Askja

Best Icelandic Landscapes

Best Icelandic Landscapes

Best Icelandic landscapes in our humble opinion 🙂

9. REYNISFJARA BEACH

Basalt columns Reynisfjara beach

Basalt columns at Reynisfjara beach

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 15-40 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, just beware dangerous waves
Physical condition needed: little Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Reynisfjara beach is a beautiful easy-to-reach beach just next to the ring road, in the south, near Vik.

How to get to Reynisfjara

In summer, Reynisfjara is easily accessible by any 2wd car, by road 215. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

The main viewpoint for the beach with famous basalt columns is located here. That’s where we visited the beach. However, you may enjoy the beauty of the beach from several more viewpoints. For example, the eastern trail, which continues towards Vik to another black sand beach. If you are going for the Dyrhoaley cliffs, then there’s also a western viewpoint, here.

Reynisfjara beach

Reynisfjara beach at 9pm in the evening

Our experience with Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara was one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen around entire Iceland so it’s definitely worth a visit. All – the beach itself, the sea waves (which may be deadly, so keep a safe distance) and the nearby rock formations are stunning. Beware the strong wind, which we had a chance to experience, and I guess it may be even much stronger.

Tips about Reynisfjara

Don’t get too close to the sea waves. They may be deadly. Take care especially during windy weather. Several people have actually died at Reynisfjara beach, getting devoured by “sneaky” waves.

Reynisfjara beach is a touristy place. Want to avoid crowds of tourists? Read our guide on how to avoid tourists in Iceland.

There are also some beautiful Virtual Reality tours of Icelandic south coast and Reynisfjara beach.

8. STUDLAGIL CANYON

studlagil canyon west side

Stuðlagil Canyon, view from the western side

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes / 30-40 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-40 minutes / 1-2 hours 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably 
Physical condition needed: little / medium 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Stuðlagil canyon is a picturesque canyon near Egilsstaðir, but away from the main tourist areas.

How to get to Studlagil

In summer, Studlagil canyon alone is accessible also by a 2wd car, via road Jokuldalsvegur. It’s a semi-gravel road with some parts paved better and some worse, without any river crossings.

If you want your ride to be less bumpy, or if you want to combine Studlagil with a trip to Askja as we did, definitely go for a 4wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Two main viewpoints of the canyon do exist, i.e. there are two possible ways how to explore the canyon – from two different sides. Choose the side before your trip, because the time required for doing each side is significantly different.

The western side of Studlagil canyon

The western side we explored was the one suitable for those who don’t have enough time or energy to discover the canyon by walking along. On the western side (left from the south, right from Egilsstaðir) there’s a car park and stairs taking you down to the man-made viewpoint. It takes some 5 minutes to climb down the stairs. From there you may admire most of the beautiful views of the canyon. It’s not possible to descent down to the canyon itself though, compared to the other side.

studlagil canyon western view

Stuðlagil Canyon, another view from the western side

The eastern side of Studlagil canyon

The eastern side is the one where it’s possible to hike down right to the canyon itself. The car park you will aim for is this one. You have to first cross the small bridge to the eastern side of the canyon, where you have to leave your car (or eventually you may leave your car somewhere before the bridge). Then you have to walk along the bank of the canyon towards the south to see its most beautiful part. From there you are able to descent down to the river and make some amazing photos from the close distance.

The entire roundtrip including canyon exploration will take you some 2-3 hours to complete at minimum.

Our experience with Studlagil

We combined the visit of Studlagil canyon with a visit to Askja. Our priority for the day was Askja. That meant that, once we arrived at Studlagil, we had already been awake and on our feet for some 13 hours on that day. That’s why we chose an easier way to explore the canyon – from the western side.

The canyon was beautiful, and we were able to admire it from the bird’s eye view. The disadvantage, of course, was that we couldn’t make a descent to the base of the canyon itself (which is possible from the eastern side).

Tips about Studlagil

If you are lucky enough, water in the canyon will be crystal clear (as in our pictures). In case you are not, the glacier water of the Kárahnjúkar dam will change the colour of the water to a less picturesque one. Nevertheless, the canyon columns will remain the same at any time 🙂

7. LJOTIPOLLUR

ljotipollur

Ljótipollur

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes ascent 
Time spent at: 15-30 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably 
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Ljotipollur is a breathtaking colourful lake near Landmannalaugar.

How to get to Ljotipollur

You have to use the 4wd car to reach Ljotipollur. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

road to ljotipollur

F-road towards Ljótipollur

If you put name Ljótipollur into Google maps, it will navigate you towards detour in the right direction from northern F208 road, coming from Landmannalaugar direction (left, coming from F26 direction). There aren’t any good road signs so just follow Google and you should be fine. You’re going to drive nice black gravel road in the middle of nowhere which will end with the sign “cars forbidden” again in the middle of nowhere.

ljotipollur parking

Ljótipollur “parking”

The place with the sign served as a car park at the time of our visit (2 more cars were parked there, what a crowd). We left our car at this improvised car park and continued walking towards Ljótipollur direction a Google was pointing at.

Our experience with Ljotipollur

The walk from the parking lot took us around 5 minutes and a majestic red volcanic crater suddenly stood in front of us. We were the only visitors admiring it at that time (I don’t have any idea where were the people who arrived by the other 2 cars parked in the car park). Just us, absolute silence and the picturesque canyon filled with crystal clear water.

Ljotipollur trail

Ljotipollur trail

You can also hike around the Ljótipollur area but that wasn’t our plan, because Ljótipollur was already supposed to be the highlight of the area and we were really tired after our Landmannalaugar hikes.

