heaths in the northwest corner of the central highlands, Arnarvatnsheidi
and Tvidaegra, are the ultimate paradise for people, who treasure
tranquillity, relaxation and angling for brown trout and lake char. The
lakes up there are considered innumerable and many a family has enjoyed
spending a part of its vacations in those beautiful surroundings. Most
of the lakes abound in fish and a few of the best salmon rivers of the
country originate there. In earlier times, the farmers fished the lakes
the whole year round, as a part of their livelihood and the catch has
always been good. The farmers also collected edible and wholesome
lichens and grazed their sheep and horses up there during summer. They
also hunted birds up there and still do. The area is also highly
interesting for the bird watchers. A few outlaws spent some time in the
area in the past and there are several interesting legends about them.
The most famous one was Grettir, whose Saga is like an exiting novel to
read. The area is accessible by jeeps from the western and northern
parts of the country and it is possible to continue from up there to
join one of the three main roads, Kjolur, crossing the country from
south to north.
Storisandur is an undulating, barren area
north of the Langjokull Glacier between the Arnarvatn Moorland and the
Kjalvegur Route. It comprises mainly the glacier-eroded remains of an
ancient shield volcano, which are relatively easily passable and was
frequently travelled by the people of the Skagafiord District (until
about 1890), especially when they were transporting dried fish from the
southwest. The Icelandic Mountain Road Society cleared the track and
marked it with cairns during the years 183134. The pinnacle shaped hill
“Grettishaed” in the area probably is the “Grettisthufa” mentioned in
the Gretti’s Saga, where Thorbjorn ongull buried Gretti’s head after his
slaying on the Drangey Island. Another legend has it, that Grettir
fought his enemies there. Along the edges of the area are rich cold
spring areas, which feed the rivers Vatnsdalsa and Vididalsa in the
north and River Nordlingafljot in the south. The most prominent
mountain of the area is Mt Krakur (1167m) just north of Glacier
Langjokull. A 4wd mountain track crosses this area between Lake
Reykjavatn and the Kjalvegur Route and sidetracks continue to the
valleys in the north.
AUDKULA, GRIMSTUNGA and EYVINDARSTADIR
The tracks leading to the lakes
on those heaths start from several valleys in Northern Iceland, such as
the valleys Vatnsdalur, Blondudalur and Svartardalur in the Huna
District and Maelifellsdalur and Vesturdalur valleys in the Skagafjord
District. The routes 751 and 752 through the valley Vatnsdalur turn
into a 4x4 track, which continues across an area called Storisandur and
connects with the Kjolur route through the Audkulu Moorland. That route
(731, 732 and F37) lies through the valley Blondudalur and is easily
accessible by all cars. If you continue south and are headed for the
Eyvindarstada Moorland, you must turn onto a 4x4 track some distance
north of a hill called Geirsalda. On that track you would have to ford
the glacial rivers Blanda and Strangakvisl and smaller brooks. The main
route from road no 1 up there (751, 752 and F72) is a 4x4 track and runs
through the valley Vesturdalur to the lakes Asbjarnarvotn and the
tourist hut by Mt. Laugafell.
routes and tracks are slow in many places and they pass several
mountain huts (mainly used and owned by the farmers, who graze their
sheep up there). Most of those, who have enjoyed travelling
through and spending some time by the lakes of those relatively
well-vegetated heaths, have wanted to come back time and again.
HOLTAVORDUHEIDI (rd # 1)
Moorland Holtavorduheidi (407 m.) lies between Valley Nordurardalur
(Mts Trollakirkja/Snjofjoll) and the Hruta Bay. A memorial cairn
was built on the northern part of the moorland to commemorate the
visti of the Royal Danish Family in 1936. The road across was
rebuilt during the last three decades of the 20th century.
VATNSSKARD (rd # 1)
Pass Stora Vatnsskard (420 m.) lies between Mts Grisafell (782 m.) and
Valadalshnjukur (850 m.) from Lake Vatnshlidarvatn in the west.
