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You are here : Home > Iceland Travel Guide > Other Regions > Odadahraun

A Trip to the Odadahraun Desert

Photo of the Odadahraun Desert

On your trip to the island of fire and ice, explore the strange universe of the Odadahraun Desert. A product of Iceland's most ancient volcanoes, it is the record-holder for world's biggest lava field, at 6000 km▓. Extending from the north of Vatnajokull down to the J÷kulsargljufur national park, this lunar landscape is dominated by the humongous Askja caldera.

Odadahraun, "the Desert of Crimes"


Robbed of rain by Vatnajokull's nearby titanic icecap, the Odadahraun Desert is Iceland's most desolate destination. According to legend, this is where outlaws and banished deviants went to flee the law. Few of the condemned survived, unless they happened upon one of the region's rare oases.

Le most notorious of these men, Eyvindur of the mountains, lived at length in the desert before discovering the sources of Herdubreidarlindir. His tragic love story with the beautiful Halla, touched so many Icelanders that the governor ended up pardoning him. However, thinking his exile was permanent he ventured so far into Iceland's central highlands that he never received the news of his pardon.

Odadahraun Desert Crossing


- In a setting of changing colours, you cross great rocky expanses of a thousands different shades of grey. A desolate wonderland as far as the eye can see! Every so often, huge pumice and lava boulders jut out of the ground. No sign of life on the horizon, no wonder Americans practised the lunar landing here!

- Near the junction of the F88 and route 1, stop for a moment at the edge of Hrossaborg. This large explosive crater was formed like that of Hverfjall by a hydromagnetic eruption. This phenomenon takes place when the boiling magna comes into contact with the water-table. Here, the resulting explosion pulverized the surrounding rock, creating a vast crater, that was long used as a natural corral to enclose horses.

- South of the desert, Herdubreid (1682m) will come into view. It is a gigantic mountain table visible from miles around. Its shape was sculpted by the melting of its icecap, giving it its light brown shade (altered palagonite). At its feet, a chaotic landscape of lava blocks and rockslides.

- Take advantage of your crossing through the austere Odadahraun desert to stop at the Herdubreidarlindir oasis. You won't regret this breath of fresh air in the middle of lava fields and dark sand. An enchanting river lined with epilobium blossoms attracts many birds. There is also a mountain hut and a campsite. If you enjoy four wheel drive treks, this is a great starting point for a journey through the central highlands. About 30 km to the south, the F910 will bring you to the Askja calders. From the volcano's lake, to the dragon gorges, you'll discover aquatic marvels in the middle of the desert...

More information about our itineraries around the Odadahraun desert: Drive the Central Highlands

To start organizing your trip to the Odadahraun desert, just contact us! Contact



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