#fjallabak

Sigöldugljúfur canyon is a fascinating small canyon deep in the Icelandic highlands. It is quite exceptional with its many small waterfalls, blue river, and colorful vegetation.  A beautiful canyon that is almost magical and could easily be a scene in an adventure story or a Sci-Fi movie. It has all the ingredients to become a popular destination as it looks like something in a fairytale. For years it has been a hidden gem as access has been a bit tricky.  Stopping by Sigöldugljúfur is a very good idea for photographers and most visitors planning to take the Sigalda track to Landmannalaugar. The canyon is quite photogenic a requires a bit of a time if you seek to find a new and surprising motive.  

Although fascinating there is a drawback

One of the reasons the canyon has not been popular among visitors in addition to hard access is the fact that the canyon is surrounded by significant changes in the landscape. Changes made by the power plant project and reservoir for the Sigalda power plant. It is a gem kept within power plant project and man-made interference in nature. But apart from all that it is a fascinating place and a beautiful canyon.

The best access is when you come down the Sigalda small hill

Located at Sigalda by the mountain road F208 a few minutes after you turn from the F26 highland road that leads to Sprengisandur mountain road. The mountain road, or dirt road, F208 is part of Nyrðri Fjallabaksleið track and is one of two entrances that will lead you to Landmannalaugar from the west side. Sigöldugljúfur is easily accessible when you drive down the slope at the small hill Sigalda and turn left immediately when you come down the slope.  It is a good idea to park the car near the interception and walk the short distance to the canyon.

Below is the location of Sigöldugljúfur on the map of Iceland

Sigöldugljúfur canyon

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. 

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

If you intend to drive the traditional and popular Highland road Nyrðri Fjallabak, Hólaskjól camp site is a good place to start or end depending on the direction you choose.  It is placed in a beautiful surrounding quite near Eldgjá the famous canyon and Ófærufoss waterfall.  The campsite and all the facilities are excellent but remember and take into account that this is a mountain hut.  It is a campsite away from all the convenience of urban campsites which also gives it another kind of charm.  When you are in Hólaskjól, you are in the mountains.

Start your Nyrðri Fjallabak drive at Hólaskjól

Our recommendation is to drive from the east to the west when driving Nyrðir Fjallabak mountain road.  One of the reasons is Hólaskjól; it is a good place to start your drive early in the morning.  Another reason is the surrounding area. When you have settled in there is an excellent short hiking trail at Hólaskjól up by the river Syðri Ófæra.  It is a good evening walk where you will see interesting basalt column and a magnificent waterfall Silfurfoss.  Just a short hike into the lava field that takes less than an hour and is quite relaxing and good before you a good night sleep in the mountains.


How to get to Hólaskjól

If you plan to visit Hólaskjól, you are probably planning to drive Nyrði Fjallabak. The best way to access the road to Hólaskjól is from the Ring Road some 23 kilometers west of the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  Here you take a turn north on Road nr. 208 and drive approximately 16 kilometers until you take a left turn and enter the Mountain Road F208 Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri. On this road, you need to drive about 20 kilometers to reach Hólaskjól camping site.

Below is the location of Hólaskjól on the map of Iceland

Hólaskjól campsite in highland in Iceland

Every river and every creek have some beginning, a source.  Often the source is hidden under a glacier, in a lake or a ground spread over vast moorland.  But sometimes you can actually see the source floating from a slope of a mountain or running from under a lava field.  It is always a fascinating sight. But occasionally you can find a place where clear, clean, beautiful water is flowing from below as a spring and feeding a creek or a river.  This is the case in Rauðufossafjöll and the small river Rauðufossakvísl. 

The beautiful spring at Rauðufossafjöll

At Rauðufossafjöll you will find one of these sources, one of those rare springs, forming this beautiful pound.  And even when you look through the surface it looks even more mystical and strange, as the hole in the spring gives you this creepy feeling that someone is livening in the hole. Possibly a Gollum like creature that will crawl to the surface, only adding to the magic of nature.  It is a stunning sight. Adding to the sight and mystical nature of the spring is the red bottom of the floating water, the river Rauðufossakvísl that runs from the source.  The bottom is orange and almost or red at the first three to four hundred meters, which is very unusual.  This is truly one of a fascinating phenomenon in the Icelandic landscape.

