Iceland is known for being home to otherworldly vistas. From moss covered tundra to isolated glaciers, some visitors say that a visit to Iceland feels like a visit to another planet. If you want to truly experience Iceland’s diverse landscape, a visit to the Kerlingarfjöll Mountains is a must.
These mountains are located in the Icelandic highlands, which means that they are a step off the main tourist track. What’s more, the area is known for being filled with strong geothermal activity. Hiking in these lesser known, steam covered mountains will truly transport you into another world. Keep reading to learn all about the Kerlingarfjöll Mountains.
Where are the Kerlingarfjöll Mountains located?
The Kerlingarfjöll Mountains are located in the Icelandic highlands between Hofsjökull Glacier and Langjökull Glacier. The mountain range is northeast of the Golden Circle. It could be a good idea to head into Kerlingarfjöll after visiting Gullfoss Waterfall, as this is the closest site to the mountain range. It takes approximately 2 hours to drive to the Kerlingarfjöll Mountains from Gullfoss Waterfall. If you wish to travel to the mountain range from Reykjavík, it will take about 3.5 hours.
Do you need a special car to visit Kerlingarfjöll?
Yes–you need a special car to visit Kerlingarfjöll because the route includes F-roads. F-roads are unpaved tracks that are located in isolated areas such as the Icelandic highlands. These roads range in difficulty and accessibility; some are rocky and dotted with boulders, while others are made up of black sand. As a result, you will need a large 4×4 vehicle to drive all the way to Kerlingarfjöll.
Furthermore, the route to Kerlingarfjöll does contain a very minor river crossing. However, these crossings can vary depending on rainfall and snowfall. When there is more precipitation, rivers will increase in volume and become more tricky to navigate. Consequently, you should always check the weather forecast and road conditions before traveling to Kerlingarfjöll. You can check the weather forecast at vedur.is and the road conditions at road.is.
What is the best route to Kerlingarfjöll?
To get to Kerlingarfjöll, you will start your journey as if you were going to Gullfoss Waterfall. Instead of stopping at Gullfoss, you will instead turn onto road F35 also known as Kjalvegur. You will stay on F35 for approximately 59 km (37 mi). Next, you will turn right on road F347 for approximately 15 km (9 mi).
It is important to note that the route to Kerlingarfjöll does not include any gas stations or shops. Be sure to fill up your gas tank prior to getting on any F-roads. Bring food and water as wear as proper clothing and shoes. What’s more, there can be limited cell phone service whenever you travel in the Icelandic highlands. It is always smart to record your travel plans on safetravel.is.
What kinds of gear should you bring to Kerlingarfjöll?
The Kerlingarfjöll Mountains are known for their epic hiking trails–so be sure to bring proper hiking equipment. Wear lots of layers including wool base layers and waterproof outer layers. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes–the terrain can be rocky and rough. Check the forecast before your hiking adventure–you might need to bring warm gloves, a hat and wool socks.
Because there are no shops in this isolated area, it is also important to bring snacks. Nuts, chocolate, fruit and sandwiches are always a good idea. Make sure to also bring plenty of water in a refillable water bottle. Iceland is known for having some of the purest water, so you should be able to refill your bottle in a mountain stream.
Can you go to Kerlingarfjöll all year round?
Yes, it is possible to visit Kerlingarfjöll all year round. However, there is one caveat–it is not possible to drive a rental car to Kerlingarfjöll in the wintertime. During the winter months, the weather conditions make it impossible to access F-roads on a typical 4×4 rental vehicle.
This means that if you want to visit Kerlingarfjöll from the end of September to the beginning of June, you will need to join a guided tour. On a guided tour of Kerlingarfjöll, you will be driven in a special modified super jeep by an expert guide. These mighty vehicles can go on the most rugged roads in the most difficult conditions.
Are there places to stay overnight at Kerlingarfjöll?
Yes, the Highland Base Hotel is a spacious lodge located in Kerlingarfjöll that caters to various types of travelers. Visitors can choose from three accommodation types–premium, standard and budget. In fact, there is even a campground with kitchen and shower facilities. The Highland Base Hotel also has an on-site restaurant that serves a variety of local Icelandic fare.
What are the best trails in Kerlingarfjöll?
There are a variety of epic trails available in Kerlingarfjöll. Trails range from quite easy to very arduous. One of the most popular places to hike is in the Hveradalir valley. This hike is about 4 hours from start to finish and offers incredible views of orange-brown mountains covered in geothermal steam. One of the easiest hikes is the trail to the Kerlingarfjöll hot spring. This hike is only about 20-30 minutes each way. Hikers are rewarded with the chance to take a relaxing dip in a geothermal hot spring. Please note that the best time to hike in Kerlingarfjöll is from early June to late September.
Can you soak in a hot spring in the Kerlingarfjöll Mountains?
Yes–there is one hot spring in Kerlingarfjöll that is safe for visitors to take a dip. The trailhead is located at the Highland Base Hotel. You will walk along a rocky path beside the Ásgarðsá River until you reach the geothermal pool. Please be aware that there are no changing rooms at the Kerlingarfjöll hot spring.
What activities are available near Kerlingarfjöll?
Besides hiking, Kerlingarfjöll offers several other fun activities. Visitors can go on super jeep tours of the mountain range with an experienced guide. A super jeep tour is an especially great way to explore Kerlingarfjöll during the winter months, when hiking is less accessible. Backcountry skiing tours are also available all year round.
If snowmobiling is more your speed, sign up for an epic ride with Amazing Tours. These snowmobiling tours take place on the nearby Langjökull Glacier and offer stunning vistas of the Kerlingarfjöll Mountains. Choose from a variety of snowmobiling tours including packages with direct pickups from Reykjavík. Join the Golden Circle and Snowmobile Adventure from Reykjavík or the Glacier Snowmobiling and Ice Cave Tour from Reykjavík. Combo tours are a great option for travelers wanting to experience as much of Iceland as possible.
If you prefer to meet at the Amazing Tours basecamp, it is located nearby the Golden Circle. Join the Golden Circle for the Glacier Snowmobiling and Ice Cave Tour from Geysir before or after your trip to Kerlingarfjöll. Experience views of the Icelandic highlands from a different perspective while you zoom across the mighty Langjökull.
What does the name Kerlingarfjöll mean in Icelandic?
In Icelandic, the word kerling means old lady and fjöll means mountains. You could say that the combined name translates to old lady mountains. An Iceland legend says that an older female troll was walking in these mountains. As the sun began to rise, its rays turned her into stone. If you walk on some of the trails in Kerlingarfjöll you might even see the stone pillar that is said to be the very same troll lady.