Nature Reserve Dimmuborgir, „The Dark Castles”, are among the most
visited and admired spots on lake Myvatn.
It resembles a maze and people have to be careful not to loose
their way, because prominent landmarks in the vicinity are not visible
from the depression in the lava landscape.
It is rather a small area, only about 1 km in diameter.
2300 years ago a major eruption started, when a 12 km long volcanic
fissure opened up a short distance away to the southeast.
During the eruption, the flowing lava met some kind of an
obstruction in the Dimmuborgir area and a temporary lava lake was
Dimmuborgir are peculiar lava formations in the Younger Laxa
Lava Field. A pool
of molten lava, about 2 kilometres in diameter, was formed
there during the fissure eruption of Ludentsborgir. This
pool was drained when the lava exited towards Lake Myvatn,
leaving behind high pillars of lava, which have taken on
It is believed that these pillars were formed in the pool
where steam percolated through the molten lava and cooled
it. Horizontal lines, formed when the half-congealed lava
crust of the pool gradually collapsed, are a frequent sight
in the lava. The collapsing crust also coated the pillars
with scoria, which can be seen in many places as a thin
coating with vertical etchings.
formations like Dimmuborgir have been found at the bottom of the ocean
off the coast of Mexico but are not known to exist on dry land outside
the Lake Myvatn region. The lava pillars at Hofdi (named Klasar and
Stripar) are similar formations.
earlier eruption, 3800 years ago, also altered the landscapes on the
lake considerably. The eruptive fissures are side by side and the whole
area offers great opportunities for short or long, light hikes.
Quite a few species of birds breed down there and the visitors
are kindly asked not to disturb them during the breeding period and stay
on the marked paths. It is
strictly forbidden to leave them and to climb the lava cliffs.
Painting: David Haraldsson.
The Dimmuborgir are also the home of the Icelandic
Yule Tide Lads and their parents:
Old sources do not
agree on their total number in and vary between
the different parts of the country.
Some refer to 13 others to 9.
According to common practices nowadays, their number is 13.
They are the sons of the ogress Gryla and her subservient
husband Leppaludi. Badly behaved children were threatened
with the ugly Gryla, and were told, she would come and take them away
and cook them for dinner. This
large family keeps quiet until Christmas approaches.
Then the Yuletide lads start appearing, the first one
13 days before Christmas.
Their behaviour is very unusual and they
are all dressed in old-fashioned clothing or rags and their names
originate in the old society of farmers and country folks.
They do not wear the clean red and white attire of Santa Claus.
The first one to
arrive in civilized areas is
COT DOLT, who heads
directly for the sheep cot to have fun with disturbing the sheep.
The second one to arrive is
GAWK, who rushes for the cowshed to try to get some milk. The
third one to
who is extremely attracted to the contents of the kitchens, and does not
miss a chance to
snatch something to eat.
The forth one to arrive is
LICKER, who is very lean.
He concentrates on finding pots with something well tasting and
licks the ladles. The fifth
one to arrive is
CLEANER, who consumes the
burnt layers of food from the pots and leaves them shining clean.
The sixth one to arrive is
BOWL LICKER, who always
arrives late enough to get to the food rests left by the children and
finish the food from their bowls. The
seventh one to arrive is
SLAMMER, who hides in dark
corners and waits for the opportunity to tease the people at the
and slams the doors during the night to wake everybody up.
The eighth one to arrive is
GOBBLER, who thinks of
nothing but gourmet food and steals skyr from the larders, whenever
gets the opportunity. The
ninth one to arrive is
PICKER, who raids the
larders, because of his constant hunger, and prefers the well-tasting
sausages. The tenth one to
TOM, who is extremely
curious. He makes faces at
the windows to scare the children, who
run and hide, but the grown ups only laugh. The eleventh one to arrive is
SNIFFER, who uses his
sensitive nose to find all kinds of things, especially food, standing
in doorways of houses. The
twelfth one to arrive is
HOOK, who likes smoked
lamb very much, spares no effort to hook a leg of lamb from the
through the chimney. The
last one to arrive is
BEGGAR, who fancies candle
lights and never gets enough candles for himself
although he snatches
quite a few from the children.
after they have all gathered in the inhabited areas and entertained
people, they start back to their parents one by one until the 6th
of January, when the Icelanders celebrate with bonfires and fireworks the
end of Christmas and the time of year, when the elves move house and
travel about in their colourful attire on horseback.
New year’s eve is also celebrated with much ado, large bonfires and hours of fireworks
until the wee hours of the morning.