The Kjölur Route in Iceland: A Guide to F35

The Kjölur Route in Iceland: A Guide to F35

James Taylor James Taylor
2. Oct 2023 ∼ 9 min. read

F35 in Iceland: The Beauty of Iceland’s Kjölur Route

If you're a traveler looking to immerse yourself in the beauty of Iceland’s natural landscapes, then the Kjölur Route is the perfect journey for you. Cutting through the western part of the Icelandic Highlands, the Kjölur Route (or F35) offers a unique and breathtaking experience for travelers looking to stray from the main tourist sights.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the F35 Route in Iceland. From the essentials, tips on driving, and what to see, here's everything you need to know about Iceland's Kjölur Route. Let’s dive in.

Introduction to F35: Iceland’s Kjölur Route

The allure of the Icelandic highlands

Iceland is renowned for its otherworldly landscapes, dramatic waterfalls, and majestic glaciers. While many visitors explore the popular destinations along the ring road, the true heart of Iceland lies within its highlands. The vast and untouched wilderness of the Icelandic highlands offers an awe-inspiring experience. Towering mountains, expansive lava fields, geothermal wonders, and hidden gems await those who venture into this captivating region.

Overview of the F35 Iceland: Kjölur Route

The Kjölur Route is one of the main Icelandic F-roads, providing a tempting adventure between the north and south of the country.  Spanning approximately 168km (104mi), the F35 takes you through the Kjölur plateau, offering stunning views of glaciers, mountains, and remote landscapes. This road, with its challenging terrain and breathtaking beauty, has become a favorite among adventurers seeking an immersive Icelandic experience.

Understanding F-Roads in Iceland

What are F-Roads?

In Iceland, F-Roads, or fjallvegur, are a network of mountain roads that provide access to the country's interior and highlands. The F in F-Road stands for "fjall," which means mountain in Icelandic. These roads are unpaved and legally require a 4x4 vehicle for safe navigation. F-Roads are characterized by rugged terrain, river crossings, and unpredictable weather conditions, making them both challenging and rewarding for intrepid campervan travelers.

Access and restrictions

The Icelandic Highlands are home to some of Iceland’s wildest weather. The high altitude means that there’s often a lot of snow here, so access is seasonal, with most roads typically open from June to September. The F35 is generally one of the first F-roads to open for the season, and one of the last to close.

Additionally, it is important to note that F-Roads are only accessible to our fleet of 4x4 campervans. Our rental insurance doesn’t cover any damage incurred if you’re driving on F-roads in one of our regular campervans.

Seasonal availability

As mentioned earlier, F-Roads in Iceland are only open during the summer months when conditions are more favorable. The opening and closing dates of F-Roads, including the F35, can vary each year depending on weather conditions and maintenance schedules. Check the Icelandic Road Administration website to see whether the roads are open or not.

The Magnificent F35 in Iceland: A Road Less Traveled

Length and route of the F35

The F35 Iceland, also known as the Kjölur Route or Kjalvegur Road, stretches approximately 168km (104mi) from the southern region of Iceland near Haukadalur, behind the iconic Gullfoss waterfall, to the northern region near Blönduós. This captivating route takes you through the heart of the Icelandic highlands, offering an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the country's rugged and pristine landscapes.

Characteristics of the Kjölur Route

The Kjölur Route offers a unique blend of desolate scenery, glittering glacier views, and challenging roads. Winding its way over a plateau, the road will take you between two glaciers, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. Along the route, you'll also get to stop by steaming geothermal areas, serene glacier lakes, and plenty of rugged, mountainous scenery.

Historical significance of the road

The F35 route was created in the place of a historic horse trail and trade route that connected north and south Iceland. Dating back to Viking times, the ancient settlers used to traverse this desolate landscape with their goods, sheep, horses, and more. Tackling the F35 today in a 4x4 campervan lets you follow along with that historic route exactly. 

Preparing for the F35 Adventure

Essential equipment and supplies for the Kjölur Route

Before embarking on the F35 Iceland, or any F-road for that matter, it’s crucial to ensure you’re prepared. This is Iceland’s most remote region, and services are few and far between. This might be one of the easiest F-roads to do, but you’ll still need to be prepared with the essentials:

  • Petrol: A full tank of gas before tackling the F35 is recommended. At the southern end of the route there’s a service station next to the Geysir Geothermal Area. Up north, you can fill up the tank at Blönduós.
  • Food and water: Having groceries for meals, snacks, and plenty of water as well is also essential. There are two restaurants along the route as well: Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort and the Hveravellir Lodge.
  • Clothing and gear: Pack warm and waterproof clothing, sturdy hiking boots, hats, gloves, and other outdoor gear to protect against the unpredictable Icelandic weather. In the Highlands things can turn nasty, even during the summer. But this is Iceland; you should already have all this stuff in your bag already.

