It is recommended to consult with local authorities, such as the Icelandic Touring Association (Ferðafélag Íslands), for up-to-date information and guidance.
For those seeking a more guided experience or wishing to enhance their safety, joining a guided hiking tour is an excellent option. Experienced guides can provide valuable knowledge about the region, ensure your safety, and offer insights into the geological wonders and cultural history of the Highlands. They can also help you navigate the challenging terrains, ensure proper river crossings, and provide equipment and emergency support, allowing you to focus on fully immersing yourself in the beauty of the landscape.
Hiking in the Highlands of Iceland is a journey into the heart of untouched wilderness, where dramatic landscapes, volcanic wonders, and glacial vistas converge. Whether you explore the colorful mountains of Landmannalaugar, the geothermal marvels of Kerlingarfjöll, or the lunar-like landscapes of Askja Caldera, each step taken in the Highlands offers an opportunity to connect with nature’s raw power and immerse yourself in Iceland’s untamed beauty.
As you plan your hiking adventure in the Highlands, remember to prioritize safety and come prepared. The rewards of witnessing breathtaking landscapes, traversing remote trails, and experiencing the solitude of Iceland’s wilderness are unparalleled. Whether you seek the thrill of conquering challenging terrains or simply wish to immerse yourself in the serenity of this remarkable region, hiking in the Highlands promises an unforgettable adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Embrace the call of the untamed and embark on an extraordinary journey through Iceland’s Highlands, where nature’s wonders await at every turn.