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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Hrafntinnusker is a mountain in the Icelandic Highland


Hrafntinnusker hut
Hrafntinnusker hut

Hrafntinnusker is a mountain in the Icelandic Highland, eleven kilometers and a few hours hike from Landmannalaugar. Hrafntinnusker is also a part of the famous Laugavegur hiking trail, and the hut in Hrafntinnusker is the first stop for most hikers. It has one of the most extraordinary campsites in Iceland, to say the least. The small mountain is a volcano that most geologists assume will not erupt anytime soon, and it takes its name from the black glass rock, obsidian, formed when a highly acidic magma cools extremely fast in an eruption. Obsidian is a fascinating geological phenomenon, and such rocks are scattered around the whole area. Although Hrafntinnusker is a mountain, the second half of its name means skerry, somewhat in accordance with naming traditions in the eastern parts of the lowland around Syðri Fjallabak, in Skaftafell, where distinctions between mountain and skerry are not always clear. As you can imagine, the Icelandic language has many terms for mountains, and it is often not clear why similar mountains are named hills, skerries, or mountains.


An exotic place with many unusual elements

Rhyolite mountains in Torfajökull caldera west of Hrafntinnusker
Rhyolite mountains in Torfajökull caldera west of Hrafntinnusker

Hrafntinnusker is a unique place, even in the diverse landscape of the Torfajökull caldera in Iceland. It is a mountain with a tiny and rapidly disappearing glacier on top. The environment is harsh, rocky, and very isolated. A relatively large active geothermal area spreads out to the west of the mountain. Much of the geothermal activity is also below the ice, where the ground is constantly delivering hot steam that melts the ice from below and forms ice caves. As fascinating as the ice caves are, they are also very dangerous as no one really knows how and when parts will fall from the ceiling inside the caves. Therefore, it is recommended that people do to enter the caves as large falling chunks can be lethal. Hrafntinnusker is more often than not defined as the most remote part of Iceland because the hut and the campsite are situated at such high altitudes. Stopping at Hrafntinnusker when hiking Laugavegur is a good choice as there are two to three highly interesting short hikes around the hut.


Access is only available for hikers and well equipped 4X4 vehicles

Camping site at Hrafntinnusker
Camping site at Hrafntinnusker

There are basically two ways to visit Hrafntinnusker. One is the hiking trail from Landmannalaugar, where you visit the east side of the mountain, and the other is the 4X4 trail, where you visit the west side and the sizeable geothermal area. Although a fascinating place, not many visitors get an opportunity to come here. Most of the people hiking the Landmannalaugar hiking trail only see the east side and might stay overnight in the hut, missing the west side. The west side is fascinating and requires a well-equipped 4X4 vehicle as the road is tough with many rivers to cross and basically only for local guides and drivers.


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