Sigöldugljufur canyon

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.

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Day 4 – Landmannalaugar and Highlands in the north

Day 4 – Landmannalaugar and Highlands in the north


If you want to have an idea of how amazingly the area around Landmannalaugar looks like from a bird’s eye perspective, there’s a Highlands Virtual Reality tour that will take you there immediately.

Landmannalaugar hikes

There are two main, most beautiful, one-day hikes you can do from the Brennisteinsalda campsite. And it can be a bit confusing to understand the difference between them and how to get to each trail. At least for me, it was in the beginning. So let’s get to the point.

First of the hikes, the easier and quicker one, is the hike ending at the top of the Brennisteinsalda volcano, or “orange mountain”. It takes about an hour to reach the top and some 30 minutes to come back. The ascent is of normal difficulty and everyone should be able to make it.

pointing at brennisteinsalda

Pointing at Brennisteinsalda from Bláhnjúkur hiking trail

The second hike, for me even more beautiful, is the hike to the Bláhnjúkur peak or “Blue peak”. It’s a bit longer hike, it took us 1,5 hour to get to the top and some 1 hour to get back to the campsite and you should be in good physical condition to make it, at least compared to other places in Iceland where you just step out of your car and make a 5-minute walk. But it’s definitely doable for everybody and more than just worth it as it’s one of the most beautiful views in entire Iceland. Just be prepared for a mountain hike.

brennisteinsalda top view

View from the top of Brennisteinsalda towards Bláhnjúkur

What helped me the most with orientation was this map. I wonder why it’s so hard to find this map online, but this map is basically all you need to know. If you are in a good physical condition and weather is good, I definitely do recommend you to go for both peaks – Brennisteinsalda and Bláhnjúkur as well. It’s a beautiful loop trail, so you don’t go twice via same trail and all the views around it are breath-taking. On a halfway to Brennisteinsalda you’re going to cross lava field called Laugahraun which is interesting as well, although compared to the other peaks it’s not that special.

landmannalaugar map

The most important slice of Landmannalaugar map for your 1 day trip

There are of course many other trails in the Landmannalaugar area. If you are really into hiking or if you’re planning to spend more days in the area, you’re more than welcome to go for the other trails as well. The longest one is supposed to take some 3-4 days and ends in Thórsmörk, another magnificent valley. You will be probably spending nights in mountain huts along the way if you choose this hike. We didn’t go for it, as we wanted to see as many different parts of Iceland in possible in 12 days, but next time – why not? Just be prepared for rough cold weather even in summer and its sudden changes.

Brennisteinsalda hike

9:00-10:30

Distance from car park: 5/10 minutes (to the start of the trail, from camping/car park in front of the camping)
Time spent at: 1 hour to the top
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: medium
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

brennisteinsalda hike start

This is how the start of the hiking trail towards Brennisteinsalda looks like

Hike for Brennisteinsalda volcano is quite easy and takes around 1,5 hour round trip. If you either don’t have much time, or weather is worsening or you simply aren’t into hiking that much, you can definitely make this one. The trail to the top and the view from the top itself are definitely worth it. We experienced it in slightly foggy weather and it was still beautiful.

brennisteinsalda hiking trail

Easy Brennisteinsalda hiking trail

You start at the main building of Landmannalaugar/Brennisteinsalda campsite where there are red signs pointing to two opposite directions. When coming from the river crossings facing the campsite, the one pointing left is the one for Bláhnjúkur and the one facing right is the one for Laugahraun lava field and Brennisteinsalda. The other way how to orientate yourself is simply to go in the direction of the mountain (you can see it throughout almost the entire trail) and use common sense.