Tips about Ljotipollur

Ljótipollur is a remote canyon where you will meet out of this world colours on every corner. It definitely didn’t look like a touristy place at the time of our visit and we had it all for ourselves at around 3 pm which is I guess still a peak hour.

6. LATRABJARG

latrabjarg westfjords

Látrabjarg on a sunny day

Summary

Distance from car park: 2-15 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably 
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Látrabjarg cliffs are gigantic cliffs at the westernmost point of Iceland.

How to get to Latrabjarg

Latrabjarg is officially accessible also by the 2wd car in the summer. Nevertheless, I recommend you to have a 4wd car to get there. Not only will it be safer, but also quicker and less bumpy. The last part of the road 612 leading there could easily be an F-road. It’s a gravel coastal road full of potholes. It doesn’t contain any river crossings, though.

Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Latrabjarg

We spent some time observing strange puffin flights and their landing, often, right next to us. Truly once in a lifetime experience. You may hike along the edge of the cliff as long as you want. We did so for some 15 minutes and then turned back. Although Latrabjarg was the place where we saw the biggest number of cars parked in Westfjords, it still didn’t seem to be crowded because of the size of the entire area.

latrabjarg cliffs

Látrabjarg cliffs

To conclude – Latrabjarg is definitely worth making a detour.

Tips about Latrabjarg

Not only are Latrabjarg cliffs the westernmost place in entire Europe, it is also the place with one of the most unique floras and faunas. Secondly, the actual Latrabjarg cliff is more than just magnificent. It’s huge and admirable. And as a bonus, guess who is here? Puffins!

puffins at latrabjarg

Last puffins spotted during our journey. At Latrabjarg

During our entire 12-day trip this was the first and last place where we saw puffins. Later on, I read that Latrabjarg is a place where “it’s guaranteed to see puffins”. It seems to be so!

5. SIGOLDUGLJUFUR CANYON

sigoldugljufur canyon

Sigoldugljufur canyon. A remote, magical, non-touristy place.

Summary

Distance from car park: 10 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-40 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably 
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Sigöldugljufur canyon is a secluded canyon located north of Landmannalaugar.

How to get to Sigoldugljufur

Although the northern part of F208 leading to the canyon is just a normal gravel road, you still officially need the 4wd car, because it’s an F-road. You don’t need any hardcore jeep to reach it, however. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Google maps are quite precise with the location of the canyon, although you won’t find any road signs indicating it, so you have to rely solely on Google maps. The canyon is located on the right side of F208 coming from the Landmannalaugar direction (i.e. naturally on the left side coming from the F26 direction). The only sign telling you “there’s something nearby” is the little car park near the spot which is the closest point connecting the road and the canyon marked on Google maps.

When you leave the car park, you continue walking along the unmarked gravel road (used only by locals) and you keep on the left side of it, exactly as suggested by google maps. After some 10 minutes of walking, you will arrive at the right bank of the canyon and a huge network of small rivers and waterfalls of unbelievable colours will emerge in front of you.

sigoldugljufur canyon

All alone at Sigöldugljufur canyon

Our experience with Sigoldugljufur

You will literally find yourself as in the middle of the fairy tale, especially if you’re as lucky as we were, and will be there all by yourself.

Sigöldugljufur canyon was our favourite canyon in Iceland because it was the least touristy and, in our opinion, the most beautiful. With all its remoteness it embodies for me the spirit of Iceland, i.e. a picturesque hidden place in the middle of nowhere.

Tips about Sigoldugljufur

There’s actually no marked trail, so unless they make one anytime soon, you’re going to slightly break the rules, as you will be walking on an “unmarked path” and therefore destroying Icelandic nature a bit. We tried to go the same way back to spare the nature of our footsteps. That being said, I think it’s inevitable someone will build a marked trail heading to the canyon soon as it’s becoming more and more touristy from what I’d read before our trip.

It’s also possible to continue several kilometres ahead along the valley, so it’s just up to you how far you want to go. You are able to see the major part of the canyon already from the first moment you have it in your sight, however. That’s exactly what we did – admired it for a couple of minutes and didn’t continue further along the valley.

4. LANGISJOR AND SVEINSTINDUR

Langisjór lake

Langisjór lake next to Langisjór campsite mark on the map

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-45 minutes Langisjor, 2-3 hours Sveinstindur
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no 
Physical condition needed: little for Langisjor, advanced for Sveinstindur
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Langisjór is a huge glacial lake located far away from any populated areas.
Sveinstindur is the tallest peak in the area.

How to get to Langisjor

Langisjor and Sveinstindur are not easy to access. You will definitely need at least a medium-sized 4wd car. There are several river crossings, some of them with small rivers, some of them with medium-sized rivers. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

If you are interested in specific details about getting to Langisjor and types of river crossings you will have to encounter, read our post about getting to Langisjor.

We reached the “Langisjór camping”, or at least that’s what Google maps said, which was just a small cottage with 2 nice modern toilets at the end of the world. We continued to the point on Google maps named “Langisjór campsite” where the road ended.

Langisjór campsite

This was supposed to be Langisjór campsite according to maps. It just turned out to be a remote place with nobody being there.

Our experience with Langisjor

The water in Langisjór had been crystal clear and the complete silence surrounding the area was both amazing and a bit scary at the same time. First time in my life I experienced what one may call “absolute silence”.

You may just walk to the lake and enjoy its marvellous water and atmosphere around. There’s also a small hill nearby, which you may climb as well if you are up to.

Tips about Langisjor

The campsite looked a bit hostile for camping in our opinion. The only facilities there were toilets. So be aware of that, when planning your trip.

Langisjor was also one of the least touristy places we had been to during our trip around Iceland.

