The protected area

Kerlingarfjöll was protected as a nature reserve in the summer of 2020. The aim of the protection is to preserve geological formations, landscape, wilderness and the appearance of the area. The protection guarantees that the reserve’s resources aren't exploited and that the utilization within it will not disturb geological formations, landscape or appearance. Another aim of the protection is to strengthen Kerlingarfjöll as an outdoor activity area and to promote good conduct and improved access to the area.

It is prohibited to disturb the landscape and geological formations within Kerlingarfjöll. Characteristics and distinctive features in the landscape of Kerlingarfjöll, as well as the area as a whole, must be protected. It is prohibited to impact the ecosystems around hot springs and other sources of hot water. It is also prohibited to disturb geological formations in the area. Furthermore, all construction in the area requires a permit from the Environment Agency of Iceland.

Energy production that falls under Act No. 48 from 2011 (see Framework Programme) is prohibited within the nature reserve. All energy production within the area must be sustainable and must not affect the energy reserves of the resources utilized; the transfer of energy produced within the nature reserve for use outside of it is also prohibited.

The Environment Agency of Iceland manages the nature reserve. Alongside the Environment Agency, a collaborative committee on the matters of Kerlingarfjöll is active and composed of representatives of the Agency, Hrunamennahreppur and Skeiða- og Gnjúpverjahreppur. The area expert has an office in Hella, and a ranger from the Environment Agency is in the mountains throughout the summer.

Nature Reserve Areas and Rules of Conduct

There are two defined areas with special rules within the Kerlingarfjöll nature reserve. Area 1 refers to the area in and around Ásgarður that is intended for development and infrastructure with regards to tourism. Three areas are defined as Area 2: the hot spring areas in Hverabotnar, the hot spring areas in Neðri-Hveradalir and the area around the stack formation Kerling. Area 2 includes areas that need special protection due to fragility, the singularity of the areas or for safety reasons. The general public is allowed in the nature reserve but must exhibit good and neat conduct and follow the rules that apply therein.

Visitors are allowed to camp by marked walking trails in the whole nature reserve, aside from special rules in Area 1 and 2, but must be at least 100 meters away from the walking trail. A group of five tents or more will need permission from the Environment Agency to camp. Horseback riders are only allowed to travel on marked riding trails, roads and paths, and grazing is prohibited outside designated rest stops. Bicycle traffic is allowed on roads or paths but not on walking trails. It is prohibited to leave garbage within the nature reserve.

In Area 1, camping is only allowed in designated campsites.

In Area 2, camping is prohibited, and pedestrians must follow marked walking trails at all times.