#sydrifjallabak

 

One of the main reasons Icelanders started to travel into the highland, the backland or the interior of the island, was because of the annual gathering of sheep. For centuries sheep farmers in Iceland have sent their stock into the wilderness, the highland, to wander during summer, graze in the mountains and rest the farmland for harvesting late summer. Then in autumn, flocks of selected individuals from each area and farms travel to the Highland to find and gather the sheep.  Early on those trips to the Highland were a test of manhood and sought after by young men. The trips were often quite difficult as the weather in Iceland has always been quite unpredictable.  Also and up until the last century places to accommodate or finding shelter overnight were few and harsh.  Most of the places were caves or even holes in the ground.  But as things developed Icelanders started to build huts in the Highland for the people that stayed in the there for days gathering sheep and often walking distances to search for their sheep in the backland.

Hvanngil was originally a place for farmers gathering sheep

Hvanngil is a small valley in the highland and is a well-known place as it is part of the popular hiking trail Laugavegur.  It was originally one of the places where farmers built their hut to stay in the Highland when gathering sheep in autumn.  At that time the shed was built to accommodate a group of searchers upstairs and sheep downstairs. For those curious about such houses, the yellow hut is still in Hvanngil.  Later, around the seventies in the last century travel clubs started to build huts and houses only aimed at housing people traveling in the Highland for fun and enjoyment.  At Hvanngil one was built in the eighties and is one of the best huts in the Highland.  For those hiking Laugavegur Hvanngil is an attractive place to stay as well as those who want to take time to drive the difficult Highland road Syðri Fjallabak.  There are also exciting hiking trails around the hut. 

How to get to Hvanngil

Hvanngil is only accessible on a well-equipped 4X4 vehicle.  It is a place that is also only possible to visit from the middle of July until late September.  Even in September, you can expect snow.  So this is a place for serious hikers and travelers in Iceland that understand how to travel in the highland and know how to cross rivers.  It is part of the mountain road F210 which is one of the most challenging highland roads in Iceland. 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Hvanngil on the map of Iceland

Hvanngil is a small valley in the highland and is a well-known place as it is part of the popular hiking trail Laugavegur.

 

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.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Ljósártungur on the map of Iceland

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

Throughout the centuries Icelanders have been very efficient and almost pedantic in giving names to every small piece of item in the landscape throughout the whole country.  Wherever you go, everything from a high and mighty mountain to a low hill seems to have a name.  Every creek and every river have a name.  Every waterfall in our extensive variety of small and large falls has a name.  And believe me, we have hundreds of waterfalls.  Every cliff, lava field, every lake, every cave, every hot spring and basically every place in the country has a name. 

The river Kaldaklofskvísl (Cold crotch distributary) and Klámbrekka is between the hill in the background and the mountain Stóra Grænafjall.

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.   

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Álftavatn lake on the map of Iceland

Álftavatn lake