Local Guide

Local Guide

Storutjarnir is in Ljosavatnskard, which is actually a broad valley between Fnjoskadalur in the west and Bardardalur in the east. High mountains are on both sides and gravel hills (moraines) left by the Ice Age glaciers lie right across the valley. The lake Ljosavatn is on the east side of the valley. The North American bird the Great Northern Diver (Gavia Immer) is often seen on the lake. Here was the farm of the chieftain Thorgeir Thorkelsson who declared in the year 1000 that the Christian religion should be the religion in Iceland. The school at Storutjarnir is used as a hotel during the summer. The distance from Egilsstadir to Storutjarnir on road # 1 is 273km (169 miles) and 45km (28 miles) from Storutjarnir to Akureyri.

Major Points of Interest

Godafoss and Skutustadir

The distance from Storutjarnir to the waterfall Godafoss is 6km (4 miles). On the way to Godafoss make a stop at the church just east of Ljosavatn (right turn). Here you will see a most amazing altarpiece. There is none like it. Godafoss is a waterfall in the river Skjalfandafljot close to the farm Fossholl in Bardardalur. The river runs in a ravine for a considerable distance. The Icelandic Sagas tell us that Thorgeir Thorkelsson, the chieftain from Ljosavatn, threw his heathen idols into the falls when he returned home after having declared that the Christian religion should be the religion in Iceland. Godafoss means waterfall of the gods. Take a walk down along the river towards Fossholl and observe the strange rock formations including a cave for sunbathing close to the old bridge.

When you are at Lake Myvatn (40km-25 miles from Storutjarnir) you drive by the farm Skutustadir with two hotels on either side of the road. Make a stop here and take a walk among the pseudo-craters. The craters are formed in steam explosions when molten lava runs over wetland (hydro magmatic action). The water under the lava is super-heated and explodes throwing the lava up into circular craters. Craters of this sort can be found in four locations in Iceland and on the planet Mars but nowhere else. They are indeed unusual phenomena in nature.

Godafoss and Skutustadir

Dimmuborgir

Now continue your journey and drive about 5 km (3 miles) before taking a right turn into Dimmuborgir. Dimmuborgir means dark cliffs and features a maze like landscape. Here you will find a vast area of lava formations such as tunnels and small caves. The most spectacular is "the Church“ a large cave resembling a church dome. Stay within the marked trails such as the blue one for a short walk, but yellow and red for longer trips. There are spots on the way which are ideal for a picnic. Obtain a map at the gate or the information centre before you start your walk. Dimmuborgir were created about 2000 years ago and in the beginning it was a huge lava lake. Little by little the lava surface started to cool down but the hot floating lava underneath found an exit and rushed out from under the now cooler ceiling. The cold columns stayed behind and the ceiling fell down. In some areas you can see how the "ceiling“ scraped the walls of the towering cliffs.

Dimmuborgir

Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn is 40km (25 miles) from Storutjarnir. The natural beauty of Lake Myvatn and its surroundings has been sculpted by volcanic eruptions over thousands of years. The lake is 36.5km2 and renowned for its bird life. There are 17 species of ducks on the lake. Every type of breeding ducks in Iceland is found on Lake Myvatn and the river Laxa. Among them are two North American duck that breed nowhere else in Europe namely the Harlequin Duck and Barrow´s Goldeneye. The lake is shallow which makes it easy for the ducks to dive for food. The name Myvatn means lake of the midges (chironomidae). They are of two types and constitute an important part in the food chain. A ball shaped green algae (cladophora segagropila) grows at the bottom of Lake Myvatn. These green algae also exist in Lake Akan on the Hokkaido Island in Japan. In Japan it is called Marimo but the Icelandic name is Vatnamyll. The lake is also rich with trout which the farmers fish in nets and through ice during the winter. On your return to Storutjarnir drive by Reykjahlidand on the north side of the lake and try the dark rye bread baked overnight in hot clay with smoked trout from the lake on top. Delicious!

Lake Myvatn

Tumuli

Observe the tumuli in the lava. Tumulus (pl. tumuli) are mounds or dome-like uplifts on the crust of the lava flow. This lava is from the 1724 eruption and the vegetation has hardly established except for the grey moss. It takes about one thousand years for soil to form on lava.

