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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Hjörleifshöfði cliff


Hjörleifshöfði cliff or rock in the middle of a black sand
Hjörleifshöfði cliff or rock in the middle of a black sand

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in Iceland. The history of Hjörleifshöfði goes back as far as the Book Of Settlement. When Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler in Iceland, came here around the end of the eighth century, his foster brother Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson accompanied him. On their way from Norway, they drifted apart. Ingolfur landed at Ingólfshöfði on the east side on the south shore, and Hjörleifur landed at Hjörleifshöfði, more to the west. At that time, the shoreline was at the cliffs of Hjöleifshöfði, not kilometers farther south than it is now. That was before the many powerful eruptions in the volcano Katla up on the top of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, carried the sand down to the shore and extended the shoreline. To make a long story short, Hjörleifur met his fate here at Hjörleifshöfði as his slaves turned against him and killed him. His bones are still on the top of the rock where he was buried in accordance with paganism.


Hjörleifshöfði is on the South Shore on the map of Iceland
Hjörleifshöfði is on the South Shore on the map of Iceland

Hiking around Hjörleifshöfði is a relatively light hike

Hjörleifshöfði view from the black sand
Hjörleifshöfði view from the black sand

A walk around Hjörleifshöfði is a time well spent. The hike is about seven kilometers and shouldn't take more than two to three hours. It requires a bit of wading but is a spectacular walk passed the high cliffs and the two rock pillars on the south side, Arnardrangur and Lásdrangur. Here it is interesting to see the pillars standing on the sand and compare them to the rock pillars Reynisdrangar nearby that are constantly fighting the Atlantic Ocean. If you have more time, a walk up to the Rock from the west side gives an impressive view of the south coast and the two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull, and much more. It is also interesting that people lived and farmed here not so long ago on top of Hjörleifshöfði.


Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessable

Hjörleifshöfði rock surrounded by lupin
Hjörleifshöfði rock surrounded by lupin

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland. It only takes about five minutes to drive to the parking lot on the west side of the Rock if you are driving your own vehicle or have a rental car. It is also a great spot for a quiet stop and lunch or afternoon nap while traveling in Iceland.


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