Geological & Cultural
The History of Kerlingarfjöll
Covering 150 square kilometers, Kerlingarfjöll is a circular mountain range with peaks reaching to 1500 meters, where the sweeping vista of the highlands is punctuated by the grand glaciers Hofsjökull and Langjökull, presenting hikers with awe-inspiring perspectives on the monumental wonders and raw powers at the extremes of Iceland.
Formed 10,000 years ago with a series of subglacial volcanic eruptions, the mountains transform with the seasons. In summer, fields of snow and ice create abstract patterns across the barren range. In winter, the mountainscape becomes a white wonderland, with snow blanketing every inch of the terrain.
At lower elevations, icy rivers converge with the steaming valleys and scalding streams of the Hveradalir geothermal area, forming a breathtaking red hillscape of pulsating fissures, boiling mud pools, and searing hot springs. Colonies of thermophilic plant life adorn the hissing vents and carpet the slopes, creating multicolored floral tapestries.
Unexplored for centuries, Kerlingarfjöll remained an untamed wilderness until the 1930s when a pioneering naturalist and entrepreneur—Guðmundur Einarsson—initiated mountaineering classes at the remote locale. Inspired by Einarsson’s efforts, Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association) launched hiking tours of the region, constructing a cabin in 1937.
Beginning in 1961, with the advent of summer skiing at Kerlingarfjöll, the area blossomed into a prime vacation destination, and the cabin accommodations that had risen in the Ásgarður Valley grew to include a dormitory and a dining facility for ski students. Each year, from June to August, Icelanders flocked to these mountains, with thousands of youths learning how to ski at Kerlingarfjöll’s seasonal ski school.
At the turn of the millennium, faced with the reality of receding snowfields, the ski school ceased operations, but the aging accommodations were renovated and expanded, becoming the Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort. Encompassing a hotel, cabins, campgrounds, and a restaurant, this riverside oasis served as a base camp for hikers and adventurers until 2020.
In 2022, the Kerlingfjöll Mountain Resort was reborn in the form of Highland Base—a location that expands the horizons of hospitality in the heart of an extreme wilderness. Though the accommodations are far more inviting than the first basic cabin built in 1937, the spirit of this remote outpost remains the same: it is the base for unforgettable journeys into the mystical frontiers of Kerlingarfjöll.