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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Brytalækir or ‘The Purser’s Brook’

Updated: Apr 3, 2023


Brytalækir at Syðri Fjallabak
Brytalækir at Syðri Fjallabak

Located northeast of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, by the Highland 4X4 F-road Syðri Fjallabak, Brytalækir or ‘The Purser’s Brook’ is a beautiful spring-fed stream. Its water source is near the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, in the lava partly beneath the sand. The stream runs through a beautiful green landscape filled with vegetation and flora during summer. It is an unusually lively and luxuriant place for this altitude, almost like a tiny oasis. A significant portion of the stream spreads out and gives the illusion that you are standing by a small lake or pond. The surrounding area on the north bank is filled with small hillocks or knolls that give the place a bit of a mysterious atmosphere. It is one of those gems in the Icelandic landscape that few visit and thus has a peaceful quality. During summer, abundant birdlife gives the area a relaxing atmosphere and adds to the wonderful experience of visiting Brytalækir.


Map of Highland in Iceland
Map of Highland in Iceland

The name has a peculiar origin like many places on Fjallabak Syðri

Brytalækir is close to Mælifell and Mælifellssandur
Brytalækir is close to Mælifell and Mælifellssandur

A few centuries ago, a purser named Ólafur was working at the famous episcopal see Skálholt. At the same time, a female housekeeper with knowledge of witchcraft was also working for the bishop. She was full of anger and had limited tolerance for people who disagreed with her. At one point, Ólafur apparently offended the woman and she immediately cast a spell over him with her magic. As the magic took over his mind, he ran out of the house eastward, as fast as he could, to a small mountain called Lyklafell, or ‘Key Mountain’, where he left his keys to Skálholt. Then he ran through a mountain pass that has since been named Ólafsskarð. Not being able to stop running because of the spell, he continued to run all the way to this creek, Brytalækir, where he was found dead by the stream. Once he was found, the stream was named Brytalækir to honor his run and fate.


Part of the 4X4 mountain road and small dirt road Fjallabaksleið Syðri


Brytalækir and Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the background
Brytalækir and Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the background

For those who would like to travel to Brytalækir, it is a place that unquestionably requires a solid jeep or a large 4X4 vehicle. It is not a road that people should try to drive in any other kind of vehicle since it is an F-road and has difficult fords and river crossings. However, for those who would like to take a well-prepared, adventurous 4X4 jeep tour on challenging roads and rivers, the Fjallabaksleið Syðri is the most exciting option in Iceland



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