There are probably few cities in the world that have a river running through its districts.  Let alone a river where people can go fishing and catch a salmon.  But in Reykjavík the capital of Iceland you will find a river running through a beautiful valley Elliðarárdalur. The river has its origin in the two square kilometer lake Elliðavatn.  The lake is quite shallow as most of it is only 1 meter in depth. The valley is a great place to take two to three hours to hike.

Kermóaafoss, the largest and most exciting waterfall in Elliðaárdalur

In many warmer places and countries, it is quite popular to take a nice swim in a lake. This, however, is rare in Iceland. One main reason is the temperature of the lake and another the climate in Iceland. Also, most of the lakes are quite shallow. But that does not prevent some of our visitors from trying. Try to find a lake to bath in or swim in, but more often than not, the result is rather embarrassing. These two french dudes tried to find a way to swim in one of the many lakes in Iceland and here is the result.

French dudes in Iceland

Although nothing but, this beautiful maar or volcanic crater bears the name ugly as a name.  Ljótipollur translated means ugly puddle or ugly pound.  But most craters that have lakes within them are exceptionally scenic and photogenic.  Ljótipollur is no exception with its read and vegetated slopes and visible lava layers at the brim.  Maars are usually quite deep as the water originates in ground water below and do not have any creeks into or out of the lake, only underground.  Most often craters with small lakes have this beautiful turquoise blue lake which gives the crater an enhance value for photographers.   All such craters are great attractions for photographers.

Ljótipollur crater is quite accessible

Like its neighbor Hnausapollur, the meer Ljótipollur is part of the Veiðivötn volcanic fissure system.  It is easily accessible from the mountain road Fjallabak Nyrðri F208 only a few kilometers from Landmannalaugar. And like all natural wonders in the highland of Iceland, only accessible during summer.  If you are going to visit Landmannalaugar, you might want to take the hike from the camping area to Ljótipollur and enjoy the magnificent lava and rhyolite mountains along the way in a peaceful manner. The crater is around 1.5 kilometers long, and the brims are quite high.  The form makes it a bit difficult to capture in one shot son prepare yourself with a 12 to 15 mm lens on the camera.

The view from Ljótipollur is also spectacular

One advantage of driving up the short distance from F208 to the brim of Ljótipollur is the view.  Although the elevation from the road is less than 100 meters, the view to the east and south is spectacular.  All this adds to the photo opportunity, as the view is also a great background to the many colors by Ljótipollur.  Red lava rocks, layers of lava, green vegetation and turquoise blue water on the lake. 

Below is the location of Ljótipollur on the map of Iceland

Ljótipollur is no exception with its read and vegetated slopes and visible lava layers at the brim.

Many places in the Icelandic Highland are rarely visited due to their isolation and difficulties to visit in a vehicle.  It that sense they are challenging and mostly visited by hikers. This, on the other hand, does not apply to Álftavatn lake, or Swan Lake, located by the popular hiking track Laugavegur and also one of the most exciting 4X4 Highland roads Syrðri Fjallabak. By the lake, there is a popular mountain cabin and a camping site.  Many hikers on the Laugavegur track choose to stay there overnight.  The lake is placed in a beautiful peaceful landscape, surrounded by mountains that are characteristic for the southern part of the Highland. During the summer months, the place is quite busy.

The southern part of the Icelandic highland

Like many places in Iceland, lakes, caves, stacks by the shore, hills, cliffs and other places in the landscape, Álftavatn lake has a folklore story. Early in the eighteenth century, a farmer traveled with his thirteen-year-old daughter to Álftavatn lake to hunt Swans. As he took his horse from the shore into the lake he fell off the horse and drowned.  The daughter traveled back home, a day's journey, and gathered some men and help. Despite a thorough search, the farmer was not found. The next night her mother had a dream where her husband asked the search team to come back a fetch his body under a certain cliff by the lake. The next day the search team went back and found the body of the farmer under the cliff. Although a folklore, it is a true story. A lot of people in Iceland believe that a message from the deceased can be sent through dreams. Well here is your prove, by Álftavatn lake in the Icelandic Highland.

Access is not simple

Driving to Álftavatn is quite challenging and requires a good modified 4X4 vehicle. The Highland track Syðri Fjallabak is the most difficult highland road open to travelers in Iceland.  And it is only open from the beginning of July until late September. But at the same time the most fascinating with such variety of places that we label it as one of our most favorite roads.   


