Featuring the most desolate terrain found in Iceland, Sprengisandur is the bleak highland desert east between Hofsjökull – the rounded ice cap marking Iceland’s geographical centre – and Vatnajökull’s northwestern front. Although providing something of a corridor in Viking times between Iceland’s northeastern settlements and the summer parliament at Þingvellir, crossing Sprengisandur was always a tough journey, the desert flooded in spring with melting snow and ice, yet too dry in summer to provide any grazing for horses. Indeed, most travellers preferred to take much longer coastal roads, and Sprengisandur was eventually abandoned as a route during the thirteenth century.

Traversed today by the F26, which begins northeast of Hekla and runs some 244km across the desolate, icy plateau between Hofsjökull and Vatnajökull to the Ringroad at Goðafoss, the Sprengisandur route remains a challenging one, whose unbridged rivers and stark scenery provide an insight into medieval Iceland’s harsh living conditions. The enduring image here is of nothingness: the glaciers and mountains that fringe the horizon seem a long way off, and the space in between is filled with mile after mile of grey sand, stones and rocks that have lain untouched for thousands of years.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Iceland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

11 Unique things to do in Iceland

11 Unique things to do in Iceland

11 Unique things to do in Iceland. From its pocket-sized capital to the vast landscapes of its interior, Iceland overflows with inspiring spots. The only real…

08 Oct 2018 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
Best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Best places to see the northern lights in Iceland. The northern lights are elusive; you hear about them constantly from what seems like everyone and their mum,…

27 Sep 2018 • Kirsten Powley insert_drive_file Article
Top day trips from Reykjavík

Top day trips from Reykjavík

Icelanders have a motto which visitors should know: þetta reddast – “It’ll all work out.” Hoping to go for a day in the wilds, but the roads are too ic…

06 Sep 2018 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs