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The Highlands

Álftavatn in Rangárvallaafréttur

There are lodges at Álftavatn, and Arctic char can be caught in the lake. Álftavatn is close to places of great natural beauty such as Grashagi, Torfafit, Ljósártungur, Jökultungur, Ófæruhöfði, Útigönguhöfði, Hvanngilshnausar, Torfatindur, Sáta, Brattháls and Hvanngil. The Álftavatn lodge area is part of Laugavegur, one of Iceland's most popular hiking trails, from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk.

Fagrifoss Waterfall

Fagrifoss is a scenic 80 m high waterfall in Geirlandsá River. Basaltic pillows occur in the vicinity of the waterfall which cascades from 140m thick hyaloclastite deposits. Fagrifoss is situated on the F206 road to Laki craters, a rugged road with rivers that can be treacherous to cross if the water level rises due to rain and thaw. A 4x4 vehicle is needed and the area is only accessible during summer.

Fishing in Landmannaafréttur

Many other lakes, apart from Veiðivötn, are located south of Tungnaá, and fishing permits for twelve of them can be bought from the wardens at Landmannahellir.

These are the lakes Blautuver, Dómadalsvatn, Eskihlíðarvatn, Frostastaðavatn, Herbjarnarfellsvatn, Hnausapollur (Bláhylur), Hrafnabjargavatn, Kílingavötn, Lifrafjallavatn, Ljótipollur, Löðmundarvatn and Sauðleysuvatn. Ljótipollur and Hnausapollur are the youngest of these lakes, with the former dating from 1477 and the latter from 871.

Most of these are closed lakes, although Helliskvísl flows out from Löðmundarvatn, and Blautuver and Klingavötn are connected to Tungnaá. Only trout is caught in Ljótapollur, Herbjarnarfellsvatn, Lifrarfjallavatn and Dómadalsvatn. Trout and Arctic char is caught in Blautuver, Frostastaðavatn and Kílingavötn, but only Arctic char in other lakes.

The Fjallabak Nature Reserve

The Fjallabak Nature Reserve was protected in 1979. The aim of the protection is to preserve unique areas so that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy them in the same way as we do. In order for this to happen, there are certain rules of conduct to prevent damage to the environment or disruption of the landscape. Diverse landscape, a unique but fragile ecosystem, desert wilderness and peacefulness are the main characteristics of the Friðland Nature Reserve, and thousands of people visit every year to enjoy the natural resources. Visitors to the area are asked to respect the nature reserve's rules of conduct and thus contribute so that the aim of the protection can be achieved and so that everyone, as well as our descendants, can fully enjoy the nature of the nature reserve.

The nature reserve is 44,633.4 ha in size and all more than 500 m above sea level. The area is mountainous and shaped by volcanic activity and geothemal heat. The colour palette is broad, mostly due to rhyolite and obsidian in the mountains. Lava fields, rivers and lakes are also prominent in the landscape.

Management and Protection Plan

Work on the preparation of a management and protection plan for the nature reserve is ongoing, and all information about that work can be accessed here in Icelandic.

Access

The northern Fjallabaksleið route (F208) lies between Land and Skaftártunga, through the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. The Landmannaleið route (F225) lies from road 26 towards Landsmannahellir through Dómadalur and connects to road 208 by Frostastaðavatn. The Sígölduleið route (208) lies from Sprengisandsvegur (F26) to Landmannalaugar.

The land here is especially sensitive to damage from traffic, and as a result, drivers are asked to familiarise themselves with road conditions before embarking on a journey through the nature reserve and to not drive outside those roads shown on the map.

Weather Conditions

The average annual temperature in Fjallabak is probably 0-1°C. July is the warmest month of the year, with an average temperature of 7-8°C. The average temperature of the coldest months, January and February, is around -6°C. Bear in mind that the average temperature of each month varies greatly from year to year. Winter conditions and frost can occur at any time of the year. The annual precipitation at Torfajökull glacier, in the southeast corner of the nature reserve, is probably around 2-3 thousand mm but decreases rapidly to the north and northwest and is probbly down to approx. one thousand mm in the northernmost part of the nature reserve.

Further information about The Fjallabak Nature reserve

Frostastadavatn

Lake Frostastadavatn rests in breathtaking nature and is surrounded by black lava fields and colourful rhyolite mountains. It covers around 2,5km2 and lies at 573 meters above sea level. Access to the lake is very good, road are both on its north and east sides.

Like other lakes in this area it is rich of trout and therefore popular by fishingmen as well as hikers who wants fresh catch of the day on their dish at dinner time.