Álftavatn lake
Bárðarlaug is a small lake near the road 574, the ring road that goes around the glacier Snæfellsjökull. When you take the turn to Hellnar, the lake is on your right and a parking spot ten minutes walk from the lake.  The part of the name "laug" in this context means bath.  So the name is really the bath of Bárður Snæfellsás, referring to the mystical person that has hovered over the area around Snæfellsjokull as well as the glacier for centuries. 

A bath for Bárður approximately eleven hundred years ago

Supposedly the lake was his bath when he was among mortals, the son of a human mother and a half-troll, and as everyone knows his spirit is still around as the protector of the glacier and the neighboring area. Many of the names of the nearby landscape have the name bath attached which indicates that when Iceland was settled the lake was warm and used for bathing by others, and not only by Bárður. 

A peaceful crater with a stunning view

In geological terms, the lake is an old spatter cone that has slept silently for ages, finding it more convenient to house water rather than erupting fire. It is renowned for the elliptical form. It is an amazingly peaceful place to visit when you walk the short slope down to the water. If Bárður and the glacier are in a good mood and the beautiful white glacier reveals itself with the blue sky behind, the moment becomes magical, and you might feel the extraordinary power from the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Bárðarlaug was a protected are by law in 1980 and is today an important part of the Snæfellsjökull National Park. 

Below is the location of Bárðarlaug on the map of Iceland

Bárðarlaug is renowned for ist elliptical form. It is an amazingly peaceful place to visit when you walk the short slope down to the water.

Laugarvatn means a "lake for bathing." The lake itself in southwest Iceland is only two square km in size and quite shallow. But, the lake bottom is riddled with hot springs making it suitable for bathing throughout the year. Curiously enough these qualities didn't attract people to settle in the area. For centuries, only farmland and moors surrounded the lake, until 1928 when a boarding school was built at Laugarvatn. Soon a small village developed. Realizing the lake's potential the newcomers built a small sauna-hut on the lakeshore. It became increasingly popular amongst the Icelanders and Laugarvatn developed into the number one summer holiday destination on the island. So much so, that a permanent caravan site developed on the outskirts of the village.

Further schools were built in Laugarvatn: A college of further education and a school for homemakers. The latter was shut down late last century and its buildings sold to the University of Iceland. It now houses the Sport and Health Science faculty.

Laugarvatn is a great place to take a break and relax when traveling around Iceland. It has an excellent swimming pool with a very good sauna. You will find hotels and guesthouses, restaurants and a grocery shop, cafés, and handicraft shops, as well as a great camping site.

Laugarvatn means a "lake for bathing."


Mjóifjörður (The Narrow Fjord), is 18 km long and quite remote, even according to Icelandic standards. It is only possible to get there by car along a (not so good) gravel road during the summer; during winter, you can only get there by boat. Still, this isolated – and narrow – fjord clamped between high precipitous mountains between Norðfjörður and Seyðisfjörði is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, both Icelandic and foreign. And, it has a lot to offer.

Smjörvogur once served as a prison for Iceland

During the ages, there has been quite a lot going on in Mjóifjörður. The small inlet of Smjörvogur once served as a prison. With no way in and now way out without help it probably had an Alcatraz-ish feel about it. And what do you know, didn't this remote, isolated, narrow fjord once pride itself in having the largest whaling station in the world. It was built around 1900 at Aske by the Norwegians who hired 200 workers for the operation. Today there are only 40 inhabitants in Mjóifjörður, most of them living in Brekkuþorp, which claims to be the smallest village in Iceland.

A quite and beautiful place, ideal for relaxation

If truth be told, Mjóifjörður is an exceptionally beautiful and tranquil area. It has the impressive Prestagil (The Priest's Ravine) and the Hofsárgljúfur Canyon with delightful rivers and waterfalls. You will find spectacular cliffs – and due to the fjord's still weather it has lush hills and exceptionally rich flora lining its shores.

Below is the location of Mjóifjörður on the map of Iceland

Mjóifjörður (The Narrow Fjord), is 18 km long and quite remote, even according to Icelandic standards.

