Local Guide

Local Guide

The school center at Lake Laugarvatn is 73 km (45 miles) east of Reykjavik if you drive through Thingvellir (Parliament Plains) but 92km (57 miles) if you go by Hellisheidi. There is an elementary school, college, and university for physical education at Laugarvatn. The dormitories are used as hotels during the summer. Laugarvatn is a geothermal area and it is said that when Christianity was adopted at Thingvellir in the year 1000 the chieftains from the north refused to be baptized in the cold waters of Lake Thingvellir. They much preferred one of the warm springs (now the Consecrated Spring) at Laugarvatn. The lake is about two square km with geothermal heat at the bottom the banks and all around the lake. It is shallow and rich in plant life and has very good trout (Arctic char), which is served at the hotels.

Major Points of Interest

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park (16 km – 10miles) – is on road 365 from Laugarvatn and then onto 36 at Gjabakki. Thingvellir is about 20 minutes drive from Laugarvatn across the Lyngdalsheidi. Lyngdalsheidi is a flat shield volcano. The Althing (Parliament) convened at Thingvellir every summer in June (18-24th) when there is daylight 24 hours. Althing was established in the year 930 and was a legislative assembly and the meeting place of friends and kinfolks from widely separated districts. The law speaker, elected for a three year term, presided over the assembly. Althing moved into its building in Reykjavik in 1881. The lake is the largest lake in Iceland and is unique because it is the only lake in the world with four species of Arctic char which have evolved since the end of the Ice Age.

Thingvellir National Park

Skalholt

Skalholt (17 km – 10.5 miles) from Laugarvatn - road 37, then 35, and onto 31. Skalholt is a former Episcopal See and was the cradle of Christianity in Iceland. Here was not only the centre of power, and culture but also a seat of learning for over 700 years. A seminary was established in 1056 by Bishop Isleifur Gissurarson (1056-80), called The Latin School, to educate clergy and later university students. In 1796 it was moved to Reykjavik, where it became Menntaskolinn in Reykjavik (Reykjavik College), which operates to this day. The cornerstone for the present church was laid in 1956 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the ordination of the first Icelandic bishop – Isleifur Gissurarson in 1056. It was completed and consecrated in 1963. The church has received many valuable gifts from the Nordic countries. The altar piece by Nina Tryggvadottir is an outstanding work of art.

Skalholt

Geysir

Geysir (29 km – 18 miles) – road 37 Geysir is probably the best known hot spring on earth as all geysers are named after this one. It was probably created during an earthquake at the end of the 13th century: To quote Annals from 1294: „in Eyrarfjall near Haukadalur large hot springs were created but other disappeared that had been there before.“ A geyser is a periodic fountain of steam and hot water forced up from a vent by water that has been superheated in a pipe deep down in the earth (boiling point at 10meters down is 121°C). When the total pressure of gas and steam is sufficient they eject into the feeder pipe and cause eruption. Make sure you stand up with the wind in your back when you watch a gushing geyser.

Geysir

Gullfoss

Gullfoss (41 km – 25 miles) – road 37 The Golden Waterfall is in the glacial river Hvita (White river), which runs from the glacier Langjokull and then joins the river Sog close to the town of Selfoss. You can see the glacier from the left side of the road, as you approach Gullfoss. It is the second largest glacier in Iceland (953 sq.km). The milky white color in the river comes from the clay and gravel which the river is bringing down from the glacier. The river is 185 km or 115 miles long. Gullfoss is a two step waterfall. The upper falls are 10 meters and the lower ones are 22 meters. The Hvita gorge is 70 meters deep and approximately 2.5 km long (1.5 miles). Use extreme caution if you go down to the cliffs by the upper falls.

Gullfoss

Other Activities

River Rafting

River Rafting (30 km – 19 miles) The river rafting from Drumboddstadir (off road 35) is one of the most popular ones and is on the river Hvita (White river). The place is known as “Drumbo” in local jargon. The trail is seven kilometers long or close to five miles through picturesque canyons and many rapids. This rafting is for all ages and has been run safely since the 1990s.  The strange rock formations at Bruarhlod are interesting photo shoots popular with tourists. Diving from the cliffs into the river here is also very popular with locals as well as tourists.

Golf

The golf course Dalbui at Middalur is in a short distance from the hotels. It has nine holes - par 70 (35/35). Refreshments are available.www.dalbui.is

Another golf course is at Uthlid on the same road (#37). Nine holes - par 70 (35/35). Club rentals and refreshments are obtainable. www.golf.is/gu 
Then there is a golf club at Geysir. It has nine holes - par 74 with club rentals. www.golf.is/gey

Diversions off the beaten track and perfect stops for picnics

Vellankatla

The north-east corner at Lake Thingvallavatn is Vellankatla. Here you have extraordinarily pretty and interesting landscape where the fresh water flows from beneath the lava and into Lake Thingvallavatn. The lake is spring fed for the most part. The view across the lake is fascinating.

Haukadalur

The wooded area at Haukadalur is in a short distance from Geysir.The farm Haukadalur was a seat of power in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Ari the Learned who wrote The Book of the Icelanders in 1122, resided here. A Danish gentleman Kristian Kirk bought the farm in 1938 and started the forestry program but later gave the church and the farm to the Icelandic government.

Faxi in Tungufljot

The waterfall Faxi in Tungufljot is a short distance off road #35. Faxi is about 12 km from Geysir and 8 km from Skalholt. There is a short gravel road to the location, which has a picnic area. Take a walk down to the falls and watch the salmon jump the fish ladder.

Evening Walk

Vigdalaug

While at Laugarvatn, take a walk to Vigdalaug (the consecrated spring) by the lake shore. The last Catholic Bishop Jon Arason and his two sons (Ari and Bjorn) were executed on November 7th 1550 at Skalholt and the corpses were hustled into the ground outside the church in a hurry. The bodies were later excavated, washed at Laugarvatn´s consecrated spring, and moved to the bishopric at Holar in the north for proper burial. When Iceland celebrated 1000 years of Christianity in the year 2000 three children were baptized at Vigdalaug (the consecrated spring).

Mountain Climbing

Laugarvatn is surrounded by mountains to the north and east. An interesting one is Gullkista or Gold chest 678m. Gullkista is a chest-like formation on top of Middalsfjall with a fantastic view. It is a chest full of gold but can only be opened when two brothers from the farm Middalur walk up the mountain without looking back, thinking evil or uttering a word. It opened up long time ago and then it looked like it was full of leaves. One brother filled his mittens and the leaves turned into gold when he returned to the farm. Follow the jeep trail big part of the way.

Interesting Point

All the trees in the area have been planted by the students of the schools. It has been a practice for over half a century that all students take part in planting trees at the end of the spring semester. There are many interesting hollows and areas for picnic in the wooded area including caves.