Friday, 26 June 2015

Kjölur highland route interior F35 in Iceland (Gullfoss to Varmahlíð - Blönduós)

Route F35 through the middle of Iceland, usually called the Kjölur route, is unique among Iceland’s Highland roads in being the only one you can traverse in an ordinary two-wheel drive car. Running between Gullfoss in the south and the Ringroad near Varmahlíð, at 200 km. long Kjölur is the shorter of the two inland routes across Iceland.

Of course, two-wheel drive hire cars are not allowed on F-roads at all for insurance reasons; so that’s out of the question. And if you love and care for your own little Yaris, Avensis or Passat then it’s probably best to leave it at home. If, however, you are in someone else’s car, then have a blast!

Despite its convenient ‘unique selling point’ there is little doubt that you will be more comfortable and less prone to mishaps if you stick to a decent 4×4 vehicle along the Kjölur route. That way, things like mud and washboard gravel won’t be able to ruin your day.

As with all Highland roads in Iceland, Kjölur is only accessible in the summer, opening usually in late May or early June. You can check road conditions before you leave on the roads administration website. You should also study carefully. We also recommend you to read our article about driving in Iceland.

There are many reasons for visiting the Highlands; most of them involving the desire to ‘get away from it all’ (whatever all of it may be) and to see some of the only wilderness in Europe.

There really isn’t a lot up there – and that’s of course the biggest attraction!

The Kjölur route starts conveniently right by Gullfoss and winds its way up between the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers and right past Hveravellir; a bubbling, glooping, churning geothermal area you’d be mad not to stop off at especially to take a refreshing dip in the hot spring. There is accommodation there if you want to stay the night, and plenty to explore on foot.

Before that, you will pass Lake Hvitarvatn and its surroundings. Langjokull glacier, Thorisjokull glacier, Eiriksjokull glacier, Hrutfell mountain, Hagavatn lake and Hvitarvatn lake.

Langjokull glacier

The glacier is roughly parallel to the direction of the country's active volcanic zone (see volcanism in Iceland): north-east to south-west. It is about 50 km long and 15 to 20 km wide, and has a slightly narrower point roughly between the lake Hvitarvatn on the Kjolur mountain road to the east and the Thristapajokull glacier to the west, near another smaller glacier, Eiriksjokull glacier, which is not quite connected to Langjokull glacier.

It is the nearest large glacier to Reykjavik. The area of the glacier includes some mountains, e.g. Jarlhettur ("The earl´s hat") on the east side of Langjokull glacier, a palagonitic mountain range, which originated in a fissure eruption under a glacier during Ice Age. The mountain Skridufell (1235 m) is situated on the east, above lake Hvitarvatn. Other mountains on the eastern side of Langjokull glacier are Fjallkirkja (1177 m), Thursaborg (1290 m) and Peturshorn (1370 m). A little to the east of Fjallkirkja is the hut of the Icelandic Glacier Research Society (Joklarannsóknarfelag), which includes scientists as well as interested amateurs.

Lake Hvitarvatn

Hvitarvatn (also known as Hvitarlon) is a lake in the Highlands of Iceland and the source of glacial river Hvita (e. White river), Hvitarvatn means 'White river lake'. It is located 45 km northeast of Gullfoss waterfall. It's surface is about 30 km² and it's greatest depth is 84 m. It is a magnificent experience to sail on the lake and the view is amazing.

Langjokull glacier is next to the lake and it goes all the way into the lake. The scenery is very beautiful. This is a place you have to visit. You can take a day tour and see the glacier and its magnificent surroundings.

You can also take a hike on the glacier and the view from there is fantastic.
Phone +354 8221006

Hveravellir is a unique nature reserve situated on the Kjolur route in the middle of the west highlands between the glaciers Langjökull and Hofsjökull.

Hveravellir is one of the most beautiful geothermal areas in the world with smoking fumarolees and beautifully shaped with sky blue, boiling water. It is a special experience to have a look around, whether it is in the summer or winter.

As it continues north (assuming you choose to drive south to north…it’s not a one way street), the Kjölur route wends its way through the mini ‘lake district’ around the Blanda river and the Blöndulón reservoir before emerging onto the Route 1 highway (after a short drive along Route 731) in the town of Blönduós, North Iceland.

Blöndulón is one of Iceland’s biggest lakes and was created from scratch as recently as 1984 and not finished until 1991. It is a reservoir for a hydro electric power station and is fed by Blanda one of Iceland’s longest and biggest rivers and one of the best places to catch salmon in all of Iceland, which is already famous for its salmon. This remains true to this day, despite the fact that the dam has stopped salmon spawning as far upstream as they once did.

Anyway, this was not an article about salmon; it was about exploring the Icelandic Highlands. So get out there and do just that…but be careful!

