Greinasafni: Austurland einnig undir: Icelandic Times
More than Meets the Eye
A fascinating look behind the scenes in Hvolsvöllur, South Iceland
Just 100 km south-east of Reykjavik lies the quiet village of Hvolsvöllur. Typical of many small villages in Iceland, at first glance it seems like there is just one of everything: one grocery store, one hardware store, one hotel, a bank, a post office and 2 petrol stations. For all its apparent small size, Hvolsvöllur nevertheless remains one of the most important service towns in the region. You might be tempted to just pass right on by thinking incorrectly that ‘there’s nothing much here’, but don’t be deceived by Hvolsvöllur’s placid exterior, for there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

Firey Neighbours

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 - well sort of, anyway - if you could pronounce it, that is. Nearby is Mt. Hekla, which has kept everyone on their toes throughout the years and last erupted in 2000 but has not been showing any signs of activity since. More recently, though, there have been rumblings underneath the notorious Katla volcano, which lies at a safe distance of about 75 km to the east and poses little threat to the town itself.

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 3 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. Throughout the valley you will find numerous possibilities for accommodation at various farms. 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 which would no doubt win the prize for being the most scenic golf course in the whole country. On a clear day, the view to the glaciers from both Smáratún Farm and Hellishólar is exceptionally beautiful.
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. It is possible to drive up to the church where you can get out to explore the area and to get a feel for the immensity of the panoramic views that Gunnar of Hlíðarendi of Njáls Saga fame found impossible to leave behind.
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 Þorsmörk Mountain Reserve. The youth hostel boasts one of the largest and oldest libraries of English language books about Iceland in the country.

The Saga Centre
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. Guided excursions to all the main sites where the story took place can be booked through the centre.
An overview of the region would not be complete without mentioning the charming Country Hotel Anna. Named after Anna from Moldnupur, 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.
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 Rangárthing-eystra district.

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