NatureMountainsDiscovering the Gorgeous Fjallabak Nature Reserve
Icelandic landscape with wild pink flowers, blue glacier river, and green mountains, in area of Fjallabak Nature Reserve on Laugavegur trek, Iceland
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Aron Freyr
By Aron FreyrJul 10, 2024 • 6 min read

Discovering the Gorgeous Fjallabak Nature Reserve

Are you planning on coming to Iceland? Then you’re making great plans because traveling to Iceland is a fantastic and rewarding experience. This is not a massive country, but it’s packed with amazing natural places, a great cultural life, and fascinating activities to do all over the island.

But today, we are going to focus on one particular place: Fjallabak Nature Reserve. It’s a jaw-dropping destination with astonishing mountains of different colors and beautiful hot springs, all full of vibrant colors and dramatic textures.

Key Takeaways

  • Fjallabak Nature Reserve is in the Highlands of Iceland. It’s an almost three-hour drive from the capital, Reykjavik. Renting a car is the best option.
  • The remoteness and access conditions to the reserve can make it accessible mainly by 4x4 vehicles.
  • Fjallabak means “Back of the Mountains” or “Mountain Back”.
  • The reserve's most famous feature is Landmannalaugar, a natural wonder full of hot springs and multicolored mountains.
  • The area offers a multitude of hiking trails for all levels that will take you to almost every corner of Fjallabak.

Fjallabak is an ideal place for hiking among landscapes you probably haven’t seen before, not too far from the country’s capital, Reykjavik. So, buckle up and come with us to a place that will leave you in awe. Fjallabak is calling, and you won’t want to miss it.

Why should you visit Fjallabak?

Like everything else in Iceland, Fjallabak is a view like no other thing you’ve seen before. Imagine that you are walking through a place that looks as if it had been painted by nature itself. Every step you take will lead you to a different color in the rugged terrain, to a secluded geothermal pool. A place of raw, natural beauty.

Also, even though it’s a well-known place for Icelanders, it’s not as crowded as other places in the country and is far from the usual tourist spots. This nature reserve is a paradise for those who are looking for a calm place full of adventures and a deep connection with nature.

From the amazing experience of walking in Landmannalaugar, the jewel of the nature reserve, to hiking on one of the numerous trails in Fjallabak or horse riding through its amazing fields, this Icelandic wonder has something for everyone.

What Are the Main Attractions & Activities in Fjallabak?

There are many things that make Fjallabak one of the best destinations in Iceland. And each one is more captivating than the last.

Landmannalaugar

Without a doubt, this is the highlight of Fjallabak Nature Reserve. This area is a combination of mountains and fields created by volcanic activity. The rhyolite formations, which are formed by lava, offer an amazing color palette, and the peaks shimmer in shades of red, pink, green, and gold.

This part of Fjallabak is a paradise for hikers, with endless trails for all different levels, from beginners to the most advanced adventurers.

Some of the most famous trails in Landmannalaugar are:

  • Brennisteinsalda Hike: This trail is a 7-kilometer (4.3 miles) loop, which makes it perfect for a day hike. It’s an accessible trail for everyone. There are many places to stop for a snack, a little picnic, or just to take a rest and admire the beauty. It’s also known as the Sulphur Wake, as it passes close to sulfur springs and lava fields.
  • Laugahraun Hike: An easy 6.5-kilometer route (4 miles). This trail is very rewarding compared to its difficulty. You will have a pleasant tour through lava fields with stunning views.
  • Laugavegur Trail: For those looking for a different challenge. Laugavegur is a multi-day adventure that will take you to some of the most amazing landscapes in Fjallabak. The trail stretches for 55 kilometers (34 miles), which means you’ll have to make stops to sleep.

Whether you take one of these routes or any one of the others that are in Landmannalaugar, there’s no better way to relax afterward than a bath in one of the various hot springs. Imagine soaking in naturally heated waters while surrounded by surreal landscapes. A well-deserved joy!

Colorful volcanic mountains, Landmannalaugar in Iceland

Hekla Volcano

In the Middle Ages, this volcano was known as the “Gateway to Hell.” It’s one of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland and the most active in the country.

Hiking in this mighty place is not easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences. Here, you can take a look at the raw power of Icelandic nature. From the summit, the views are breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the glaciers of Vatnajökull and Mýrdalsjökull.

Snowy Mount Hekla

Eldgjá Canyon

When talking about dramatic landscapes, it’s impossible not to mention Eldgjá. The name means Fire Canyon, and it’s the world’s largest volcanic canyon.

It was formed by a massive volcanic eruption that occurred more than 1,000 years ago. It stretches over 40 kilometers (25 miles) and offers great views full of cliffs and waterfalls. Of the latter, a great recommendation is to hike up to Ófærufoss, a beautiful cascade inside the canyon.

Valley at Eldgjá, Iceland. Green vegetation, blue river, and a waterfall.

Exploring By Foot or Hoof

The most popular way to visit Fjallabak Nature Reserve is by foot. The many hiking trails in the area make it a great option to enjoy everything that’s in here. But that’s not the only way.

A great way to discover Fjallabak is by riding an Icelandic horse. These magnificent creatures are among the best-known animals in the country. They are small but strong, friendly, and easy to ride. Many horses are domesticated, and tours are available to visit several places in Iceland, including Fjallabak.

You can also encounter them grazing around in the fields. If so, you can get closer and take pictures of them, but try not to pet them. They are calm and nice horses, but you never know how a wild animal can react.

