Sprengisandur is located on the mainland that stretches from Hofsjökull glacier, in the center of the island, and Vatnajökull glacier, Europe's largest glacier, located in the east of the island. This is a fascinating area of hilly wasteland, sand and lava fields.
In the Middle Ages, when Iceland was an independent country, this region was one of the three crossings between the north and the south in addition to Kjölur and Kaldidalor . These roads were used by Icelanders to reach the annual Council gathering, held in Þingvellir. Sprengisandur Way began in Northeast Iceland, near Vopnafjörður and towards the southern tip joined an inland road leading from Landmannalaugar to Þingvellir.
The route is 200 km long that runs through a desolate area without any towns or settlements. The road is only open in the summer, during winter the road is blocked with snow. The wasteland was called "Sandur" which means "Sands" and "Sprengja" which means "to ride a horse to its limits". Several sagas depict that the many miles in the wilderness with very few sources of food and drink for horses, no town or chance of a place of shelter made it a road with very little room for error.
Therefore, this route was not a particularly favorite choice for riders or even people who live close to the northern edge of Sprengisandur, the region of Vopnafjörður or Lake Ljósavatn. Many favored a longer road, passing along the populated coast and many Icelanders believed then that the road is haunted and a place where elves and trolls dwell, which only added more doubt in the minds of those considering to cross.
The Hrafnkel saga tells of a local leader from the eastern fjords in the 10th century, by the name of Hrafnkel, who quarreled with his neighbors. He intended to raise arguments against his neighbors in the Þingvellir Council meeting. Even though Sprengisandur was in close proximity to his home, he chose to ride the longer way, via the populated coast. But his neighbors-enemies, who wanted to raise support on their side, preferred to arrive as soon as possible, and chose the deserted and difficult road.
After Iceland lost its independence in 1265, the deserted road and was no longer in use and was used again only in the 19th century. Currently a dirt road runs east of the historic road. Route F26, can be used by 4x4 vehicles only and during the summer. Sprengisandur Way involves crossing rivers that are at high tide during warm days, due to the melting of glaciers, and on rainy days. Before attempting to use this route, you must clarify the weather conditions beforehand. Along the way, there are a limited number of chalet accommodations.
Adventure enthusiasts favor Sprengisandur Way and on clear days, you can see images from the two glaciers, Askja Volcano and Mount Herðubreið.
Hrauneyjar - The southern region of the icy Tungnaá River. A hydroelectric power station was built there and construction ended in 1981. The power plant supplies electricity in the capacity of 210 MW. The northeastern part of the region is rich in vegetation. There area has a hotel and restaurant that go by the same name.
Nyidalur Jokuldalur - Nyidalur means "New Valley", sometimes called Jokuldalur, which means "Valley of the Iceberg", is located at the foot of the southern valley of the small glacier Tungnafellsjökull. In the valley, there is a traveler's lodge that operates in the summer months by FI, and enables camping in sleeping bags and basic cooking facilities. The area offers several hiking trails, one of them through the mountain pass known as "beyond hope" where you can see a fascinating view of the Vatnajökull ice caps.
Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall - A waterfall on the river Skjálfandafljót, whose waters come from the melting snow on Vatnajökull, a beautiful waterfall where the water flows over basalt columns. The waterfall is located near the northern end of Route F26, about 4 km before connecting to the 842. An additional famous waterfall can be found along this route along Skjálfandafljót River, by the name Godfoss which means "Waterfall of the Gods".
The recommended way to travel along Sprengisandur Way is by 4X4. In the summer months of July and August, Reykjavik Express Company operates two lines that pass this way:
Bus 17 or 17a from Reykjavik to Lake Mývatn that crosses this route. The trip includes short stops for visits at key locations and the total trip takes about 11 hours.
You can take bus 14 or 14a from Landmannalaugar to Lake Mývatn that also stops at key locations and the total trip takes about 10 hours.