Activities in Hveravellir: 

There are a number of other walking routes in the vicinity, for example to Rjupnafell, Thjofadalir, Jökulkrok and up to or on to the glacier Langjökull. Longer routes, for example to Hvitarvatn in the south as well as over the old route over Kjalhraun or along the borders of the glacier Langjökull, are also available. A fascinating route is also along the northern part of Langjökull and through Hallmundarhraun to Husafell. A further nice route leads around Hrutfell from where one can enjoy an extraordinary view over the area. There are an almost endless number of routes to choose from and everyone is sure to find something to suit their taste.

There is a horse rental at Hveravellir. A number of horse riding trails can be found in the surrounding area. One can choose between tours lasting a few hours, a whole day or even a number of days. The Icelandic horse is used to this rough terrain as it was the only mode of transportation over this route when the first settlers arrived in the country.

Geothermal pool at Hveravellir:

The geothermal pool at Hveravellir is unique. Both hot and cold water flows to the pool, which makes it easy to regulate the temperature of the water in the pool. Over 20 people can comfortably bathe in the pool at the same time. The pool and its entire surroundings are magnificent, offering a beautiful view of the geothermal area, Kjalhraun lava field and Langjökull. There is nothing that can compare to a dip into the pool after a days hike in the highlands.

3 Days - Hiking Route 

The hiking distance is 42 - 44 km. At the starting or finishing point, Hvitarnes, is the oldest hut (1930) of the Icelandic Tourist Association for 30 persons.  

Day 1. The first leg from Hvitarnes is about 12 km long and ends at the Thverbrekknamuli hut with an ascent of 100 m.  

The Hvitarnes hut was the first to be built by the Iceland Touring Association in 1930.  It is located 425 metres above mean sea level.  It comprises the ground floor with two sleeping rooms, a kitchen and the entrance, the attic with mattresses on the floor and a small room.  In the kitchen is a gas-stove and a log-stove, but no utensils.  

A WC is in a separate house and the warden lives in another small house.  The view from the hut is breathtaking, and this hut is the starting or end spot of hikes on the ancient Kjolur Route.

The Thverbrekknamuli hut is situated southeast of Mt Hrutfell, near river Fulakvisl.  It is near the middle of the hiking trail on the ancient Kjolur Route.  

The hut was built in 1980 and accommodates 20 people.  The house is heated with gas and an oil-stove.  There are no utensils in the house and visitors have to take garbage with them. A WC is near the hut and a latrine for winter travellers a bit further away. The fifth bridge across river Fulakvisl was built in 2005.  The others have either been swept away by floods or not withstood the weight of the winter snow.

Day 2. The second leg ends at the hut in Thjofadalir after a 14-15 km hike with an ascent of 100 m. 

The small hut in valleys Thjofadalir was built in 1939 to accommodate 12 people.  It is located at the foot of Mt Raudkollur and the hillock Throskuldur is nearby. It is on the ancient trail across the Kjolur highlands between the northern and southern parts of the country. It has a tiny entrance, a ground floor and an attic above half of the ground floor. There are no utensils in the house.  

The latrine is a short distance away from the house. Visitors have to take all garbage with them. The environment offers short and pleasant hikes, i.e. Mt Hrutfell, Fagrahlid and jokulkrokur at the edge of glacier Langjokull. Mt Raudkollur and Oddnyjarhnjukur are also worthy goals.

Day 3. The third leg ends at the hut in Hveravellir after a hike of 12 km and an ascent of still another 100 m.  There are several booklets available on this hiking route. For further information on the route the Travel Guide is at hand.

Iceland24, Johanna
© 2015 June 2015

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

Camping in Iceland is not like camping in your home country. Therefore, today we are providing you with Iceland camping tips so you can prepare.

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

What You Need

Money – Iceland does have credit card machines at locations that sell items. However, you still need to make sure that you have some cash on hand to make sure that you are prepared in the event that an emergency arises.

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

Alcohol – The government is in charge of alcohol distribution in Iceland. This means that you are not going to find beer anywhere. However, there are some state alcohol stores yet they are only in major towns and they can be hard to find since advertising alcohol is illegal.

Therefore, before coming camping you need to make sure that you stock up.

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

Food – Make sure that you have a cooler. If you plan to rent a campervan, they will probably come equipped with one. Having a cooler is going to save you money because you can fill it with the items that you need.

It is suggested that you purchase local food during your journey so you can have fresh food and support the smaller towns. If you get a craving for some junk food, you can always stop at one of the many gas stations that you will pass.

Staying Clean During Your Iceland Camping Trip

Bathing – When traveling in Iceland you can camp wherever you desire. This is nice because you are able to experience nature yet after a few days of doing so you are not going to smell so pleasant. The good news is Iceland has tons of geothermal energy, which enables them to pump boiling water out of the earth at a fair price.

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

Iceland is also full of swimming pools/hot tubs. It is suggested that you go swimming daily when camping in Iceland.

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

Doing Laundry – When at the campsites you have access to washing machines that can be rented for an affordable price.

Camping in Iceland - Campsites in Iceland

Closing Thoughts

If you are planning a camping trip and need to rent a motorhome/campervan in Iceland or have any more questions, read our article, which includes price comparisons for reputable companies.

Enjoy your camping trip in Iceland!

Mike, Iceland24
© 2015 Iceland24

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

There are many types of accommodations in Iceland: campgrounds, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, huts, rental cottages, hotels... Reservations are not necessary in winter, but during high season (June to August), we strongly recommend booking in advance because most places are full. It is a good idea to bring along a sleeping bag because sheets cost extra in hostels, and some guesthouses and cabins for rent. These prices are given as a guideline and refer to high season rates, so do not be surprised if they seem outrageous. In winter, lodgings are available for half that price, especially outside the capital.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

For budget accommodations during the summer season (June to August), or off-season if you are brave and well-equipped, camping is your best option. No reservations are required. There are about 200 campgrounds spread throughout Iceland; they are listed online at Rates range from 1 000 to 1 500 ISK per night, per person.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

The Ferðafélag Íslands Association manages the huts stationed along the hiking trails. The list of huts is available on their website, Per night, per person rates fall between 5 000 and 7 000 ISK. The huts have a small housing capacity and must be reserved well in advance.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

Hostels are an affordable option, whether travelling alone or in a group. Rates start at around 4 500 ISK for a dormitory, 7 500 ISK for a single room and 20 000 ISK for a four-person room. Bathrooms and kitchens are shared. Breakfast is not included.

Guesthouses or bed and breakfasts are everywhere in Iceland, and offer private rooms with different options or extras: private bathroom, breakfast, find the combination that is right for you. Rates are generally between 120 and 180 euros. The Iceland Tourism Office’s website lists them by region here.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

Icelandic Farm Holidays offers more than 170 lodgings, of all types and at any price, in the Icelandic countryside.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

Airbnb is a new platform for staying in Icelandic houses or apartments during your trip. You can rent one room in a house or the entire home. Prices vary significantly depending on lodging type, date and city.

Hotels are plentiful in Iceland. Except for the Edda hotel chain, which are schools converted to hotels for the summer, they are expensive. If you can find a double room in a Hotel Edda for 100 euros, then the same room in a traditional hotel will cost double.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

If you are travelling as a family or in a group, you can reserve Icelandic summer cottages. Most cottages have a two-night minimum stay and must be clean upon departure.

Where to stay during a trip to Iceland

Berglind Rós
Iceland24, June 2015

Friday, 5 June 2015

Icelandic horses: About the Icelandic Horse

When traveling around Iceland, you will probably notice the Icelandic horse, wherever you go. The small horse might look wild, but it is known for being very friendly, it is also believed to be one of purest horse breeds in the world. So what is Icelandic horse and why is he so unique? Here will be answers for those questions.

This small horse (average 135cm) came to Iceland when first viking settlers sailed to Iceland around year 800. Even though it is not a big horse, it is very strong, can carry a full-grown man and has adapted to Icelandic weather conditions very well. Most of the time horses spend outside, and during the winter time they grow very thick coat to protect themselves from the cold and strong winds.

The Icelandic horse is enormously muscular, and with very dense bones, often with a heavy head and compact body.  This breed is possessed of great agility and is also very sure-footed.

Icelanders are very proud of their horse, and it is not recommended to talk bad about their horses in front of them. Even they are in size of ponies, they are not called Icelandic pony.

The Icelandic horse is the only horse breed in Iceland. Natives are doing everything they can to protect their breed. That´s why all horse import in Iceland is strongly forbidden, no exceptions. Once the horse leaves Iceland, it never returns back. That way Icelanders can make sure their breed is pure and also no diseases come to the country.

Because Iceland is geographically isolated, with help of import ban, only very few horse diseases are known here. Which makes difficult for horses that leave this country, as they are are not immune for sicknesses that are popular in other countries.

Back in the days Icelandic horse was very important part of Icelandic people. Before cars came, it was the only way of transportation. Iceland is also one of not so many contries that eat horse meat (also still today). A popular entertainment among vikings was also stallion fights. Nowadays Icelandic horse is bred for leisure, sport and also meat.

The icelandic horse has 5 gaits.  The gaits are walk, trot and canter/gallop, like in other horses, but also the super smooth tolt and many of the Icelandics also master the 5th gait, the thrilling and fun flying pace.    

The tolt is a smooth four beat gait (similar to the running walk or rack)  The rider sits virtually bounce free at speeds up to 20 mph.  You can carry a glass full of beer or your favorite drink while riding the tolt, without fear of spilling it.  The tolt is a natural gait, and you often see foals and grown horses tolting in the pasture.

It is very popular among tourists to explore Iceland on horseback, there are many horse rentals all over Iceland that offer shorter and longer horse riding tours. If you have never had experience with horses, Iceland is a place to give it a try. Icelandic horse is a gaited horse, which means besides the „regular“ gaits that all horses have – walk, trot and canter, Icelandic horse has two „extra“ – tölt: very comfortable gait, often said to be faster version of walk and flying pace: a very fast gait, where the horse shows off all his power.

If you are interested in trying to ride and Icelandic horse, contact Icelandic Excursions (, and they will help you to find right riding tours that suits you.

Peter, Iceland24
June 2015