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The pearl of the central highlands, Landmannalaugar, and its surroundings are too colorful and magnificent to describe with words. It is situated in a valley between steep mountains, nestling at the high dark edge of the rhyolite lava field, Laugahraun. Many hot and cold springs mix and create a warm brook where you can bathe and relax.
The Fjallabak Nature Reserve was established in 1979. The Nature reserve is 47.000 hectares and is over 500 meters above see level. The land is mountainous, sculptured by volcanoes and geothermal activity, covered by lavas, sands, rivers and lakes.
The objective of Nature Reserve is to protect natural features so that forthcoming generations will have the opportunity to enjoy them as we do today. In order to achieve this the country code of conduct is enforced to prevent damage to nature and to the appearance of the land. The desolate wilderness and tranquillity are the main characteristics of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, which thousands of travellers enjoy every year. Guests in the area are reminded to abide by the code of the Nature Reserve so as to conserve its natural features and to support recreation in this popular area for the enjoyment of Future generations as our own.
The Fjallabak region takes its name from the numerous wild and rugged mountains with deeply incised valleys, which are found there. The topography of the Torfajökull, central volcano found within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, is a direct result of the region being the largest rhyolite (liparite) area in Iceland and the largest geothermal area (after Grímsvötn in Vatnajökul).
The Torfajökul central volcano is an active volcanic system, but is now in a declining fumarolic stage as exemplified by numerous fumaroles and hot springs. The hot pools at Landmannalaugar are but one of many manifestations of geothermal activity in the area, which also tends to alter the minerals in the rocks, causing the beautiful colour variations from red and yellow to blue and green, a good example being Brennisteinsalda. Geologists believe that the Torfajökull central volcano is a caldera, the rim being Háalda, Suðurnámur, Norður Barmur, Torfajökull, Kaldaklofsfjöll and Ljósártungur
The bedrock of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve dates back 8-10 million years. At that time the area was on the Reykjanes – Langjökull ridge rift zone. The volcano has been most productive during the last 2 million years, that is during the last Ice Age Interglacial rhyolite lava ( in Brandsgil) and sub-glacial rhyolites (erupted under ice/water, examples being Bláhnúkur and Brennisteinsalda are characteristic formations in the area. To the north of the Torfajökull region sub-glacial volcanic activity produced the hyaloclastite (móberg) mountains, such as Loðmundur and Mógilshöfðar.
Volcanic activity in recent times (last 10.000 years) has been restricted to a few northeast – southwest fissures, the most recent one, the Veiðivötn fissure from 1480, formed Laugahraun (by the hut at Landmannalaugar), Námshraun, Norðurnámshraun, Ljótipollur and other craters which extend 30 km, further to the north
Weather The average temperature in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve is probably 0-1°C. Temperatures between 5-14°C may be expected in July and August, and in the winter the average temperature is about –6°C.
What to do. Motoring. The old horse track, Landmannaleið, lying between the settlements of Land and Skaftártunga parishes goes through the Fjallabak Nature Reserve ·However the most frequently used road into the Nature Reserve is the route (F208) from Sigalda which joins the old Landmannaleið (marked Dómadalsleið on road signs) by Frostastaðavatn. Both roads F208 and Landmannaleið have special dangers: gravel and rough surfaces, blind corners and unbridged rivers. These roads are only passable in July and August, due to snow and mud. The road between Landmannalaugar and Eldgjá is only recommended for four-wheel-drive vehicles, because of the many unbridged rivers and possible quicksand. Never attempt to cross a river which you cannot wade across and always drive slowly (in first gear), but firmly. Never attempt to drive along a track which in not marked on the map overleaf. Bear in mind that no petrol, oil and other provisions can be obtained in the Nature Reserve. Finally remember that it is illegal to drive or park cars off-road.
Walking. The Fjallabak Nature Reserve is well suited for walking. There are numerous opportunities for short and long hikes, some of which are marked on the map. The most popular hikes are to the summit of Bláhnúkur 940 m. (1-2 hours), and to the fumaroles by Brennisteinsalda 855m. (1-2 hours). Other interesting hikes include Háalda 1089m. (4-6 hours), around Frostastaðavatn (2-3 hours), Suðurnámur 951m. (1 hour) and Brandsgil (1-2 hours).When walking please keep the following in mind. Use a good map and keep to the footpaths, as it is easy to get lost. Good footwear is essential and even in summer warm clothes are necessary on the hilltops. Exposure can be fatal to those inadequately equipped for sudden change in the weather, or overtaken be fatigue. Always leave word of where you are going and if in trouble contact the rangers at Landmannalaugar. Remember that all rock in the Nature Reserve is unsuitable for climbing and the best routes follow ridges or valley bottoms. Pleas do not tred on hot springs or boiling ground, as it can be soft and extremely dangerous. It is forbidden to throw stones or other objects into hot springs or pits. In most cases detour round vegetated areas, as they are marshy and are easily spoiled.
Fishing. The lakes in the Nature Reserve are known for their trout, the most popular lakes being Ljótipollur, Dómadalsvatn and Frostastaðavatn. Fishing permits can be bought.
Swimming. The hot springs at Landmannalaugar are suitable for swimming.
Grazing. Today the Nature Reserve is not unaffected by grazing, road building, tourism and power lines. Sheep grazing and fishing dates back many years. Landmannalaugar are the main centres when the farmers collect their flock in the beginning of September.
Tourism. Few people visited the area until the Touring Club of Iceland built its first hut there in 1952. Since then communications have greatly improved and people have more time to spare. Today 30.000 people visit the Nature Reserve during the summer.
You can take a jeep tour to see Landmannalaugar and Hekla.
The code of the Nature Reserve. When visiting the Fjallabak Nature Reserve take care to avoid damaging life and country remembering this Code.