The main road lies through it from farm Bolstadahlid in Valley
Svartardalur in the west to farm Vidimyri in the east.
This pass was among the highest (630 m) of the country and usually
blocked by snow for 8-9 months of the year. It connects the
County Fljot in the Skagafiord District with the fishing town
Siglufiord. After the construction of the road around the
headland Strakar and the excavation of a road tunnel, the pass is only
used by those who want to enjoy the exceptional view up there on a
OXNADALSHEIDI (rd # 1)
Moorland Oxnadalsheidi (540 m.) lies between Valley Nordurardalur
(District Skagafiord) and Valley Oxnadalur (District Eyjafiord).
Its narrowest parts are called Skogahlid and Giljareitur. It
widens towards east (Floinn), where the emergency shelter Sesseliubud
is located (heaters and telephone). The winter conditions on the
moorland are sometimes very difficult.
Mororland Lagheidi (209 m.) is a summer mountain road between Stifla
and Olafsfiord. It is relatively a low and a well vegetated
valley. The road in the steep slopes of headland Olafsfjardarmuli
and later the tunnel through it caused this road to fall into disuse,
but the traffic picked up because of the increased tourism in the
country. In 2002, the a law was passed in the Parliament to
connect the towns Olafsfiord and Siglufiord by tunnles, but the
government postphoned the project in 2003 to the great dismay of the
inhabitants of Siglufiord, who protested vehemently.
Vadlaheidi (600 m.) was the main route and road until Mt Pass Vikurskard
took over. On the highest point of the moorland is a relay station for
radio and television broadcasting. The passage of the moorland on a
fine day offers excellent panoramic views.
VIKURSKARD (rd # 1)
Pass Vikurskard (325 m.) is the main route between the districts
Eyjafiord and Southern Thingeyjarsysla. It is considerably lower than
Moorland Vadlaheidi, but sometimes the winter conditions get difficult.
moorlands south of the fishing town Husavik are only passable by 4wd
vehicles during summer. Just a short distance from town, an excellent
trout and char lake in beautiful surroundings offers fishing and
relaxation. The road up there is passable by all cars. The winter
conditions in the moorlands are very difficult because of blizzards and
snow. In the year 1700 a traveller died of exposure in a blizzard up
there in the middle of summer. Near the mountain Saeluhusmuli the road
forks. The road to the north leads to the inhabited areas of
Kelduhverfi and the other towards southeast to Theistareykir and onwards
to the main road on Holssandur much further south.
Tunguheidi is 15 km long across the Tjornes Mountains between the farms
Fjoll in Keldu County and Southern Tunga on the Tjornes Peninsula. Its
eastern slopes are very steep and the highest point on the way, The
Bishop’s Hill (532 m), offers great views on a fine day. This route is
13 km shorter than the Moorland Reykjaheidi Route. This route was much
travelled until the road around the peninsula was opened in 1956.
FLJOTSHEIDI (rd # 1)
Fljotsheidi (247 m.) is a vast moorland area to the east of Valley
Bardardalur. It stretches all the way north to Valleys Adaldalur and
Reykjadalur. Moorland Myvatnsheidi continues to the south. Most of the
moorland lies lower than 200 m. and is well vegetated. All the farms
existing there in the 19th century have been abandoned.
MYVATNSHEIDI (rd # 1)
(335 m.) passes Lake Masvatn between Valley Reykjadalur and the Lake
Myvatn Area. On a fine day, the visibility is excellent, especially
towards the interior and the glaciers there.
MYVATNSOFAEFI AREA (rd # 1)
(350-355 m.) crosses this area between Lake Myvatn and River Jokulsa a
Fjollum. The Myvatnsoraefi Area covers most of the Odadahraun Lava
Fields. It is rather flat, but dotted with hyaloclastite mountains,
volcanic fissures and craters. The latest tectonic movements in this
area occurred during the period 1975-84. During prior volcanic
episodes, many of the present features of the landscape were created,
such as the depression (Graben) between Austari and Vestari Brekka. The
longest volcanic fissure of the area is close to 80 km. long. This area
seems to be totally barren, but upon closer inspection it reveals quite
a few well vegetated spots, especially where there is sufficient water.