Although the trail is well marked, the signs are not very helpful because they contain just the name of the entire trail and they don’t point specifically to Brennisteinsalda. It’s important to stick to the marked trail to not destroy Icelandic untouched nature and not get yourself fined heavily.

brennisteinsalda hike

Views from the Brennisteinsalda hike

Your first checkpoint would be crossroads with Laugahraun lava field where you will continue to the upper right, i.e. above the field. Then you will eventually arrive at another crossroad just below Brennisteinsalda where you should turn right, to face the only little steeper part of the hike right towards the peak. Once you reach the peak, you can enjoy 360° views of surrounding landscapes, Laugahraun field from bird-eye view and also majestic Bláhnjúkur peak nearby.

brennisteinsalda top

View from the top of Brennisteinsalda on a slightly foggy day. Still very windy at the top, despite calm day.

There was no wind below Brennisteinsalda at the time of our visit, but at the peak wind was blowing like crazy. So be prepared for this. After Brennisteinsalda you may either come back to the campsite or continue for the Bláhnjúkur peak – as we did. If you have enough energy and the weather is alright I definitely do recommend to go for Bláhnjúkur as well as the views surrounding that route are even more amazing.

Laugahraun

11:00-11:10

Distance from car park: 5/10 minutes (to the start of the trail, from camping/car park in front of the camping)
Time spent at: 15-20 minutes
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

brennisteinsalda peak view

View from the top of Brennisteinsalda towards Laugahraun

Laugahraun is a lava field with interesting rock formations formed from volcanic lava eruptions. It takes some 30-40 minutes to reach it from the campsite and it stands on the halfway to Brennisteinsalda mountain. It’s a nice place to see but it was not that amazing for us compared to other sights like peaks of Bláhnjúkur or Brennisteinsalda. We didn’t go particularly for it, but we stumbled upon it on our way back from Brennisteinsalda peak and on our path further towards Bláhnjúkur mountain.

If you have enough energy and good weather I recommend you to take the same route as we did so that you can admire all of them. Coming from Brennisteinsalda, if you leave the Laugahraun field at its top-right part, you will find yourself at the beginning of the trail for Bláhnjúkur , the Blue peak.

Bláhnjukúr hike

11:15-13:45

Distance from car park: 15 or 40 minutes (if you want to go only for Blahnjukur or if you firstly want to go for Laugahraun lava field)
Time spent at: 2 hours to the top, 60-90 minutes back down
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: advanced
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

blahnjukur hiking path

Slippery clay slope at the start of the hike to Bláhnjúkur or Blue peak

For us hike to Bláhnjúkur, or the Blue peak, was the most beautiful, the most rewarding and the most difficult part of our one day visit of Landmannalaugar. We had to find the beginning of the trail, we had to ford the small river, we had to climb the steep muddy hill and then we had to cope with a strong cold wind at the top. All of these were definitely worth the experience. Views encompassing the route are amazing if you are lucky with the good weather. View from the peak is even more breath-taking. So how do you reach Bláhnjúkur?

You have three options to reach the top (including circular round trip we did, starting with Brennisteinsalda and continuing to Bláhnjúkur or vice versa). Arriving from river crossings before Landmannalaugar you may:

  1. either turn left and go directly for Bláhnjúkur or
  2. you may turn right, reach the Laugahraun lava field first and then continue for Bláhnjúkur hike or
  3. of course, you may choose the order we chose, i.e. after reaching Laugahraun continue for Brennisteinsalda peak, then come back to Laugahraun and then go for Bláhnjúkur.

I recommend the way we did it, i.e. go for the circular route, so that you can see everything.

blahnjukur hike views

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

After you leave the upper right part of Laugahraun field (coming from Brennisteinsalda trail), you will arrive at the small river. Despite the river being small, there’s no bridge or a designated place where the river should be crossed. We spent almost 30 minutes searching for the spot where to cross the river to not get our feet wet in this cold weather. And up to this day, I don’t know where was the “official” spot meant for this river to be crossed.

