Iceland Super Jeep Tour Review: Highlands & Landmannalaugar

white super jeep with big wheels in dark landscape with snowy mountains

An Iceland super jeep tour is a great way to explore some of the more remote areas of Iceland’s dramatic landscape, including the volcanic highlands of inner Iceland. These souped-up cars take out a lot of the risk of driving in that wild, rugged landscape.

In this post, I’ll share my experience of doing a super jeep tour of Iceland’s highlands and will cover different options you have for arranging your own Iceland super jeep adventure. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.

What Is A Super Jeep?

First up, it helps to clarify what a super jeep is! Confusingly, a super jeep in Iceland is not actually a Jeep (as in the manufacturer). In fact, the super jeep from my tour was actually a Nissan! But it was still a ‘super jeep’.

Super jeep is a generic name for a big, all-terrain 4-wheel drive car designed to cope with the particularly challenging off-road conditions in the highlands of Iceland. I read the name might have come from an abbreviation of GP (General Purpose) vehicles used in Iceland during WWII.

As a non-car person, the most obvious feature I noticed about super jeeps is they have big old tires. Not monster-truck size, but significantly bigger than average.  They also have special suspension systems, and you might notice wires or cables going from the engine into the wheels.

super jeep on a track towards mountains and some mountain huts
My super jeep on the way to Landmannalaugar

Why Take a Super Jeep Tour In Iceland?

If you’re driving the main paved roads of Iceland, such as doing a Ring Road road trip, a 2WD car is fine. On my first road trip in Iceland, we drove a tiny little Peugeot 106 and on my second trip, a 2WD camper van.

You can also drive some of the unpaved gravel roads with a 2WD, although a 4WD would be more comfortable over some, which can be a bit potholey, in my experience.

However, in the highlands of Iceland, it is common for the roads (designated F roads) to be crossed by shallow but fast-flowing rivers of meltwater. And there can be especially uneven ground to deal with.

4-wheel drives are required on the F-roads of the highlands and a super jeep will generally cope even better with the rough terrain than a 4WD.

super jeep crossing a shallow river in Iceland
Crossing highland rivers is pretty easy in a super jeep

I have no idea if it’s possible to hire a super jeep to drive yourself – from what I can tell, most people do super jeep tours where they’re driven by someone who knows the car and the area well. It just seems sensible, doesn’t it?

My Iceland Super Jeep Private Tour

On my first trip to Iceland with my husband, my initial research had made me want to do a super jeep tour of the highlands and I had earmarked a couple of landmarks I wanted to see, including Landmannalaugar and Maelifell mountain.

However, as I started researching different options, I realised no group tours went to Maelifell. It’s a little way off the main routes, you see.

In conversation with one tour provider, Southcoast Adventure, they suggested the only way I could cover everything I wanted was to do a bespoke route as a private super jeep tour. Obviously, this costs more money, so it wasn’t an easy decision to make.  It isn’t something to do if you’re exploring Iceland on a budget. However, in the end, I decided to go for it!

I was so excited about seeing Maelifell: I had first learned of this remote conical volcano from photographs on Instagram, and I longed to see it with my own eyes.

green conical mountain in a black gravel plain with streams of water glinting white in the sun
Maelifell: my reason for choosing a private super jeep tour

However, it was not to be! On the day of my tour, which was early/mid-June, I was informed that the road to Maelifell had not thawed enough: it was blocked by snow.  They had expected it to be clear by that date, but there was still too much snow for even the super jeep to get through. I was so disappointed!

We ended up doing a very different route than I had planned – but I still saw some amazing things and really enjoyed my day in the wild landscape of the highlands.

And my disappointment in missing Maelifell only lasted a few years – I managed to see that glorious green mountain on my second visit, during a scenic flight over Iceland.

My Iceland Super Jeep Tour Route

OK, I’ll talk you through the main stops along my Iceland super jeep tour of the highlands, so you get a sense of what there is to see.

Pick-Up: Skógar

There are super jeep tours which pick up and drop off in Reykjavik. But for my own tour, I had arranged a pick-up from my hotel in Skógar (the Hótel Skógafoss), next to the stunning Skógafoss waterfall on the South coast of Iceland.

tall waterfall surrounded by green mossy cliffs
Hótel Skógafoss is right next to Skógafoss

We were picked up at 9 am and we were actually driven from Skógar in a normal 4×4 to a garage near Hella, where we picked up some sandwiches for our lunch later and changed cars to the super jeep. Getting into it for the first time, I realised how much taller/higher the car is – you have to kind of climb into it!