Its northern part has large vegetated areas showing the signs of the
erosion inbetween. Road # 1 continues over the Jokulsa bridge (built in
THE ODADAHRAUN LAVA
FIELDS (rd #1)
refers to the largest lava area of the country (5600 km²). Its
boundaries are: The Vatnajökull glacier in the south, river
Skjalfandafljot in the west, river Jokulsa in the east and in the north
they are rather vague. The northern elevation of the area is about 400
m above sea level but in the south about 800 m. Quite a few
freestanding mountains and a massif rise above this plateau, such as
Herdubreid (1682m) and Dyngjufjoll (Askja). The lava fields are
relatively easy to travel if people show foresight and carry water
supplies with them, when hiking through the area. The only problem is
the lack of water in the permeable lava fields. This part of the
country had not yet been explored, when the Englishman William Lord Watts was
crossing the icecap Vatnajökull in 1875. When he and his Icelandic
companions arrived at the northern edge of the glacier, they witnessed
the enormous eruption of Askja and reported it to the people at lake
Myvatn. A few tales and one of the sagas, Hrafnkel's Saga, mention a
route through the area in connection with the so-called Sprengisandur
route. People have been searching for the old route through Odadahraun
and it has most likely been found.
Fjallasveit, is the name of the area to the east of River Jokulsa a
Fjollum to the north of the present road # 1. It extends east to the
mountains Dimmifjallgardur and Haugsoraefi. The first farm was built
there in the 14th century (Holl) and later the southernmost
one, which is the only inhabited one nowadays, Grimsstadir. In the
middle of the 19th century quite a few new farms were built
in the area and in 1859 approximately 100 people lived in the
community. The quality of the smoked lamb from this area was highly
appreciated, but because of overgrazing and the consequent erosion the
farming came to an end. During the last few decades much has been done
successfully to reclaim the area and stop the erosion. During summer
the road through this area is much frequented by those who want to see
Europe’s mightiest waterfall, Dettifoss. It is also accessible from the
western side of the river, but the road conditions are worse there.
Both roads are closed during winter.
Road #1 passes through Vegaskard from Valley Vididalur in the
west to farm Modrudalur or onwards on rd #1 further east. Mt
Vegahnjukur (783 m) and Mt Saudahnjukur (641 m) frame the pass. During
winter it is frequently blocked with snow and some people say that it is
haunted after dark by a female vagabond, who died there of exposure.
so-called Modrudalsoraefi Area lies to the east of farm Grimsstadir,
abandoned farm Vididalur and Mt Pass Vegskard. The main road used to
pass through it until at the turn of the last century and reached it s
highest point in the mountain ranges Modrudalsfjallgardur (660 m.).
Farm Modrudalur is among the largest estates of the country. Many
topographical names in this area suggest many more farms there in the
past. The Askja Eruption in 1875 devastated a part of it and many farms
were abandoned then. During the last few decades of the 20th
century this vast area has been recovering relatively fast, but the
signs of the erosion are still very prominent.
JOKULDALSHEIDI (rd # 1)
highland plateau lies 500-600 m above sea level and it is about 60 km
long. The landscape is rather flat, alternating barren gravel hills,
lakes, and vegetated marshlands. Around the middle of the 19th century
poor people, who wanted to lead independent lifes inhabited the
plateau. Properties in the lowlands were too expensive. The ash from
the 1875 eruption of the central volcano Askja and the difficult living
conditions forced most of the families to abandon their livelihood.
There was no employment to be had elsewhere in the country and most of
the people had to emigrate to North America. Two of the most prominent
authors of the country, Halldór Laxness and Gunnar Gunnarsson, based
some of their works on the experiences of those people. The last farm
was abandoned just before the middle of the 20th century and one of them
has been rebuilt as a museum.