Two hikers on the ridge trail approaching the summit of Bláhnjúkur volcano

Where's Fjallabak and how to get there?

We’re going to take the capital, Reykjavik, as the starting point in this instance, as it’s the most common beginning of all the routes that lead to the reserve. And that's because getting to Fjallabak is an adventure in itself. Located in the southern highlands of Iceland, the reserve is about a three-hour drive from Reykjavik.

It's important to take into consideration that this journey is not your typical road trip. To reach Fjallabak, you’ll need to tackle Iceland's F-roads. These roads can be rugged, unpaved tracks that go through many places in the country, especially the Central Highlands.

Driving to Fjallabak

The best option for visitors is renting a car to reach Fjallabak. As some parts of the route can be challenging, a 4x4 vehicle is almost mandatory. Apart from the state of the mentioned F-roads, driving there often involves crossing a river. So, a car that can adapt to different conditions can make the difference between a thrilling adventure and a frustrating journey.

If you are going to Fjallabak Nature Reserve from Reykjavik, the most common route is taking the F208 from the Ring Road (Route 1)– This drive offers great views, but you should drive carefully. Alternatively, you can take the F225, which is slightly more challenging but also quite rewarding.

It’s important to remember that the climate can affect the roads in Iceland. Snow and other weather elements can force the authorities to close some roads, especially F-roads. Check the road status before departing for your destination.

4x4 Vehicles to go to Fjallabak

How's the Weather in Fjallabak?

The weather in Fjallabak is unpredictable and changing. Southern Iceland tends to be warmer than the north, but Fjallabak is in the Highlands, so the temperature here can be low.

From June to August, the temperature is mild, ranging from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F). However, even in summer, the weather can change rapidly, so be prepared to go from sunshine to rain at a moment’s notice.

In autumn, which in Iceland is September and October, the stunning colors improve the already great landscapes. The weather will get colder as the season advances, and there can be early snow. Temperatures range from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F).

Iceland's winters are long, from November to March, and usually cold. Although the beauty of the land with snow is unique, the roads can be closed, making it a challenging season to visit Fjallabak.

In spring, the ice begins to melt and the land comes alive like in no other season. Temperatures range from -1°C to 10°C (30°F to 50°F). Some trails may still be snow-covered, so check conditions before heading out.

Things to Do Near Fjallabak

If you’re planning on making the most of each day you’re going to spend in Iceland, it’s normal to look for things that can be close to one another so you don’t spend that much time going back and forth on these tricky roads.

Luckily, Fjallabak is surrounded by other remarkable destinations that are worth a visit. Here you have some nearby attractions that should be on your radar:

Þórsmörk (Thorsmork)

This stunning valley, surrounded by glaciers and mountains, is a great destination for hikers. The name means “Thor’s Valley,” which gives an approximate idea of its magnificence.

A valley of sharp contrasts, Þórsmörk offers several trails and hiking routes, including the challenging Fimmvörðuháls trail, which takes you between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.

Sunny day at Thorsmork

Lake Frostastaðavatn

Located near Landmannalaugar, this lake is surrounded by lava fields and colorful mountains. It’s a great place to stop, have a picnic, and take pictures. Photography lovers will surely find inspiration here.

It also allows you to soak in the calm, warm waters of the lake before continuing your journey.

Frostastaðavatn lake in Landmannaulaugar

Travel Tips

Ready to embark on your adventure to Fjallabak? Here are some essential travel tips to help you make the most of your trip and stay safe while exploring this area:

  • Rent a reliable 4x4 vehicle: As mentioned, the F-roads to Fjallabak can be tricky by themselves and even more depending on the weather. Check the weather and road conditions before starting your trip.
  • Pack smart: Although the weather in Fjallabak and the entire country can be unpredictable and change a lot, the best way to fight it is to wear layers to stay warm and dry. Waterproof and windproof clothing is a must, along with good hiking boots. If you’re going in a colder season, hats and gloves are your friends.
  • Carry a backpack with you: Going to Fjallabak includes hiking to discover all the wonders of this reserve. Take with you a reusable water bottle, food and snacks, and a detailed map and/or GPS.
  • Respect your surroundings: Fjallabak is a natural and fragile treasure. Stick to marked trails and don’t harm flora and fauna. Pack all your trash and leave the environment as you found it.

Conclusion

Fjallabak Nature Reserve is a wonderful reserve of untamed beauty. It offers amazing landscapes, examples of Iceland’s volcanic activity. Here, you will find mountains of vibrant colors, relaxing hot springs, and hiking trails with dramatic views. It’s the perfect place to disconnect from the daily routine. Plan your trip carefully, being aware of the setbacks that can occur.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fjallabak Nature Reserve

When's the best time to visit Fjallabak Nature Reserve?

The best time to visit Fjallabak Nature Reserve is from June to August. During these months, the weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F). This is when the trails are most accessible, and you can fully enjoy the colorful landscapes and hot springs.

Is Fjallabak Nature Reserve free?

Yes, visiting Fjallabak Nature Reserve is free. However, you might need to budget for additional expenses such as guided tours, car rentals, and accommodation.

How long do I need to explore Fjallabak Nature Reserve?

To really experience all that Fjallabak Nature Reserve has to offer, plan to spend at least two to three days there. This gives you enough time to hike, take in the stunning scenery, and relax in the hot springs without feeling rushed.

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