The map Kjölur: Arnarvatnsheiði-Kerlingarfjöll, available at tourist offices and online at www.nordicstore.net, has good detail on hiking and driving routes.
Hvítárvatn and Hvítárnes
Around 45km (28 miles) northeast of Gullfoss, a turnoff from Route F35 leads 6km (4 miles) to Hvítárnes, a well-vegetated, marshy plain overlooking Hvítárvatn, a broad aquamarine lake with floating icebergs calved from Langjökull. The scenery is austere but captivating, and the Hvítárnes mountain hut, built in 1930, is a charming throwback with white gables and turf-insulated side walls. For engaging hikes around Hvítárvatn, ask at the hut or click the "Hiking Tracks" link at www.hveravellir.is.
This vast volcanic system near the southwest corner of Hofsjökull is one of the most glorious and underappreciated hiking areas in Iceland. The range of highland scenery is astounding, with peaks ranging in height from 800 to 1,477m (2,625-4,846 ft.); rhyolite mountainsides in spectral shadings of red, yellow, and green; shimmering glaciers; chiseled ravines; and steaming geothermal hotspots, some with swimmable ponds and springs. If Landmannalaugar is not on your itinerary, Kerlingarfjöll is a very worthy alternative, and spending two or 3 nights here is an ideal way to break up the Kjölur Route. The website www.kerlingarfjoll.is has downloadable maps of all the hiking trails.
Kerlingarfjöll is reached via Route F347, which branches off from Route F35 about halfway between Hvítárnes and Hveravellir. The accommodations at Ásgarður are about 10km (6 miles) down the road. If you're coming by bus, note that the SBA bus can drop you at the crossroads, but only the Trex bus goes right to Ásgarður.
About 93km (58 miles) from Gullfoss, Route F735 detours 2km (1 1/4 miles) from Route F35 to reach Hveravellir (Hot Spring Plains), an intriguing geothermal hot spot and Kjölur's main summer service center, with a gas station, restaurant, bar, small market, and sleeping-bag accommodation in mountain huts. Hveravellir's weather station is staffed year-round, providing one of Iceland's best jobs for loners. The geothermal field is worth a stop, especially to bathe in the waist-deep pool, or to see Öskurhólshver, a white-crusted conical fumarole hissing eggy steam. Stick to the boardwalks to protect both yourself and the land. Hveravellir is also a terminus for the Kjölurvegur trek.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.