4wd Highlands Exploration & Easy Hikes 10-day trip - July to September
Shaped by the antagonism of fire and ice, the South Coast and Highlands 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, fumaroles 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 certainly the only place where you walk “at the bottom“ of the Atlantic Ocean.
The 9 nights of this trip are all sleeping bags in nice huts. Option comfort possible day 5 in a charming guest house in double or double-twin or single room. Ask us for more information.
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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: Option 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 4: Option Eldgjá
50 km / 31 miles on tracks - hike 3-5 hours – ca.12 km / 7 miles - Farm-hostel in the countryside near Vik (Comfort option in Inn in double-twin or in single room)
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. Though the hazards posed by lava flows and volcanic gas here on the “Big” Island are understandably important to us, they are still tiny in comparison to what our big planet is capable of.
Day 6: South Fjallabak - Hólmsárlón
50 km on tracks -hike 3-4 hours – ca.12 km / 7 miles - Hut at Strútur
Proceed to the shores of the long and narrow Hólmsárlón Lake. We reach the place nicknamed the red baptismal fountain. The waterfalls at the end of the turquoise colored lake plunging into the red crater, is a sight to behold. We cross the sands of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell, covered in fluorescent green-colored moss.
Day 7: Torfajökull and the warm pool of Strútslaug
Hike 5-6 hours loop – ca.14 km / 8miles - Hut at Strútur
We are able to explore the extraordinary landscapes on the southern flank of the Torfajökull caldera. We are at the other end of the turquoise colored lake where we hiked the previous day. Of course, we cannot resist taking an unforgettable bath in Strútslaug, a nearby, natural hot spring pool.
Day 8: Torfajökull - Mælifellssandur
40 km / 24 miles on tracks - hike 5-6 hours loop – ca.14 km / 8 miles - Hut near Laufafell
We cross the sands of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell, covered in fluorescent green-coloured moss. We are able to explore the extraordinary landscapes between the southern flank of the Torfajökull caldera and the mighty dome of the Mýrdalsjökull icecap. Beneath this huge sheet of ice lies Katla, another of Iceland’s angriest volcanoes. She last erupted in 1918 and is long overdue for another eruption.
Day 9: Hrafntinnusker caldera
30 km / 18 miles on tracks - hike 4-6 hours loop - ca. 14 km / 8 miles - Hut near Laufafell
Slow climb to the colourful caldera of Hrafntinnusker. Walking among countless bubbling, steaming hot springs, we cross this pearl of the interior, famous for its incredible natural beauty. More obvious are the amazing rhyolite mountains, formed in incredible bands of pink, brown, green, yellow, blue, purple, black, white, orange and red and glittering with innumerable black, glass-like obsidian lava…
Day 10: Torfajökull– Hekla East flanc - Reykjavik
30 km / 18 miles on tracks - Hike 1-2 hours - 120 km / 74 miles on road
Down to Fjallabak South in the direction of the Tindfjöll Mountains. Behind the imposing monolith Laufafell hides a series of red and black craters partly covered with bronze colored moss. We walk along a long narrow ridge overlooking a crater lake with clear water and directly leading us to a small closed flat valley at the foothills of Tindfjöll. The Tindfjöll ridge was once the highest volcano of Iceland (over 9000 feet / 3000 m). Many thousands years ago it collapsed completely and became a little Alpine chain with peaks welded by a small icecap. Today the hot spot has moved elsewhere to Mt Hekla and to the small neighbour Eyjafjallajökull who did so much talk about him in 2010. Crossing the soft grassy plain we meet the ruins of older farms abandoned at the turn of the 20th century, when a short but hard glacial period that lasted for 50 years forced many Icelanders to immigrate to the New World. We travel across the southern plain, to reach Reykjavik in the 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 be 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 6 participants (not commissionable)
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 on the South Coast: 3 nights in made up bed in a comfortable and friendly Inn, in double-twin or double room or single room with private facilities. If you register as one person on the comfort version option you can not opt for a double room. However, if you want to share your room with another person with the same gender, please let us know and we see if it is possible. We can guarantee a twin double room shared only if another person is willing to share it with you.
For late registration it is not certain that we can guarantee these four nights in hotels and guest houses. In this case we will offer an intermediate price according to the proportion between the number of nights in 'comfort' and 'rustic' accommodations.
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!
Recommended Travel Gear
Try to go as light as possible and take only essentials. Excess baggage can be a burden to you and to our support personnel. Keep in mind that there are limits on how much your duffel bag can weigh because the weight restrictions on international and domestic flights is usually 20 kg (70lbs).
Luggage for overland journeys
- Extra bags clearly marked with your name can be kept in your Reykjavik hotel
- Large duffel bag (60/80 liters) sturdy and water-resistant, not exceeding 15 kg
- Daypack (40 to 60 liters)
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 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 judgment, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.
- Regular underwear.
- Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
- Synthetic thermal underwear
- Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
- Wool or/and synthetic socks
- Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
- Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
- Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
- Sun & rain hat
- Wooly hat
- Gloves (wool or pile)
- Down jacket from September to May (optional)
- Hiking trousers, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Casual sportswear for evenings in lodging
- Lightweight sports shoes for lodging ( Your Teva-type sandals for river crossings and can be used inside the lodgings)
For your feet - Your shoes
Take care of your feet. You will need them!
- 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
- Short gaiters easy to put on Highly recommended
- Teva-type sandals for river crossing
For huts and camps
- Moccasin type shoes or lightweight sports shoe. But your Teva-type sandals for river crossing can also be used for the huts
- Comfortable sleeping bag +5°C to +15°C / 32°F to 60°F which can be opened all the way to be used also as comforter
- Cotton sheet for hut’s mattress
- Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
- Towel and flannel for toileting and shower (or high density synthetic-chamois)
- Swimsuit and small towel (High density synthetic-chamois) for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
- Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
- Personal first aid kit
- 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)
- Toilette paper and a lighter to burn it
- Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
- Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (from August only)
- Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
- Half liter capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos (optional)
- Binoculars for bird watching, seals and whales (from March to September)
- Hiking poles. Highly recommended
- Netting hood, head net or bug bucket hat * (optional, can be purchased on site
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
1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger
Cameras, tablets, smart-phones
Note that there is no electricity in the huts during the trekking part of the trip!
- Camera bag
- Tripod and cable release for camera (Longs exposures for Northern Lights from mid-August)
- Replacement batteries for electrical devices
- Additional memory card
- Adapter for electrical plug (European standard)
Netting hood* There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (yet), but at the beginning of summer midges swarms invade the lowlands rivers banks and lakes as Lake Mývatn “lake of midges”. With global warming midges begin to colonize now some wet areas of higher ground covered by vegetation. The outbreak periods are short but not really accurate. It is hell for the hapless hiker who found a windless day in clouds of these very angry bugs You will not regret to have brought with you, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and above a netting hood that you put on over your head rain hat or sun hat. You probably will not have to use it, but you’ll be relieved to have it just in case … and it’s not a huge investment.