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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Drangey island

Updated: Dec 23, 2022


Drangey island
Drangey island

When driving in Skagafjörður fjord in the northern region of Iceland, you will be impressed by a huge rock island towering majestically in the middle of the fjord. The rock is visible from the Ring Road as you approach Vamahlíð, a small hamlet, originating from the mountain pass Vatnsskarð between Húnavatnssýsla and Skagafjörður. Geologically, Drangey island is a remnant of an old volcano and is mostly made of volcanic tuff. To the icelanders, the geological explanation of the island’s origins was somewhat dull, so they came up with another explanation: Two night-prowling trolls once crossed the fjord with their cow in tow. They were rather slow in their movement and were caught in the early morning sunlight. It is known that the rays of sun turn trolls into stones. Thus, the man, woman, and cow turned into stones on the spot. The cow turned into Drangey island; the woman became Kerling (old hag), which is the stack south of Drangey, and a stack north of Drangey became Karl (man). Unfortunately, some centuries ago, the man collapsed and disappeared into the ocean as a large earthquake shook Skagafjörður.

Map of North West Region in Iceland
Map of North West Region in Iceland

A place where the famous Icelandic bad boy and outlaw Grettir Ásmundarson found a sanctuary

The path up to Drangey island
A steap path up to the top at Drangey island

Drangey is first mentioned in the Icelandic Grettis saga. The island is the place where the notorious murderer Grettir found refuge after being outlawed. Grettir is considered to be the strongest man ever to bear the title “Icelander.” He was mean, evil, grumpy, and ill-spirited. He was also a miserable and unlucky person; when he experienced a lack of trouble, he strongly believed that misfortune would find him. Since early childhood, he was in trouble and always created problems for himself and others. He survived in Drangey for 3 years until he was slain in a dramatic sequence of events. Grettir swam from Drangey to the shore where Grettislaug, a natural pool, is found today. He then came ashore naked and fell asleep. In Grettis saga, written in the 12thcentury, two women find him lying on the grass. To their surprise, this huge and strong man has an unusually small penis.


A steep path to the top

The view on top of Drangey island is spectacular in the middle of Skagafjörður fjord
The view on top of Drangey island is spectacular in the middle of Skagafjörður fjord

Drangey is a mass of tuff, flat on the top, rising almost 200 meters out of the ocean. The cliffs serve as nesting sites for around a million seabirds, and among them is a Puffin colony. Throughout centuries, locals have visited the cliffs for egg collection and bird netting. There is only one trail leading to the top. It is quite steep and not for the faint-hearted or those who have acrophobia. There are tours to Drangey during the summer from the town of Sauðárkrókur. You can also visit Grettislaug, a hot pool, which is located around 30 kilometers north of Sauðárkrókur, where you can relax and camp at Reykir.



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