Interior (Iceland)

Travel Guide Europe Iceland Interior

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Introduction

The Interior of Iceland is a rugged snowy territory, accessible only in summer. This is probably the harshest, most "away from it all" place in all of Europe. In addition to being largely covered in glaciers, this area is also volcanically active. The biggest danger to the common visitor however, is running out of gas. Plan accordingly.

The interior is an uninhabited area in Iceland, with the majority of the region over 600 meters above sea level. The region's main attraction is its remoteness and huge expanses of untouched scenery.

Most of the land is barren. Three of the largest glaciers in Iceland are within the region, although the largest one, Vatnajökull, is mainly within the area of South Iceland. The other two, Langjökull and Hofsjökull, cover an area of 1878 square kilometres.

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Sights and Activities

Askja Caldera is a volcano found in the central parts of Iceland. It can only be reached by rough 4wd roads and only for a few months of the year.

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Events and Festivals

Thorrablot

Icelanders celebrate the old month of Thorri with a festival known as Thorrablot. This is a winter feast which celebrates the hardship which the ancestors has to endure. The feast can be held at any time during the month of Thorri starting the first Friday after January 13th. Traditional food is eaten which mainly consists of putrefied shark, jellied rams head, testicles and eyeballs along with many other delicacies. Much of the food is preserved from the previous year.

First day of summer

On a Thursday that comes up after April 18th, Icelanders mark the first day of summer with a national holiday and the greeting 'Gleðilegt Sumar' (Happy Summer). It is believed that if there is a frost and the weather is wintry on this day, then the summer will be very good.

Verslunarmannahelgi

This is Iceland's shop keeper's holiday is always the first weekend of August. It is a national holiday and music festivals are held all over Iceland. The biggest is on the Vestmannaeyjar Islands. The festival here is over the whole weekend and is the Icelandic equivalent of Glastonbury.

Independence Day

Known locally as National Day, this is a major festival for all Icelanders, held on 17 June to mark the country’s emergence as an independent republic. Street parties and entertainers, parades, fireworks, sideshows, traditional music, and dance draw residents onto the streets and into the bars and restaurants until the sun rises the next morning.

Seafarers Day

June sees the Sjomannadagur Festival in Reykjavik, as well as in many other smaller towns if the weather allows. Vintage ships line the Old Harbour for the annual event, with local fishermen competing in rowing, swimming, and other events. Parades, music, fun things to do, and seafood are the orders of the day.

Jonsmessa

The longest day of the year is a mystical time, celebrated in June with Jonsmessa, the Midsummer Night festival which dates back to Icelandic Viking times. On this night, seals are believed to take human form, cows gain the power of speech, and elves seduce travellers at crossroads with gifts and other favours. Rolling naked on the dew-covered grassy mountain slopes is considered a healthy pursuit and bonfires compete with the glow of the midnight sun.

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Getting There

By Bus

The easiest, cheapest and safest way to venture into the interior is by BSI bus (special 4x4 buses with experienced drivers). Scheduled services are operated by Reykjavík Excursions and Sterna's route 610a crosses the interior through road 35.

By Car

As elsewhere in Iceland, roads that start with an "F" are overall in worse condition and more of a challenge than those that are simply a number. Authorities will remove the F from the official designation of a road when it meets the (not terribly high) Icelandic standards for a "regular road". That said, even on normal roads, the Interior can be challenging and there is only very sparse population and service or civilization may be days away in any given direction.

Good starting points are Akureyri in North Iceland and Selfoss in South Iceland. Both of those towns are connected to the Ring road.

The interior has two important roads, F26 and road 35, known by the locals as Sprengisandur and Kjölur. Both of these roads cross the country, connecting South Iceland with North Iceland. The directions below will guide you to these roads.

From Akureyri follow road 821 in an southern direction. The road then continues as F821. Turn right into F881 and left into F26.

From Selfoss follow road 35 in an north-eastern direction. The road will pass by Geysir and the waterfall Gullfoss (in Upcountry Árnessýsla) before it enters the interior.

Renting a 4X4 is very expensive and must be done in advance. It's best to travel with at least one other car as conditions are extreme. Remember that off-road driving is prohibited in Iceland because it contributes to erosion and can be very dangerous.

By Bicycle

Iceland has very few long distance bicycle paths. Follow the same routes as a car would to the interior. Don't do this unless you are an experienced long distance cyclist and can fix all conceivable (and some inconceivable) defects in your bike as help may be days off and more accustomed to cars than bikes.

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Getting Around

By Bus

The easiest, cheapest and safest way to venture into the interior is by BSI bus.

By Car== The easiest way of getting around independently is to travel by car. Only 4WD cars are allowed in the interior. Contact the company from which you rent the vehicle and ask for a vehicle that can handle the terrain of the interior. All roads in the interior are closed in the winter and spring, but are open in the summer. Attractions in the interior are situated within walking distances from the roads. Usually there are parking areas near the starting points. Anyone's biggest worry in the interior is to run out of fuel. Here are a few places to look for. Accommodation is available in all of them as well as food. Hótel Hrauneyjar is a small hotel located in the southern interior, just north of Mt. Hekla. Hveravellir (near the exact center of Iceland, between Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers, near the main mountain track, Kjalvegur). This is the only gas station in the interior. 1.35 m deep pool. Incl. in accommodation. Lakagígar (go into road 1, turn into road 206 just south of the town Kirkjubæjarklaustur and continue on road F206). Fissures that were formed after an eruption in 1783–1784, which threatened the population of Iceland at the time. Askja (go into road 1 and turn into road F88 near a bridge on road 1 over the glacial river Jökulsá á fjöllum). A volcano that collapsed in on itself after an eruption in 1875. Since then, water has accumulated in the crater, making a 220 meter deep pool of water. On marked routes there are often bridges across rivers. Less known routes have minor streams that are too wide to jump over. Search for the widest point of the river to cross, as the water stream is slowest at that point. Take it slow, make sure that have a good balance and move one foot at a time.

By Bicycle===
Travel distances within the interior are great and previous cycling experience is recommended. Cycle within your abilities and protect the environment by following roads and paths within the interior.

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Eat

It is recommended to carry food for several days and replenish by going to shops in other regions, as there are no shops in the interior. Food can somewhat be replenished by picking blueberries and Icelandic moss. The Icelandic moss is used locally as a medicine against the common cold.

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Drink

Icelandic tap water is safe to drink in Iceland. Other drinks can be bought from neighbouring regions, but water can be replenished in the interior.

In the wilderness you can usually drink water from springs and streams without treatment. This is an risk however as surface water can contain bacteria. Streams from high ground typically have the best water. Water directly from glaciers should be avoided as it has lots of particles. It may be advisable to boil water from the wilderness for a few minutes unless tested.

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Sleep

Tents are a good option, at least as a safeguard. Pitching a tent is free in the wilderness, but usually comes at a price when camping at a site with facilities. Tents that have a waterproof roof and bottom are advisable.

Wilderness huts are operated by útivist and Ferðafélag íslands. One night costs roughly between 4500 and 7000 kr.

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Safety

The main hazard in the interior is the environment. It is even more important to be prepared in the interior than in other regions of the country as there are no towns in the region.
Use your own judgement; if something seems risky, it probably is.
Use 2G or 3G phones and be aware that there may not be phone coverage in the lowlands.
Let others know about your plans, so that they can contact authorities in case something happens
Frostbite is a risk at temperatures below 0 °C, particularly when wind adds to the cooling effect
Do not enter glaciers without a skilled guide

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:54 on Nov 1, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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