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Friday, November 17, 2017

Day 6: Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters and Dimmuborgir Lava Field

Day 6 of our 10-day journey around Iceland left us just over that halfway point in our time and Iceland and on the map.  It's that point in the trip where you know your days are numbered on the vacation calendar and soon you will be back on a cramped flight to the states with the dread of unpacked suitcases, dirty laundry, and work emails (so many emails).  With 5 days already under our belt, we had seen so much of beautiful Iceland and every day brought a unique and amazing landscape that this country is known for.  On the morning of Day 6, we left the guesthouse early to make a few quick stops at some attractions in the area before continuing north and west on our journey around the Ring Road.  Our first stop was a quick one, to a site filled with pseudo-craters known as Skútustaðagígar. It was also directly across the street from our guesthouse, Skútustadir Guesthouse, making this an easy way to start the day.  

Walking path to Skútustaðagígar pseudo-crater

The coastline around the pond Stakhólstjörn is a Natural Monument because of the pseudo-craters found there.  Skutustadir Farm is named after a renowned ancient hero called Viga-Skuta, the possessor of the deadly axe Fluga.  The pseudo-craters are formed by steam explosions when burning lava encounters lakes or wetlands.  There is a hiking route around Stakhólstjörn and the walk takes about an hour.  A shorter route takes you through the western part of the area in about a half hour.  Take care not to damage the brittle lava formations or disturb the birdlife.  Stay on the paths and do not follow the sheep (so the signs all told us). There are a large number of sheep who graze in this area.  Some of the trails go up and around the pseudo-craters are there are lovely viewing platforms along the way.

Map showing the trails and Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters

As always, I was impressed by Iceland's educational and informative signage and maps.  There was a large map marking the hiking trails around the crater, with plenty of information to educate you about how these craters form. We entered through the gate (to keep the sheep IN the area) and walked out to one of the viewing platforms about a 15 minute walk down the trail.  From here we saw beautiful views of the lake, the various sheep grazing in the area, and of course the large pseudo-craters.  There were only a few other small groups and it was a nice way to start the day.  Overall not something you need to go out of your way to see, but worth a quick walk in the morning if you are staying local.  Our guest house was basically across the street making this an easy attraction before getting back in the car for Dimmuborgir about 7 miles or a 10 minute drive away. 

Photographing the sheep in the Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters

GPS: N65° 34' 28.278" W16° 57' 12.241"
KW Worth the Trip? If you are in the area yes.  Do not go out of your way. 
Crowds: No, small groups 
Fees: No
Bathrooms: Across the street (as well as a cafe/restaurant)
Parking: Plenty
Hike: Walking trails available.  One hour loop or shorter 20-minute loop on the western end. 
Access: Easy
Warning:  This area is known to have a lot of flies in the summertime.

Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters

After Skútustaðagígar it was another quick trip/stroll to another site in the area, Dimmuborgir a mere 7 miles away.  The area is popular with Game of Thrones fans and is well known for its interesting geology.  And well... the yule lads. 


Dimmumborgir is a maze of volcanic caves and rock formations.   The area was formed by a lava-lake, flowing from a large eruption about 2300 years ago.  The name Dimmuborgir translates to “Dark Castles,” or “Dark Cities”.  Icelandic folklore maintains Dimmuborgir is where earth connects with Hell, it is also where the Yule Lads live.  

Dimmuborgir Yule Lads

According to some very entertaining signage in the parge, the Icelandic Yule Lads live in Dimmumborgir. They are the 13 sons of Gryla and Leppaludi, the vicious trolls that live in a big cave in Ludentarborgir.  The 13 brothers all have funny names that often refer to their preference for food or interests.  There is Spoon Licker, Sausage Swiper, Skyr Gobbler and Door Slammer to name a few.  In the summer, the Yule Lads can rarely be seen because they use this season to rest and are sleeping in their caves but as winter comes, they wake up and start preparing for Christmas.  The best way to find them is to walk the path to Hallarflot and shout loudly "JOLASVEINN".  

poster of the Yule Lads

Walking paths at Dimmuborgir

The scenery is dramatic and this is a great spot to spend a half an hour, walking around and taking pictures. There is a map of marked walking trails that will take you around the park and are rated from easy to difficult depending on the terrain. You may even stumble upon the home of Sausage Swiper like we did.  

One of the caves at Dimmuborgir
Lava rocks at Dimmuborgir

A great chance to stretch your legs and interesting geolgy make this spot worth 30-45 minutes of your time as you make your way around the Ring Road.  It is not too far off the main road and the lava formations surely make the area unique.  

GPS:   N65° 35' 31.385" W16° 54' 28.863"
KW Worth the Trip? Yes, cool lava formations and nice walking paths. 
Crowds: No, small groups 
Fees: No
Bathrooms: Yes at the cafe/restaurant
Parking: Plenty
Hike: Walking trails available.  
Access: Easy- paved road not far off the ring road.

Lava rocks at Dimmuborgir

Tune back in for the rest of Day 5 on the blog including Námafjall / Hverir and a rainy trip to dettifoss. 

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