#highland

Although sometimes referred to as one canyon, Hafrahvammagljúfur, this large canyon is actually two canyons, Hafrahvammagljúfur and Dimmugljúfur canyon.  And even though the attraction is the spectacular natural wonder, the history of the canyon, both the geological history as well as its place in modern Icelandic history is also fascinating.  The impressive canyon stretches about seven to eight kilometers from the northern part of Vatajökull icecap towards the valley Jökuldalur (Glacier Valley). With its 200 meter high walls and only about hundred to hundred and fifty meters width they seem narrow and intimidating as everything is dark and steep. It is believed that the river Jökla dug the canyon over millions of years through the palagonite layer and formed the canyon with some help from other natural forces. The river was the second most powerful river in Iceland for thousands if not millions of years. And you have to be impressed when you stand in front of a natural wonder of this magnitude and scale that is was made with flowing water.

Just recently man stepped in with his engineering know-how

Icelanders have been quite smart in building hydroelectric power plants and utilizing their many rivers to produce electricity for almost a century.  For a long time, many viewed the rivers as a key to progress through the power plants rather than a natural wonder to view and enjoy. Unavoidably many Icelanders looked to the mighty river Jöklu as a logical and natural selection for a power plant. It wasn't until the eighties and nineties that this option became real and the power plant Kárahnúkavirkjun took a step from the drawing board into reality. The decision was hand in hand with the huge aluminum smelter you see right outside of the small fishing village Reyðarfjörður.  The aluminum smelter was the customer who purchased the electricity.  It was a massive project that changed the path of the river as well as the view of the canyons not to mention the size of the mighty glacial river that became a rather small spring fed river.  A dam was built across the canyon to collect water in a humongous reservoir and simultaneously sinking beautiful waterfalls, part of the canyon and other unrecoverable natural wonders.  It goes without saying that the project initiated a landslide of disputes between those who wanted to switch the natural wonders for the dam, the aluminum smelter and sacrifice the natural wonders on the one hand and conservationists on the other hand.

There are pros and cons, but most people might stop and wonder

Although Hafrahvammagljúfur and Dimmugljúfur are two canyons and part of the spectacular nature in Iceland, the whole project provokes serious questions. Approaching the canyon on an asphalt road deep in the highland is a bit odd for anyone who loves Icelandic nature. Only a few years ago this was a profoundly remote place, and you could not travel from the east site of the mighty river Jökla to the west side, both because of the canyon and the river.  Today you drive over both on a dam on a concrete road. For many residents in the declining small fishing villages in the eastern region, on the other hand, it was a welcomed boost for the economy of the area, and a worthy sacrifice for people to have the option of continuing to live where they most preferred.

Access is quite simple today

Access to Hafrahvammagljúfur is quite simple.  From the town of Egilsstaðir in the East Region, you drive south on Road 1, the Ring Road.  About seven kilometers south you take a turn to the east to Road 931 all the way over the bridge and take a turn to the south again on Road 933. You drive a short distance on 933 and turn to Raod 910 and drive all the way to Hálslón, the new reservoir by Kárahnúkar.

Although Hafrahvammagljúfur and Dimmugljúfur are two canyons and part of the spectacular nature in Iceland

Camping and hiking in Iceland are among the great options for people planning a vacation, a trip, a drive along the coastline or a road trip to Iceland.

Camping and hiking in Iceland

Located northeast of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull by the Highland track Syðri Fjallabak, Brytalækir or “The Pursers Brook” is a beautiful spring fed stream.  The source of the water is near the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the lava partly beneath the sand.  The stream runs through a beautiful green landscape filled with vegetation and flora during summer. It is an unusually lively and luxuriance place for this attitude, almost like a small oasis.  A significant portion of the stream spreads out and gives the illusion that you are standing by a small lake or a pound. The surrounding area on the north bank is filled with small hillocks or knolls that give the place a bit of a mysterious atmosphere. It is one of the gems in the Icelandic landscape that few visit and is also a peaceful place to enjoy.

