4wd exploration with hiking - 8-day trip
Shaped by the antagonism of fire and ice, the Highlands of Southern Iceland offer landscapes like no other. Nature, here in delirium, combines harmoniously contradictory landscapes with an art of paradox. Green meadows, lava fields, pristine glaciers, black sand beaches, blue iceberg lagoons, basalt fortresses, crystalline waterfalls, powerful rivers, volcanoes pretending to sleep, flooded bogs, fumeroles in the shape of rainbows flood succeed and renew endlessly. While the ocean in front of so many wonders, is not left out and spreads its power and its immensity, launching its rolls and its millions of pelagic birds to conquer this land that was supposed to stay at the bottom of the abyss.
Iceland is the only place where you walk “at the bottom“ of the Atlantic Ocean.
Both prices and dates below are for the same trip, but:
> The 8-day trip (July 6th to 13th) is the trip itself on the field departure from Reykjavik and back.
> The 10-day trip (July 5th to 14th) includes:
- 1 airport transfer to your hotel and 1 night in B&B en suite in double-twin room in Reykjavik on July 5th
- 1 night B&B in a double-twin or single room in Reykjavik on July 13th and 1 airport transfer from your hotel to the airport on July 14th
Price / Estimated
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Conversion rates are from the Icelandic National Bank
Day 1: Reykjavik - Mt Hekla farmland
110 km / 68 miles on road - 40 km / 24 miles on tracks - Hike 3-4 hours – ca.10 km / 6 miles - Hut of Rjúpnavellir.
Your guide will pick you up between at 7:30 and 8:30 AM at your Reykjavik accommodation. Hiking clothes, duffel bag and day pack ready for trekking. The trip begins. Approx. 3 hours transfer on the road to the trail head. The majestic Hekla volcano rises above a grassy plain and marks the entrance to the high volcanic lands. It is probably Iceland’s most famous (or infamous!) and active volcano. Hike starts by late morning crossing grassland. The few little farms of the area have had to move many times over the centuries as eruptions have engulfed them. However, much of the countryside is now verdant with some former lava flows covered in green moss and arctic birch. Green moss, « bonsai » arctic birch grove along with the pure water springs, creates the feeling, perhaps, of a real Japanese garden. In August on this day, we can take a little longer as the berry and mushroom picking gets in the way of our passage.
Day 2: Lakes of Veidivötn
140 km / 86 miles round trip on tracks - hike 2-3 hours – ca.10 km / 6 miles - Hut of Rjúpnavellir
In the middle of a vast expanse of black sand and on the horizon interrupted by several parallel chains of small volcanic cones equally black, stretches a chain of small crater lakes. These are the Veiðivötn, the fishing lakes. Their brilliance and color of innumerable shades of blue and the narrow fluorescent green band vegetation which borders it makes so much contrast in the black velvet desert that surrounds them. The lakes are connected by clear streams or small waterfalls. The only humans that we could encounter in the area are fisherman planted in the water that we will try to avoid disturbing. The magnificent giant trout in the area is an almost endemic species, impressive as it exceeds the salmon in size and weight. On each lake nestles a bird called the Great Northern Diver who occasionally makes a powerful and nostalgic sound. (listen and watch on YouTube: Great Northern Diver - Huard in Quebec - Gavia immer)
Day 3: Landmannalaugar - North Fjallabak
80 km / 49 miles on tracks - hike 4-5 hours – ca.12 km / 7 miles - Hut of Eldgjá
Some lava fields we cross are less than six years old, some are beginning to be buried under the black slag, sometimes in beige colors because the Hekla erupts also acid. Silver lichen and green velvet moss have settled on the lava flows.
We leave “the Gateway to Hell” (as Hekla was known in the middle ages) and the landscape begins to soften; the green colors of the mosses slowly dominates the black lava fields that have rained on the land with each eruption. Mount Loðmundur, a flat-topped volcanic monolith that erupted during the Ice Age is surrounded by marshland and rich pasture that reflects in the beautiful lake of Loðmundarvatn. Landmannahellir has been for ages and it is still used now by the shepherds as a base when catching thousand sheep in fall after having been grassing free the whole summer. We are in a legendary place with thousand stories to tell. From there we walk through the shimmering colours of rhyolite magma that lead to the notorious Landmannalaugar Valley. Incredible range of pastel colors, from blue to pink through all shades of ochre’s. Then we drive the track of Fjallabak North to Eldgjá crossing many rivers.
Day 4: Langisjór and the Fagrifjöll
100 km / 62 miles round trip on tracks - hike 3-5 hours – ca.12 km / 7 miles - Hut of Eldgjá
Our track reaches Sveinstindur, the first cone of the divided chain of Fögrufjöll, with its conical black and green volcanoes. Easy ascent of Mount Sveinstindur, from where you can admire a fabulous panorama view. To the north and the mighty Vatnajökull the fabulous jade green narrow lake of Langisjór. At the South lies the strange lava fields of Laki, covered with green fluorescent moss, and partly flooded by the overflows of Skaftá. Hike along Langisjór and up on easy hills we follow the narrow ridge of the Fagrifjöll. Their name means the beautiful mountains. Knowing the sobriety of the Icelandic language, they must be on to deserve such an appellation. We are moving on the narrow green and black backs of Fagrifjöll, sometimes on the shore of the lake, sometimes the easiest buttes.
