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Hvolsvöllur, South Iceland

More than meets the eye

Skogafoss-Fimmvorduhals

Skogafoss-Fimmvörduháls

Just 100km southeast of Reykjavik lies the quiet little village of Hvolsvöllur. For all its apparent small size however, Hvolsvöllur nevertheless remains one of the most important service towns in the region. Don’t be deceived by Hvolsvöllur’s placid exterior, for there’s more going on here than meets the eye. First of all, Hvolsvöllur is the home turf of a few very famous and/or infamous volcanoes. Eyjafjallajökull is the one that was on everyone’s lips in 2010. Nearby, the Hekla volcano has kept people on their toes throughout the years and last erupted in 2000, though it has been not showing any signs of activity recently. The present fissure eruption of Hólahraun in Vatnajökull Glacier is much too far away to have any impact in Hvoslvöllur, so there is nothing to fear as far as that is concerned. Hvolsvollur Mats Take the scenic drive into Fljótshlíð

Road 261 takes you into one of the most charming and pastoral valleys of south Iceland, where one has the rare opportunity to gaze upon no less than three glaciers at once. The road opens up to a spectacular view of Mýrdalsjökull straight ahead, Eyjafjallajökull to your right and the topmost peaks of Tindfjallajökull to your left. The paved road eventually turns to gravel and then you are looking right across the Markafljót River, with Eyjafjallajökull looming large in front of you. The rustic Fljótsdalur Youth Hostel, with its traditional turf roof, sits high on a hill at the very end of Road 261, with amazing views to the volcano and the Thorsmörk Mountain Reserve. The youth hostel boasts one of the largest and oldest libraries of English language books about Iceland in the country and opens from 1st April to 31st October, 2015.

torsmork-Sigurdur Jonsson

Þórsmörk

Accommodation in the Area

Throughout the valley you will find numerous possibilities for accommodation at various farms and guest houses. Hotel Fljótshlið at Smáratún Farm, open year-round, offers comfortable rooms with en suite bathrooms, as well as a guest house with made-up beds or sleeping bag accommodation. Just nearby is Hellishólar, a popular location that offers cosy chalets and camping, plus an 18 hole golf course that could easily win the prize for being the most scenic golf course in Iceland. On a clear day, the view to the glaciers from both Smáratún Farm and Hellishólar is exceptionally beautiful. Picturesque Church of Hliðarendi Further along, we come to the picturesque Hlíðarendi church, built in 1897. It is also one of the sites of Brennu-Njáls Saga, the longest and most celebrated of the Icelandic Sagas. You can drive up to the church, from where you can explore the area and get a feel for the immensity of the panoramic views that Gunnar of Hlíðarendi of Njáls Saga fame found impossible to leave behind.

Gluggafoss

Gluggafoss

The Icelandic Bayeux Tapestry

For those with an interest in history, Hvolsvöllur is also home to The Saga Centre, located across from Hotel Hvolsvöllur. The centre offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the vast and fascinating world of the ancient sagas, and Njáls Saga in particular, via a multilingual exhibition. The Saga Centre now boasts an intriguing version of the famous Bayeux Tapestry called Njálsrefill in Icelandic, or The Njál’s Saga Tapestry, which depicts the events of the saga itself. For a small 7 euro fee, visitors may try their hand at embroidering a section of the tapestry and thereby taking part in the creation of this living and breathing work of art. The finished tapestry is expected to be 90 metres long and is estimated to take another three years to complete. Winter opening hours are Tuesdays 19.00 to 22.00, Thursdays from 14.00 to 17.00 and Saturdays from 10.00 to 17.00. An overview of the region would not be complete without mentioning the charming Anna Country Hotel, named after Anna from Moldnúpur who was born and bred on the very farm where the hotel is located. The hotel is steeped in the history and lore from Anna’s colourful and adventurous life exploring Denmark and other European countries at a time when few Icelanders ever left Iceland, especially not a woman from the countryside. Although hardly an exhaustive list of all there is to see and do, several highlights are covered here in an effort to give travellers a head start in their discovery of Hvolsvöllur in the beautiful Rangárthing-eystra district. e02_23042795 -EMV

Upplýsingamiðstöð /Tourist information The Saga Centre Hlíðarvegi 14 860 Hvolsvöllur

Sími/Tel: 487 8043 Netfang/E-mail: [email protected]