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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Hvanngil valley in the Highland in Iceland

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

For centuries, sheep farmers in Iceland have sent their stock into the wilderness, the Highland, to wander during summer, graze in the mountains and spare the farmland for harvesting in late summer. So, one of the main reasons our ancestors started to enter the Highland, the backland of the island's interior, was because of the annual gathering of sheep. They send the sheep in spring to the Highland, and in autumn, flocks of selected individuals from each region and farm travel to the Highland to find and gather their sheep. Early on, those trips to the Highland were a test of manhood and were well sought after by young men. The trips were often quite difficult as the weather in Iceland has always been quite unpredictable. Also, and until the last century, places to accommodate or find shelter overnight were fewer and rarely habitable. Most of those places were either caves or even holes in the ground. But as things developed, Icelanders started to build huts in the Highland for the ones who stayed up there for three days, gathering sheep and often walking great distances to search for their sheep in the backland.

Map of Highland in Iceland
Map of Highland in Iceland

Hvanngil was originally a place for farmers for gathering their sheep

The hut and camping at Hvanngil
The hut and camping at Hvanngil

Hvanngil is a small valley in the Highland and is a well-known place for its popular hiking trail, Laugavegur. It was initially one of the places where farmers built their huts in the middle of the ninetieth century to stay in the Highland while gathering sheep in autumn. At that time, the huts were built to accommodate a group of searchers upstairs while sheep were downstairs. For those curious about such houses, the yellow hut is still intact in Hvanngil. Later, around the seventies, the last century, travel clubs started to build cabins only aimed at housing the Highland travelers who were there for fun and enjoyment. At Hvanngil, one was built in the eighties and is one of the best huts in the Highland. For those hiking, Laugavegur, Hvanngil is an attractive place to stay and those who want to take time to drive the difficult Highland Road, Syðri Fjallabak. There are also several exciting hiking trails around the hut into the magnificent Torfajökull area.

How to get to Hvanngil

To visit Hvanngil you need to crss large rivers
To visit Hvanngil you need to crss large rivers

Hvanngil is only reached by a well-equipped 4X4 vehicle. It is only possible to visit this place from the middle of July until late September. Even in September, one can expect snow. So, this is a place for serious hikers and travelers in Iceland who understand how to travel in the Highland and know how to cross rivers. It is a part of the mountain road F210, one of the most challenging highland roads in Iceland. It is highly recommended to find a local guide and a driver if you are interested in visiting this part of the Highland in Iceland.

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