How to get to Sveinstindur

Sveinstindur is just next to the point named on Google Maps as “Langisjór camping”.

First of all, finding the start of the hiking trail was not an easy task at all. There are no signs indicating where should you go or park your car if you want to hike Sveinstindur. I just guessed – it’s not along the road we’d already driven (or at least I think so), it’s not near the lake, so let’s take the only road left – the road continuing on an unmarked F-road (described for example here).

Sveinstindur parking

Sveinstindur parking. This is how a parking lot in highlands looks like.

Shortly after pursuing the road, we found a car park with 2 cars, which I again guessed, is maybe a car park for Sveinstindur? Yes, probably I’m right – I realized shortly after seeing first yellow sticks indicating a hiking trail, though still no signs or names which would say “Sveinstindur”.

Our experience with Sveinstindur

Sveinstindur seemed to be a great fit for my itinerary – non-touristy, amazing views from the top, not so long hike, out of this world landscapes everywhere around. Unfortunately, the weather started to be much foggier at the time of our visit and it even started to rain. OK, Icelandic weather, I told myself, we shouldn’t get discouraged by this. Well, I changed my mind later. It’s not a very good idea to climb Sveinstindur when it rains and when you don’t see anything because of the fog.

Sveinstindur hiking trail

Sveinstindur hiking trail, somewhere near half of the road towards the peak. In the beginning, the hike seemed to be doable – the ground was OK to walk on, the visibility was so-so, the rain was light, so we continued. However, after some 20-30 minutes of hiking, we walked right into the big fog and we could see that everything above this point is covered in fog as well. Together with that, the rain intensified and the path got steeper and slippery.

At this point, we decided to turn back, as it was not worth it to continue the climb when we couldn’t see a thing. On our way back, we met a really fast hiker coming back from the top so I asked him whether he’d seen anything from the top. “Not a thing” he replied, which just reassured me to continue on our way back to the car. It’s a pity but what should we do – next time.

Tips about Sveinstindur

Sveinstindur near Langisjor

The upper part of the hike on Sveinstindur near Langisjor lake on a foggy day with slight rain

Quick advice – definitely go only when the weather is nice! It’s not a very pleasant experience when it’s not. Trust me, we’ve experienced it.

3. LANDMANNALAUGAR

blahnjukur top view

View from the peak of Bláhnjúkur towards Landmannalaugar camp, Laugahraun and 2nd (steeper) hiking trail

Summary

Distance from car park: 5-10 minutes 
Time spent at: from 3 hours to several days
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Landmannalaugar, or “rainbow mountains”, is a huge area full of breath-taking natural wonders of Iceland. It mostly refers to mountains and peaks of Brennisteinsalda, Blahnjukur and those nearby. It’s, however, huge and stretches itself all the way to Thorsmork. 

How to get to Landmannalaugar

There are basically two main ways to reach the area. The northern one and the southern one. I personally recommend you to take both of them, but your plans might be different. For both of them, you will need a 4wd car, but they are as different as the night and the day are. That means, also the choice of a specific 4wd car should be made according to which route will you plan to take. 

Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

The northern part of F208

F208 north is the easier route because there are no river crossings. The majority of guides and blogs would recommend you this route since it’s generally easier and safer. I do agree it’s easier, but I don’t agree you should take only the northern part of F208.

F208 north horses

Horses or “Icelandic ponies” blocking the F208 road Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri north of Landmannalaugar

There are several nice stops along the road like Ljotipollur lake or Sigoldugljufur canyon. Other than that, however, the landscapes around the road are not so spectacular. Definitely not, compared to the southern route. Read more about our journey along the northern part of F208.

The southern part of F208

Despite (or thanks to?) being long and containing several river crossings of different sizes, from small to medium-sized ones, F208 south is one of my favourite Icelandic roads. Landscapes surrounding the road are once in a lifetime experience and so is the drive itself. 

F208 Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri

F208, or Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri, after crossing with F235 towards Landmannalaugar

Choose your car wisely and you will never forget about your journey on the southern F208.

Our experience with Landmannalaugar

There are basically 3 types of activities you may do around Landmannalaugar. Hiking, bathing or driving. Hiking would probably be the number one activity visitors go to Landmannalugar for. That’s why we’ve put up a 1-day hiking guide in Landmannalaugar for you. 

On our journey, we linked together driving the southern part of F208, with the visit of Langisjor and Sveinstindur and finally with the arrival to Landmannalaugar. That being said, we arrived at Landmannalaugar in the evening, camped at the Brennisteinsalda campsite and went for hiking on the following day. 

blahnjukur hike views

Spectacular views right from the beginning of the hike on Bláhnjúkur and even on the slightly foggy day

We devoted just 1 (not even entire) day to Landmannalaugar so we wanted to see as much as we could with the best views over the area in the shortest time possible. That’s why we chose the combination of hiking the two most beautiful relatively easily accessible peaks – Brennisteinsalda (the orange mountain) and Blahnjukur (the blue peak). 

Tips about Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar may be a bit touristy. Read our tips on how to avoid touristy places in Iceland. 

Plan for the good weather. This one is a must. Strong wind or rain may even be very dangerous during the hikes in Landmannalaugar. 

Landmannalaugar Brennisteinsalda campsite

Landmannalaugar Brennisteinsalda campsite on a summer evening

If you are seeking tips for hiking in Landmannalaugar, read our hiking guide. If you are interested in our entire experience including what we’d done before and after Landmannalaugar or how we camped, read about day 3 of our journey and about day 4 of our journey.

There’s even a Virtual reality tour of Landmannalaugar!

