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This unique, rugged travel route takes in a circuit from Austurland’s inland hub town of Egilsstaðir, driving lakeside along the eastern shore of Lagarfljót lake before climbing to the highlands.

The route guides you through some stunning natural landscapes and via geological pearls (unforgettable waterfalls, canyons, hot springs and mountain peaks included), but it’s important to note that some elements of the circuit are only accessible in summer, and only in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Never fear! In other seasons, the route can be adapted based on road openings and weather conditions, and combined with the excellent, year-round Ring of Riverdale route to guide you to some traveler favorites.

The Highland Circle begins at low elevation, taking in Hallormsstaður National Forest (Iceland’s largest forest), then some treats of the Fljótsdalur valley: Colorful Hengifoss waterfall, Snæfellstofa Visitor Center for great displays on the region’s natural wonders, and Skriðuklaustur cultural center. Continue deeper into the valley to reach the unique Wilderness Center, where you can enjoy a hands-on experience of Icelandic history.

Rte 910 is a sealed road that climbs dramatically before leveling out and taking you through highland terrain that’s a favorite habitat for geese and reindeer. Brilliant detours include Laugarfell for hikes and hot pools (no 4x4 required), and Snæfell mountain for more hiking (4x4 required).

After the spectacle of Kárahnjúkar dam, the sealed road becomes an F-road, only accessible to high-clearance 4x4 cars. Rte F910 usually opens around mid-June and has some brilliant pit stops – including Hafrahvammagljúfur canyon and Laugavalladalur geothermal stream – before it joins Rte F907 (4x4 required) and leads you to Rte 923 (no 4x4 required).

Along Rte 923 is access to mighty Stuðlagil canyon, one of Austurland’s jewels. There’s simply no bad angle to this gorgeous gorge. From the new viewing platform on the canyon's west side, or from ground level after a hike on the east side, the basalt columns and clear blue water are a remarkable sight.

After admiring the canyon, head north on Rte 923 and you’ll reach Hwy 1, the Ring Road, and an easy, scenic return to Egilsstaðir. Stop at Rjúkandi, a waterfall by Hwy 1, then round out your exploring with a memorable soak in the warm geothermal waters of Vök Baths.

Top tips for this route:

  • To drive the complete circuit as we describe, you’ll need a 4x4. Roads need to be open, and F-roads are not open outside summer months. Always check road.is before setting out.
  • If you don’t have a 4x4, you can drive as far as Kárahnjúkar dam on sealed road in summer in a regular vehicle. You’ll need to retrace your route to Egilsstaðir and reach Stuðlagil from the north, via Hwy 1 and Rte 923.
  • There’s accommodation, camping and eating options along the circuit, although these are considerably more limited in the highlands, and outside summer months. Come prepared!

You may not have time to see everything we include on this travel route. We recommend you plan your trip using the 'Add to favorites' tool on our page. By bookmarking your favorite attractions and experiences in this way, you can tailor a route through Austurland that's perfect for you!

 

Places of Interest

Vallanes Farm Guesthouse
Vallanes
Hallormsstaður
Hallormsstaðaskógur
Arboretum in Hallormsstaðar Forest
Hengifoss Waterfall
Snæfellsstofa Visitor Centre, Skriðuklaustur
Skriðuklaustur, Centre of culture & history
Wilderness center
Waterfall Circle
Snæfell
Kárahnjúkar
Hafrahvammagljufur
Laugarfell
Laugavalladalur
Sænautasel
Rjúkandi
Stuðlagil
Eyvindará river
Vök Baths

Stories

N4: The Highland Circle on TV
N4: The Highland Circle on TV