In addition to elves, little people, trolls, ghosts and other unworldly creatures, Icelanders, of course, have a sea-monsters. Just like its neighboring Scotland has the Loch Ness monster, Iceland has the tongue-twisting Lagarfljótsormurinn. It has always been there, in Lake Lögurinn, or Lagarfljót. Even the Vikings were terrified. The monster has been a source of endless tales, verses, and rhymes across the centuries and was last sighted by a local farmer in 2012.

Located in the beautiful Fljótsdalshérað

The lake is located in Fljótsdalshérð with both Egilsstaðir town and the Hallmormsstaðaskógur forest on its banks. Its surface measures 53 square km, and it is 25 km long. The lake has a curiously brown color as the glacial river; Lagarfljót runs through it all the way from the majestic Vatnajökull ice cap in the south. If you drive over the mountain, pass Fjarðarheiði to Seyðisfjörður you can get an excellent view of the large lake. If you want to spent time on trying to spot the sea-monster a location by the bank of the lake is recommended.

Changes after the Kárahnúkar dam was built

The lake used to be good for laying nets for fishing, but angling has never been possible there. The reason is, of course, the limited visibility in the gray glacial waters. Then in the last quarter of the 20th century, the fish disappeared altogether after the Kárahnjúkar dam was built changing the river's ecology forever.  But, not all inhabitants of the animal kingdom were deterred. Further downriver, by the estuary, you will find seal breeding grounds and a short distance away you might even be able to spot whales frolicking in the sea. 

The lake is located in Fljótsdalshérð with both Egilsstaðir town and the Hallmormsstaðaskógur forest on its banks.


One of the visitors to Iceland during the settlement era, over 1100 years ago, claimed the island to be covered in lush forest. His claim has always been mind-boggling to the Icelanders who can't help but wonder what happened to their trees. Some say the wind swept them away. Others claim the "bloody" sheep gnawed them away with the farmers turning their livestock into game roaming heaths and moors and mountains all summer long.

After our trees had disappeared a new plan was implemented

Whatever the reason, at the turn of the 19th century, trees were practically extinct in Iceland. So, a plan was launched. Forestation became the new rave. Trees were planted in crucial locations. One of them was Hallormsstaður.  It all started in 1899 when the Parliament passed a law aimed at protecting what little was left of forest in the area. The locals were instructed to shape up and plant trees. Today Hallormsstaðaskógur forest covers 760 hectares and is the largest forest in Iceland.

A great location for a forest

Hallormsstaðaskógur is perfectly located a little south of the town of Egilsstaðir. The climate in the area is quite fortunate. It is breezy rather than windy. Summers are usually warmer and sunnier than for the rest of the island. During winter, the snow covers the entire flora, sheltering the roots from any frost-damage.  Hollormstaðaskógur is a wonderful place to visit with many interesting hiking trails and a great camping site.  Here you can also see many samples of trees that grow in Iceland.

Below is the location of Hallormstaðarskógur on the map of Iceland

Today Hallormsstaðaskógur forest covers 760 hectares and is the largest forest in Iceland.

The mountain Trölladyngja (Troll Mountain) is quite curious. This dwarf of a mountain (only 275 meters high) consists of palagonite like most mountains in the area. Trölladyngja and its surroundings is part of the Krísuvík Geothermal Area, but only recently so. Until 1975, there was no geothermal activity around the mountain, but a few years later things started to shift and change. Today Trölladyngja is geothermally very active. It is quite apparent in the colorful south side of the mountain and its surroundings.

Next to Trölladyngja is another mountain, Grænadyngja (Green Mountain) that is a bit higher (393 meters). The two mountains are commonly referred to as "The Sisters." Both mountains are geothermally very active, and also very popular amongst hikers. Both mountains are easy to mound, even for the inexperienced hiker. Indeed, one of the most popular and beautiful hiking routes in the Reykjanes Peninsula is the hike from Trölladyngja onto Grænadyngja, through the beautiful valley running between them.

"The Sisters" rise high above the lava field surrounding them, and are easily discernible from a long distance away, i.e. from the Capital area. Close by, you will find some of the most popular attractions in the Reykjanes Peninsula, such as the Blue Lagoon, the Bridge Between Two Continents, Reykjanesviti Lighthouse, Seltún and Gunnuhver.


Below is the location of Trölladyngja mountain on the map of Iceland

The mountain Trölladyngja and her sister Grænadyngja