Dimmuborgir - the Dark Fortress at Mývatn are a true wonder of nature. Dimmuborgir consists of huge lava rock formations which make you feel like you stepped into another world - a world of fairy tales.
The formation of these extraordinary lava pillars stems from molten lava creating a lava pond in the eruption of Lúdentarborgir and Þrengslaborgir row of craters some 2,300 years ago.
Top photo: Inside the gap at Dimmuborgir
Walking inside Dimmuborgir
The molten lava pond began solidifying on the surface creating a crusty roof, with the lava flow deepening the lava pond. Groundwater became trapped underneath the lava pond and steam issued through vents it created in the lava and formed these pillars.
The solidified pillars then remained standing even after the lava pond had emptied itself and the lava roof had collapsed. Or something to that extent as far as I can understand ;)
I have seen this phenomenon referred to as "hraunbóla" or lava bubble. The rocks are brittle and fragile due to the process of their formation, so they are preserved and there is no climbing in them.
Huge formations in Hallarflöt at Dimmuborgir
There are several bird species in Dimmuborgir that should not be disturbed, f.ex. the falcon, so it is very important to keep to the paths and not walk on roped-in areas, which are roped in for the protection of the vegetation.
Dimmuborgir is around 1-2 km in diameter and 20 metres at its highest point, with several walking paths - please, keep to the paths and follow the colour of the route you have chosen.
While walking somewhere in the middle of Dimmuborgir it is easy to get lost if not following a certain path, as some of the lava formations look exactly the same and one can be almost certain to think "I've been here before".
Kirkjan - the Church at Dimmuborgir
One of the routes, which is called Kirkjuhringurinn - the Church route leads to Kirkjan - the Church. It is 2.4 km and takes around 1 hour to complete. This path takes you through extraordinary tall lava formations for half an hour until you reach the so-called church. The sign says Kirkja - this is the best-known lava formation here.
If you walk up the steps to the church you will notice that it is a cave open in both ends with a high-dome-shaped roof. It looks like it is man-made, but it is actually a lava cave, which looks a little like a Gothic church.
My husband inside Kirkjan - the Church at Dimmuborgir
Returning back you walk through sandhills and close the ring by the parking lot. Just remember that the name of the entrance to Dimmuborgir is Borgarás.
The path is well marked and you cannot get lost unless you get off the track or are in Dimmuborgir after dark...
With my father-in-law inside Jólasveinahellirinn
I love visiting Dimmuborgir - and in one location hidden away is a cave where the Icelandic Yule lads live!
Here in Iceland, we have 13 Yule lads, which are quite different from Santa Claus. There are records of names of more than 70 Yule Lads, but somehow these 13 Yule lads have stayed with us until modern times.
My husband inside the Yule lad cave at Dimmuborgir
The Yule lads sleep in their cave during the summertime and can rarely be seen walking around as they are resting. In November and December, it is a different story, then there is a good chance of running into a mischievous Yule lad! I visited their cave twice last summer and was lucky enough not to run into them in their cave ;)
Thirteen days before Christmas the first Yule lad comes to inhabited areas and then a new one arrives every day until the last one arrives on the 24th of December. We Icelanders celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December.
The Yule lads left their laundry out to dry
In their strangely formed natural cave, you will find lava beds for each and every one of the Yule lads with their personal belongings. It is fun poking around in there looking at all their stuff - as long as they don't come back to find you in their cave - poking around going through their stuff!!
Inside the cave is a kitchen and you can find their laundry hanging up to dry, so it seems like they just popped out and could be back any minute now.
The beginning of the path leading to the Yule lad cave
It is not easy finding this cave, but so worth it if you manage to stumble upon it. I often get letters from travellers, asking me about the exact location of the cave. Am I at liberty to give information on a hidden cave? I don't know, but the photo above will give you some idea of where to find this cave.
There you will see where you turn off from the main path, the rest is up to you ;)
The entrance to the Jólasveinahellirinn cave at Hallarflöt
There is another cave of the Yule lads at Hallarflöt and you might meet the lads there from time to time.
It is much easier to find. That cave is much smaller, with some small chairs and a few personal items of the Yule Lads
Jólasveinahellirinn - the Jule lad cave at Hallarflöt
On a donation box in the cave is written that they are collecting money for pyjamas for Leppalúði, their father :)
At Hallarflöt you will also find the chair of the Yule Lads, in which you can sit and have your photo taken.
The view-dial at Dimmuborgir
You will find a beautiful view-dial by the Dimmuborgir parking lot. Where ever I travel in Iceland, I look for view-dials. The designer of this view-dial is Jakob Hálfdanarson, my father-in-law (see my photo below), and it was erected by Náttúruverndarráð (Wildlife Conservation), Skútustaðahreppur rural district and Landgræðslan (Soil Conservation Service of Iceland) in 1990.
My father-in-law has been making view-dials for decades here in Iceland and before him, his uncle, Jón Víðis, was in the view-dial business, but he designed the first view-dial in Iceland, located at Seltjarnarnes in the Great-Reykjavík area.
My father-in-law Jakob Hálfdanarson by the view-dial at Dimmuborgir, which he designed
The view-dial at Dimmuborgir is still so bright and shiny like it has just been erected. The harsh weather in Iceland sadly sometimes ruins the chrome on the view-dials, but not here at Dimmuborgir.
But then something else happened, some people have started to ruin these beautiful and very expensive view-dials by scratching their names or initials on the shiny chrome plate! Why people do this is beyond me and I wish there was a way to stop this from happening, so we can keep our beautiful view-dials intact for years and decades to come.
The view-dial at Dimmuborgir
View-dials are so useful as they show the names of all the mountains in the area. A whole lot of very detailed work has been put into making these view-dials. I have spent days on end with my father-in-law and my husband where they were measuring the view with a theodolite.
The view-dial at Dimmuborgir is a molten cylindric with a chrome plate with a time of three hours. It stands on top of an octagon wooden podium with a star - very beautiful!
The view-dial at Dimmuborgir
In my next travel-blog the Amazing Mývatn area - part III I am going to show you the Grjótagjá and Stóragjá ravines, the Mývatnsstofa Information Centre, Reykjahlíðarkirkja church, where the lava flow stopped in its tracks, and Jarðböðin - the Mývatn Nature Baths.
I joined a free guided tour of Dimmuborgir in the summer of 2020. The tour is in English and I think that it starts at 13:00. I haven't been able to find more information about it but I saw information about the guided tour when I visited Mývatnsstofa, which is located next to the supermarket at Mývatn.
A guided tour of Dimmuborgir in English
Even though Dimmuborgir look like a place where the elves or the Hidden People of Iceland might reside, then I have not heard of any folklore related to this area. And our mediums have not seen any elves in this location.
Ásbyrgi on the other hand might be the capital city of the Elves in North-Iceland and you can read up on what Margrét from Öxnafell, a well-known medium, saw when she visited Ásbyrgi in my travel-blog:
I have added many other travel-blogs about the Mývatn area if you want to join me on a tour of this amazing area:
To visit Mývatn you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up here in two days. My husband's family owns a summer cottage in this area and we have driven from Reykjavík to Mývatn in one day, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Have a lovely time at Dimmuborgir :)