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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Hljóðaklettar basalt columns rocks

Updated: Dec 6, 2022


The unusual landscapes at Hljóðaklettar rocks
The unusual landscapes at Hljóðaklettar rocks

Hljóðaklettar (Echo Rocks) in the northern region of Iceland is part of Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and Vatnajökull National Park. The rocks are a distinctive cluster of basalt column rock formations and are quite unique. Although mainly defined by the fascinating and unusual basalt column rocks, cliffs, and caves, Hljóðaklettar as a natural wonder includes a large area of interesting geology. It is part of an old crater that has been affected by many forces above and below the surface over hundreds of thousands of years. It is also a spooky area that gives you an immediate feeling of otherworldly adventure when you encounter the enigmatic-looking cliffs. As you enter the area by the cliffs, you can't avoid the feeling that you are not alone, somehow being watched or followed: a sense that is not necessarily uncomfortable but still lingers in the back of your mind. It is part of a group of places in Iceland that are specifically interesting for families and people traveling with children: a natural wonder of distinctive beauty and a place that feeds the imagination and feels like an adventure in an environment that could only be conceived by Mother Nature.


Map of Iceland north east region
Map of Iceland north east region

Unusual and remarkable basalt columns

Basalt column at Hljóðaklettar in Jökulsárgljúfur
Basalt column at Hljóðaklettar in Jökulsárgljúfur

The columns are neither horizontal nor vertical, as you would expect in most basalt column areas, but rather lie at all angles. Accordingly, they deliver reverberating sounds with stunning clarity, as their name ‘Echo Rocks’ suggests. Apart from the rock formations in Hljóðaklettar, you will find caves and rock castles that all contribute to the mysterious atmosphere. You will also be amazed to see basalt columns in decorative patterns as well as basalt column rosettes. Lava rosettes are developed when the columns' lava stream cools from all sides simultaneously. They are pretty impressive and give the impression that this is the work of ‘huldufólk’ (the hidden people) in Iceland decorating their homes. You can walk around the cliffs for hours with a camera and take all kinds of exciting photos, even with your microlens. It is a beautiful place for photography in general.


Basalt columns

The church at Hljóðaklettar rocks
The church at Hljóðaklettar rocks

Basalt columns have become popular among tourists in recent years. It is an unusual rock formation that is suspiciously regular, often resembling man-made structures, yet at the same time beautiful and decorative. The reason for this recent fascination and interest might be the massive exposure received by the beautiful basalt column cliffs at the popular destination of Reynisfjara or the Black Beach. It might also be because of the admired Stuðlagil canyon that has become one of the most popular destinations in Iceland. Hljóðaklettar has been visited by Icelanders for decades, but access was always a bit difficult. The area was remote, not easily reachable, and defined as part of the highland. That has all changed dramatically in recent years when an asphalt road was built leading to the parking lot in Vestural valley and a new parking lot and an observation platform built at Langavatnshöfði headland east of Hljóðaklettar.


The adventures of the two hiking paths

Hiking in Hljóðaklettar is a great option
Hiking in Hljóðaklettar is a great option

If you are traveling on the Ring Road (Road no. 1) in Iceland coming from the east, you take a turn onto Road no. 862 soon after crossing the bridge on the river Jökjulsá á Fjöllum. Here you need to drive approximately 40 kilometers and turn east onto Road no. 888. You can follow that road to the end, about 2 kilometers, to Langavatnshöfði and walk from there to Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar. The view from the top of Langavatnshöfði is spectacular. You can also turn from Road no. 888 south onto Road no. 889 to the parking lot at Vesturdalur and take the traditional hiking trail. Vesturdalur (West Valley) has traditionally been the main entrance to Hljóðaklettar and is still the hiking trail I would recommend. Vesturdalur is a beautiful campsite with a parking lot and well-maintained hiking trails to other places in Jökulsárgljúfur. The track around Hljóðaklettar has good signs and information along the way. When hiking, you will see basalt column formations everywhere. You will see places like ‘the Church’, ‘the Troll’, and many other interesting points. On this trail, you can also hike to and around Rauðhólar. Camping in Vesturdalur for two to three days is an excellent option for photographers and anyone interested in interesting hiking tours.


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