Local Guide

Local Guide

Skogar means ‘Woodland’ and is the name of the two easternmost farms in the Eyjafjalla-district in South Iceland. The distance from Reykjavik on road number one is 155km or 96 miles. It is estimated that approximately 25% of Iceland was covered with birch woods (Downy birch) when the settlers arrived. Thrasi Thorolfsson was the first settler in this location. The folk tale –„Gold under Skogarfoss“– is about his treasure which he hid in a chest under the waterfall. Many have tried to retrieve the chest. Once it was almost out when the handle broke off and the chest sank down again. You can see the ring in the folk museum at Skogar. The book of Settlement (from 1122) tells about Thrasi and his disputes with Lodmundur at Solheimar further east. Both of them used magic to divert the river Jokulsa over each other´s farmlands thus creating the huge Solheimasandur until they decided to let the river run the shortest distance to the ocean. The first school was established here in 1949 and was a boarding school. The present facilities are used as a hotel during the summer and includes a swimming pool in the school building.

Major Points of Interest

Just after you cross the river Markarfljot on your way to Skogar you should stop at the waterfall Seljalandsfoss.
It is about 20 km (12 miles) due east from the village of Hvolsvollur. Turn left just after crossing the bridge. The fall is 65 meters (213 feet) and among the tallest falls in Iceland. It tumbles off an ancient wave cut cliff. You can walk behind the falls which provides very interesting photo opportunities. It is not often that you can watch a waterfall both from the front and the back. This walk is well worth the effort.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss is 60m (197 feet) and is one of many in the river Skoga which originates in the ridge between the two glaciers above. It is probably the most perfectly shaped waterfall in Iceland. The track up along the river is a popular walking trail. The trail is 23 km (14 miles) and leads to the area Thorsmork (Thor´s Forest), which is a popular tourist area. There are 20 interesting and high waterfalls in Skoga´s gorges along the trail and one of them is very similar to Skogarfoss in beauty and size.

Skógafoss Skógafoss

The Folk Museum

The Folk Museum at Skogar was inaugurated in 1949 and is considered to be the best of its kind in Iceland. The present curator (Thordur Tomasson) was the prime mover in its foundation and he has been responsible for the collection for over six decades. He is still working. The outdoor museum has old restored farm buildings, a schoolhouse, and a replica of an old country church. The decorations inside the church are old artifacts from bygone churches. There is also a transportation museum on the premises.

The Folk Museum

The Glaciers Above

Eyjafjallajokull

Eyjafjallajokull The height of the mountain is 1666 m (4414 feet) and the size of the glacier is about 80 sq. km. Eyjafjallajokull is one of three stratovolcanols in Iceland. The others are Snaefellsjokull and Oraefajokull. The Eyjafjallajokull caldera is small (2.5 km2) and covered with ice. The mountain has been a landmark in sailings to Iceland from earliest times and takes its name from the Westman Islands. The south slope runs down to the old sea cliffs above the road. The volcano is active and small earthquakes are frequent. Most are below 3 on the Richter scale so you will not feel them. At the time of writing this, the world has already faced a major air travel disruptions as the mountain spews ash kilometers into the sky, grounding flights throughout eurpoe. The first eruption in historical times was in 1612 and the last one was in 1821 until 1823 and the results were devastating.

A volcano is considered active if it has erupted during the last ten thousand years. Eyjafjallajokull has two outlet glaciers to the north in the direction of Þorsmork and they are Steinholt´s Glacier and Gig Glacier. The name of the highest peak is Hamundur. The ridge Fimmvorduhals (Five cairns ridge) is between Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull and is 1100 m above sea level. An eruption started on Fimmvorduhals on March 21st 2010 in the wee hours of the morning. A 1 km fissure opened up from southwest to northeast with 12 to 15 columns and lava is flowing to the west and east. The area north of Fimmvorduhals is called Godaland i.e. Land of the Gods. “The Myrdals´ area was covered by the sea some 2-3 million years ago and it is likely that the volcanoes Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull began their life some 600.000-700.000 years ago in a similar fashion as the Westman Islands, as a cluster of small volcanic islands in the middle of the sea.” (Iceland –Thor Thordarson & Armann Hoskuldsson).

