Jun 22, 2020

Hiking Kerlingarfjöll: the best hiking trails

Quite often when we plan our trip to Iceland, we tend to forget about the Highlands, but if there is one place that is really worth discovering during our trip, it is without a doubt the region of the Southern, Center & Northern Highlands. In the heart of this area, next to the Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers we can found Kerlingarfjöll, the mountain of the Old Troll Woman or the mountain of the Old Witch. A place of immense geothermal activity and a hiking paradise for travelers. Discover in this post the most spectacular hiking areas around Kerlingarfjöll.

[ Hiking Kerlingarfjöll ]: What I cannot miss?

Let’s do it step by step. Many of you have asked us about the best hiking trails, but before that we have to talk about the place, how to get there, where to stay and if it is worth staying for several days.

What is Kerlingarfjöll and where it is?

Kerlingarfjöll is a mountain range located to the southwest of the Highlands of Iceland, at about 700m above sea level. This area was formed after several subglacial eruptions during the last stages of the last ice age. Also, it is a really active area, especially in the Hveradalir and Hverabotn areas. These places are filled with solfataras (columns of steam rich in sulfur) and pits of boiling mud. The hottest spot is in Hverabotn, where 150ºC has been recorded on the surface. In addition to this mountainous area and the incredible geothermal activity, we also find unique vegetation such as geothermal moss and different types of lichens.

The legend of Kerlingarfjöll

Legends say that Kerlingarfjöll was a former refuge for bandits and trolls. What’s more, the word “kerling” in Icelandic means “old witch”. The story goes that an old troll witch (possibly the daughter of the fire giant Sturtur) did not arrive home in time and was surprised by the dawn, turning to stone and giving rise to the 30m high pillar that today stands on the ridge west of the mountain range.

Trekking Kerlingarfjöll
Photo by @AmarokAdventures

How to get to Kerlingarfjöll? Where can I sleep there?

For getting to Kerlingarfjöll, a 4×4 vehicle is required by law to drive the Kjölur road that crosses the island from south to north. Starting from Gullfoss it is approximately 70km to the old mountain resort of Aðaskáli. It is a stony dirt track without asphalt. Approximately 60km later, you will find a right turn that will take you after 10km to the resort from where the hiking trails start.

If you do not want to miss any of the secret places, the best trekking routes and not worry about driving on this track, we recommend our MicroAdventure to Kerlingarfjöll in which you will go with a qualified guide and professional driver to discover this geothermal area.

In the old mountain resort itself, currently a mountain hut, different accommodation options are offered:

  • Multiple rooms with double bunks mountain lodge style
  • Double rooms in the new building
  • Individual houses with capacity from 2 people to 10 people
  • Ásgarður mountain hut that belongs to
  • Camping area

The road to Kerlingarfjöll is easily accessible during the summer, if you want to travel in winter you can contact us.

The best hiking trails in Kerlingarfjöll

And the awaited moment has arrived! Here are the best hiking trails around Kerlingarfjöll:

  • Hveradalir valley. Basic trail (1,5km): Get ready to discover the place where fire and ice meet. This route starts from the car park located above the Hveradalir geothermal area. In it you can discover the most important of this place.
  • Hveradalahringur. The Hveradalir ring (11km): This trail starts from the vicinity of the Aðaskáli mountain hut and returns to it, crossing the entire geothermal area of Hveradalir. Undoubtedly one of our favorite routes that can be extended with the ascent to one of the nearby peaks such as Snækollur or the Fannborg pass.
  • 3 days around Kerlingarfjöll (47km):
    A three-day hiking trip in which we will walk through geothermal areas, pass through volcanic valleys, wade through small rivers and canyons on foot, and face one of the unique experiences on the island: the desert of the Highlands of Iceland. Night in mountain huts.
    Without a doubt one of the best hikes away from the crowds along with our Hidden Trails trip.
Trekking en Kerlingarfjöll
Photo by @AmarokAdventures

The hot pool near Kerlingarfjöll

After a long day of trekking, there is nothing like relaxing in the hot spring near the refuge. This place is located 1km from the main building on foot, through the Ásgarður canyon. Once there you can enjoy a bath in its placid warm waters.

This hot spring is not natural, but was created after a failed attempt to drill hot water in the Ásgarður gorge.

Terma de Kerlingarfjöll - Trekking en Kerlingarfjöll
Photo by @Monica Fuentes
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