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Highlands of Iceland: Map


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Highlands, as seen from a plane in July 2006

The Highlands of Iceland cover most of the interior of Icelandmarker. They are situated above 400-500 metres and are mostly uninhabitable, because the water precipitating as rain or snow infiltrates so quickly into the ground that it is unavailable for plant growth, which results largely in a desert surface of grey, black or brown earth, lava and volcanic ashes. A few oasis-like areas, such as Herðubreiðarlindirmarker near Askjamarker, are found only in proximity to rivers.

Icelanders categorise the Highlands as:
  • "Háls", meaning a broad mountain ridge between valleys, such as the one near Langavatn north of Borgarnesmarker; or
  • "Heiði", meaning the real highlands, such as those alongside the Sprengisandur road.

Most of the numerous glaciers, such as Vatnajökullmarker, Langjökull and Hofsjökullmarker, are also part of the Icelandic Highlands. Vegetation is only found on the shores of the glacier rivers. There is also the danger of glacier runs.

Some of the most interesting parts of Iceland with volcanic activity are to be found in the Highlands, such as Landmannalaugarmarker and the region around Askjamarker and Herðubreiðmarker.
The Highlands can only be crossed during the Icelandic summer (June to August). For the rest of the year the highland roads are closed. The best known highland roads are Kaldidalur, Kjölur and Sprengisandur. Most highland roads require four wheel drive vehicles, because it is necessary to ford rivers. However, the Kjölur route can easily be traversed in an ordinary sedan and is therefore one of the more popular highland roads. Off-road driving ("road" in this context meaning tracks that are already present) is forbidden in the Highlands when they are free of snow, to protect the vegetation.

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