#westregion

 

Djúpalónssandur or Deeplagoonsand is a fascinating place for many reasons. The name is traced back to some of the first settlers in Iceland some twelve hundred years ago.  It was the landing place of Bárður Snæfellsás and his family and crew.  It is also a place where farmers and people at Snæfellsne Peninsula used as a fishing station for centuries.  And last but not least it is a beautiful place with stunning landforms.

The pebble beach, small lakes, and stunning lava formation

When you visit Djúpalónssandur take care as the path to the beach is short, narrow and harsh. But once at the beach, you pass an interesting lava rock with a hole in the middle. On the beach, you will also see many other interesting lava formations and rocks, some that are connected to local stories and folklore.  On the shore behind the lava on your right side when walking the path is a small pond, a beautiful sight.  Specifically, if you are at Djupalonssandur on a clear day with the glacier in the background.  The beach is also quite unique with its many pebbles of various sizes.  It is a great place to take children and give them time to play with the small stones by the beach.

Djúpalónssandur pond Svörtulón

The pond Svörtulón or Black Lagoon is an adventurous place

Take your time at Djúpalónssandur and Black Lagoon

This strange black sand cove on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is curiously close to the Icelandic heart. It is covered with black pearly pebbles, constantly being brought in by the ocean waves. Still, picking them – or nicking them – is strictly forbidden. It's not that they keep a pebble-police at Djúpalónssandur, the Icelanders just don't want their stones removed. Not a single one of them. In the old day, just like so many coves in this area, Djúpalónssandur used to be a fishing station similar to the nearby Dritvík.  And, being the temple of stones in Iceland, on this beach you will find four larger rocks, significant to the cove's history. Those are the four lifting stones where workers at the fishing stations would test the strength. The smallest one is Amlóði (Bungler) at 23 kilos, followed by Hálfdrættingur (Weak) at 54 kilos, then there is Hálfsterkur (Half-Strength) at 100 kilos a last, but not least, Fullsterkur (Full-Strength) at 154 kilos. Half Strength marked the frontier of wimpy and those who couldn't lift it was deemed unsuitable for life at sea. At the beach, you will also see rusted metal from the English trawler Eding, which was wrecked at the Djúpalón beach in 1948.

The lifting stones where workers at the fishing stations would test the strength

Access to Djúpalónssandur Cove

To reach Djúpalónssandur, you need to drive Útnesvegur road on Snæfellsnes Peninsula nr. 574.  You take a turn to the south when you reach the intersection nr. 572 Dritvíkkurvegur road.  There is a parking lot by Djúpalónssandur cove.

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Below is the location of Djúpalónssandur on the map of Iceland

This strange black sand cove on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is curiously close to the Icelandic heart. It is covered with black pearly pebbles, constantly being brought in by the ocean waves.

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is one of the most Saga invested parts of Iceland. Every part and every place have a reference to one of the major Sagas; the most prominent being Eyrbyggja or the Saga of the People of Eyri and Laxdæla. Sagas and stories that were written six to nine hundred years ago about the settlement and medieval times in Iceland.

The lava field Berserkjahraun

On this Peninsula, you will find the impressive and beautiful Berserkjahraun, or the Berserk Lava Field. The lava is located in the county of Helgafell, near to the Stykkishólmur town. Its sources are four prominent but differently sized scoria craters forming an east-west row from the Ogress Pass (Kerlingarskard).  They erupted at short intervals approximately 3600-4000 years ago. The lava flows created two lakes on their southern side and added to the serenity and beauty of the landscape.  Like many lava fields in Iceland, the lava is a joy to view but always tough to walk. 

Berserkjahraun is an ideal place for peaceful camping

This beautiful area is ideal for recreation, hiking, angling and mountain climbing.  When driving along a dirt road that you can see on the map below, the one that leads into, and around the lava field you'll find small areas of grass ideal for camping. You might even be able to spot a White Tailed Eagle nest in the rugged lava field.  A hike up to the nearby mountains will give you a spectacular view over the Breiðafjörður bay and all the thousands of islands. 

What does the name Berserkjahraun tell us?

And the name Berserkjahraun? It comes from the Eyrbyggja Saga where Vermundur, the farmer at Bjarnarhöfn brought two berserks from Norway in 982 - with unforeseen consequences.  You can read about their misfortune in our article about the Berserks at Berserkjahrun.  Two dudes that became victims of love.

