Taking a Peak at the Tallest Mountains in Iceland
Updated: Apr 19
You have most likely heard about Eyjafjallajökull, Vatnajökull, and Kirkjufell if you have looked up famous mountains in Iceland. But we are confident that you didn’t know that Hvannadalshnjukur is the tallest mountain in Iceland. And, surprisingly, Kirkjufell doesn’t even make it to the top 10 of the list.
Iceland is filled to the brim with mountains. There are so many mountains in Iceland that some are literally falling into the ocean in some places. Some roads are restricted to only being mountain roads, and the Icelandic sheep roam free in the mountain ranges.
But among all these remarkable geological marvels, which ones are the tallest? Which is the highest mountain in Iceland, and which ones are the second, third, and fourth? Read on to find out.
History of Mountains in Iceland
The mountains in Iceland are the consequences of the incredibly long and intensive geological unrest in the region. You might already know that from reading our blog, right?
Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is the division of the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate. The plates are moving away from each other and causing magma to come up to the surface and create the astonishing landscape that we see on the island today. After the lava has cooled down, of course.
The mountains in Iceland are now standing tall in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is like so after a couple of millions of years of intense and frequent volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other terrifying events. We have the privilege to be able to visit and explore these mountains. And we are, of course, most interested in the biggest, tallest, and most amazing mountains in Iceland.
List of the Tallest Mountains in Iceland
The highest mountain in Iceland might not officially be on the list of must-visit places in Iceland, but it definitely is an amazing thing to witness. So, let’s stop dancing around the subject and get to the list of the tallest mountains in Iceland.
This is the crème de la crème when it comes to tall mountains in Iceland and is situated in the southeastern part of Vatnajökull National Park.
The peak reaches 2,110 meters above the ocean and takes roughly 10-15 hours to climb, depending on the circumstances. The ones who have braved this mountain swear that the view from the top will be worth every second of hard work. Yet, the trip demands some skill and proper preparation.
Oh, and yes, this mountain also happens to be an active volcano. Luckily, it hasn’t had an eruption in about 300 years, so you won’t have to worry about that on your journey. If an eruption might ever be a possibility, you can rest assured that there will be people physically stopping you from scaling this rocky giant and keeping you out of harm’s way.
Second in line to the throne for the largest mountains in Iceland is Bardarbunga in the center of Iceland. With an impressive height of 2,009 meters, you can finally come back to the area after the recent geological activity.
This is not only the second-highest mountain in Iceland, but also an active volcano. It had an eruption in 2014 that continued into 2015, so you will want to keep an eye out for where you’re allowed to walk. Before the eruption, the mountain was measured at 2,000 meters high, so you’ll have plenty of freshly cooled down lava around you on the journey to this top.
Standing tall at 1,920 meters, the Kverkfjöll mountain pass can be found in the northern part of the Vatnajökull glacier. Just as with Bardarbunga, you will find a large magma chamber underneath this resting volcano. The notable difference is that the magma here has no plans of leaving the chamber anytime soon.
The heat from this chamber has mastered the art of creating intricate and beautiful glacier caves. Unfortunately, they are not safe to enter since they are very unstable.
Even though this mountain and the Snaefellsnes peninsula share the same name, this is not the mountain on said peninsula.
Snaefell translates to “snow mountain”, which there are plenty of on this icy island. Snaefell is the oldest mountain in Iceland and can be found northeast of Vatnajökull. It offers great opportunities for a comfortable climb to the 1,833-meter-high peak. A big plus in the area is that you might be able to spot some of the Icelandic reindeer.
In the heart of Iceland, you will find the third-largest glacier and fifth-highest mountain. It is hiding under an almost perfectly circular and thick sheet of ice that has a diameter of almost 40 kilometers. Hofsjökull stands at 1,765 meters high and holds the glacier that feeds Thorsja – the longest river in Iceland.
In the central-eastern part of Iceland you will find, not the tallest mountain in Iceland, but just 428 meters shy of it. In the middle of the eastern highlands, only accesible by 4x4 camper, you find a 1,682-meter-high mountain top that offers visitors a breathtaking view of the surrounding highlands.
If you manage to scale the mountain on a clear day, you might be lucky enough to be able to see almost the entire country, all the way to the coastline. This mountain is dangerous to climb since it is cladding with loose soil and has very steep sides.
The largest table mountain in Iceland, and seventh on this list, is Eiriksjökull at 1,675 meters. It’s situated in the central west part of Iceland, just northwest of Langjökull.
Just like Herdubreid, this is a mountain with incredibly steep sides, which makes it difficult to climb for most people. Even for those with some experience, we suggest bringing an Icelandic mountain guide, just to be safe.
This troublemaker is best known for the shenanigans it got into in 2010. That's when the volcano erupted and messed up the flight traffic in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Even though many thought Eyjafjallajökull might be the devil when their vacations got ruined, try not to read too much into its height as it stands 1,666 meters tall.
This mountain can be seen in the southern part of Iceland. It stands very close to the coast and the road, so we suggest taking a trip there when touring the country for the mountains in Iceland.
Beating the next in line by two meters, Tungnafellsjökull can be found just northwest of Vatnajökull as a stand-alone mountain and glacier. This majestic twin-volcano stands at 1,560 meters and often gets forgotten between all the taller mountain peaks around it. The volcano has two craters, one filled with ice, and the other with volcanic rock. Tungnafellsjökull then embodies perfectly the Icelandic spirit of fire and ice.
This might not be the highest point in Iceland, but it is the tallest mountain in northern Iceland. Kerling mountain stands at 1,538 meters and is conveniently close to Akureyri. Scaling this mountain might not be the hardest thing to do, but it is definitely a tough endeavor. So, make sure you have the appropriate gear and maybe an Icelandic mountain guide to support you.
Height isn’t everything. That is obvious when you compare the most photographed mountain in Iceland with the highest mountain in Iceland. Even though none of the following are strikingly tall compared to other mountains in the country, they are definitely worth mentioning.
If you are looking for a convenient mountain close to Reykjavík, then this is the mountain range for you. Just 20 kilometers outside Reykjavík, you’ll find one of the most popular mountains to visit in Iceland. Mount Esja in Iceland is a well-known spot for locals to go all year round, and you can even reach the area with public transport.
Given that it is somewhat remote from the city, you just need to keep an eye on the bus schedule, so you don’t miss the last departure.
Looking at popular mountains, Kirkjufell is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Not just by locals, but by international visitors too. You find this modest mountain on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, right next to Grundafjördur on the northern coast of the peninsula. This area is on the list of top tourist attractions in Iceland, so it’s worth the visit even if you don’t see Kirkjufell.
This mountain was featured in Game of Thrones, which makes it one of many Icelandic sites that have made it to the international movie screen.
If you are one for hikes and taking a couple of days to enjoy nature, Hornbjarg is the best bet for you. It sits in the most remote area in Iceland – Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords. To get to the famous peaks of Hornbjarg, you will have to hike for several days, but you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Go and Explore the Mountains in Iceland
Simply mentioning 10-15 mountains in Iceland doesn’t do the country justice. There are so many mountains and mountain ranges that it wouldn’t fit in an article of any reasonable size.
However, after reading about which is the highest point in Iceland, you are sure to want to explore the map and find out firsthand just how impressive these mountains are. Renting a campervan in Iceland will be the best option for you if you want to travel the country on your own terms without any strings attached.