Day 5: Ridge of Eldgjá – Skaftá
Hike 2 hours – ca.8 km / 5 miles - 100 km drive
We follow the ridge of Eldgjá, the longest eruptive fissure on earth, today covered by moss and crossed by a clear stream. As large as the Laki eruption was, it was exceeded by Iceland's A.D. 934-940 Eldgjá eruption, which occurred in the same mountainous region. During the six years that this eruption was active, lava erupted from several vents along a discontinuous 75-km-long (47-mile-long) fissure system and buried more than 781 square km (302 square miles) of southern Iceland. Fortunately, huge eruptions like those at Eldgjá and Laki are very unusual; otherwise, life as we know it would probably not be. We take the road along the South Coast
Day 6 : Vatnajökull – Jökulsárlón
220 km –- 2 hours hiking - Hostel
We then pass before the mighty Vatnajökull glacier which is Europe’s largest icecap, the site of enormous sub-glacial eruptions and cataclysmic floods (the most recent being 2004). We then reach the awesome splendour of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where thousands of blue and black icebergs remain prisoners. Here we can admire harbour seals surfing in the strong current of the estuary and the ballet of fishing Arctic terns attacked by skuas trying to rob them of little silver fish. You can also take an optional boat tour on the lagoon. We stay overnight either in the coutryside east of the lagoon or in the still active little fishing harbour of Höfn in the Hornfjord.
Day 7 : Vatnajökull – Eldhraun
220 km A/R – 2 h de randonnée – Nuit en refuge
Returning west, we can admire Jökulsárlón again under a different light. In the National Park ‘Skaftafell‘, we approach huge glacier tongues crawling on the black sand of the desert to the ocean. We cross “another planet”, through the endless moss-covered lava fields of Eldhraun, vomited by the hundred craters of the Laki eruption of 1783 (the world’s biggest, continuous eruption in history) situated in the backcountry at the south-eastern fringe of Vatnajökull. We will visit Fjarðárgljúfur gorges and the pseudo-craters of Eldhraun.
Day 8: Vík í Mýrdal
50 km – 3 hours hiking – Hostel (B-L-D)
Under the shadow of the impressive bulk of the Mýdalsjökull glacier, we discover Vík and take a beautiful walk along the black sand beaches and over the huge basaltic cliffs where thousands of puffins are breeding in innumerable burrows on grassy slopes. An important colony of Arctic Terns are breeding between warehouses and petrol stations and myriads of other seabirds can be admired.
Visit the Dyrhólaey promontory (not in June because birds are nesting) and the wonderful black sand beach of Reynisfjara, considered as one of the 10 most beautiful in the world.
We continue west along the seashore, through vast meadows and moors, where innumerable horses and sheep graze. We pass under the sheer faces of the Eyjafjöll Mountains, topped by the glacier on Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in April 2010. Arrival at Reykjavik in the late afternoon.
Itinerary and safety:
The day-to-day program can be changed or even reversed. Rare but unpredictable in advance, these modifications can be imposed for safety reasons due to natural phenomena specific to these territories: volcanic eruption or alert of eruption, early or late snowfall, bad weather, Glacial rivers flooding, exceptionally unfavorable weather ... Your guide knows perfectly the terrain and will ne the only Master on board to take the necessary decisions with our base when it is necessary to interpret the whims of nature almighty on this volcanic earth and under these high latitudes.
Average level: Accessible to all hikers. Travel on board a small comfortable 4x4 bus. The duration of the walks depends on the weather conditions of the day and the level of the group. They can be lengthened or shortened. A person not wishing to do all the hikes can of course take part in this journey.
Group size: Multi-national group of 6 to 12 (+/-1) participants (Note: for group sizes of 6-7 persons a small group surcharge applies) Fjallabak’s staff or Fjallabak’s representatives accompanying professionals (e.g. photographers, journalists etc.…) and other discounted travelers such as children, are excluded from the participant count (minimum and maximum)
Small group surcharge : Additional small group surcharge below 8 participants (not commissionable) +36.000 ISK (ca.+250 €) for 7 participants // +54.000 ISK (ca.+400€) for 6 participants
Composition of the group: In general, participants on our trips come from several countries. We generally have French, Swiss, Scandinavians, Germans, Canadians, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese and even Icelanders. Your Icelandic guide is fluent in English and often speaks one or two other languages. Traveling with Fjallabak is also a chance to meet, exchange ideas and socialize with friendly people from other countries that otherwise you may never have known and it is therefore a unique opportunity to make friends around the world and wring the neck of certain prejudices and misconceptions.
To privatise this trip: On other dates that might suit your holiday, it may be possible to privatize this trip. Below 8 participants the price per person is increasing. Above 8 participants the price decreases. Contact us for a quotation!
