Kerlingarfjoll is a mountain range in the centre of the Icelandic highlands. It is renowned for its beautifully coloured rhyolite peaks and its large geothermal area, as well as its accessibility when compared to other sites in the country’s interior.
Kerlingarfjoll is a relatively young range of mountains, having been formed by Iceland’s volcanic activity approximately 10,000 years ago. This activity is still very apparent; the rhyolite mountains have been dyed a beautiful spectrum of colours by the rising elements of the earth, and the region is home to the third-largest geothermal area in the country.
This geothermal area is named Hveradalir and boasts geysers, steam vents, bubbling clay pits and hot springs that it is possible to bathe in. This makes it somewhat similar to Landmamnalaguar in the southern Icelandic highlands, although it is much less frequented and can thus be enjoyed with far fewer guests.
The mountain range has several small ice caps and sits in the shadow of the great Hofsjokull glacier.
Since 2017, the 367 sq/km area of Kerlingarfjoll has been a protected nature reserve.
As with many places in Iceland’s nature, Kerlingarfjoll is steeped in folklore and history. Its name, which translates to ‘Old Lady Mountain’, comes from a legend regarding a troll woman whose stone remains can be seen on site. Furthermore, it was frequented largely by bandits and outlaws throughout much of Iceland’s past, due to it being an oasis in an otherwise inhospitable land and its distance from other settlements and thus the authorities.
Kerlingarfjoll can be accessed by taking the Kjalvegur Highland Road, or F35, through the interior of Iceland. Like all F-roads, it requires a four-wheel-drive to access, although is less difficult to cross than many similar routes as all of its rivers are bridged.
There is both a campsite and highland resort at Kerlingarfjoll for guests who want to make the most of the hiking routes and hot spring opportunities in the area.