2. KERLINGARFJOLL

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir stairs

Clay staircase in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjöll

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 1-3 hours (or more according to your hiking passion) Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Kerlingarfjoll belongs to the category of another “out of this world” Icelandic experiences. It’s an area full of orange mountains and sulphuric (mostly not for bathing) hot springs.

How to get to Kerlingarfjoll

There are two main ways to reach the area. From the north and from the south, both via F-road F35. Technically, from the south of F35, it’s a shorter route. But, it doesn’t matter much which way you choose to start from – north or south. What matters more is, what you plan to do before and after your Kerlingarfjöll trip. Read more about what route we chose here.

f35 kjalvegur

F35, aka Kjalvegur, near Hveravellir

Officially, you need a 4wd car to drive the F35. It’s a gravel road with many potholes, but it would be definitely doable also by a 2wd (if it were not for the 4wd restriction). By saying that I mean, F35 is not hard to drive and doesn’t contain any river crossings. 

The toughest part of the drive to Kerlingarfjoll is the last ascent towards the main area of Hveradalir. It’s quite steep and we’d seen several cars turning back, being afraid of making the ascent with their car. If you are interested in details, read our guide on Kerlingarfjoll. To sum up, you definitely need a medium-sized SUV to reach Hveradalir (or some big guts). 

f347 near hveradalir

F347 road next to Hveradalir hot spring area in Kerlingarfjoll

Our Dacia Duster has done its job well and we reached Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjoll without any problems. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Kerlingarfjoll

We chose to arrive at Hveradalir geothermal area by car and to explore it from there. You may hike around the area as long as you want and as far as you want and turn back at any moment. This is the most time-efficient option and allows you to see one of the most beautiful views of Kerlingarfjoll in quite a short amount of time.

Hveradalir area is one of the most beautiful and breath-taking places I’ve ever been to in my life – together with Askja, Landmannalaugar and the F-roads south of Landmannalaugar. You literally feel like you’re on a different planet. This time it’s not rainbow mountains, no black sand, no green moss. This time, it’s orange mountains mixed with wild sulphuric hot springs and snow. A lot of snow. And cold. And the wind. Welcome to Hveradalir.

kerlingarfjoll mountain resort

Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort campsite

There are several smaller hills and there are also smaller wooden stairs-like steps almost on each of them to help you with the ascent. And I do understand why. If it weren’t for them, every 10th visitor would have slipped on the clay and injured or killed himself. The views and the atmosphere of the place is truly amazing. Hot springs with hot sulphuric steam are everywhere and they help create an occasional feeling of warmth. There are, however, no hot springs to bath in Hveradalir area. This is contrary to Google maps calling the location “hot springs” or “geothermal area”.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir hike

One of the summits of the several smaller hills around the Hveradalir in Kerlingarfjöll

Interested in more details about hot springs or hiking options in Kerlingarfjoll? Read our guide.

Interested in what we’d done before and after the trip to Kerlingarfjoll, which routes we chose, where we camped and many more? Read about day 8 of our journey

Tips about Kerlingarfjoll

Once in Kerlingarfjöll, you have numerous hiking options. You may for example hike the red loop trail, getting to all of the biggest summits around the area, sleeping over at mountain huts. This is a very challenging hike, where you will be going to need very good gear (e.g. crampons) and be in a very good physical condition. And it will take you about 3 days. Read more here.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir trail

One of the numerous trails in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjoll

Also bear in mind, that on the 8th August, 3 pm in the afternoon (i.e. probably one of the warmest times possible) the temperature climbed to tropical 5°C. And the strong wind didn’t help it at all, making everything feel even some 5°C colder. If you plan to camp here, you’re going to be freezing for sure.

1. ASKJA

swimming in askja crater

Me swimming in 25°C sulphuric water of Víti crater in Askja

Summary

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way (from Vikarborgir) 
Time spent at: >1 hour
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced (depends if you want to climb Viti)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Askja is a hidden gem of Iceland. It’s a picturesque volcanic crater filled with warm sulphuric water in the middle of nowhere. The drive to Askja is strenuous but more than worth it. 

How to get to Askja

To drive to Askja you definitely need a 4wd car.  There are two main routes available to reach Askja. The northern one (F88) and the eastern one (F905, F910).

The northern route is the toughest one because F88 contains several big, treacherous rivers. You will need a large super-jeep if you want to take F88.

f905 to askja

F905 to Askja on an exceptionally beautiful sunny summer day

The eastern route contains river crossings as well, but only small and medium-sized ones, so it’s doable also with a medium-sized SUV. If you are interested in specific details about each road and each river crossing, you may read our guide on how to visit Askja.

It’s important to choose your car carefully for your visit to Askja. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Askja

From the car park it takes some 20-30 minutes of walking via a well-marked path with yellow sticks to reach the place everybody sees in the pictures – i.e. Víti crater. Sun still shined, the sky was still clear and the wind was still mild – what a wonderful day! And Viti crater looked even better than in the photos! Fairy-tale-like blue water with moon-like surrounding landscapes. Askja was the highlight of our trip.

askja oskjuvatn viti

Amazingly beautiful Askja (the whole area), Víti (the crater lake) and Öskjuvatn (the bigger lake nearby) all in one picture

We also decided to descent down to the crater itself and take a bath. This was one of the two moments during our journey when I was a bit scared (first one when hiking up the Blahnjukur peak in Landmannalugar, climbing the steep clay slippery trail). Here again, the descent was steep and the ground was covered with slippery clay, which means you’re unable to control any fall of yours, in case it happens.

Nevertheless, it’s a short descent and not too dangerous, so in good weather, you should be able to make it. Once down in the caldera, you may enjoy swimming in the water with a temperature around 25°C, which is definitely not a hot spring but it’s definitely warmer than air (at the time of our visit around 10-15°C). Once in a lifetime experience.

