Hvolsvöllur is Iceland in a nutshell – from world-famous but also secret waterfalls to endless black sand beaches, hidden caves and canyons, mountains built by trolls with awesome view points, forests (!), active volcanoes, and mighty glaciers. On top of all this beautiful nature, the Icelandic culture can be experienced first hand with many local events taking place throughout the year. Hvolsvöllur itself reflects a typical Icelandic town. We have it all: a school, supermarket, gas station, swimming pool, an ice cream shop and of course, Midgard Base Camp with its yummi restaurant and bar – that’s all an Icelander needs to live a happy life.
To introduce you properly to our home town – which we also like to call the centre of the universe – we’ve put together a day trip taking in our favourite places that you can access easily yourself. You can do all of this in a normal rental car, or on your bike if you’re feeling super active!
Let’s start this by heading out into the awesome nature surrounding the town:
First stop: Efra-Hvolshellar
There are many caves in our area, Efra-Hvolshellar are the easiest ones to access. These are man-made caves and one of them is said to be the second longest in Iceland at 45m in length. The whole area around the caves is picturesque and might remind you a bit of “the Shire” from the Lord of the Rings, with a little river, trees, grassy hills and curious horses surrounding it, all that’s missing are the Hobbits! You won’t spend hours in this location, but it is a nice little stop to dig into the history of old Iceland and an interesting place to explore with kids.
Second stop: Tumastaðaskogur
Iceland might be known for having no trees. Well, that is not true! Back in the old days Iceland was covered in forests, but the first settlers cut most of them down and volcanic eruptions also played their part in making the forests disappear. In recent years, reforestation has become a focus in Iceland. Tumastaðir played a pioneer role in this, and today it is one of the biggest forests in South Iceland. Walking paths and picnic areas make this a perfect stop for a little stroll.
Third stop: Gluggafoss
We know there are so many waterfalls in Iceland, but this one is definitely very high on our favorites list. Gluggafoss means “window waterfall” – many windows/holes were carved by the powerful water through the massive stones. Gluggafoss is actually not one waterfall, but five very different ones. You can see and explore the first two falls from the bottom, for the rest you have to hike up the little, steep path on the right hand side of it. Also the views from up there onto Eyfjallakökull are amazing – so definitely worth taking the short hike.
4th stop: Stóri-Dímon
From Gluggafoss you can get to this freestanding hill in the middle of mighty glacier rivers via a well-maintained gravel road. This mountain was actually built by trolls – true story! Ask a Midgard Staff member to hear the whole story (but don’t ask more than one person, as each person might tell the story a little bit or very differently). On the East side of it, there is a little footpath to the top. It’s again a short and rather steep hike, but wow, getting to the top is rewarding! Expect to see glacier river beds that change daily, volcanoes, and mountains all around you. This little hike is definitely one of the best kept “secrets”; and we can almost guarantee you that you will be there all alone. So many people are passing by on the ring-road close-by without knowing what views they are missing out on.
5th stop: Landeyjahöfn
The ferry brings you from here to the Westman Islands, but even without taking the ferry, this place is worth a stop. Some travellers might think there is only one “black sand beach” (Reynisfjara near Vík) and that assumption is so wrong! If you want to experience a beautiful black sand beach with magnificent views – this is the place to go. Have a stroll along the beach and after a 15min walk you might find the remains of an old wooden shipwreck. The views over the mighty waves, all the way to the Westman Islands are to die for. Especially during sunset or with the dancing Northern lights during a clear night.
6th stop: Seljalandsfoss
Well, we are sure that this stop was already on your bucket list! It is one of the most famous Icelandic waterfalls, conveniently located next to the main road and famous for its appearance in a Justin Bieber video. It is worth the stop to have a walk around the waterfall (yes, there is a path around it). Also, there is a toilet next to the parking lot – which might be useful if nature is calling after exploring the more secret spots without facilities!
7th stop: Gljúfrabúi
This beautiful and a little hidden waterfall is the less well known brother of Seljalandsfoss. It is hidden in a small canyon that you access by jumping from rock to rock in a little stream. You will definitely get wet by getting there, but it is so worth it – and remember drying facilities and a warm hot tub and sauna are waiting for you at Midgard Base Camp.
After exploring all that nature it’s time to head back into town and experience what Hvolsvöllur has to offer.
Town tip 1: The Lava Centre
The Lava Centre is a high-tech, interactive and super informative volcano exhibition. If you are interested in the volcanoes that surround you during your stay in Iceland, this is the place to go. You might be surprised to find out how many active volcanoes we can call our neighbours. Bring a voucher from Midgard Base Camp and you will get a 10% discount on the entrance fee.
Town tip 2: Una Local Product
Of course you want to buy some nice souvenirs for your loved ones at home. Wool sweaters, mittens, etc. are all hand made by local women, you will find them at the Una store in “downtown Hvolsvöllur” along with beautiful cards, books and other handicrafts.
Town tip 3: the local Swimming Pool
Visiting a local swimming pool is a must on every visit to Iceland. It doesn’t get any more authentic than this – you can tell by the number of locals you will find spending their evenings in the pool. It’s the meeting point for the whole town and you might find yourself sitting in a hot tub next to the town’s mayor. Equipped with hot tubs, a heated 25m pool and a sauna, this place is a local heaven and the best way to spend the evening, especially on a cold, dark winter night.
Town tip 4: Valdís Ice Cream Shop
Icelanders love ice cream and we are incredibly lucky to have our own ice cream shop (having one makes us a “big city” in Iceland). It’s open long into the evening/night and the best and most Icelandic way to end a day exploring Iceland. And yes, ice cream is a daily thing for us – even more so in winter!