Weather and road conditions

The weather conditions in Iceland can be unpredictable, especially in the highlands. Before setting out on the F35 Iceland, check the weather forecast and road conditions. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, including rain, wind, fog, and even snow, even during the summer months. It is essential to exercise caution and adjust your plans if a sudden storm of strong wind makes the route dangerous to drive.

Exploring the Highlights of the Kjölur Route

Gullfoss Waterfall: A Majestic Start

To begin your F35 Iceland adventure, make a stop at Gullfoss Waterfall, one of Iceland's most iconic natural wonders. If you’ve picked your campervan up in the morning, you might have visited the entire Golden Circle on your first day. Nearby, Skjòl Campsite makes for a good spot to spend the night before tackling the route in the morning.

Hvítárvatn: The Serene Glacier Lake

As you venture along the F35, the first major sight you'll encounter Hvítárvatn, a serene glacier lake to the west of the road at the base of Langjökull Glacier. This picturesque lake offers a peaceful respite and a stunning backdrop for photography – a nice spot to hop out and stretch your legs.

Kerlingarfjöll: Colorful Geothermal Wonders

As you continue, the next major sight you’ll come across is a major one: the amazing region of Kerlingarfjöll. Located approximately halfway along the route, this mountain range boasts vibrant colors, hot springs, and stunning mountain landscapes.

The recently renovated Kerlingarfjöll Highland Resort is a good base for some hikes, including one to a nearby hot spring. But we recommend driving past the Highland Resort to the parking area at the geothermal area Hveradalir (not to be confused with Hveravellir below). This is the major attraction of Kerlingarfjöll: trails dipping in and out of the geothermal valleys, rusty-orange and yellow mountains often covered in snow, and steam billowing above everything. It’s one of Iceland’s most vivid geothermal areas, and you could easily spend 4–5 hours here exploring.

Hveravellir: A Stunning Hot Spring Area

Drive for about an hour north of Kerlingarfjöll and you’ll reach Hveravellir, a bit of a geothermal oasis in the middle of desolate scenery. Here, you’ll find a bubbling hot spring area, with steaming pools, colorful minerals in the ground, and a large lava field. This is a major stop on the route, and you’ll find the Hveravellir Lodge here, complete with a large and fantastic hot spring where you can enjoy a soak.  

Are There Any River Crossings on the F35 in Iceland?

The F35 has some rough sections of road, but it is one of the few F-roads in Iceland that doesn’t have any river crossings. This makes it a great introduction to Iceland’s F-roads.  

Campsites on the Kjölur Route

Camping in the Icelandic highlands offers a great opportunity to connect with nature and immerse yourself in the raw and powerful Icelandic landscapes. There are a couple of designated campsites along the F35 Route in Iceland to choose from.

  • Kerlingarfjöll Campsite: A brand new campsite next to the Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort. It’s a picturesque setting to spend the night, with the nearby restaurant serving up some great meals.

  • Hveravellir Campsite: Located at the geothermal oasis of Hveravellir, this campsite offers stunning views, hot springs, and basic facilities. There’s also a restaurant available inside the lodge.

How Long Should I Spend on the F35 Route?

In general, doing the route in two days is a good idea, spending one night at either of the following places. And remember to always adhere to Leave No Trace principles and respect the surrounding environment.

Final Tips for an Unforgettable F35 Experience

Remember your camera!

The F35 Iceland is a photographer's paradise, offering endless opportunities to capture breathtaking landscapes and dramatic vistas. Remember to stop often and try to make the most of the golden hour at sunrise and sunset when the light conditions are incredible.

Respect the nature and leave no trace

A big draw of Iceland’s Highlands is the untouched feeling of the area. That’s why if you’re planning on driving the F35, it’s crucial to adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. Minimize your impact on the area by sticking to the roads, taking your rubbish with you until you find a bin, and always hike on the designated trails.

Embrace the unexpected and be flexible

The Icelandic highlands are renowned for their ever-changing weather conditions and unpredictable landscapes. Embrace the spirit of adventure and be open to unexpected experiences. Foggy mornings, sudden rain showers, and shifting cloud formations can create unique and atmospheric moments. Be flexible with your itinerary, allowing for spontaneous detours and explorations. Remember, it's the journey itself that often holds the most remarkable surprises.

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