Tips about Askja

  • Askja = name of the entire area.
  • Viti = volcanic crater you are probably aiming for as we were, with blue picturesque geothermal water.
  • Oskjuvatn = big lake just next to Viti, with no geothermal water (Google calls Oskjuvatn “Lake Askja”).
vikraborgir parking askja

Vikraborgir car park, the closest point available on your route towards Askja/Víti crater

Once you reach Viti, you may either:

  1. Just admire the beauty of Viti crater and monumental Oskjuvatn lake next to it, or
  2. Hike around the area, or
  3. As we chose (or as my girlfriend persuaded me), hike down the Viti crater and swim in the green/blue geothermal water.
oskjuvatn lake askja

Öskjuvatn lake in Askja area, next to famous Víti crater

Interested in more details on different hikes, map of the area and our experience? Read our guide on Askja.

Interested in how we combined Askja with the visit of Studlagil canyon, where we camped and where we went next? Read about day 6 of our journey.

epic iceland facebook group ask questions or get inspired in our community

Posted by epiciceland in Top Places, 0 comments
How to visit Askja

How to visit Askja

Be prepared for your Askja venture responsibly. It’s neither an easy drive nor the short one. Bring enough food and water, tank enough fuel and plan your journey in advance. Study guidelines for driving F-roads and crossing rivers carefully.

How to get to Askja

There are actually several different roads leading to and from Askja. We drove 2 out of 3 main ones. The most treacherous one is supposed to be F88 from the north, which is said to have a quite deep river. We haven’t tried that one due to this very same reason so I cannot say whether it was really that big or not, but we did try the other ones. The easiest route according to guides was supposed to be the combination of F905 and F910 which we wanted to take on our way to Askja.

Don’t want to go on your own? Take an epic Askja tour!

modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið road, the first gravel road you’re gonna encounter when coming from Egilsstaðir direction

On our way back, my plan had two versions. First one, in case we didn’t have enough time, was coming back using the same roads and finding the first campsite nearby. However, my major version of the plan was seeing the Studlagil canyon on our way back, i.e. using the roads F910, F905, detour to the right without number called Austurleid (by the lake Thrihyrningsvatn), a short piece of F907 and then to the left via Jokuldalsvegur. I wasn’t able to find any info anywhere over the internet about this road that’s why I wrote a few lines about it here.

Modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið junction with F905

Junction on Möðrudalsleið road with F905 coming from Egilsstaðir towards Askja

Weather was unbelievably nice, the sun was shining, the sky was completely clear and there was not even the slightest blow of wind. If this is not the weather to go for Askja then it never is. We’d firstly driven a while on the ring road, then turned left shortly for the road without any number on Google maps with a fancy name Möðrudalsleið. I guess the more the name of the road resembles some killing machine the rougher the actual road is, but that’s just what we’d observed. Möðrudalsleið is a quite good gravel road (compared to many other F-roads) so I was able to drive really fast.

Before you go: study the F-roads and choose the high quality insurance!

F905

f905 to askja

F905 to Askja on an exceptionally beautiful sunny summer day

After driving some two-thirds of the road, we turned left to F905, where a real adventure began. By “a real adventure” I don’t mean anything dangerous (at least with our dream weather it definitely wasn’t), just endless out of this world landscapes as if you were on another planet. F905 and the ones following (together with reaching Landmannalaugar from the south) were the most beautiful roads we drove and are definitely highlights of our entire Icelandic trip.

Different types of surface alternate between each other, each one the more beautiful than the one before. Gravel, clay, rocks, sand, sulphur – anything you can imagine, all of this surrounded by unforgettable views of the volcanic hills around. I don’t remember any river on F905 (maybe only some small ponds, which shouldn’t cause you any trouble at all).

F910

f905 askja gate

Gated bridge at F905 road towards Askja. Just open the gate when crossing the bridge and close it afterwards.

After spending some time on F905, the road turns into F910, which is very similar in its character to F905, just, once again a bit different. There are a few parts of the road where you’re going to drive literally on huge volcanic rocks and you have to drive really carefully not to damage your car – this is where a good 4×4 with high ground clearance happens to be useful. The most important part of an Icelandic F-road which you should pay attention to (as I wrote here) is the regular rivers and their existence on your road.

There are two medium-sized rivers on F910. When we’d reached the first river, there was already a 4×4 car waiting in front of the river, I think Toyota Landcruiser. It seemed like a driver wanted to see someone else to cross first. I stepped out of the car and inspected the river. This one was not very wide and I was able to observe where the best part to cross it is, even by visual inspection. Depth of the river was fair, some 40-60cm at the deepest point so should you have an appropriate 4×4 car for medium-sized rivers and take precautionary steps not to sink your car.

F910 askja

F910 towards Askja

Since we’d already gained some experience with river crossings on our way to Landmannalaugar, we were more confident here in Askja. After my river inspection, the Toyota driver approached me and asked: “Is this your first time as well?” I just smiled and thought “man I know how you feel, we’ve been there some 2 days ago” and said that we have some experience already from Landmannalaugar. She asked us whether we may cross first so that she can see us, and so we did. I just adhered to all river crossing rules and the crossing went smoothly. After the ford, I waited to see whether Toyota was able to ford the river as well and yes, they were.

f910 austurleid askja

F910, or Austurleið, the continuation of road F905 towards Askja

The second river emerges very shortly thereafter. The depth looked to be about the same, i.e. 40-60cm at the deepest point. Just this time the river was considerably wider and the road on the other bank of the river was not in front of us but skewed to the left. So, we guessed, we had to steer to the left when crossing. The shallowest part seemed to be on the right side, so we forded there, realizing the river is a bit deeper than we’d thought, i.e. on the upper side of our estimated range (some 60cm the deepest point). Nevertheless, we were already in the river so we didn’t stop and our Duster was able to make it to the other bank without any trouble.

