Hjörleifshöfði is a curious place. At once bleak and majestic, the vast black sands and sweeping panoramas tell ancient and mysterious tales of murder, elves and alien planets.
Named after Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, the brother of the first Norse settler in iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson, Hjörleifshöfði was, for a short time, Hjörleifur’s home—until he was brutally murdered by his ill-treated slaves, that is. His burial mound can still be seen at the top of the mountain, along with the graves of later settlers who lived on a farm in the shadows of the mountain.
The weather was perfect for the hike up. A popular area with walkers, the path up the inselberg is a relatively simple one—if a little steep—with easy paths winding up to the peak and back down the other side. We set off on our jaunt at about 11 a.m. and, despite a couple of hair-raising moments in which I casually declared I have a heart condition that was playing up and we all genuinely questioned whether or not I’d make it to the top without having a heart attack, the climb was pleasant. We reached the top by noon and were instantly blown away—metaphorically by the views and almost literally by the crazy wind. Sprawling beaches, foaming seas and snow-capped mountains dominate the landscape and, in clear weather, you can see for kilometres. Here we sat for a while, catching our breath and regaining our composure, before heading to Hjörleifshöfði’s famous cave.
Super-skilled Jedi Knights
Heading down the mountain, we pass by the eerie ruins of an old farmstead. Hikers beware, here be elves. Legend has it that hidden folk dwell among these stones, wreaking havoc on those who dare linger. Ever since the time of the settlement, Hjörleifshöfði has been known as a place of mysterious happenings. Many who come here still experience unexplainable things, and are drawn back to the area again and again to try and figure out their cause. Fortunately for us, the only unexplainable thing that happened that day was me making it the entire way without falling on my arse or needing helicopter rescue.
Like many parts of Iceland, Hjörleifshófði has become film-location famous, posing as the planet Lah’mu in ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’. [Editor’s Note: This location was not featured in ‘Star Wars: Rogue One.’ Our journalist succumbed to fake news and we apologise.] The area wasn’t particularly popular with tourists until the film was released in 2016, but it now welcomes thousands of visitors who long to take a photo on alien sands. The highlight for many is the cave. We were surprised to learn that this cave was, in fact, not one of the reasons this location was chosen for the film—despite the fact it is shaped, rather uncannily, like Yoda. Of course, knowing that we were going to be spending some time here, the ever-prepared Art Bicnick packed some lightsabers allowing Iona and I to enjoy a few moments pretending we were super skilled Jedi Knights.
While we were keen to get home, we made sure to stop for lunch in Vík. It’s well worth exploring this cute little town on your way to or from Hjörleifshöfði. The black beaches are a must and the view from the church is sure to get you all the Instagram likes. Having been fairly sedentary within the confines of the city lately, the climb was the most exercise we had done in almost three months. We left the south coast behind us and headed back to the city: tired, windswept and glad that there is still plenty of adventure to be had in Iceland. Even in the midst of the pandemic.
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