Hekla

From Hella, we headed inland, passing the Hekla volcano on the right.

Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes and it erupted roughly every ten years between 1970 and 2000. It hasn’t erupted since, leading some to think an eruption is due soon! But nothing was stirring on the day we drive by: it was brooding behind its cover of cloud, so we couldn’t really see it.

Sigöldugljúfur: The ‘Hidden’ Waterfall

After a long drive along roads which got increasingly rougher and greyer and more devoid of life, we reached our first stop. Our guide called it ‘the hidden waterfall’, but I learned afterwards it is called Sigöldugljúfur.

stepped canyon formed by a river and a series of waterfalls feed into the teal-coloured river
Sigöldugljúfur

It’s a very cool spot: there’s a stepped canyon formed by a river and a series of waterfalls feed into the river. There’s a viewpoint on the plateau above from which you can see the falls and into the canyon.

It feels like such a contrast to the surrounding area, which is somewhat bleak and dull: the river that runs through the canyon is a pretty teal colour and the water from the falls means the canyon is alive with green moss and grass.

Bláhylur Crater Lake

I didn’t know it at the time, but the road from the hidden waterfall to the next stop took me past a favourite location used by Icelandic drone photographers: a series of three red/black craters. I saw them later on my Iceland flight but didn’t even notice them driving past on my Iceland super jeep tour.

What I did notice was the landscape becoming blacker and more barren. There was less and less foliage around and the sky was overcast and heavy.

Bláhylur (also known as Hnausapollur) is one of many crater lakes in the highlands: an oval-shaped blue lake, with steep reddish sides. It was formed in an eruption in 871. There’s a viewpoint on the northwest corner of the crater.

man stood next to a super jeep on the rim of a black-red crater lake
Our super jeep had no trouble driving up the slope to park right on the edge of the crater

It looked to me like a stark, harsh place, but I read there are actually trout living in the lake!  Not that I’d be tempted to try to get close enough to catch any: the sides are pretty steep – I think it would be hard to get out again.

Landmannalaugar

After Bláhylur, we drove onto one of the major destinations in Iceland’s highlands: Landmannalaugar

On the way there, we passed Frostastaðavatn Lake, in which you can see lava from an eruption that flowed directly into the lake. We also crossed a couple of rivers in the car to get there – driving through them with ease!

lake surrounded by mountains, lava flows and patches of snow
Frostastaðavatn: you can see what was a lava flow spilling into the lake between the mountains
panorama of mountains with patches of snow and a gravel plan in the middle, crossed by streams
The plains and mountains of Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is an interesting area, geologically: there’s a gravel plain across which braided rivers flow in summer and this is surrounded by colourful rhyolite mountains, which appear splashed by the soft tones of yellow, red, green and blue watercolour paint.

At its heart is a natural hot spring, nestled next to an old lava flow.  I wasn’t tempted to get in, though: the people who were braving it looked rather cold and were huddled together in what was, I assume, the only hot spot in the pool!

natural pool of water with a wooden boardwalk surrounded by old mossy lava
Landmannalaugar hot springs next to the mossy lava flow

The area is hugely popular for hiking. Landmannalaugar is the northern end of the Laugavegur, one of Iceland’s most popular hiking trails, which goes to Þórsmörk.

There’s a mountain hut here, with space for camping, some picnic tables and changing facilities – but it’s all rather basic.

During my Iceland super jeep tour, my husband had our lunch break here. After eating our sandwiches, we wandered around the area. We knew we didn’t have time to do any proper hiking and we couldn’t go far across the gravel plains without getting our feet wet in the rivers, but we wandered as far as we could.

My husband also took the opportunity to try driving the super jeep here. Our guide let him drive it back and forth over a couple of the rivers that you need to cross to get to Landmannalaugar – he loved it!

super jeep with its driver doing a thumbs up sign
Lindsay on his way out of several river crossings in the super jeep

Ljótipollur Crater Lake

After Landmananlaugar, we headed to another volcanic crater lake: Ljótipollur, which means ‘Ugly Puddle’.

crater lake with reddish rocky sides and patches of snow
Ljótipollur Crater Lake

It’s not ugly, of course: it’s quite striking! Like Bláhylur, it has reddish crater sides and a blue lake, with trout in it. It’s also very large, and I struggled to capture it with my phone camera adequately.