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Below is the location of Berserkjahraun on the map of Iceland

The Berserk Lava Field

 

Eyrbyggja Saga tells us about two Swedish Berserks, Halli and Leiknir, who Vermundur the Slim, a farmer at Bjarnarhofn, brought to Iceland from Norway in 982. Vermundur meant to use them to stand up to his powerful brother Styr the Slayer. Of course, this wimp didn't have what it took to deal with the enormity of the Berserks' temper. Soon after arriving in Iceland he had to ask his brother to take them off his hands. Styr the Slayer reluctantly obliged but soon faced some problems. The Berserk's killing sprees and uncontrollable temper were the least of them. What happened was that Halli dared to fall in love with Styr's precious daughter and asked for her hand in marriage.

The contract

After seeking advice from some wise friends, Styr told the Berserks he would give Halli his blessings after they had finished a few tasks. They had to clear a bridle path through his rugged lava field, building a boundary fence across it, and a sheep pen. The Berserks completed their tasks in no time at all, but while they were slaving away, Styr prepared an underground sauna for them. The sauna was covered with sturdy rafts with a hole in the middle, for pouring water into the sauna to create hot steam. When the Berserks returned, Styr invited them to relax in the sauna. They accepted. No sooner had the Berserks entered the sauna than Styr had big boulders stacked on top of the sturdy rafts. Through the hole, he poured excessive quantities of boiling water. The sauna soon became unbearably hot, and the Berserks wanted out!

The killing of the Berserks

It took all their power to break the rafts and make away with the boulders. At that point, their strength was considerably diminished. Still, they were set on revenge. But, Styr had spread wet and slippery Bull hides on the ground around the sauna. The Berserks were totally incapacitated, and Styr managed to kill both of them.  Styr had the Berserks' bodies w removed to a basin in the lava field where they were cairned close to the bridle path. The cairn is still visible today.

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Below is the location of Berserkjahraun on the map of Iceland

Eyrbyggja Saga tells us about two Swedish Berserks, Halli and Leiknir,

 

Some mountains in Iceland are more impressive than others. It doesn't have to do with size or magnitude. It has more to do with its role and identity. Baula in Borgarfjörður is one of those mountains. Like Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula Baula is known to most Icelanders. At the mere mention of those two mountains, everyone can instantly visualize them, as well as their surroundings.  Like Keilir, Baula is cone-shaped and have forever served as landmarks for travellers. When you pass Baula, you are leaving the south part of Iceland and venturing on the dangerous Holtavörðuheiði moor where the weather can be portentous. The mountain marks the end of the secure world when travelling from the south – and means you have reached safety when travelling from the north.

Apart from being a landmark, the Baula Mountain is quite beautiful with its red and orange hues caused by its rhyolite rock composition. It is 934 meters high and was created approximately 3 million years ago. Geologically it is classified as an intrusion. In geological terms, it is a batholith, which is a mass of rock that has been thrust upwards from deep within the earth. Nearby you'll find Litla-Baula (Tiny Baula) where rare columnar strands of rhyolite are to be found. Together, Baula and Litla-Baula are considered the most beautiful pair of mountains in Iceland.
 

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Below is the location of Grindavík on the map of Iceland

Like Keilir on the Reykjanes Peninsula #baula is known to most Icelanders

At the mention of Barnafossar, or the Children's Falls, Icelanders usually turn quiet. For centuries, the beautiful falls have been overshadowed by a tragedy that goes on dwelling on the Icelandic consciousness. The Falls derive their name from a folklore:

The folklore that gave the waterfall its name

Once, there lived a widow at the Hraunás farm. She was quite well of and independent. Come Christmas and, of course, all the grown-ups were expected to attend evensong at the nearby church at Gilsbakki. The mistress of Hraunás gathered her household to obey their Christian duty. All, except the children and amongst them her two young sons.  The children were told to stay indoors and play. But, the weather was still, with clear skies and full moon, the earth scintillating in the beautiful frosty winter night. It was too big a temptation for the two brothers who loved the marvelous nature surrounding their homestead. When the grown-ups returned from Evensong, the brothers had disappeared. A search party followed their footsteps to a natural stone bridge crossing the river a bit upriver from the falls. The brothers were believed to have slipped on the bridge and fallen into the river. Later, their mother had the bridge destroyed and cast a spell on the waterfall, claiming no man would ever cross it – and survive.

Not the usual waterfall

The Barnafoss Falls is in Hvítá in Borgarfjörður, about 100 kilometers from Reykjavík. It is not a conventional waterfall, but rather a series of rapids bursting out of the surrounding lava plains. The falls are but a one more example of the extraordinary and mesmerizing landscape created by ice and fire.

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Below is the location of Barnafossar on the map of Iceland

At the mention of Barnafossar, or the Childrens Falls, Icelanders usually turn quiet.