What we finally did was going almost 10 minutes to the right along the bank of the river coming to the place where the river was shallow enough with enough pebbles to jump on and pass. Then we had to come these 10 minutes on the other side of the river back again to reach the yellow marks marking the trail towards Bláhnjúkur. So, after 30 minutes of struggle, we managed to ford the river without getting wet, although I’m not sure whether this was the way meant for crossing, probably no.

blahnjukur hike near top

Bláhnjúkur hike near the top

Afterwards, for us, the most dangerous part followed. A trail is well marked with yellow sticks so you shouldn’t get lost. You will shortly arrive at the steep clay slope going up closer towards Bláhnjúkur. The ascent is not hard or anything, but it’s quite steep and you don’t have a good grip on the ground because of the clay. So with each step, you feel like slipping on the smooth clay. I was equipped with high-quality La Sportiva hiking shoes and those didn’t help either. There are neither stairs nor chains so you can only help yourself by going slowly zig-zag to the top.

Fortunately, this part is not too long and takes some 10 minutes to complete. What follows next is just a typical gravel hiking trail and you shouldn’t have any problems continuing up the path. Magnificent views will shortly emerge and will accompany you all the way to the top.

blahnjukur peak view

One of the views from the peak of Bláhnjúkur towards Landmannalaugar and 2nd (steeper) hiking trail

We had a semi-clear sky with partially sunny, partially cloudy weather and light fog. This is still supposed to be good weather so we enjoyed every moment of it. Visibility (although not perfect) was fine and the views were, as I already mentioned, breath-taking. We met only a single-digit number of visitors at the peak, so at the time of our visit, peak being crowdy wasn’t an issue. It was really windy and temperature felt like 5°C even on the sunny summer day like ours, so be prepared for that. Once reaching the top, you will be rewarded with the best views over the area.

blahnjukur top view

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

We started our descent from the other side of the mountain (the one where you may access Bláhnjúkur right from the campsite), which was supposed to be much steeper, according to guides I’ve read. That definitely wasn’t true and compared to the steep clay part we had to overcome before, this was a piece of cake. I wonder what’s worse – to ascent the clay part or descent? I guess descent would be worse.

The trail continued without any obstacles until we reached the point where we could see the small river we’d forded before from above. At this point we’d also seen the campsite from above already, so we continued pursuing that direction. The entire descent wasn’t hard and it took us some 1 hour at maximum to reach our campsite again. We went for a hot chocolate at the nearby snack bar and ate a little. It was still only before 3 pm so we had enough time to continue with our journey.

F208 north towards Sigöldugljufur canyon

15:00-15:30

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

F208 north horses

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

This is the F208 all of the guidebooks out here suggest you use if you want to go for Landmannalaugar. Well, if you are afraid of, or if you simply don’t want to cross rivers, then yes, this is the right way to arrive and leave Landmannalaugar as well. All the other ways like F208 to the south, F233 and F210 towards Maelifell or Landmannaleið – the shortcut in/out of Landmannalaugar, all contain some serious river crossings.

The beginning of the road near Landmannalaugar, until Ljótipollur detour, is very beautiful. Afterwards, the road shortly turns into a dull gravel road. Hence, the majority of the road is just a normal gravel road with potholes without any nice views alongside it. Compared to the out of this world, amazing F208 to the south there isn’t much to see.

road to ljotipollur

F-road towards Ljótipollur

But the views you see from this road are not the reason why people like us use it. Apart from not going back down the same road to the Vik, there lie two very nice stops along the road. Namely, two beautiful canyons entirely different in appearance, both definitely worth visiting. These were among the most beautiful places we’ve seen.

The northern part of F208 is actually definitely doable also by 2wd car, it would just be a really bumpy ride. That’s what I meant by saying “it’s all about river crossing” when it comes to the difficulty of Icelandic F-roads., Since there’s no river crossing on this part of the road, it’s doable also by a normal car.

Ljótipollur

15:30-15:50

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 parking

Ljótipollur “parking”

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.

If you put name Ljótipollur into your 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. 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.

ljotipollur

Ljótipollur

The walk 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 a picturesque canyon filled with crystal clear water.

