Kerlingarfjöll, a striking mountain range in the central highlands of Iceland, presents a remarkable showcase of geological wonders. With an elevation of 1,477 meters, this region is not only a testament to the dynamic geological history of Iceland but also a remarkable example of natural beauty and diversity. In 2017, Kerlingarfjöll and its geothermal area were declared a nature reserve, reflecting the significance of this region both environmentally and geologically.
The geology of Kerlingarfjöll is deeply rooted in volcanic activity. This mountain range is part of a large tuya volcano system, spanning approximately 100 square kilometers. Tuya volcanoes, unique in their formation, occur when lava erupts through a glacier or ice, leaving behind distinct geological features. The volcanic origin of Kerlingarfjöll is further evidenced by the numerous hot springs and bubbling streams in the area. The mountains themselves are primarily composed of red volcanic rhyolite stone, contributing to the area's distinctive landscape.
One of the most captivating aspects of Kerlingarfjöll's geology is the interaction of ice and fire. The area's geothermal activity, most evident in the mesmerizing Hveradalir valley, is a stark contrast to the glacial landscapes surrounding it, creating a surreal environment where steam rises from the ground near hot springs, set against a backdrop of snow and ice. This dramatic interplay of elements has shaped the region's terrain over thousands of years, resulting in a landscape that is both visually stunning and scientifically intriguing.
Kerlingarfjöll's terrain is marked by vibrant colors due to the minerals that have emerged from the hot springs, painting the ground in yellow, red, and green. This mineral-rich landscape is not just a visual feast but also a window into the geothermal processes at work beneath the earth's surface.
Kerlingarfjöll, once celebrated for its summer ski resort, is now home to Highland Base, a destination that opened in summer 2023. Conceived as the year-round staging ground for epic adventures, Highland Base offers diverse accommodations tailored to different preferences. From the rugged simplicity of camping to the lavish comforts of a hotel suite or a private lodge, this highland resort welcomes all travelers, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to experience Iceland’s remote central highlands.
For those interested in exploring this geologically rich region, Kerlingarfjöll not only offers a vast network of hiking trails, but also presents exhilarating opportunities for skiing enthusiasts. These trails, ranging from moderate to demanding, allow visitors to experience the unique interplay of geothermal activity and glacial landscapes. Among these, the Lower Hveradalir adventure is a remarkable route through the Hveradalir hot spring valley, showcasing the stunning interaction of ice and fire, a spectacle that can be enjoyed both on foot and on skis. For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Snækollur Hike leads to Kerlingarfjöll’s highest peak for breathtaking views. In winter, the area transforms into a skier's paradise, with the Hot Spring Ski Tour offering a unique backcountry skiing experience. This tour allows skiers to glide through snowy landscapes in the heart of a geothermal environment, combining the thrill of skiing with the surreal beauty of steaming hot springs.
Accessing Kerlingarfjöll involves a drive through Iceland's rugged highlands, which requires careful planning and a suitable vehicle, especially given the region's variable weather and road conditions. The journey, though demanding, rewards travelers with views of Iceland's dramatic and wild interior, characterized by vast expanses of ice, desert, and volcanic landscapes.
Ultimately, Kerlingarfjöll's geology is representative of Iceland's dynamic and diverse geological history. It's a place where the forces of nature come together in spectacular fashion, offering a unique opportunity to witness the power of volcanic activity, the resilience of glacial landscapes, and the beauty of nature in its most raw and unfiltered form.