Hrafntinnusker

Hrafntinnusker in Torfajökull glacier is place you have to look at. The English name of this 1128 m high mountain is The Obsidian Skerry. It is situated some distance east of the infamous volcano Hekla. It is accessible by 4wd vehicles from the north and south

Hungurfit in Rangárvallaafréttur

There have been lodge facilities in Hungurfit since 1963, when a mountain lodge, housing 20 people, was built there. This was a great improvement for mountain shepherds, who previously had to sleep in tents. In 2013, a new mountain lodge was opened in Hungurfit, housing 50 people. It is one of the most modern mountain lodges in Iceland, with running water, a flushable toilet and electricity.

Hungurfit has unique natural beauty, and the area is suitable for hiking, jeeping and horse riding. There are excellent horse riding trails leading from the area, both to Rangárbotnar, Sultarfit, Faxi and onto Hvanngil and down to Fljótshlíðarafrétt. It is a day's journey by horse from Hungurfit to Foss at Rangárvellir. The river Hvítmaga has its source at Hungurfit, and it is highly enjoyable to travel by horse or foot along the river.

Above the mountain lodges, the Skyggnishlíðar ridge leads up to the mountain Skyggnir. Skyggnishlíðar is a popular hiking destination, as the view from there is spectacular on a clear day. It is also highly enjoyable to walk or ride to Sultuarfit and towards Gimbragil and Hrútagil or into Jökulskarð.

Hvanngil in Rangárvallaafréttur

Hvanngil is an established lodge area in Rangárvallaafréttur, where mountain shepherds have stayed for decades. The name of the area is derived from the ravine that leads to Hvanngilsbotn, bordered to the east by Hvanngilshnausar and by Ófæra and Ófæruhöfði to the west. An old stone-built dwelling spot, where mountain shepherds took refuge when gathering sheep, can also be found there. The newest lodge in Hvanngil dates from the early 1990s and houses 60 people. The old lodge, which is also a horse stable, can house 20 people on mattresses. It was built in 1964 and was considered highly luxurious in those days. There are also remains of an older hut, which was mainly used when the weather was too bad to sleep in tents. There is also a campsite, toilets and showers at the site.

There are short walking trails from Hvanngil to Hvanngilskrókur and Hvanngilshnausar, and it is also enjoyable to walk into Hvanngil. From Hvanngil, longer walking trails lead to Mælifellssandur at Strútur, past Slysaalda at Mælifellssandur, where four Skaftafell residents died of exposure in 1868, or through Kaldaklof and from there past Gimbragil, Hrútagil and across Strútsöldur to Strútskofi, down Emstrur on the Laugavegur to Þórsmörk, across Rangárvallaafréttur to Krókur and Hungurfit. One can also continue along Laugavegur to Hrafntinnusker and from there to Landmannalaugar.

Kerlingarfjöll Mountains

The mountain massif Kerlingarfjöll (The Giantess Mountains; 800 - 1500 m) is the main ornament in the chain of mountains and glaciers framing the Kjölur area. It covers about 150 km² area southeast of The Temple Glacier (Hofsjökull) It derives its name from a single, 25 m high and dark hyaloclastite pillar protruding from the light-colored, rhyolite scree of the peak Kerlingartindur. The aforementioned types of rock represent the main structure of the mountain massif and this yellowish tint is the dominant color in the area.

The area is full of small steaming hot springs, mud pools, and water fountains. It is truly a hiker's paradise. It is one of the largest geothermal areas in all of Europe and there are future plans to construct a large geothermal steam plant here for electricity to harness the massive amounts of energy stored here. The area is very unique, sensitive, and beautiful - why such a decision may be controversial if proper conservational steps are not taken when doing so.

It is recommended to use 4wd vehicles because of the various and changing condition of the tracks and unbridged rivers, which have to be forded with the greatest of care. It is also recommended that people read the special brochure on driving in the interior before heading up there and remember, that off-road driving is strictly forbidden. Many of those who have visited the interior catch the bug and the only remedy is to come back again and again. It is like an incurable disease. Traveling across the interior was common during the Saga period, but after that up to the middle of the 18th century, superstition kept people away. Nowadays - more and more people enjoy this part of the country the whole year-round.

The small glacier patches up there have been retreating fast and now the summer skiing school, which was operated for decades, exists no more. Its complex of houses is now being used to accommodate travelers in the area during the summer months.

Lakagígar and Laki

Lakagígar is a row of craters, formed in one of the world's largest mixed eruptions in recorded history. This continuous series of eruptions emitted a vast quantity of lava and substantial amounts of volcanic ash from a fissure stretching 25 km across the area west of the ice cap. The craters are regarded as a globally unique phenomenon and are as such a protected natural monument.