The name has a peculiar origin like many places at Fjallabak Syðri

A few centuries ago a Purser named Ólafur was working at the famous episcopal see Skálholt. At the same time, a female housekeeper with witchcraft knowledge was also working for the bishop. She was full of anger and had limited tolerance for disagreement.  At one point Ólafur apparently offended the woman who immediately cast a spell over him with her magic. As the magic took over his mind, he ran out of the house as fast as he could eastward to a small mountain called Lyklafell, or Key Mountain, where he left his keys to Skálholt. Then he ran through a mountain pass that since has had his name Ólafsskarð. Not being able to stop running because of the spell he continued to run all the way to this creek, Brytalækir, where he was found dead by the stream.  And when found the stream was named Brytalækir to honor his fate and run.

Part of the 4X4 mountain road and small dirt road Fjallabaksleið Syðri

For those who like to travel to Brytalækir, it is a place that unquestionably requires a good solid jeep or a large 4WD vehicle. It is not even a road that people should try to drive in any other kind of vehicle.  But for those who like to take on a well prepared adventuresome 4X4 jeep tour on challenging roads and crossing rivers, the Fjallabaksleið Syðri is the most exciting option in Iceland. 

Located northeast of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull by the Highland track Syðri Fjallabak, Brytalækir or “The Pursers Brook” is a beautiful spring fed stream.

The Icelandic highland is a vast area in Iceland and a large portion of the island. It is the inland area mostly above the altitude of 500 meters. There are many interesting places in the Highland, natural wonders, hiking trails, and roads. The whole area, without exception, is highly sensitive and requires caution from everyone traveling in the Highland.

Kjalvegur - Kjolur - Highland road

Some lakes in Iceland are placed by the edge of a glacier. Probably around five or six.  All of those lakes get their source of water from the melting glaciers and glacier tongues, and in many cases, also from spring-fed water flowing from mountains hidden under the ice cap. In some cases, the lake is full of icebergs falling from the glacier tongue, like the famous Icelandic tourist attractions Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón. Hvítárvatn (White River Lake)  is one such lake in the Highland near the highland road Kjalvegur or Kjölur by the glacier Langjökull and the glacier tongue Norðurjökull. In addition to the sources mentions above the lake has other sources from rivers and creeks in the surrounding area.  Icebergs are seldom seen on this lake or lagoon. As the primary source is glacial rivers, the lake always looks a bit milky which probably contributed to the name.  The size is approximately 30 square kilometers, and the average depth is about 30 meters and the deepest part around 90 meters. Hvítárvatn lake is placed at an altitude of 420 meters. The lake is the main source for one of Iceland's largest rivers, the river Hvítá (White River).  Just south of the lake in the river Hvítá is Iceland's most spectacular waterfall Gullfoss.

The haunted hut and the young female ghost

On of many huts in the highland is the mountain hut at Hvítárnes, Sæluhúsið í Hvítárnesi, near the lake, famous for being one of the most haunted places in Iceland. The hut was built in the forties in the last century.  According to many stories and complaints, stories from the forties up until last year a young female is often seen in the hut.  Many guests, particularly male guests, complain about disturbances from a young female ghost while in the state between awake and sleep.  Many visitors have also claimed to have seen her in one of the windows from outside when arriving late at night, and then learning that the house was empty. A particular bed in the hut is believed to be particularly unsafe and almost impossible to sleep in. And on many occasions, guests have been kicked out of the bed during the night, by “no one”! It is a mysterious place and a challenge for adventurers who have the courage to "sleep in her bed." 

Access to Hvítárvatn is not for small cars

Hvítárvatn lake is located in the Highland on the Kjölur highland road Kjalvegur nr. 35. If you drive from Reykjavík or the southern part of the Ring Road by the south shore to Gullfoss, you are basically on the road to Hvítarvatn when you pass Gullfoss. The road is quite rough, and we recommend a good 4X4 vehicle.   
 

Some lakes in Iceland are placed by the edge of a glacier. Probably around five or six

Stakkholtsgjá or Stakkholts Canyon is a beautiful natural wonder, a canyon in Þórsmörk in the Icelandic Highland. From the entrance of the canyon, it is surrounded by high and straight one hundred meters high palagonite cliffs.  Hiking the two kilometers to the end of the canyon is one of the most rewarding short hiking trails in Iceland.  Inside the canyon is a small creek that runs on a bed of pebbles, enhancing the landscape within the canyon. The track is not smooth and crossing the river, that can at times be quite high in volume, takes caution. But on the other hand, it is not a particularly tough hike. The palagonite cliffs have many forms, suspicious caves, shelves with vegetation and deep and narrow ravines, to name a few.  Once inside the canyon you will experience a remarkable peace that embraces your thoughts and you simply can't avoid thinking of creatures from other dimensions. It is an exotic place as the canyon narrows, and you approach the bottom, turning into a very high cave open at the top, at the end of your track. In the cave, the water falls like a dreamlike shower with both light and drizzle falling on your face as you look up.  It is one of those phenomenon in the landscape, in nature, where your mood and feelings change while walking, viewing and experiencing.  

