Hraunsvatn, North Iceland Mountain Lake


Hraunsvatn, North Iceland Mountain Lake

Watch this audio slideshow of a hike to Hraunsvatn lake in Öxnadalur valley in north Iceland, which lies at a height of 490 meters, interlocked between two steep mountains and a small glacier with a view of the majestic Hraundrangar peaks.

Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir [email protected]

Click here to download the slideshow.


When passing through Öxnadalur valley on the Ring Road near Akureyri in north Iceland, the eerie Hraundrangar mountain peaks are guaranteed to grab your attention.

One would think Hraundrangar were unconquered but it is actually possible to climb up the 1,075 meters high center peak, a feat first undertaken by two Icelandic and one American mountaineers in 1956.

While climbing Hraundrangar is only advisable for very experienced and well prepared mountaineers, hiking to the base of the peaks and viewing them up-close is a fairly easy one-hour walk.

The path, which starts at the farm Háls in Öxnadalur, opposite the Engimýri guesthouse, also takes walkers to a mystical mountain lake by the name of Hraunsvatn.

On the top of the hill above the lake hikers can take in the full impact of the surrounding scenery with a view of the lake, the valley, the mountain peaks and Eyjafjördur fjord.

Hraunsvatn lies in the valley Vatnsdalur at a height of 490 meters, interlocked between two steep mountains, Thverbrekkufjall and Háafjall, and a small glacier. It is 50 to 60 meters deep.

It is possible to walk around the lake. Up against Háafjall (the mountain to the right) is a grassy depression where you get to see Hraundrangar up close from a new angle.

The runoff of Hraunsvatn has dried up on the surface and now flows through underground channels, only appearing briefly before splashing into the Öxnadalsá river.

Yet there are fish in the lake, including arctic char which is popular among anglers. One of the theories is that the fish entered the lake while the river was still flowing on the surface thousands of years ago and later became part of the lake’s isolated biosphere.

Farmers in the area have long taken advantage of this natural resource. Famously, the father of national poet Jónas Hallgrímsson drowned while fishing in the lake in 1816.

Hallgrímsson grew up on the farm Hraun in Öxnadalur at the foot of Hraundrangar, which is featured in his poem Ferdalok (Journey’s End in the translation of Dick Ringler): “The star of love / over Steeple Rock / is cloaked in clouds of night.”

There is now a museum dedicated to the life and work of Jónas Hallgrímsson at Hraun.

In Iceland, there really are hidden gems, culture and history at every footstep. So the next time you drive past Hraundrangar, get out of the car for a more personal feel of the area.

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