The geological diversity of Iceland is something you can talk about, but that can't be truly appreciated until you experience it in person.
Going from sprawling fields of lava rock to snow-capped volcanoes, some still active, in the span of a few minutes in the car is a shock to the system, in the very best way possible. Most of Iceland is uninhabited (approximately 80 percent), and the majority of this human-less region can be found in the center of the country — otherwise known as the Central Highlands. Inaccessible during the winter months, unless you have a special vehicle permitted to drive on the season F roads, the pathways winding you through these mountains are off-limits.
It's hard to nail down how many mountains, exactly, there are in Iceland, given the glaciers that still move across the coastlands. In fact, the mountains you'll find here won't reach more than 7,000 feet in height — the country's located in a rift valley among a handful of tectonic plates, causing tension under the Earth's crust that results in lots of movement. Ahead, you'll find the ten highest peaks (for now) in the country.
You'll find Iceland's tallest peak in Vatnajokull National Park on the Öræfajökull volcanic glacier. Measuring in at more than 6,950 feet high, the crown of Hvannadalshnúkur is covered in ice year-round. You'll be able to spot this peak best if you're heading toward the Glacier Lagoon from Vik.
You don't necessarily need a local guide to take you hiking near the mountain, but those summiting the peak should seriously consider bringing one along as you'll travel over icy terrain, unknown crevasses, and steep inclines.
Reaching nearly 6,600 feet, Bárðarbunga is located on Europe's largest glacier: Vatnajokull. The volcanic activity in this area is far from frequent; the most recent eruption occurred in 1864. It's thought that it erupts once every 250-600 years, according to Guide to Iceland.
That being said, there have been frequent earthquakes in this area and the region is being closely monitored for a potential eruption.
This peak is the third-tallest in the country and the largest you'll find in the mid-Highlands. The ice cap peaks at 5,791 feet tall and measures 24 miles in width, culminating in one of the most beautiful sights in the Highlands area.
In the same area, you'll also find a subglacial caldera volcano — and it's active (the largest in the country). With that in mind, the last major eruption from the main peak happened more than 12,000 years ago.
Fun fact: In 2002, Herðubreið was voted Iceland's "National Mountain." It is 5,518 feet tall at its most northern stretches, and might have the most beautiful locations of all of the mountains on this list. Herðubreið is situated right on top of a region called Odadahraun, the largest lava field in the country.
It stands alone on the field, which is probably why it's considered one of the most beautiful peaks in Iceland: With no other mountains to offer immediate competition, the stark different in height between Herðubreið and Odadahraun is a visual delight.
Eiríksjökull is a table mountain — named for their flat tops — measuring in at 5,495 feet tall. Located in West Iceland, this mountain offers a challenging technical hike for those looking to get some exercise in.
The mountain is surrounded by something called a glacier shield, which basically means it's surrounded by glacier ice.
If you heard about a somewhat-recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, you heard about Eyjafjallajökull. After its last major eruption on April 14, 2010 — which halted flights and caused 800 people to evacuate in fear of flowing lava and glacier flooding — the mountain has been quiet. In fact, it's the gem of many tours heading through the south of Iceland.
Kerling is 5,045 tall and can be found in the west, in a mainly uninhabited area. But there's more to this attraction than just a tall mountain peak.
Also known as "Old Hag," Kerling Cliff is a major part of this area. Legend has it, this mountain was once a female troll. The story goes, three trolls wanted to turn the Westfjords into an island. Two trolls started digging from the west and one, the female troll, started digging from the east. When dawn was approaching and the Westfjords were still not an island, the trolls abandoned their work to seek shelter from the sun. The two trolls digging from the west noticed all the islands they created and the lack of islands in the east. Upset, those trolls went their separate ways and the female troll, realizing she couldn't find shelter created one island before being turned to stone by the sun. That lone island is now known as Grimsey.
With a nickname like "Gateway to Hell," there's surely a lot to be unpacked at this mountain. Hekla is an active volcano, one of the country's most prolific with spontaneous and powerful eruptions. You'll find it north of Eyjafjallajökull, the country's most famous volcano. It's activity is due to its location on a 25-mile rift, which have caused many peaks to pop up in the region.
Trivia time: 10 percent of the country's total landmass exist because of an eruption from Hekla.
The name might have given it away, but this peak is also known as "Troll Mountain." It's worth taking the time to explore this region — more specifically known as the Krísuvík Geothermal Area — given that its geothermal activity has produced some beautiful color schemes along the neighboring hillsides.
It's only 902 feet tall, but you will get two mountain views out of your trip: the nearby Grænadyngja, or "Green Mountain," is a bit taller at 1,289 feet. Both mountains are very much worthy of a hike, even for those with very little hiking under their belts. If views are what you're looking for, try the journey from Trölladyngja onto Grænadyngja; you'll pass through a stunning valley on your way between peaks.