Snowy Mountain View

After Ljótipollur, we got back in our super jeep and headed to a very remote spot, which I have not been able to find a name for.

It was in some hills south of Landmananlaugar and our guide told us that we would have a view eastwards towards Maelifell (I think they were trying to make up for us not being able to drive there).

It was crazy to get to this viewpoint and it really demonstrated the power of the super jeep: we literally drove straight up a hillside. I don’t know what gradient the slope was, but it seemed very steep to us!  The hillside was also partially covered in snow, so while we went straight up (no zig-zagging), we did go very slowly. Our driver was continually monitoring the suspension and tire pressure and adjusting things from time to time.

view out of the window of a car going up a steep snowy slope
I have no idea if this photo is level (it’s hard to anchor it when you’re going up a slope), but it was steep!

Eventually, we got to the viewpoint. It was amazing to look out across the snowy highland mountains. I guess Maelifell was out there somewhere but I think the distance was way too great for us to be able to see it.

Snowy mountains and grey skies
One of the most memorable views on my Iceland super jeep tour

It was also freezing! My light-down jacket was fine for everywhere in Iceland in summer – except this icy elevated spot!

Þjófafoss Waterfall

Heading back at the end of the day, the last official stop on my private Iceland super jeep tour was Þjófafoss, a waterfall near Route 26. It would be impressive enough even without the lone mountain in the background!

wide waterfall next to a striking mountain in Iceland
Þjófafoss

Icelandic Horses

However, we did make one more stop. A little bit further along Route 26, we spotted some Icelandic horses in a field and, because we were on a private tour, not a group tour, we were able to stop to see them. I had seen Icelandic horses from the road already on this trip, but I hadn’t had a chance to get close to any.

black horse looking over the back of another black horse
Gorgeous Icelandic horses

It was raining and windy by this point and the horses were just huddled together in a field. They’re so pretty and so tough at the same time! 

Seeing the horses was the perfect end to a wonderful day in the wilds of Iceland.

We got back to our hotel in Skogafoss around 8 pm – so it was a long day at 11 hours all in.

Iceland Super Jeep Group Tours

Obviously, my super jeep tour was a bespoke private one, but there are more affordable group tours available. There are super jeeps much bigger than the one I was in, which take up to 6 passengers.

You might like this Landmannalaugar Super-Jeep Tour on Get Your Guide does a pick-up in Reykjavik and includes some of the same stops as I have described here, including Landmannalaugar, Hnausapollur and Ljótipollur.

panoramic view of a crater lake with steep reddish sides and patches of snow
Hnausapollur / Bláhylur Crater Lake

It also includes Haifoss, which is the third-highest waterfall in Iceland and it’s supposed to be a spectacular sight (I haven’t been there, but it’s been on my radar for a while). It’s got a strong rating from customers.

There’s also this Þórsmörk by Super Jeep Tour, run by Southcoast Adventure, the same company I did my tour with, so you’ll be in safe hands with these guys. Þórsmörk is a striking valley with steep mountains and braided rivers, reachable by hiking the Fimmvörðuháls hike or by road. I saw it from the air on my Iceland flight.

There are also super jeep tours to other parts of Iceland, including this Katla Ice Cave and Super Jeep Tour and this Crystal Blue Ice Cave Super Jeep Tour from Jökulsárlón, the biggest and most famous of the glacial lagoons in Iceland. If you’re in North Iceland, there’s a tour from Myvatn to Askja & Holuhraun.

Map: Iceland Super Jeep Tour Stops

Here’s a map of the landmarks I visited as part of my Iceland super jeep highlands tour, most of which are in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve.

How To Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each one.  If you click the star next to the map’s title, it will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu, go to ‘Your Places’ or ‘Saved’, then click Maps and you will see this map in your list.

When Is Best To Do A Super Jeep Tour Of The Highlands?

Often these ‘when is the best time’ questions are hard to answer it depends on many factors, but in this case, it’s easy: summer is the only season that the highlands are accessible by car and you’ll find super jeep tours to the highlands tend to only run in the warmer months.

However, as I learned from my failed plan to get to Maelifell, even in early June, the snow can be a barrier on remote roads.

The Last Word

I hope I’ve inspired you to consider an Iceland super jeep tour – they minimise the risk of driving in the wilds of Iceland and they can be really fun!

And if you need more Iceland inspiration, consider these posts on Iceland’s black sand beaches and the exciting areas of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and East Iceland.  

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