Roads F905 and F910 are gravel tracks that take you over lava fields from Ring Road 1 in the north-east of Iceland and head inland to Dreki and the Askja Caldera. They can only be driven in the summer months and even then it is only possible with a 4WD vehicle. A third road the F88, whilst appealing to off-road drivers should not be attempted in any hire vehicle.
EGILSSTAÐIR TO MÖÐRUDALUR
TOTAL DISTANCE: 277KM
DRIVING TIME: MINIMUM 6HOURS
ALLOW: 2 DAYS
This road trip will take you through stunning lava fields and past the imposing Herðubreið Mountain before arriving at the vast Askja Caldera where it is possible to swim in the warm geothermal lake of the Askja Víti crater.
Explore Dreki and Drekagil canyon or hike to Nautagil Canyon before visiting the ancient farm at Möðrudalur and tasting beautiful Icelandic dishes in the small cafe.
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Askja and Dreki Road Trip
This two day road trip starts in the East Fjords region of Iceland in the town of Egilsstaðir. It is a good place to stock up on food and fuel as there are no facilities once you turn off ring road 1.
The best way to make the most of this road trip is to spend the night at Dreki in the mountain huts or camp in the small campsite adjacent to the huts. This will give you time to explore Askja fully.
The return trip follows the same route for some of the way before following the F905 out to Möðrudalur and back onto ring road 1.
It is possible to complete the trip in and out in one day, but it is a very long day of driving with limited time exploring. If you are not confident driving across ash or making river crossings then one of the tours suggested at the end may be a better option.
Places Found on the F910 and F905 in Iceland
- Stuðlagil Canyon – a deep canyon with basalt columns
- Möðrudalur – a small village with a lovely restaurant, small church and traditional turf roofed buildings
- Dreki and Drekagil Gorge – the base for the mountain rangers with a campsite and bunkhouse adjacent to the campsite is a deep canyon
- Nautagil Canyon – A small canyon along F910 towards the F26
- Askja Caldera and Askja Víti – the large crater formed after the eruption of the Askja volcano with a smaller second blast crater with a geothermal pool, perfect for swimming
Key Information about Driving the F905 and F910
- These two roads are 4WD access only.
- The total distance to Dreki from Ring Road 1 is 100km and takes approximately 4 hours
- There are a number of river crossings that should not be attempted in a 2WD vehicle.
- The road conditions vary from loose gravel like other roads in Iceland to unmarked tracks in volcanic ash
- There is a small compost toilet near a large river crossing but there is nothing else on these roads
- There is no food or fuel available so ensure you have a full tank and plenty of provisions before starting the drive.
Map of the ‘“F” Roads in East Iceland
The rough roads in Iceland have a bit of a reputation, but with planning and respect they are as safe as any of the other roads in Iceland. This map shows the F roads that lead in towards the north face of the Vatnajökull ice sheet.
All are subject to closure due to the weather at any time of the year and before setting out you should always check the conditions on these roads.
The F905 and F910 are relatively easier to drive than the F88 but should only be attempted in a 4WD vehicle. The F88 requires higher clearance for the river crossings which are deep and rapid and not suitable for any hire cars.
Stage 1 – Iceland Routes 907 and 923
The 907 leaves the Ring Road 1 and takes you south until a junction with F910, however it can also be approached from Road 923 approximately 50km north west of Egilsstaðir that passes the dramatic Stuðlagil Canyon.
For many drivers this rough unmade road is as far as they go.
Continuing along the 923 and turning right after 28km onto route 907 takes you to the same junction with F910 as you would reach coming from Möðrudalur on the F905. The detour is worth considering to see this canyon.
The 923 and 907 are both fairly well made gravel roads and the 923 has solid ‘real’ road through the small villages along its route. Look out for the small church on the banks of the river and the wide open views along the valley shortly before turning off the 923.
After leaving Egilsstaðir the road will cross a deep canyon and then head along a wide valley. Rjúkandi waterfall is located on the right just before the junction with Road 923 where your will turn off towards Stuðlagil Canyon.
There is a large parking area and trails that lead up to the base of the waterfall as well as further onto the hills surrounding the falls. The initial path to the viewing area is easy to walk in any conditions.
Stuðlagil Canyon and STUÐLAfoss
Stuðlagil Canyon is located on Road 923 and until recently the water levels and flow of the 150km long Jökla River was considered quite dangerous.
In 2009 a hydroelectric dam was built to supply the Kárahnjúkavirkjun hydroelectric plant. This resulted in the water levels dropping and the flow of water calming.