Dreki mountain huts

Next, we arrived at the junction of F88 and F910, where, by turning left, we continued via F910 and soon reached Dreki mountain huts – the only place where you may actually stay overnight in Askja area. There’s a free public toilet as well. Finally, we reached the Askja area – but where to go now?

The main area – Askja, Viti, Oskjuvatn

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way (from Vikarborgir)
Time spent at: >1 hour
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced (depends if you want to climb Viti)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
askja map

Useful map of Askja and Öskjuvatn area

A detailed map of the area to be found here.

A short glossary may be useful at this place. You may hike all of these and more:

  • Askja = name of the entire area.
  • Viti = volcanic crater you are probably aiming for as we were, with blue picturesque geothermal water.
  • Oskjuvatn = big lake just next to Viti, with no geothermal water (Google calls Oskjuvatn “Lake Askja”).

F894 – Öskjuvatnsvegur

vikraborgir parking askja

Vikraborgir car park, the closest point available on your route towards Askja/Víti crater

Once you arrive at Dreki huts, you may already leave your car here and go for 8km hike towards Viti and Öskjuvatn and you will definitely enjoy the beautiful mountain area even more. What we did, was to drive as close to the actual geothermal Víti lake as possible and spend most of our time there.

To do that, you have to take the F894 road, i.e. slight turn right coming from F910 direction, standing in Dreki huts spot. The road is really rough and rocky, with volcanic stones and rocks about everywhere. At the end of the road, you will reach the car park with another toilet booth, called the Vikraborgir car park. This is where you have to leave your car.

Askja

askja oskjuvatn viti

Amazingly beautiful Askja (the whole area), Víti (the crater lake) and Öskjuvatn (the bigger lake nearby) all in one picture

From the car park, it takes some 20-30 minutes of walking the well-marked path with yellow sticks to reach the place everybody admires in the pictures – i.e. Víti crater. The sun still shined, the sky was still clear and the wind was still mild – what a wonderful day! And Viti crater looked even better than in the photos! Fairy-tale-like blue water with moon-like surrounding landscapes. This was the highlight of our trip. From this spot you may either:

  1. Just admire the beauty of Viti crater and monumental Oskjuvatn lake next to it, or
  2. Hike around the area, or
  3. As we chose (or as my girlfriend persuaded me), hike down the Viti crater and swim in the green/blue geothermal water.
askja crater hiking trail

Hiking trail down to Askja crater (Víti)

This was one of the two moments during our journey when I was a bit scared (first one when hiking up the Blahnjukur peak in Landmannalugar, climbing the steep clay slippery path). Here again, the descent was steep and the ground was covered with slippery clay, which means you’re unable to control any fall of yours, in case it happens.

Nevertheless, it’s a short descent and not too dangerous, so in good weather you should be able to make it. Once down in the caldera, you may enjoy swimming in the water with a temperature around 25°C, which is definitely not a hot spring but it’s definitely warmer than air (at the time of our visit around 10-15°C). Once in a lifetime experience.

swimming in askja crater

Me swimming in 25°C sulphuric water of Víti crater in Askja

The way back is the same – i.e. 20-30minutes walk to the car park, taking F894 to Dreki huts, from there F910 and from there you may decide between 3 main options – F88 or F905 or detour to Stuðlagil Canyon, as we did.

oskjuvatn lake askja

Öskjuvatn lake in Askja area, next to famous Víti crater

epic iceland facebook group ask questions or get inspired in our community

Posted by epiciceland in Guide, 0 comments
Day 6 – Askja and Stuðlagil Canyon

Day 6 – Askja and Stuðlagil Canyon

Covid testing in Egilsstadir

7:45-7:55

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, our first with a completely clear sky and the sun shining at the full throttle. I set our alarm clock to an unpleasantly early 6:30, but for a reason. We wanted to go to Askja and I wanted us to have enough time for the drive, since I read (and also heard as advice during our car rental pick-up) that you should definitely take your time, because of the rough road leading there. The weather forecast seemed to be incredibly on our side, that’s why we‘d left our campsite particularly encouraged a few minutes after 7:30 and headed towards our 2nd Covid testing in the health centre in Egilsstadir.

Fellabær camp rooftop tent

Waking up on a beautiful sunny morning in a rooftop tent in Fellabær camp, before our trip to Askja

We were afraid of how long will the testing take. Testing was supposed to start at 8 AM and the receptionist told me the day before, that we should arrive soon because lots of people are about to come on that day. We’d arrived at the testing spot at 7:45 and there was already medical staff performing tests, with 2 people in the queue in front of us. Waiting time was 2-3 minutes and the test was performed in another 2 minutes, so we were basically done in 5 minutes – really kudos to Icelandic medical staff! Despite being a hassle for travellers to have themselves tested twice, at least the testing process was very smooth and quick so that it didn’t interfere with our plans almost at all.