Vehicle: jeep or small 4wd bus depending on the size of the group. English-speaking driver-guide. On a complete group, the guide can sometimes be assisted by an Icelandic driver.
Accommodation during the trip: Sleeping bag accommodation in mountain huts (usually one comfortable, mixed bunkhouse) and country hostel on the coast. Dining room and well equipped kitchen, running water, toilet outside, showers with charge. Possibility to recharge your electrical appliances (220V electrical outlets European standards) on the Fjallabak North and on the South Coast of this trip, but there is no electricity in the refuges of the South Fjallabak Route
Comfort option for the last night: in made up bed in a comfortable and friendly Inn, in double-twin or double room or single room with private facilities.
Food: We pride ourselves on providing the best cuisine in the highlands!
- Breakfast is Scandinavian-style, with muesli, breads, jams, fish and cheese.
- Packed lunch, with a variety of sandwich fillings, from smoked meats and fish to local cheeses and salads.
- Dinners involve fresh, local fish and meat dishes, with pasta, rice or potatoes, fresh vegetables and salad. Vegetarians and those with food allergies can be fully catered for with a range of tasty options. It is essential that you inform our office of any special food requirements at the time of booking!
For usability, but no obligation, you can bring with you a little specialty of your home country to share with your companions as well as a flask of some thing for a short drink in the middle of nowhere.
Special diets, food allergies, vegetarians, vegans ...
We are aware of the dietary changes, due to exaggerated industrialisation of our time and we are able to satisfy special requests, as far as possible
If you are vegetarian or if you have a particular diet, if you are allergic to certain foods, please let us know in the comments of the registration form and specify the details by email. We are used to meeting the demand of vegetarians, but vegans will have to bring from home some of their own supplements
Travel Preparation and Notes:
This trip is an active and in-depth exploration of the Highlands in 4wd vehicle and on foot which does not represent any difficulty for a good average walker, but nevertheless requires good physical form, excellent moral form, good team spirit
Every day (except on the South Coast) is planned a beautiful walk of several hours: Either a great walk of 4 to 6 hours, or two shorter treks during the day, sometimes in the evening or even around midnight when the day is permanent . Of course your guide will always adapt each hike to the average level of the group and also according to the weather.
This trip is not a trek. If you are a confirmed trekker and find the rhythm too soft for you, then check out our trekkings
During the days on the South Coast we drive more and walk less than in the Highlands of Fjallabak.
In the shelters of the interior the members of the trip are supposed to give a little help to their guide for the preparation of the meals, to set the table, to do the dishes and sweep the refuge the morning of the departure.
Except of course for the days on the south coast if you have chosen the comfort option in the comfortable, cosy and charming Inn.
The abrupt climatic motions of Iceland, always possible, demand and good equipment.
Please refer to the list of equipment, available in the information section of our site!
You’ll need to bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold and wet weather, such as polypropylene, capilene, or pile. Wool and wool/synthetic blends are also suitable - though wool, if wet, dries slowly compared to synthetic fabrics. We discourage the use of cotton in wet conditions it dries very slowly. When camping, tents are provided. You will be responsible for bringing your mattress and sleeping bag.
When layering, the innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or wool shirt, and pants. The outermost layer must be a breathable waterproof jacket such as a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-pants.
For quantities for each item listed, use your own judgement, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.
- Regular underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry
- Synthetic thermal underwear
- Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
- Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
- Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
- Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Down jacket from mid-August to September (optional)
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Pile/fleece pants, ideal for around the camp
- Sun & rain hat
- Wool hat
- Gloves (wool or pile)
- Waterproofed shell gloves
- Medium weight synthetic socks
- Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
- Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
- Hiking boots, medium-weight, all leather, with padded ankle, good arch support, and a lug sole traction. Your hiking boots should be waterproof, well broken in, and suitable for rocky terrain or possibly snow.
- Comfortables shoes to wear when not hiking (optional) Teva-type sandals for river crossing. Absolutely recommended! Gaiters. Highly recommended.
- Comfortable sleeping bag +10°C to –10°C which can be opened all the way
- Cotton sheet to cover the hut’s mattress
- Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
- Swimsuit and towel for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
- 1-to-2 liters capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos
- Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (essential from August onwards)
- Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
- Eye shades. Highly recommended from April to last July!
- Wax ear plugs
- Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
- Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
- Moisturizing lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
- Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
- Personal first aid kit
Optional Travel Accessories
- Hiking poles. Highly recommended
- Repair kit with needle, thread, and safety pins
- Reading and writing material
- Your favorite snack food such as raisins or chocolate
- Protein supplements for vegetarian
- Your own food reserves if you are vegan
- 1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger
- Netting hood in June and July *
There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (not yet), but in early summer midges swarms invade the banks of rivers and lakes in the lowlands like Lake Myvatn "Lake of gnats." With global warming now midges start to colonize certain areas of higher land with swamps vegetation. The outbreak period is short, but extremely difficult for the hiker. Gloves a long sleeve shirt and especially a safety netting hood that slips over your hat or cap can save you if you find yourself a day without wind in the midst of clouds of these very annoying critters. You will certainly not use it but in case... and that's not a huge investment.