The Door to the Highlands
Home of the Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanos
East Rangárþing, with a population of 1750, is a vast district in the central South Iceland and ranges from the highlands to the sea. It boasts a great number of geological wonders, a fact which has led the district to seek to become a member of the European Geopark Network along with two other districts: Mýrdalshreppur and Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Hvolsvöllur is the region’s largest town (850 inhabitants) and all operations relating to the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were organised from there. The main industries in the area are agriculture and tourism and Hvolsvöllur is, in fact. the only town in Iceland that was not established on the coast or by a river, but entirely as a centre of service for the area.
Only 106 km from Reykjavik, Hvolsvöllur is surrounded by plentiful recreation areas and natural wonders, all between 15 minutes and up to one hour’s drive. Peaceful farmlands suddenly and dramatically give way to nearly vertical slopes that reach down to the main road. Kilometre after kilometre of endless black sand beaches hug the shoreline.
Hvolsvöllur is an excellent location as a base from which to explore South Iceland. Its central location makes it ideal for day trips in the region and then back for a good night’s sleep in one of the area’s many types of accommodation. The farmers’ market in the town centre, next to the post office, is a great place to visit. Here you will find a variety of locally produced foodstuffs for sale, locally produced hand-knitted items of all kinds, handicrafts by local artisans, original wooden toys and superb organic ice cream. A lovely green space for stretching one’s legs and where the children can run around is adjacent to the farmers’ market and hosts an outdoor exhibition by local photographers. There are camping-grounds, youth hostels, guest houses and hotels ranging from 1 to 4 stars. Ferry trips to the Westman Islands are now possible from the new harbour, Landeyjahöfn, which opened in July, 2010 and is just a 20 minute drive from Hvolsvöllur.
Eyjafjallajökull, that volcano with a ridiculously difficult-to-pronounce name that wrought havoc with air travel around most of Europe and even affected many flights to the United States, is located in the district of East Rangárþing and has become one of the area’s main attractions but is by no means the only sight to see in the area. The district contains many natural treasures and is also the scene of one of the renowned Icelandic sagas, the Saga of the Burning of Njáll.
Some of the most renowned places are, for instance, Skógar, with its amazingly picturesque Skógarfoss waterfall, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, behind which it is possible to walk, and Þórsmörk, which is a beautiful and fertile mountain ridge north of Eyjafjallajökull with various trekking routes in the area and therefore very popular among hikers.
There are a great variety of activities in the area for those who wish to explore the sites with local guides.