Hallormsstaðaskógur small wood in the East Fjords
Updated: Apr 3
One of the settlers in Iceland during the settlement era, over 1100 years ago, claimed that the island was covered in a forest from the shore to the mountains, as it is phrased in the Sagas. His claim has always been mind-boggling to the Icelanders who can't help but wonder what happened to their trees. Some say the wind swept them away. Others argue the sheep gnawed them away when the farmers had their livestock roaming the heaths and moors and mountains all summer long. At some point, it was concluded that the cold little island had almost no trees. The few that had survived since the settlement were on a farm called Hallormsstaður in the East Region. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the farm was fenced, and livestock was banned, most importantly sheep. Around the middle of the century, Icelanders started to plant new trees at the farm. All kinds of trees were imported from other countries to test their survival skills in Icelandic weather. The size of the farm has increased, and it is now the most extensive wood in Iceland. It is difficult to define it as the 800 hectares (2000 acres) can hardly be labeled as a forest. So, trees are not something you travel to Iceland to see unless you are looking for the smallest forest in Europe.
After our trees had disappeared a new plan was implemented
Whatever the reason for the disappearance of trees, a plan was launched, and forestation became the new rave. Trees were planted in crucial locations in addition to Hallormsstaður. It became an official policy in 1899 when the Parliament passed a law to protect what was left of forest in the area. The locals were instructed to shape up and plant trees. Today, Hallormsstaðaskógur is the largest wooded area in Iceland. Although we became almost obsessed with the idea of planting trees in the seventies and the eighties, the step towards renewing our former tree glory is far from being reached. The policy has been disputed in recent years, and some would claim that one of our advantages is not having many trees but, instead, a beautiful view of mountains and valleys.
A great location for a forest
On the other hand, Hallormsstaðaskógur is located south of the town of Egilsstaðir. It is situated by the lake Lagarfljót and has recently become popular as an outdoor paradise. The climate in the area is quite convenient. It is breezy rather than windy. Summers are usually warmer and sunnier than the rest of the island. When I traveled through Hallormsstaðaskógur in the summer of 2021, it was the warmest day recorded at 29 centigrade. In winter, the snow covers the entire flora, sheltering the roots from any frost damage. Hallormsstaðaskógur is a beautiful place to visit with many interesting hiking trails and among the most beautiful camping sites in Iceland, in Atlavík cove by the lake. Here, you can also see many samples of trees that grow in Iceland and get the best information about what trees survived and which are the most popular. You can also form an opinion if Iceland has a forest? To find Hallormsstaður, you need to take road nr. 95 south from the town of Egilsstaðir and then turn east on road nr. 931 and you can't miss it.