Before heading to the South Coast of Iceland, we spent a few days in the Highlands. There are plenty of highlights in the south but the Highlands were so spectacular, we wished we had stayed longer.
We underestimated the amount of planning required to get there – we were there in August which is the right time of year, however we did not have a proper rental car to travel on F-roads. The Icelandic weather service provides information about when roads are open – depending on conditions the earliest they will open is in June, and are closed generally in mid-October at the latest. Regardless, if you’re not comfortable with 4×4 driving on dirt, rocks, and through rivers, it might be better to take a guided tour. There are however greyhound busses with massive tires that ferry people from the Highland center to places like Landmannalaugar. We spent a day and caught the last bus back to the Highland center, though if you are camping you can stay longer.
Hiking in Landmannalaugar is like being on another planet. En route to the popular hiking destination there were also a number of highlights (and waterfalls, naturally).
We stayed at the Highland Center Hrauneyjar, it was our base in the Highlands and where we caught the bus to get to Landmannalaugar – our little Peugeot 108 wouldn’t have made it. On the drive between the Highland Center and Reykjavik or Selfoss there are plenty of great spots, one example is Sigöldufoss. Getting to the set of waterfalls called Sigöldugljúfur will require a 4×4 vehicle however.
The Gjáin valley is like many other attractions in Iceland, things look quite barren and uninteresting and as seemingly out of nowhere a spectacular canyon or valley appears. It’s possible to walk to Gjáin though a 4×4 will save you a rather dull walk.
The Highlands were one of our first stops in Iceland, it seemed as if the bar was set very high for the rest of the trip, however our next stop touring around the South Coast of Iceland was very different and offered a great contrast to the Highlands. If (when) we go back however I think the Highlands are worth a second, long, good look.