Stakkholtsgjá is a perfect place to take kids

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a natural wonder that plays with your mind and imagination.  It is not merely a beautiful place but a place that starts all kind of ideas in your head, even at the entrance.  You can't help thinking if this is one of those places where elves live and as you get deeper into the canyon if there might be creatures living there up in the cliffs, less attractive.  A picture of a troll climbing into one of those caves might pop up in your mind.  This is one reason why Stakkholtsgjá is an excellent place to take kids, especially energetic kids with lively imagination.  It is one of those places Icelanders have loved and visited for many decades and just perfect for families to hike. 

Access to Stakkholtsgjá is a bit difficult and requires a full-size 4WD vehicle

Access to Stakholtsgjá is not simple.  It requires a 4X4 vehicle of the larger kind.  From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in the south you turn north on Road Nr. 249, the same turn you take to see Seljalandsfoss and the road that takes you to Þórsmörk. When you continue on Road Nr. 249 you quickly enter the mountain road F249 that is both rough and requires river crossing. Done correctly and with caution, it is a major adventure to visit Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk.  

The palagonite cliffs in Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk have many forms

There are not many places on the planet where you can put boiling clay surrounded wit hot steam from the ground and a melting snowdrift into the same motive. A place where heat meets cold. There aren't many places where you can see and view such rare natural wonders, at least not side by side. Especially during summer.

Hveradalir in the Icelandic highland

As one of Iceland's most remarkable place to visit and a natural wonder, Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience plus hiking trails.  A place where you can find peace and quiet and your own little sanctuary by a small creek or under a hunted cliff.  It is an ideal place to take a bus from Reykjavík the capital equipped with hiking shoes, a tent, and supplies for a few days stay.

Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience

There are many natural wonders worth seeing in Iceland.  Among the best known are waterfalls, hot springs, lagoons, basalt columns, geothermal pools, craters, and cliffs to name a few.  Although not many mountains are on the list of natural wonders there are a few clusters of mountains that are very interesting.  Most of the mountains are quite colorful as they are rhyolite mountains.  One of the reasons that the Laugavegur hiking trail is so popular is the fact that on a large part of the trail, you walk through some very colorful rhyolite mountains.  Actually, the starting point in Landmannalaugar is exceptionally colorful as well as most part of the first day. 

The result of an interplay of hot springs and rhyolite

Ljósártungur is a name for a rather large area east of the hiking trail Laugavegur near Hrafntinnusker.  Although Ljósártungur mountains seem tempting the area is quite difficult to walk as it has many ravines, gullies, and ridges.  It also has many hot springs and here you can even find some ice caves.  The whole area is extremely colorful and in some respect, almost unreal. The mountains are at an altitude of 800 to 1000 meters and like most places in the Icelandic highland covered with snow during winter.  In summer it usually doesn't get warm enough to melt all the snow from winter, so the small snowdrifts from the winter do no melt adding the white color to the magnificent rhyolite color, the smoke from the hot springs, the mountain vegetation and the blue color of the sky.  Almost a perfect recipe for a great photo.

A difficult place to visit, part of the Syðri Fjallabak highland road

Ljósártungur mountains is a fascinating but difficult place to visit. Like almost all parts of the Icelandic highland, the area is only accessible in July until the middle of September.  Driving the mountain road Syrðri Fjallabak you will drive on a ridge that gives a great view of the Ljósártungur rhyolite mountains.

Ljósártungur is a name for a rather large area east of the hiking trail Laugavegur near Hrafntinnusker.

In many corners in every part of Iceland, there is a place connected to folklore.  Even in places that are very popular tourist attractions. Stories of trolls, elves, ghosts, mysterious creatures, demons, and zombies.  Stories of communication between humans and all kinds of beings, creatures and entities from another dimension or another world.

In many corners in every part of Iceland, there is a place connected to folklore.

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