In 1783, a huge lava flow streamed from Lakagígar in what became known as the "Skaftá Fires." This is believed to have been one of the greatest lava flows in a single eruption in the history of the world: the molten lava filled the gorges through which the Skaftá and Hverfisfljót rivers flowed, and swept down in two branches into inhabited areas, to spread over the lowlands where it laid waste many farms. The eruption produced large quantities of volcanic ash. For residents of the region, and Iceland as a whole, the results of the eruption were catastrophic: this time is known as "Móðuharðindin" (the Haze Famine).

The Laki craters are under protection of the Vatnajökull National Park which provides information and basic facilities. Getting there by road F206 you need a 4x4 for crossing numerous rivers, and is only accessible during the summer.

Landmannahellir

Landmannahellir in Landmannaafréttur has long been a destination point for travellers passing through the area. The name of the place is drawn from a cave there which was used for centuries to shelter both men and horses.

At present, the location is a popular stopping point for both hikers and riders who stay there during the summer. There is, moreover, a campsite at the location. The operation of the area is in the hands of Hellismenn ehf. The company owns a number of huts at the location, as do Veiðifélag Landmannaafréttar and private entities.

A well-known hiking trail, Hellismannaleið, lies through the area and has now been signposted from Rjúpnavellir through Áfangagil to Landmannahellir and from there to Landmannalaugar. In order to reach Landmannahellir cave, one needs to use the Dómadalsleið (road F225). The road is approximately 80 km long from Landvegamót to Landmannahellir.

Landmannalaugar - Nature Reserve

Landmannalaugar derives its name from a hot pool that rises from under the Laugahraun lava field. Landmannalaugar has been a stopping point for people for centuries, and the mountain shepherds on Landmannaafréttur have stayed there while herding sheep off the mountain for as long as there have been reports of such travel.

Many beautiful mountains can be seen from Landmannalaugar: Barmur, Bláhnúkur, Brennisteinsalda, Suðurnám and Norðurnám. There are considerable deposits of rhyolite, obsidian and rhyolite lava in the area, and the Landmannalaugar landscape is famous for its colourfulness and unique environs.

The start of one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland, Laugavegurinn, is at Landmannalaugar. The trail proceeds along Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil, Emstrur and ends in Þórsmörk.

Ferðafélag Íslands (the Iceland Touring Association) provides facilities, such as showers and accommodation, for travellers at Landmannalaugar. In addition, there is a horse rental and a small café operated during the summer.

Langisjór Lake, Fögrufjöll, Grænifjallgarður

Langisjór is a lake that's 20 km long and 2 km wide in some places. The lake is to the southwest of Vatnajökull, between the mountains Tungnárfjöll and Fögrufjöll, in a beautiful and picturesque landscape. Its square measure is 27 km², it reaches a depth of 75 m and the water surface is 670 m above sea level.

Langjökull Glacier

Langjökull is the countries second largest glacier. Its accessibility is as good as it gets, however no one should attempt driving up a´glacier on their own. Many agencies offer tours where they take you up the glacier in specially equipped vehicles with experienced glacier guides. You can choose from jeep excursions, glacier hiking and snowmobiling.

Ljótipollur

Ljótipollur is an explosion crater in the Nature Reserve of Fjallabak and is part of the Veiðivötn volcanic fissure system. It was formed in historical times. Inside the crater, there is a 0,42 km2 and 14 m deep lake. There is trout in the lake
but there is no inlet or outlet to the lake, so it is not clear how the fish got there. The naming of the crater translates to "Ugly Puddle" despite the fact it is an incredibly beautiful site.

Lónsöræfi

In Lón District, the most eastern area of the Vatnajökull Region, lie the Stafafellsfjöll mountains, also called Lónsöræfi. They dominate the skyline east of Vatnajökull glacier and have long comprised one of Iceland's most extensive protected areas. Besides the deep, rugged canyons, the landscape displays a wide range of colours owing to the presence of rhyolite and other colourful rocks. In contrast, there are also lushly vegetated and sheltered valleys offering a very good chance of spotting reindeer. The numerous hiking trails make this area perfect for hiking. Keep in mind that getting there can be very difficult and one should seek advice from a visitor- or information centre before attempting to go there.

Hekla volcano

The volcano Mt. Hekla is Iceland's most famous volcano and the one that has erupted most frequently in recent years. Mt. Hekla rises 1,491 m over sea level and can widely be seen in the south of Iceland. Hekla has been dubbed the Queen of Icelandic Volcanos and is well known internationally.