Tumuli

Namafjall

Namafjall is a high temperature area east of the populated area across a low mountain with temperature reaching 200°C or more at 1000meters down. There are solfatars and fumaroles in Namafjall. The soil in the high temperature zones is infertile and barren because of the geothermal air and acidic environment. There is a quantity of sulphur in the area and it was mined from 1279. The sulphur was used for gun powder in Europe and by 1905 it tapered off. By all means stay within the marked paths. Serious accidents have occurred when folks go outside the marked areas and step into the boiling clay underneath the thin crust. Never go closer to a boiling clay pits than the splashes that are closest to you. On the way to Namafjall make a stop at Jardbodin on the west side. This is a geothermal bath similar to the Blue Lagoon on Reykjanes but smaller.

Namafjall

Krafla

Close to Namafjall on the north side is the geothermal power station Krafla named after a volcano nearby. An interesting feature up there is the crater Viti (Hell) on the south-west slopes of the volcano Krafla. The crater is about 300 meters in circumference. It was formed in a huge explosion in 1724. The explosion marked the beginning of the so called Myvatn-fires lasting for five years, the longest known continuous eruption in Iceland. The water in the crater was boiling for a century after the explosion. If you have time make a stop at the power station. They have an interesting film about the volcanic activity in the area, how they harness the geothermal energy and also a film about the eruptions from 1975 until 1984. A total of 21 rifting events occurred during the period. The total rift between the plate boundaries (North American and Eur-Asian) was around 9 meters. This is an fascinating show and is available in many languages. The average long term rift between the plates in Iceland is little less than 2 cm per year.

Krafla

Husavik

Husavik is 50km (31 miles) from Storutjarnir. This pretty village is well known as a base for whale watching in Iceland. The name Husavik is probably the oldest place name in Iceland. The explorer Gardar Svavarsson sailed around the country and discovered that it was an island. He built a house for the winter in a small cove and named the place Husavik. Hus means house. Vik means a small bay or a cove. The whale museum offers thorough information about whales and whaling through the centuries. Fishing and fish processing is the main industry. The church, consecrted in 1907 is well worth a visit. W hen first built could seat the entire population. It has served as a symbol for Husavik. The architect was Rognvaldur Olafsson and he designed two other churches like this one but smaller.

A fish factory tour can be arranged at the Whale Centre (Information centre) to view fish processing and learn about the Icelandic quota system. The village is close to the Arctic Circle and enjoys 24 hours of daylight during the summer. The midnight sun often gives the sky a romantic glow. In the winter when the nights are long the night sky is frequently decorated with the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and stars.

Husavik

Diversions off the Beaten Track

Hverfjall

Hverfjall is on your right close to Dimmuborgir is a circular tuff cone created in a hydro magmatic eruption approximately 2700 years ago. We recommend a walk up to the rim  interesting walk is to go up on the rim and enjoy the view over Lake Myatn. Caution is the word, especially on the way down. It can be a knee-killer.

Hverfjall

Aldeyjarfoss

Many believe that Aldeyjarfoss is among the most beautiful falls in Iceland. The interesting columnar basalt and the many "troll-women’s-pots“ - (skessukatlar) play a big role. Aldeyjarfoss is in Bardardalur which is the longest valley in Iceland in habitation. There are about 35km (22 miles) between the outermost and innermost farms. To reach Aldeyjarfoss you drive about 34km (21 miles) south along the river Skjálfandafljot on the west side. Godafoss incidentally is situated on this river. The river Skjálfandafljot is 178km long (110 miles). Shortly after you pass the farm Mýri you come to a parking area on your left. From there it is a short walk to the fall. What‘s in a name? The name "Aldey“ means ´Wave island´. The power of the water is such that it rises and forms like an island in the middle of hte pool below the fall. Hence the name. This is a popular picnic area.

Aldeyjarfoss

Asbyrgi

Asbyrgi is about 66km (41mile) east from Husavik. You drive around the peninsula Tjornes. Asbyrgi is an oval depression which was formed during numerous catastrophic floods thousands of years ago. Asbyrgi means God´s Rampart. This rock formation was carved by the river Jokulsa in two catastrophic melt-water bursts (Jökulhlaup). The first one was about 4600 years ago and the second about 3000 years ago. Asbyrgi is a tranquil place and today there is nothing to remind us about the awesome power of water that carved it out of a solid rock. The shape and size is such that the settlers immediately connected Asbyrgi with the Gods. After you park your car obtain a brochure about the area and take a walk down to the little pond Botnstjorn in the innermost part. The cliffs are about 100m or 330 feet. The Fulmars nest in the cliffs but the duck Widgeon nest in the lower area. The vegetation is pine wood, and low birch, with rowans in between. The picnic area is on the other side of the car park.

Asbyrgi Asbyrgi

Evening Walk

Ask the reception about directions to the walking trails to the fishing lakes Nipholstjorn and Ljosavatn. There are picnic tables on the shore at Ljosavatn.