F905, F910 and more to Askja

8:30-12:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes (not pleasant but worth the experience)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

There are actually several different roads leading to and from Askja. We drove 2 out of 3 main ones. The most treacherous one is supposed to be F88 from the north, which is said to have a quite deep river. We haven’t tried that one due to this very same reason so I cannot say whether it was really that big or not, but we did try the other ones. The easiest route according to guides was supposed to be the combination of F905 and F910 which we wanted to take on our way to Askja.

modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið road, the first gravel road you’re gonna encounter when coming from Egilsstaðir direction

On our way back, my plan had two versions. First one, in case we didn’t have enough time, was coming back using the same roads and finding the first campsite nearby. However, my major version of the plan was seeing the Studlagil canyon on our way back, i.e. using the roads F910, F905, detour to the right without number called Austurleid (by the lake Thrihyrningsvatn), a short piece of F907 and then to the left via Jokuldalsvegur. I wasn’t able to find any info anywhere over the internet about this road that’s why I wrote a few lines about it here.

Modrudalsleid

8:40-9:10

modrudalsleid f905 askja

Crossroads between Möðrudalsleið road and F905

Weather was unbelievably nice, the sun was shining, the sky was completely clear and there was not even the slightest blow of wind. If this is not the weather to go for Askja then it never is. We’d firstly driven a while on the ring road, then turned left shortly for the road without any number on Google maps with a fancy name Möðrudalsleið. I guess the more the name of the road resembles some killing machine the rougher the actual road is, but that’s just what we’d observed. Möðrudalsleið is a quite good gravel road (compared to many other F-roads) so I was able to drive really fast.

F905

9:10-10:50

f905 to askja

F905 to Askja on an exceptionally beautiful sunny summer day

After driving some two-thirds of the road, we turned left to F905, where a real adventure began. By “a real adventure” I don’t mean anything dangerous (at least with our dream weather it definitely wasn’t), just endless out of this world landscapes as if you were on another planet. F905 and the ones following (together with reaching Landmannalaugar from the south) were the most beautiful roads we drove and are definitely highlights of our entire Icelandic trip.

Different types of surface alternate between each other, each one the more beautiful than the one before. Gravel, clay, rocks, sand, sulphur – anything you can imagine, all of this surrounded by unforgettable views of the volcanic hills around. I don’t remember any river on F905 (maybe only some small ponds, which shouldn’t cause you any trouble at all).

F910

10:50-12:00

f905 askja gate

Gated bridge at F905 road towards Askja. Just open the gate when crossing the bridge and close it afterwards.

After spending some time on F905, the road turns into F910, which is very similar in its character to F905, just, once again a bit different. There are a few parts of the road where you’re going to drive literally on huge volcanic rocks and you have to drive really carefully not to damage your car – this is where a good 4×4 with high ground clearance happens to be useful. The most important part of an Icelandic F-road which you should pay attention to (as I wrote here) is the regular rivers and their existence on your road.

There are two medium-sized rivers on F910. When we’d reached the first river, there was already a 4×4 car waiting in front of the river, I think Toyota Landcruiser. It seemed like a driver wanted to see someone else to cross first. I stepped out of the car and inspected the river. This one was not very wide and I was able to observe where the best part to cross it is, even by visual inspection. Depth of the river was fair, some 40-60cm at the deepest point so should you have an appropriate 4×4 car for medium-sized rivers and take precautionary steps not to sink your car.

f910 austurleid askja

F910, or Austurleið, continuation of road F905 towards Askja

Since we’d already gained some experience with river crossings on our way to Landmannalaugar, we were more confident here in Askja. After my river inspection, the Toyota driver approached me and asked: “Is this your first time as well?” I just smiled and thought “man I know how you feel, we’ve been there some 2 days ago” and said that we have some experience already from Landmannalaugar. She asked us whether we may cross first so that she can see us, and so we did. I just adhered to all river crossing rules and the crossing went smoothly. After the ford, I waited to see whether Toyota was able to ford the river as well and yes, they were.

F910 askja

F910 towards Askja

The second river emerges very shortly thereafter. The depth looked to be about the same, i.e. 40-60cm at the deepest point. Just this time the river was considerably wider and the road on the other bank of the river was not in front of us but skewed to the left. So, we guessed, we had to steer to the left when crossing. The shallowest part seemed to be on the right side, so we forded there, realizing the river is a bit deeper than we’d thought, i.e. on the upper side of our estimated range (some 60cm the deepest point). Nevertheless, we were already in the river so we didn’t stop and our Duster was able to make it to the other bank without any trouble.

Dreki mountain huts

Next, we arrived at the junction of F88 and F910, where, by turning left, we continued via F910 and soon reached Dreki mountain huts – the only place where you may actually stay overnight in Askja area. There’s a free public toilet as well. Finally, we reached the Askja area – but where to go now?

Askja, Viti, Oskjuvatn

12:10-15:15

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way (from Vikarborgir)
Time spent at: >1 hour
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced (depends if you want to climb Viti)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

askja map

Useful map of Askja and Öskjuvatn area

A detailed map of the area to be found here.

A short glossary may be useful at this place. You may hike all of these and more:

  • Askja = name of the entire area.
  • Viti = volcanic crater you are probably aiming for as we were, with blue picturesque geothermal water.
  • Oskjuvatn = big lake just next to Viti, with no geothermal water (Google calls Oskjuvatn “Lake Askja”).

F894 – Öskjuvatnsvegur

12:10-12:30

vikraborgir parking askja

Vikraborgir car park, the closest point available on your route towards Askja/Víti crater

Once you arrive at Dreki huts, you may already leave your car here and go for 8km hike towards Viti and Öskjuvatn and you will definitely enjoy the beautiful mountain area even more. What we did, was to drive as close to the actual geothermal Víti lake as possible and spend most of our time there.

To do that, you have to take the F894 road, i.e. slight turn right coming from F910 direction, standing in Dreki huts spot. The road is really rough and rocky, with volcanic stones and rocks about everywhere. At the end of the road, you will reach the car park with another toilet booth, called the Vikraborgir car park. This is where you have to leave your car.

