Hvannadalshnúkur

Iceland
Highlights
Location

Hvannadalshnúkur is the highest mountain in Iceland. It is a glacial peak that forms part of the rim of the Öræfajökull volcano crater.

Hvannadalshnúkur is located within Vatnajökull National Park in south eastern Iceland.

Read more
TABLE OF CONTENTS
JOURNEY

Hvannadalshnúkur Summit - The Highest Point in Iceland

Initially, the height of Hvannadalshnúkur’s summit was estimated at 2,119 m (6952 feet), but after new measurements on August 4, 2005, it was revised downward. This error does not necessarily result from an incorrect measurement. Volcanoes have a tendency for their height and width to change. For example, when the magma chamber beneath a volcano becomes filled, it expands.

In terms of geological structure, Hvannadalshnúkur is a typical rhyolitic neck, a remnant of the heavily eroded Öræfajökull volcano. The Öræfajökull volcano, whose name translates to “glacial wasteland,” is the second largest volcano in Europe, second only to Mount Etna in Italy.

Getting there

  • The most flexible option is to rent a car and drive approximately 320 km (198 miles) east along the Ring Road from Reykjavík. The journey takes about 4-5 hours. You’ll need to turn left at the Skaftafell National Park sign
  • You can fly to a nearby airport and then drive or take a bus to Skaftafell National Park. This option combines speed with flexibility.
  • Many tour operators offer trips to Hvannadalshnúkur, often including transportation from Reykjavík or other major towns.

Hike Details

  • When traversing glaciers to reach the summit, there are many crevasses that require crossing, but the climb itself is not extremely technically difficult.
  • There are two main routes up Hvannadalshnúkur, both starting on the western slope. Each route takes a full day to complete.
  • The crevasses are very dangerous, so climbing with an experienced glacier guide is recommended if you lack extensive glacier travel experience.

Tips

  • Hvannadalshnúkur is a long and strenuous climb, taking 12-14 hours roundtrip. Ensure you have a high level of cardiovascular fitness and endurance to handle the elevation gain of around 2,000 meters.
  • Train by doing long hikes with a weighted backpack to build up your leg strength and stamina.
  • Hvannadalshnúkur has hidden crevasses, steep inclines, and unpredictable weather – it’s highly recommended to climb with an experienced local guide.
  • Guides will provide technical equipment, route-finding expertise, and ensure your safety on the mountain.
CLIMBING

Climbing Hvannadalshnúkur

When traversing glaciers, there are many crevasses that require crossing, but climbing to Iceland’s highest point is not among the most technically difficult (this does not mean, that it is easy). There are two main routes, and each one requires a full day to complete. Both routes start on the western slope of the mountain. The Hryggjaleið route from the Virkisjökull glacier is only accessible until mid-July, after which it is closed due to the formation of crevasses and icy conditions.

It takes around 12 hours to complete the trail (8 hours up, 4 hours down).

The ascent is not very technical, but the difficulty of Hvannadalshnúkur should not be underestimated. The glacier experiences exceptionally harsh weather, which differs from conditions at lower elevations. The crevasses are very dangerous, so if you do not have a group with extensive glacier climbing experience, we recommend climbing with a guide.

WEATHER

Hvannadalshnúkur Weather

A harsh Arctic climate is typical for glacial mountains. For most of the year, temperatures hover below freezing, and snowfall and fierce winds are very common. Despite its relatively modest elevation compared to major mountain ranges, Hvannadalshnúkur’s high latitude and exposure to Atlantic weather systems make it a formidable challenge that requires proper equipment and skills.