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Giantess, cups and the dead man’s cave

If you are in Reykjavik, you don’t need to travel far to enjoy silence and unspoiled nature.

One of my favourite spots is Grindarskörð and its surroundings east of Lönguhlíðar. Grindarskörð means “Fencepasses” and there are old routes through these passes to connect the people living in Selvogur on the south coast with the town of Hafnarfjörður and beyond. The main pass used for crossing is called Kerlingarskarð “Womens pass” and one tale says that a giantess was caught in the old days south from there by the owner of the land as she was carrying a large chunk of whale meat back to her cave. He owned the whale since it had drifted on his shores, so it didn’t look too good for the giantess. But he let her go if she would help to guard his sheep and make sure it didn’t go through the passes. So the giantess made a big fence to seal off one part of the passes and sat herself in Kerlingarskarð and made sure that the sheep wouldn´t flee that way.

From Kerlingarskarð. The view is towards Reykjavik.
From Kerlingarskarð. The view is towards Reykjavik.

You travel road 41 towards Keflavik and while you are going through Hafnarfjörður you start looking for road 42 and road 417 in the direction of Bláfjöll skiing resort. Bear in mind that this road is sometimes closed during winter. When you see a small orange house on the right side of the road it’s time to find a parking spot.  From the road you can follow small poles towards the mountain with the orange house on the left. There are many caves in this area and some of them are close to the trail, so look closely as you walk through the lava, but be cautious since it’s easy to fall and hurt yourself.

The Rose Cave is always full of snow in the spring and early summer.
The Rose Cave is always full of snow in the spring and early summer.

There is a steep hill upp to the top of the Kerlingarskarð, but it’s not long and there is wonderful view from top of the pass. As you are almost up there notice a natural drinking fountain on the left and actually there is two of them. People used to have a sip of the water in the old days, since water is a scarce resource in this area.

On the top of the hill around the passes there are a few craters and they are referred to as bollar or cups, since they look like cups sitting upside down. Sailors have used these cups to remember locations of generous fishing areas at sea near Hafnarfjörður and off the south coast as well. It’s possible to see how the lava flowed from the cups down both sides of the passes.

On the other side you can go on and see “Ghost hills” (Draugahlíðar) and beyond that are Sulfur mountains (Brennisteinsfjöll) where there are remains of sulfur mines in Námahvammur, just Southwest of Ghost hills.

Cairn on the old trail Selvogsgata.
Cairn on the old trail Selvogsgata.

It is also possible to walk towards the East and follow an old trail to a small crater called Litla Kóngsfell, “Little Kings Mountain”. At this mountain the sheep gathering was started each autumn for the area south from there. The leaders of the sheep herders were called kings and they stood there, organizing the gathering and tell the men where they were supposed to go. Near to the mountain and close to the trail there is a small cave called dead man’s cave where a man died in 1860 after crawling in to seek shelter from a storm. The trail goes further south to Selvogur, but it is adviced to travel with someone that knows the area if you want to go all the way.

Litla-Kóngsfell crater.
Litla-Kóngsfell crater.

If you hike all the way to Litla Kóngsfell and back, it is a distance of 8-10 km and highest point is 490 m (with accumulated height of no more than 300 m). It’s a pleasant hike in beautiful and mysterious surroundings with a wonderful view.

If you want to go there with us please leave your info in the box below.