#almannagja

Some of the most popular attractions in Iceland are sometimes described as overcrowded. This is true during the high season in summer and often during the peak hours on a busy day in other seasons.

Some of the most popular attractions in Iceland are sometimes described as overcrowded.

Visitors who have traveled to Iceland sometimes send us photos, articles from their tour and videos to share. This is much appreciated and wonderful since we love hearing from people who travel our country and are prepared to share their experience. Almost all of the messages that we get are very positive and even up to a point where it is almost unbelievable. Sometimes when we are on the road, we ask people visiting Iceland about their experience.

Sjoerd van der Verff traveled to Iceland last summer from June 11th to June 24th in 2016

The waterfall Öxaráfoss (The waterfall in the Ax River)  in the ravine Almannagjá at Þingvellir is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland, at least among Icelanders. Like everything related to Þingvellir and Almnnagjá the waterfall has a sentimental reference and historical value. It is an important place in our most precious and sacred place Þingvellir. It is positioned inside Almannagjá in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The waterfall is rather small, only about 20 meters high, but is an important part of the overall natural wonders in the Þingvellir National Park. Depending on the season, the waterfall may differ in volume as the source, the river Öxará or Ax river, is quite different from one season to the next.

Not entirely the work of mother nature

Interestingly the waterfall Öxarárfoss is actually a human-made waterfall. As strange as this may sound geologists and historians have discovered that the river Öxará was moved hundreds of years ago, to channel the water into the ravine Almannagjá in the ninth century. The purpose was to provide water for the members and visitors of the Icelandic parliament Althingi in the 9th century. This was documented in the saga Sturlunga written in the 12th and the 13th century.   The name, according to folklore, came from an Ax that killed a notorious and a very unstable female troll famous for killing and terrorizing visitors, inhabitants and travelers in the Hengill area not far from Þingvellir.  Long after the blade was put into her back, between her shoulder blades, it surfaced near the place where Öxarárfoss is now.  According to another folklore, the river changes to wine on new year's eve. If true you should be able to sit by Öxarárfoss and drink good wine from the waterfall until midnight when the river changes back to wine. Not something we recommend as king winter has all the power at Öxarárfoss and Þingvellir at that time. He might be drinking from the waterfall and probably quite drunk. 

Access is relatively simple but requires a short walk

When driving from Reykjavík, you take the Ring Road Nr. 1 through Mosfellsbær and take a turn west on Þingvallavegur Nr. 36. When you reach a sign that says Öxarárfoss near the entrance to Þingvellir National park you park the car.  You can also go to the Service Center for Almannagjá and walk through the riff to Öxarárfoss. 

 

Interestingly the waterfall Öxarárfoss is actually a human-made waterfall

Few places have a higher place in the hearts and minds of Icelanders than Almannagjá at Þingvellir in the South Region in Iceland.  It is a place everyone should visit when traveling in Iceland.  It is not only a geological wonder and place of historical importance but also a sacred place. It is the place where our first settlers choose for their national assembly eleven hundred years ago to make law and settle disputes. It is the place where a final decision was taken to revert to Christianity and abolish paganism.  It is the place where Icelanders celebrate their sovereignty and independence.  It is probably one of the most important parts of Iceland. 

Geologically a part of the North Atlantic Rift System

Geologically Almannagjá is a part of the North Atlantic rift system that stretches to the south pole in the Atlantic ocean. The length of the Almannagjá gorge is eight kilometers and one of the interesting places where you can see tectonic plates drift apart. But you would, unfortunately, have to stay there for a few hundred years to see the movement.  The cliffs that tower over the walking path tell a long, complex and fascinating geological story.

A beautiful place with a dark history

Almannagjá also has a darker history.  In the 16th and 17th century, the beautiful calm, deep place by the bridge over the river Öxará was part of the Icelandic judicial system. Here women who were mainly convicted of adultery were drowned, and the deep pool carries the name Drowning Deep Pool, Drekkingarhylur.  Men were hanged, and women drowned by putting them in a sack and holding them under the water with a stick until they stopped moving.  So when you walk past that part, you should bow your head in respect to honor their memory as most of them were not criminals but innocent victims of rape,  incest, violence and ignorance.  Fortunately, only eighteen women were drowned here, which is eighteen too many.
 

Few places have a higher place in the hearts and minds of Icelanders than Almannagjá at Þingvellir