Hólmatungur is an oasis area in the canyon of the glacial river Jökulsá in the Vatnajökull national park. Cutting through the rocky plains of northeast Iceland, the river, who originate at the roots of the Vatnajökull glacier, flows down this valley. The gorge is decorated with many flowers of various colors, rivers, brooks, and streams. The catastrophic floods that created this canyon left lots of beautiful basaltic columns and other rock formations.
According to the legend, a widow, who lived in the lowlands, decided to try to escape the bubonic plague, which struck the country in the past. She and her people moved to Hólmatungur with provisions to last them a long time. When they were on the brink of starvation the shepherd was slaughtered but not eaten because the widow, who was a stocky woman, decided to move back home. She was afraid, that she might be the next one on the menu.
How to get there
The proposed hike is not a circle but a route down the valley from the Hólmatungur parking lot to the Vesturdalur camping site further down. The best way to arrive there is to take the Scheduled bus service from SBA and ask the driver to stop at Hólmatungur. From there, a marked path guides you along the canyon. You can download a good map from the Vatnajökull national park website here (PDF).
Time: 3h30 – 04:00
Distance: 10 kilometers