Eyjafjallajokull

Myrdalsjokull

Myrdalsjokull This glacier is about 695 sq. km in size and the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. Glaciers cover about 12% of the country. Many glacier tongues run from Myrdalsjokull. The largest is Solheimajokull in the south and Kotlujokull in the east. Kotlujokull is named after the great volcano Katla under the glacier. The caldera in Katla is 83.7 sq. km and incidentally the same size as Lake Thingvallavatn. There appears to be a connection between the Eyjafallajokull volcano and Katla in Myrdalsjokull. The distance between the main craters is short and the direction of the rifts is the same.

Myrdalsjokull

Skogarsandur and Solheimasandur

The two great sands are outwash plains formed by a jokulhlaup (melt water burst) from a seventh century Katla eruption. The Icelandic word jokulhlaup is used internationally about this phenomenon. The folk tale about Thrasi and Lodmundur should be taken with a grain of salt.

Skogarsandur and Solheimasandur

Diversions off the beaten track and perfect stops for picnics

Solheimajokull

Drive to the Solheimajokull Outlet Glacier. The gravel road # 221 is 4km (2.5 miles) and is off the main road on the left east of Skogar just after you cross the river Jokulsa. This is the river that Thrasi and Lodmundur diverted over each other’s farms. The glacier is a tongue shaped spit of ice that sticks out from Myrdalsjokull. It is retreating and is about eleven hundred feet shorter than it was ten years ago. Much of the glacier is grey and covered in a film of dark sand and dust. There are interesting hollows in the hills nearby called quilt islands (saengureyjar) – ideal for outings. Caution: When you are near a glacier never step on wet ground! This is be wet soft clay which you may sink into. It can be a rather unpleasant experience.

Solheimajokull

Raufarfell – Seljavellir

Raufarfell – Seljavellir. Drive a short distance (5km) to the west to Raufarfell’s road # 242 and continue all the way to the end with a right turn. At the end of the gravel road you will find Seljavellir, a swimming pool was built into the mountain side in 1923 by young people in the district to make use of the natural hot water. There is a short walk to the pool from the end of the road. You can see the hot water gushing out of the rock face. This is also an excellent spot for photographs and a picnic. The farm Raufarfell is well known for horse breeding. Hrafn the Foolish settled here according to the Book of Settlement. He was an ancestor of Saemundur “the Wise” who acquired semi-legendary status in folklore. Saemundur studied at the so called Black School which was run by the Devil. Raudafell is the next farm. There are many stories about elves and trolls from this region and one is Una, the Elf Maiden at Raudafell. Another one is Gilitrutt and the Lazy Wife. The folk tale about The Sea Ghost at Hvammsnupur is also from this area.

Raufarfell – Seljavellir

Fell and Keldudalur

Fell and Keldudalur. About 12 km east of Skogar is a gravel road on the left just before Petursey and towards the valley Keldudalur. Take this road to the abandoned farm Fell. The reverend Jon Steingrimsson (1728-1791) lived here at one time. He became a legendary figure among Icelanders during the Laki eruption in 1783. People believed that his so called Fire Sermon stopped the lava flowing when it threatened to destroy the church at Kirkjubaejarklaustur. This is also an interesting area for an outing.

Sibyl´s grave

Stop by the Sibyl´s grave. The Sibyl or Volva is a shamanic seeress in Norse paganism and a recurring motif in Norse mythology. Voluspáa– “Prophecy of the Volva” is the best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end. The Volva is addressing Odin. This poem is one of the most important sources for the study of Norse Mythology. English translations have been written by W.H. Auden and Lee Hollander. The people at the Skogar museum will be happy to give you detailed directions for this visit and the other suggestions above.

Sibyl´s grave

An Evening Walk

Walk to the top of Skogarfoss. There are 183 steps up to the top. The view from there is spectacular. This is a good evening activity. Take some refreshments along. If you look straight south the nearest land is Antarctica near the South Pole.

An Evening Walk