Take great care and caution in this sensitive area

But there is a warning if you intend to find and visit Rauðufossafjöll.  It is a natural phenomenon, and a treasure only intended for viewing. And it is only possible to visit this place from the end of June until the middle of September.  At other times the surrounding area is more or less covered with snow and extremely difficult to visit.  The river leading to Rauðfoss (Which also has a red background) has a highly sensitive surrounding and vegetation, so walking by the river is a bad idea.  There is enough room on the banks and the land a bit higher, and from there the river is a joy to view with its odd color and the noon green dýjamosi Moss all the way from the waterfall to the source.  So be careful and enjoy from a distance. 

Below is the location of Rauðufossafjöll on the map of Iceland

At Rauðufossafjöll you will find one of these sources, one of those rare springs, forming this beautiful pound.

Sigöldugljúfur canyon is one of the many places in Iceland that is still to be discovered as a major tourist attraction. A beautiful canyon with a connection that is almost magical between vegetation, creeks, waterfalls, and cliffs. It has all the ingredients to become a popular destination as it looks like something in a fairytale. Located at Sigalda by the mountain road F208 a few minutes after you turn from the F26 Highland road and drive to the geological wonderland Landmannalaugar. It is easily accessible when you drive down the slope at the small hill Sigalda.

Sigöldugljúfur canyon

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.

People have different reasons when visiting a country like Iceland with such a high selection of natural wonders, stunning landscape and fascinating history.  Often the tour is organized to see the most popular places that have gained the most attraction. Places that have even become landmarks in the worldwide flora of attractions on an international scale.  The good thing about Iceland is the fact that there are many places that are highly attractive that few people visit.  Many of these locations are interesting from a geological perspective and as a landscape to experience. Some are even famous for their connection to history and folklore.  Most of those places are fantastic places to visit for photographers and people interested in landscape photography.  Places that are different and have a lot to offer. One such place is Hnausapollur.

Hnausapollur is on the road Sigölduleið to Landmannalaugar

Like most volcanic craters that have small lakes within its boundaries, Hnausapollur is a maar, formed and erupted about 11 thousand years ago. Usually, the reason for the lake within the crater is the depth of the that goes down to subsoil water or ground water. This combination of water, crater, and vegetated brims is usually a beautiful sight where colors interact fabulously. Similar maar volcanic craters in Iceland are Grænavatn and Víti in Askja. Hnausapollur also has another name, often called Bláhylur because of the turquoise blue color of the water. It is a highland lake in an altitude of about 570 meters above sea-level. You might think that this a remote place, but don’t be surprised if you see someone fishing down in the crater. The lake is packed with trout although quite difficult to catch.

Located on the Icelandic highland road Fjallabak Nyrðir

Hnausapollur might not be one of those natural wonders in Iceland worth a particular trip to the highland.  But if you are traveling on the Highland road Fjallabak Nyrðri or visiting Landmannalaugar on F208 it is a must to stop by Hnausapollur.  It is the next door neighbor to its similar brother bearing the awful name Ugly Pound or Ljótipollur.  Both extraordinary sights and perfect for photographing.

Below is the location of Landmannalaugar on the map of Iceland

Hnausapollur is a maar, formed and erupted about 11 thousand years ago

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.

At some point in your life, you want to fill you head with peace. You want a peace of mind. There are places in the Icelandic Highland that are still calm and quiet, and few people visit. The only sound is a small stream and songs from birds; places that put you in a relaxed mode. One such place is the wonderful world of unusual lava formation at Skælingar.  A place where everything is calm and quiet but yet a place that looks strange and exotic.  It is a place where you can easily come to the conclusion that elves or creatures of another dimension actually exist, and you don't want to disturb them.

Skælingar was at one point a farm

Although Skælingar is now part of the uninhabitable Icelandic Highland, it was a farm "up in the Morse" in the centuries following the settlement. That was also before the devastating eruption Skaftáreldar that changed this area dramatically in 1783 and 1784. It is a part of the fascinating Eldgjá area.  In Skælingar there is an old cabin that ones belonged to the farmers in this part of Iceland. One of many such cabins in Iceland that were used in the autumn in the sheep round-up, when farmers collected sheep from the Highland.  It now belongs to the outdoor life association Útivist and is part of one of their hiking trails.

The interesting lava formation

During an eruption, the lava that floods to the surface can take on many forms. The lava also changes in the years, decades and centuries that follow. In Iceland, lava from various eruptions around the country throughout the geological history is visible almost everywhere. Most of the lava today is covered with moss. This company between lava and moss can form a beautiful combination as we can so easily see in Skælingar. For photographers, it is also interesting to know that there is quite a difference in the moss color after a dry week and a rainy week. The most exciting time to photograph moss in Iceland is on a sunny day after a few days of rain.

There are places in the Icelandic Highland that are still calm and quiet, and few people visit.