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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Álftavatn lake in the Highland in Iceland


Álftavatn lake at Fjallabak in Icelandic Highland
Álftavatn lake at Fjallabak in Icelandic Highland

Many places in the Icelandic Highland are seldom visited due to their isolation and inconvenient access for vehicle. In that sense, they are challenging locations that are mostly visited by hikers. This, on the other hand, does not apply to Álftavatn lake, or ‘Swan Lake’, located by the popular hiking track Laugavegur and one of the most exciting 4X4 Highland mountain roads in Iceland: Syrðri Fjallabak. There is a popular mountain cabin and a camping site by the lake and many hikers on the Laugavegur track choose to stay there overnight as Álftavatn is conveniently situated for a rest on the 54-kilometer hike. Furthermore, the lake is located in a peaceful landscape surrounded by beautiful mountains characteristic of the southern part of the Highland. You also have an excellent view of Torfajökull and the rhyolite mountains north of the lake. During the summer months, Álftavatn is quite busy with hikers and even has a café.


Map of Highland in Iceland
Map of Highland in Iceland

The southern part of the Icelandic Highland

Driving to Álftavatn is quite challenging and requires a good modified 4X4 vehicle.
Driving to Álftavatn is quite challenging and requires a good modified 4X4 vehicle.

Like Iceland’s lakes, caves, stacks by the shore, hills, cliffs, and other areas in the landscape, Álftavatn lake has its folklore. Early in the eighteenth century, a farmer from a farm close to the southern shoreline traveled to the lake to hunt for whooper swans, as he did annually. One summer, he traveled with his thirteen-year-old daughter to catch swans. At one point, he rode his horse from the shore into the lake, fell off the horse, and drowned. The daughter traveled back home, which was a day's journey, and gathered some men and help. Despite a thorough search, the farmer was not found. The night after the search team came back, her mother had a dream where her husband asked the search team to come back and fetch his body under a particular cliff by the east side of the lake. The next day the search team went back and found the farmer's body under that cliff. Although considered to be folklore, it is a true story. Many people in Iceland believe that a message from the deceased can be sent through dreams and here is your proof, by Álftavatn lake in the Icelandic Highland.


Access is not simple

There is a popular mountain cabin and a camping site by the lake
There is a popular mountain cabin and a camping site by the lake

Driving to Álftavatn is quite challenging and requires a good modified 4X4 vehicle. The Highland track Syðri Fjallabak is the most difficult highland road that is open to travelers in Iceland. Additionally, it is only open from the beginning of July (often from the middle of July) until late September, but, nonetheless, it is a fascinating drive with such a variety of places to view, visit, and photograph that I always consider it one of my favorite roads.



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