The weather was supposed to worsen considerably in the evening according to the weather forecast and there were already clouds gathering in the sky. Still, we were lucky that up to this point of our trip we hadn’t experienced any persistent rain. 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 Landmannalaugar hikes. That said, we left Ljótipollur and continued further towards one of the three most famous Icelandic canyons – Sigöldugljufur canyon.

Sigöldugljufur canyon

16:30-17:00

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)

sigoldugljufur canyon

Sigöldugljufur canyon just by ourselves

Sigöldugljufur canyon was our favorite 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. And that’s exactly where you will find Sigöldugljufur canyon, at the end of the road F208, in the middle of nowhere.

Google maps are quite precise with the location of 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.

sigoldugljufur canyon

All alone at Sigöldugljufur canyon

When you leave the car park, you continue 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. 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.

It’s 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.

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.

Haifoss

18:00-18:20

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

haifoss

Just Haifoss

It was already around 6 pm when we were deciding whether to make a detour to Haifoss or not. I persuaded my girlfriend to do so, because this was the only time we had Haifoss quite nearby. And it was also supposed to be the tallest waterfall in Iceland, hence the one you’re going to probably include into your to-do list. The road leading to Haifoss (332) is the gravel road which you will be able to drive fast on, because it doesn’t have any potholes just a lot of gravel on it. That’s also why it’s not marked as an F-road.

Once you reach the well-marked car park, Haifoss is just a few steps next to it, in a huge moss-covered green valley with many sheep around. This is the place which is supposed to be more touristy, due to its accessibility also by 2wd cars, and yes it was even during our visit. There were some 3-4 cars other than us parking at the car park, which seemed like a lot compared to our experience at that time. There are several viewpoints of the waterfall, all next to each other so you will have enough space to admire the waterfall from and make same nice pictures. Despite weather being cloudy already, we were able to make some nice pictures anyway.

Long road towards Vik with heavy rain

18:30-22:00

After leaving Haifoss, a long road towards Vik stood in front of us. Yes, we could camp anywhere closer, but I still felt like having enough energy to do the drive and my girlfriend didn’t mind and, also, I didn’t want to camp again in the same camp – Vik. That’s why our next target destination I chose for us was the campsite in Kirkjubaerklaustur, as it had some really good reviews in Google maps. So I drove a lot. Back via road 332, then the road 32, then the road 30 and then kilometers along the road 1 just to reach the Kirkjubaerklaustur camping around 10pm. This was our most exhausting day and I’d already been tired as hell after 15 hours of being awake.

Moreover, shortly after leaving Haifoss, the weather forecast proved itself to be correct and the promised rain started and it intensified with each hour passing by. In the middle of our journey to Kirkjubaerklaustur the rain started to be really heavy and the roads were full of water, so we had to drive more carefully i.e. slower.

Kirkjubaerklaustur camping

22:00-

We reached Kirkjubaerklaustur camping in a heavy rain after 10pm and there was a huge ramp in front of the entrance to the campsite, so our first thought was “oh my god, we’re really late, what if nobody’s there?”. Luckily for us, there was still a campsite manager at that time guarding the ramp and hence we were able to pay for the camping and proceed. The campsite is very nice in a good condition and I definitely recommend camping in here. Although the weather was brutal at the time of our visit with heavy rain and wind, we still remember the campsite as one of the best.

Skipped places

  • Longer hikes near Landmannalaugar
  • Hjalparfoss waterfall

Landmannalaugar area is a paradise for hikers. You may easily spend there several days and still don’t have enough. We didn’t go for longer hikes this time, due to either shortage of time and us not being that much into more hardcore hiking. Not to mention, we were not equipped well enough for hikes lasting longer than just a single day.

There’s another nice waterfall near the route we drove called Hjalparfoss which we skipped. The reason for skipping it was quite straightforward – we’d already seen a ton of fascinating things on that day and Hjalparfoss was not supposed to be any special compared to the other ones we’d seen already.

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