Helgafell, Iceland


Helgafell at a Glance

Located on the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, Helgafell is a small mountain about five kilometers (or three miles) south of Stykkishólmur. With a height of 338 meters (1300 feet), this is a holy mountain with a temple in honor ofÞór. The temple was built byÞórólfr Mostrarskegg - the first settler in the area. Because of its relatively low height, the hike to the summit is easy and the view from the top is good. It is said that three wishes will be granted to those who climb Helgafell without speaking or looking back.

Hiking on Helgafell is suitable for all walkers, whatever their ability levels, and is even suitable for young children. However, before setting out, it is advisable to check the weather conditions aren't adverse, and the summit can be prone to high winds. The upward climb begins near the small Kaldárbotnum Reservoir at the Kaldársel sheep corral. Along the way the hiker will pass a myriad of intriguing protruding shapes - the result of upturned lava formations. These include vast expanses of intact pseudocraters and ropy-looking pahoehoe. Past these, the trail continues north eastwards along the flat slope of Helluhraun, after which there is a grassy slope to take walkers to the summit. Even though Helgafell Mountain is not high, the summit provides panoramic views of Flaxafói Bay, Reykjavík, the Reykjanes Peninsula, and Hafnarfjörður. It is recommended that walkers descend the mountain by the same route to avoid the very steep, rocky face. All-in-all, the hike up and down should take around one and a half to two hours.

Another noteworthy point about Helgafell is that it features in the Laxdæla saga, which is a 13th century tale that tells of the people of Iceland's Breiðafjörður area from the late 9th to early 11th century. It is described as the last dwelling place of the famed beauty and heroine of the saga - Guðrún ósvífursdóttir - and it is thought to be her burial place.