Considerable superstitions have been attached to the mountain, with the most famous legend being that it is the entrance to Hell and might even be Hell itself. The first documented expedition onto the mountain is from 1750 when the naturalists Eggert Ólaffson and Bjarni Pálsson scaled the mountain. The route to the top of Hekla is quite popular, although hikers must be aware of the danger that can occur if the mountain should erupt. The route taken normally starts from Skjólkvíar.

Hekla is located in an area where the South Iceland fracture zone meets the South Iceland volcanic zone, which probably accounts for its frequent eruptions. Hekla has erupted in the following years since Iceland was settled: 1104, 1158, 1206, 1222, 1300, 1341, 1389, 1501, 1597, 1636, 1693, 1766, 1845, 1947, 1970, 1980, 1981, 1991 and 2000. Geologists have repeatedly reiterated in recent years that Hekla is ready to erupt and can erupt at any time. However, the mountain does generally provide an hour's warning.

Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Katla

Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and Katla Volcano

Mýrdalsjökull is a glacier located in the south of Iceland. It is situated to the north of Vík í Mýrdal and to the east of the smaller glacier Eyjafjallajökull. Its peak reaches 1493 m in height and in 1980 it covered an area of 595 km². The view on a clear day is one of the prettiest in the world.

Guided snow scooter, snowmobile, Super Jeep, dog sledding and iceclimbing tours are offered on the Myrdalsjökull glacier. Travelers on the glacier have to be extremely careful about crevasses and inexperienced travelers should not go there alone. Weather conditions shift very rapidly and high winds and snowstorms can appear in a flash all year round.

The volcano Katla, in the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, has erupted on average every 40 - 60 years. Sixteen eruptions have been recorded since the settlement of Iceland, the last in 1918, but there have probably been more. Katla is one of the most famous volcanoes in the country, and its eruptions usually have very serious consequences. It can actually be regarded as one of the most powerful volcanoes in the world and probably the largest active volcano in the northern hemisphere.

During the eruption, the glacier above the volcanic vent melts and the melted water collects under the ice-cap until it makes its way out under the edge in a violent flood. These are called "Jokulhlaup". Huge amounts of ice, rocks, silt and sand carried along by the floodwater. Most of the Mýrdalssandur sand plain has been formed by deposits in past floods.

Katla has been showing signs of unrest recently and some geologists suspect that it might erupt in the near future, since it is way overdue to erupt.

Eruptions of Katla have taken place (since known and recognized human settlement): 1918, 1860, 1823, 1755-56, 1721, 1660-61, 1625, 1612, 1580, 1416, 1357, 1311, 1262, 1245, 1177, 950.

Þórsmörk

Þórsmörk (Thórsmörk) is a natural gem that sits between Mýrdalsjökull to the east, the river Krossá in the south, with Markárfljót and Þröngá Rivers to the north. Its diverse landscape is characterised by impressive gorges, ravines and scruby slopes and a wide variety of vegetation that is unique to the area. In times past, the farmers of Fljótshlíð and the area under Eyjafjall pastured their sheep all year round, due to the mild climate found within þórsmörk. Since the 1918 eruption of Katla, Þórsmörk was designated as a Natural Mountain Reserve. There are many curious natural rock formations in the area, such as Snorraríki, Sóttarhellar Cave, Álfakirkja (The Church of the Elves), Stakkholtsgjá Gorge and the stone arch in Stóra Enda. Only large jeeps and buses are able to navigate the road into Þórsmörk, due to the ever changing volume of water which can turn small and easily passable tributaries into tumultuous rivers in matter of hours.

Vatnajökull Glacier

Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland, and the largest glacier by volume in the whole of Europe. It covers over 8 percent of Iceland measuring an area of 7,800 km², with an average thickness of 400 m and the highest point, Hvannadalshnúkur, measures at 2,110 m (6,921 ft.). Vatnajökull has around 30 outlet glaciers flowing from the ice cap, all of which bear a name; glaciers and outlet glaciers all have names that end in "jökull" in Icelandic. Vatnajökull belongs to the Vatnajökulsfljóðgarður (Vatnajökull National Park) and covers a large area surrounding the glacier, including the glacier itself. The National Park offers numerous interesting sites to visit and is a must for all who are interested in Geology and beautiful, natural vistas.

South Iceland

Towns & Villages

The south of Iceland has several towns and villages, each with its own style, charm and points of interest. Selfoss is the largest town and has a variety of shops, services, many restaurants and fast food places. Most towns are close to the main route, making them accessible and enjoyable.

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