Along the edge of the canyon are huge basalt columns and this is the largest number found in one place in the whole of Iceland. The easiest approach is from the main parking area by a farm called Grund. Here there are paths down to viewing areas overlooking the canyon. If you are incorporating this into your Askja road trip then it is best to visit the canyon from Grund.
If you want to take photographs and see the true beauty of Stuðlagil Canyon this is not the best option. If you have the time on this road trip, then parking at the farm called Klaustursel before the main parking area at Grund, crossing the river on the metal bridge and following the trail along the east side of the canyon will take you to the best views of the canyon.
Look out for ground nesting birds during the summer months as you walk and take care of the steep cliffs.
After about 2km you will come to the beautiful Stuðlafoss waterfall which is flanked by basalt columns and then it is a further 2km to the start of the canyon itself.
This hike will take 3-4 hours and covers 8km plus any time you want to spend exploring the canyon. On this side it is possible to see more of the structure of the canyon and get down to a small ‘beach’ area.
STAGE 2 – Driving the F910 to Drekagil
This road is a true experience. It starts gently through rolling hills as you cross from route 907 towards the junction with the F905. There are a couple of shallow rivers to ford but nothing too complicated.
After 24km you reach the junction with the F905 and the track deteriorates gradually. It has two substantial river crossings plus two large gated bridges to navigate.
The road passes the massive and imposing Herðubreið Mountain as well as lava fields in various forms from gravelly ash to large foaming pillows. The volcano structures and colours are equally varied with colours and shapes setting them all apart.
The road is fairly quiet and you can see other vehicles coming in the distance with their tell tale dust clouds.
We discovered that as we went in to Dreki the number of vehicles coming in the other direction gradually increased as those attempting to do the journey in a day were heading back out in the later afternoon.
After about 50km the F910 merges with the F88 and larger, faster vehicles appear. These are confident drivers and will over take and continue without too much warning so have your eyes open. After a further 13km Dreki and Drekagil will appear. These are the first buildings you will have seen since leaving Möðrudalur or turning just after Stuðlagil Canyon, other than a compost toilet shortly after the second river crossing.
Dreki is buzzing place. The mountain hut, rangers and in the summer months the NASA research team are all based in this small corner below the Dyngjufjöll Mountains.
From Dreki the F910 continues around the north west side of Vatnajökull towards the F26.
Dreki is a great base for exploring the deep gorges that have formed in the outer edges of the Askja caldera. Drekagil is a small gorge which can be reached by crossing the stream behind the rangers huts.
The stream runs at the base of the gorge and the path goes a short distance into the gorge. It is not clearly defined and the rangers advise against exploring too far into the gorge itself.
READ MORE: EXPLORING DREKI
Nautagil can be reached by following a trail from Dreki campsite and is the location of the NASA training during the 1960’s. There is a range of geological formations along the route to the deep canyon.
It is then a pleasant hike back along the river or following the road back to the campsite.
READ MORE: NAUTAGIL HIKE
STAGE 3 – F894 to Askja
After the madness of the F910, the F894 is a simple drive. It is narrow and winds through a jumble of lava. This road is a dead end and only goes to the car park at the start of the footpath to Askja Víti and the Askja crater.
Despite being a short 8km, it was busy and we met larger buses and camper vans that made things interesting especially with large cairns of lava right on the side of the road.
Askja Caldera and ASKJA VíTi Hike
From the parking area at the end of the F894 there is a clearly marked path across the caldera to the edge of the lake and the smaller Askja Víti crater. The 5km hike takes about 2 hours and is quite exposed.
Swimming is possible in the blast crater of Askja Víti, just check at Dreki or with the rangers in the parking area before taking a dip. The path down to the lake can be quite slippery and follows the river bed.
READ MORE: HIKING TO ASKJA VÍTI
STAGE 4 – THE ROUTE OUT FROM DREKI TO MÖÐRUDALUR on the F905
The route back from Dreki follows the F910 until you meet the junction where the F905 joins. Instead of turning right here are returning to the 907 you follow the F905 towards Möðrudalur. Gradually the ash tracks turn to gravel and then to more substantial gravel. There are a couple of river crossings but these are really shallow, but as before check before crossing.
After about 21km you will see the junction with road 901 and the signs marking the start of the route. Turn left towards Möðrudalur.
From Möðrudalur it is a few kilometres back onto the ring road and then 155km to Akeyuri or 110km back to Egilsstaðir on the ring road. As an alternative Vopnafjörður is 60km away along road 85 and is at the start of the Arctic Coast Way.