The huge statue of Bárður Snæfellsás that is so noticeable when you drive into the small village or hamlet Arnarstapi was made by Ragnar Kjartansson one of Iceland most renowned sculptures.  The statue is his interpretation of the giant character that dominates the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier.

Bárður the half man half troll

Bárður is an extraordinary being from the time of settlement in Iceland.  His story was written in Medieval times in the fifteenth century and is part of the Icelandic Sagas.  His mother was one of the tallest and most beautiful women in her days, but his father Dumbur was a half-giant or a half-troll. Bárður was also considered extremely handsome with a large presence.  In his youth, he was fostered by Dofri, the mountain-dweller, of Dovrefjell in Norway and received an excellent education and training. Bárður married Dorfi's daughter Flaumgerður and had three tall and beautiful daughters by her. Like he, she also had a human mother. After she had passed away he married Herþrúður his second wife who was human; he had six more daughters by her.

Settled in Iceland after fleeing tyranny of Harald king in Norway

Along with his wife and daughters and some friends, Bárður emigrated to Iceland and settled at Djúpalón on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Bárður's half brother Þorkell also emigrated with his family and settled at Arnarstapi. They were fleeing the tyranny of Harald, the king of Norway. His brother Þorkell had two sons, Sölvi, and Rauðfeldur. 

Driven to madness because of a prank

Following an altercation after a rather dangerous prank played on Bárður's daughters by the half-brother's sons, Bárður was provoked to a point of uncontrollable anger. An event that made him extremely depressed and totally loose his mind in the end.  Finally, he gave away all his land and all his earthly belongings and vanished into the Snæfellsnes Glacier. In the glacier, rumor has it, that he built an ice cave more in line with his troll or giant side.  There, he became known as the Guardian Spirit of Snæfell as the locals worshiped him and looked at him as their savior. For centuries, they would call upon him in times of hardship and trouble. Bárður wandered the region wrapped in a gray cowl held together by a walrus-hide rope. In his hand was a cleft staff with a long and thick gaff for mounting the glacier.

A very true story although sounds like a fantasy

Bárður's cave is still in situ, and his story is a timeless, fantastic read. It is, of course, a true story written about events that occurred in Iceland more than eleven hundred years ago, written about six hundred yers ago. Many names of many places in the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier are related to Bárður Snæfellsás and his story. 

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Below is the location of Bárðarlaug on the map of Iceland

Bárður is an extraordinary being from the Icelandic Medieval Sagas.

Arnarstapi on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of Iceland's favorite destinations. It is a mesa surrounded by exquisite nature, great history and has the best access to the Snæfellsjökull glacier. This tiny village wasn't always this small. During the fifteen and sixteen centuries, it was an important trading post and an important fishing village. Today, the Arnarstapi dock is and important harbor for small boats and also a popular destination for pleasure crafts and yachts.

A tiny village with an impressive history

The village is at the foot of Stapafell, a rather small but distinct mountain that already played a role in Iceland's history when the island was being settled. It was home to Bárður Snæfellsáss half brother Þorkell who emigrated to Iceland with his brother.  And, Bárður was a large man as can be seen by the life-size sculpture the artist Ragnar Kjartansson erected by the village shoreline befitting the local guardian spirit.

In the midst of a beautiful landscape

Part of Arnarstapi's beauty is the columnar basalt ravines and grottoes surrounding the harbor, as well as the lava formations along the coastline. Following quite accessible and easy hiking trails, you will find magnificent cliffs and caves, with fantastic birdlife. You can comfortably inspect the kittiwake, the Arctic tern, razorbills and the fulmar up close.

Here you can see and feel the force of the Atlantic ocean

During your hike, you will also experience the full force of the ocean as it clashes with the cliffs at three ravines along the way. It is a powerful and energizing experience, but, mind you, do not stand too close to the edge if you want to survive the impact.

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Below is the location of Arnarstapi hamlet on the map of Iceland

Arnarstapi on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of Iceland's favorite destinations.

Driving in Iceland is differed from driving in most other countries, at least in Europe and North America. There are still parts of the main Ring Road that most visitors drive, that do not have asphalt but are still gravel roads. This is also true for the smaller Ring Road like the Westfjords road trip.

Driving in Iceland is differed from driving in other countries

Although the area around Búðardalur is rich in historical terms, the village is fairly new and very small. It is part of the Westfjords drive Road Trip and located at the enterance of the Westfjord Peninsula.

Búðardalur is a small village in the Western Region in Iceland

It might surprise many people that visit Iceland and travel around the country, how many towns and villages have a kind of short history.  Although the settlement in Iceland started around 870, most of the towns and villages began to develop around the middle of the 19th century, and some even at the beginning of the 20th century.

Stykkishólmur is a town in the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the Western Region in Iceland

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