Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Photography

Slideshow of the day: Hiking to the top of Herðubreið, the Queen of Icelandic Mountains

By Staff

  • Camping in the summit crater Probably the most remote, but also the most picturesque camping spot in Iceland. Photo/Sigtryggur Ari

  • The summit crater A small beautiful lake can be found in the crater. The lake is at its most beautiful in summer, while the snow is melting. Photo/Ólafur Már.

  • Hiking Due to the cold Sub-Arctic climate, high elevation and burnt lava fields mean the Central Highlands north of Vatnajökull are little more than desolate (but strangely beautiful) deserts. Photo/Ólafur Már

  • Proper equipment Hiking in the Central Highlands requires proper mountaineering equipment (including helmets to protect against falling rocks), and proper training and experience. Photo/Tómas

  • Hiking the scree If you don't appreciate rocky screes hiking in Iceland isn't for you! Photo/Sigtryggur Ari

  • Herðubreið In addition to the difficult terrain the weather is your main enemy when traveling in the highlands. But when the sun shines they are simply heavenly. Photo/Sigryggur Ari

  • The end of the road The road leading up to Herðubreið is little more than a rough gravel track, accessible to most 4x4 cars. Photo/Ólafur Már

  • Herðubreið in the midnight sun It's easy to see why Herðubreið is known as the "Queen of Icelandic Mountains". Photo/Ólafur Már

  • At the summit The 1,682 m (5,518 ft) mountain towers over the desolate plains and lava fields north of Vatnajökull. Photo/Tómas

Mt Herðubreið towers over the barren volcanic wastelands north of Vatnajökull glacier. It can be seen from the Ring Road between lake Mývatn and Möðrudalur valley in NE Iceland, and it's easy to see why this majestic mountain is known by Icelanders as "The Queen of Icelandic Mountains". 

Reaching the summit is a significant challenge, due to the steep cliffs and screes. There is only one accessible hiking trail to the top, up the western slopes fo the mountain. The western slope of Herðubreið can be reached by car from the South East, by a rough trail which runs alongside mt. Herðubreiðartögl, or by foot from Herðubreiðarlindir, a highland oasis east of Herðubreið.

Read more: Stunning video follows hikers to the summit of Herðubreið, the queen of Icelandic mountains

You should NOT rely on google maps when finding these trails. Instead use (printed) local maps. Loftmyndir.is has the best online maps for hiking in Iceland, as these include hiking trails and tracks not visible on Google maps. However, you MUST keep in mind that many roads you see on online maps are NOT suitable for motorized traffic, and certainly not small passenger cars. In addition to local place names, topographical information and detailed aerial photos Loftmyndir.is includes tracks only suitable for especially equipped trucks, as well as many riding and walking trails. 

Read more: The best free online maps of Iceland

The hike is challenging, but most experienced hikers who are well prepared can do the trail in 5-6 hours. While you can do the hike with the help of a map, compass and a GPS tracker, it is advisable to go with someone who is familiar with the local terrain and the trail: Anyone who has hiked in Iceland knows that trails appear and disappear, (some of those "paths" you encounter are actually sheep trails, and those usually lead nowhere, or simply to the next green pasture).

Hiking on Herðubreið requires full mountaineering gear, climbing harness, rope, helmet, an ice axe, trekking poles and crampons.

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