Askja

12:30-15:15

askja oskjuvatn viti

Amazingly beautiful Askja (the whole area), Víti (the crater lake) and Öskjuvatn (the bigger lake nearby) all in one picture

From the car park, it takes some 20-30 minutes of walking the well-marked path with yellow sticks to reach the place everybody admires in the pictures – i.e. Víti crater. The sun still shined, the sky was still clear and the wind was still mild – what a wonderful day! And Viti crater looked even better than in the photos! Fairy-tale-like blue water with moon-like surrounding landscapes. This was the highlight of our trip. From this spot you may either:

  1. Just admire the beauty of Viti crater and monumental Oskjuvatn lake next to it, or
  2. Hike around the area, or
  3. As we chose (or as my girlfriend persuaded me), hike down the Viti crater and swim in the green/blue geothermal water.

askja crater hiking trail

Hiking trail down to Askja crater (Víti)

This was one of the two moments during our journey when I was a bit scared (first one when hiking up the Blahnjukur peak in Landmannalugar, climbing the steep clay slippery path). Here again, the descent was steep and the ground was covered with slippery clay, which means you’re unable to control any fall of yours, in case it happens.

Nevertheless, it’s a short descent and not too dangerous, so in good weather, you should be able to make it. Once down in the caldera, you may enjoy swimming in the water with a temperature around 25°C, which is definitely not a hot spring but it’s definitely warmer than air (at the time of our visit around 10-15°C). Once in a lifetime experience.

oskjuvatn lake askja

Öskjuvatn lake in Askja area, next to famous Víti crater

The way back is the same – i.e. 20-30minutes walk to the car park, taking F894 to Dreki huts, from there F910 and from there you may decide between 3 main options – F88 or F905 or detour to Stuðlagil Canyon, as we did.

swimming in askja crater

Me swimming in 25°C sulphuric water of Víti crater in Askja

F905, Austurleið, F907 and Jokuldalsvegur towards Stuðlagil canyon

15:15-18:45

We left Askja at 15:00, so we still had enough time for at least a short stop at Studlagil canyon, which was my primary best-case plan. We headed back from Askja, firstly via the same roads of F894, F910, two river crossings and then driving about two-thirds of F905 when we had to turn right according to Google maps to a road without any number called Austurleid (by the lake Thrihyrningsvatn).

Austurleið

This road and the roads which followed – I had literally no information about whether they contain any river crossings and if so, how serious they are. Hence, there was the only option – to try our best and in the worst case turn back. Well, at least if we had enough fuel. I tried hard to tank as much fuel as possible as close to the Askja area as possible. However, our trip was still a bit long even for Dacia Duster’s fuel tank. If we had to turn back in the middle of Austurleid or F907 or not to say, even later, we would have gone out of fuel probably. Luckily this hasn’t happened.

F907 and Jokuldalsvegur

Austurleið by the lake Þríhyrningsvatn didn’t contain any serious river crossings, just small rivers and small ponds of depth 20-30cm at max. The following short piece of F907, as well as a detour to the left for Jökuldalsvegur road, didn’t contain any river crossings and the quality of the roads was better compared to F905 and F910 in Askja area. Jokuldalsvegur is actually a semi-paved road and it’s definitely not dangerous to drive on.

Stuðlagil canyon – western side / eastern side

18:45-19:10

Distance from car park: 5 minutes / 30-40 minutes
Time spent at: 20-40 minutes / 1-2 hours
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: little / medium
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

studlagil canyon west side

Stuðlagil Canyon, view from the western side

After a long day, coming from the southern side of Jokuldalsvegur, we finally reached the western bank of Studlagil canyon (i.e. left coming from the south, or right coming from Egilsstaðir direction). Two main viewpoints of the canyon do exist, i.e. there are two possible ways how to explore the canyon – from two different sides.

If you are lucky enough, water in the canyon will be crystal clear (as in our pictures). In case you are not, the glacier water of the Kárahnjúkar dam will change the colour of the water to a less picturesque one. Nevertheless, the canyon columns will remain the same at any time 🙂

Western side

studlagil canyon western view

Stuðlagil Canyon, another view from the western side

The western side we explored was the one suitable for those who don’t have enough time or energy to discover the canyon by walking along. On the western side (left from the south, right from Egilsstaðir) there’s a car park and stairs taking you down to the man-made viewpoint. It takes some 5 minutes to climb down the stairs. From there you may admire most of the beautiful views of the canyon. It’s not possible to descent down to the canyon itself though, compared to the other side.

Eastern side

The eastern side is the one where it’s possible to hike down right to the canyon itself. The car park you will aim for is this one. You have to first cross the small bridge to the eastern side of the canyon, where you have to leave your car (or eventually you may leave your car somewhere before the bridge). Then you have to walk along the bank of the canyon towards the south to see its most beautiful part. From there you are able to descent down to the river and make some amazing photos from the close distance.

Möðrudalur camping

21:00-

The closest campsite to Studlagil canyon, in the direction towards Reykjahlid, which had good reviews, turned out to be Möðrudalur campsite. That’s where we successfully ended Day 6 of our journey. Luckily, we managed not to run out of fuel, so after leaving Jokuldalsvegur I quickly headed for the nearest gas station. Continuing on the ring road and turning back left to drive a short part of Möðrudalsleið again, we arrived at Möðrudalur campsite.

modrudalur camp

Möðrudalur campsite

The campsite was nice with a very cosy restaurant serving homemade dishes. We were lucky to see a very nice sunset as well. Definitely one of the better campsites.

More Videos








epic iceland facebook group ask questions or get inspired in our community

Posted by epiciceland in Our Journey, 0 comments