Möðrudalur is a small farm and is the highest in Iceland at 469metres above sea level. It’s remote and elevated position has seen it record the lowest temperature ever documented in Iceland, -38degrees celcius in January 1918. Even in the summer months it is cold and exposed with snow being seen year round.
The views from here are amazing, stretching out towards Askja and across the flat wilderness of ash towards a string of volcanoes in the distance.
The farm is recorded in the Sagas and has been in use through the centuries. When Ring Road 1 was moved in 2001, the village became even more isolated but its place in history and the family who has farmed it since the 1870’s have transformed it into a small place worth stopping.
There is a small restaurant – Fjallakaffi that has traditional Icelandic food including the most amazing lamb reared by the farm and char caught locally. They also sell handmade craft items including jumpers and has some of the nicest items we saw in Iceland.
Close to the restaurant are some traditional turf houses and the small church, Möðrudalskirkja, built in 1949.
If you want to stay here before or after driving to Dreki then there is a small hotel and campsite located in the Fjallakaffi grounds.
Staying at Dreki Mountain Hut
Whilst it is possible to drive in to Dreki and Askja, explore and drive out in one day it is a very long day. It is much better to stay at Dreki and make the journey part of the adventure. Taking off the time restraints means that you can stop for photographs, swim in Askja Víti or walk to Nautagil without the clock in the background.
The huts at Drekagil are basic but warm and comfortable and the facilities are more than enough for a night. The rangers are really friendly and helpful as well which makes it feel like home. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag but the kitchen has more than enough pots, pans and crockery to make it easy. The huts are open for a very short season and do get busy so it is worth booking in advance to ensure they have space before you start the drive.
The campsite is also good if a little rocky and the facilities are all shared with the huts so there is no benefit to staying in the hut other than a solid base if the weather is less than good.
This is an adventure and the photo opportunities are numerous. There are so many different landscapes that it is difficult to decide what is worth photographing.
The contrast is quite intense and with the very black lava in places it can make your camera quite confused. It is worth taking time to alter your settings and see what works the best.
There are no viewpoints or passing places on this road, but it is empty enough to stop and get photographs when you feel the need. But you must remember that you should stay on the road at all times. The landscape is fragile and any tyre tracks or footprints across the lava fields will remain and could harm the ecosystem as well as being illegal.
Insurance and Safety
For all of these roads you need to remember your own safety and be self sufficient.
There will be times when it could be a few hours before a vehicles passes you if you do have problems with a river crossing or a break down. You should not attempt them if you have never driven off road before and river crossings need careful planning. Even if you watch others cross in front of you it is worth planning your own route, watching the flow and if you are not sure not making an attempt. Even if you have made the crossing a few hours earlier you should stop to assess the conditions as they can change quickly.
You must start the drive with a full tank of fuel and make sure the car is in good condition as there is no refuelling or repairs once you leave Ring Road 1.
The other major consideration is your hire car insurance. They do not cover you for river crossings. If you get stuck or damage the car then you will have to sort yourself out. This is non negotiable!
If any of this is a concern then it may be worth considering a tour of the area with a driver rather than self driving.
Tours to Askja Víti
The drive to Askja and Dreki is tough going and even with off road experience it was a hard journey. We were not able to explore the F88 and so a tour may have given us more experience of more remote areas. There are a number of day tours that leave from the Lake Mývatn area.
Askja Caldera and Víti crater From Lake Mývatn
This is a long day out visiting the caldera and Askja Víti giving you time to have a dip in the warm waters of the crater. The tour leaves Lake Mývatn early in the morning and passes Herðubreið on the way to Askja in a 4WD vehicle.
Askja from Akureyri with Goðafoss Waterfall
If the first tour leaves you wanting more, then this slightly longer tour from Akureyri, the capital of the north allows you to experience more of the desolate landscape towards Askja. As well as Askja and Askja Víti this tour visits Herðubreiðalindir Oasis, a nature reserve in the middle of the Ódáðahraun lava field, Nautagil and Goðafoss Waterfall. A long but worthwhile adventure.
Askja and Holuhraun Lava Field
This tour is another from Lake Mývatn but takes a slightly different route and uses a super jeep. The tour starts by visiting Herðubreiðarlindir oasis, before continuing on to the freshwater spring, Grafarlönd, and the volcanic crater, Hrossaborg. The tour also visits the ruins of a hut that once belonged to the infamous outlaw, Fjalla-Eyvindur before taking you to Askja and Askja Víti. The return journey passes Dreki and Holuhraun lava field. a massive day of off-road adventure.