Trekking the highlands in Iceland
Emerging in the Highlands of Iceland after a long drive into the interior, the only thought that will cross your mind is; "am I still on earth?"

The highlands are home to volcanic mountains of various colors.

The otherworldly nature of the Icelandic highlands is striking, hitting all visitors as soon as they come face-to-face with the stunning vistas of Iceland’s high plateaus.
The mystery of Iceland starts long before you get there — most people can’t even find it on a map. When asked, people often gesture in the vague direction of Ireland or Scandinavia, missing Iceland up in the middle of the North Atlantic completely.
The reality is that most of us know very little about this mysterious country. Thanks to its volcanos and glaciers, Iceland is known as “the land of fire and ice,” but it is also known as a financial business stronghold and, of course, a place with very cold winters.
But there’s a lot more to Iceland than freezing temperatures and finance. The small island nation is also a major cultural hub, giving the world hugely famous musicians like Bjork and Sigur Ros.
More and more travelers are heading to Iceland, keen to soak up its beautiful, surreal natural environment. Since legendary viking Ingolfur Arnarson first arrived with his family, settling at Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, people have stuck to the coastal regions in Iceland, avoiding the mysterious interior. The center of the island, home to active volcanos, high altitudes, violent weather and mythical monsters, has always intrigued and scared Icelanders and visitor alike.

The camping ground at the entrance of Landmannalaugar

Traveling Iceland
If you want to travel around Iceland, there are two options.
First, you can rent a car or join a tour to travel the circumference of the island on the 1,300-kilometer long ring road. If driving a route littered with beautiful beaches, waterfalls, glaciers and hot springs isn’t enough, this is also a good way to catch the aurora and go whale spotting. Undoubtedly a breathtaking experience, whether you choose to drive yourself or join an organized tour.
Another option is to head into the famous highlands to camp and trek. In June, travelers heading to Iceland often choose to tour the highlands, or Halendio in the local younger. With high plateaus at about 400 to 500 meters above sea level, there’s not much living up there at Iceland’s highest points, although the occasional arctic fox might be spotted.
The highlands are not the best destination for the winter traveler, however, as the strong winds partnered with heavy snowfall can create incredibly dangerous conditions.
In fact the highlands are often inaccessible in the winter. As summer approaches in June, the road to the highlands reopens, although regular cars are not allowed on these unfinished surfaces, known as F roads. Travelers intending to go anywhere off the beaten track (or on the F track, in this case) should hire a four-wheel drive car or they won’t be allowed to continue.

You can only go trekking in the highlands in summers

Another planet
About 35 percent of Iceland’s Higlands are designated as national parks or nature reserves.
Covering an area of about 14,000 square meters, the highlands are about the same size as South Korea’s Seoul and Busan combined. Famous national parks such as Vatnajokull, Guolaugstungur and Fjallabak are all located in the region, attracting travelers for the unique color and scenery in this largely untouched landscape.
The highlands are a land of contrast. The striking red color of sulfur-covered volcanos clashes with the green moss covering the surrounding hills and the piercing white of the snow to create a vista that most visitors could never have imagined existing. To witness these sights, heading to the highlands in June is a must.
The highlands are also home to 10 glaciers, more than 15 geothermal zones, a number of active volcanos and hundreds of lakes, canyons and hot springs, offering an ever-changing but always striking view.

The valley at Thórsmörk may just be the home of Thor

The Valley of Thor
One of the most famous places in the highlands is probably Landmannalaugar.
Driving down the road from Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar, travelers will get to see the Valley of Thor, a valley located in Thórsmörk. It is located between Eyjafjallajökull, one of the most beautiful glacier volcanic canyons in Iceland, and Tindfjallajökull.
The Valley of Thor has a more temperate climate than the surrounding area, making it home to more plants and trees than you might expect to find in the highlands. The area is also popular as a hiking course, but beware that nature could have other plans — the valley was closed for a time after the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010.

Colorful canyons in Landmannalaugar


Signs on the road


Travelers in Landmannalaugar

Does this place really exist?
Most travelers heads to the highlands to trek at Landmannalaugar. Not only does it have beautiful yet unfamiliar scenery, but it is also conveniently located for a trip into the highlands without straying too far from the ring road. As there are a lot of hot springs in the area, Landmannalaugar is also known for its bathing opportunities. It was designated as a nature reserve in 1979 and became famous for providing hot baths to local shepherd boys.
Since there are times when GPS fails to find Landmannalaugar, travelers often joke that it can’t really exist. But it does, and there are plenty of opportunities for a good hike. The basic trekking course at Landmannalaugar lasts about four hours, but overnight hikes are definitely recommended for more experienced hikers.

Travelers enjoying their time in hot springs across Hveravellir

Endless hot springs
Travelers are also recommended to visit Hveravellir. About 200 kilometers away from Landmannalaugar, Hveravellir is known for its field of hot springs. The people of Iceland call this area a beautiful oasis, as it is the largest geothermal zone in Iceland and home to a seemingly endless supply of hot springs.
Travelers should be careful visiting the area, as many of the hot springs are far too hot to be used for bathing. Those springs are still worth checking out, however, as they often flow blue, green or even red. To enjoy the hot springs properly, travelers should head to the swimming pool located next to the Hveravellir information center. Hot spring water set at 40 degrees Celsius flows into the pool, and it won’t take long for travelers to realize why the locals call this place a beautiful oasis.
July 2019 Editor:Jung Jaewook

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  • July 2019
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
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