Ásbyrgi - the Shelter of the Gods is located in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon way up in North-Iceland. It is one of the most magical places in Iceland, and definitely my most favourite place here in my country. It is like out of this world and when it opens up and I can see it from the road I feel like a kid, I am so excited about seeing it again :)
I have often camped in Ásbyrgi and the campsite in Ásbyrgi is my favourite campsite in Iceland.
Top photo: Botnstjörn pond in Ásbyrgi
Ásbyrgi from above as seen from the hike on the rim
Ásbyrgi belongs to the former Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, which is now the northernmost part of Vatnajökull National Park. It is 3.5 km in length and 1.1 km across with up to 100 meters high walls!
According to Norse mythology the god Óðinn was once riding his 8-legged horse, Sleipnir, and it put one of its hoofs down and created Ásbyrgi, which is in the shape of a very big horseshoe.
The geological explanation varies to a great extent from what the Vikings believed, but I will stick to this explanation :)
One of the many paths in Ásbyrgi
By the way, Ásbyrgi is considered to be the capital city of the Elves of Iceland and psychic people have seen many homes, public buildings, and concert halls belonging to the elves in the cliffs
This is what the medium Margrét frá Öxnafelli saw when she visited Ásbyrgi when she was 14-years old:
"I saw many extraordinary things during my visit to Ásbyrgi; an entire city of the Hidden people. At the innermost part of the shelter (Ásbyrgi - the Shelter of the Gods), in the middle, is a large concert hall.
There is a great number of musical instruments in the concert hall. Some of these musical instruments I have never seen.
Ásbyrgi lava walls
The concerts held in this concert hall create the wonderful harmony in Ásbyrgi, which makes everybody feel wonderful during their visit.
In the cliffs, there is a myriad of Hidden people. But there are also the official institutions of the Hidden people, f.ex. various museums on the left side as you enter Ásbyrgi. Eyjan (the Island) in the middle of Ásbyrgi is also the home of the Hidden people".
The view of Ásbyrgi from my hike on the rim
I own two books about the medium Margrét frá Öxnafelli - Skyggna konan I and II - and in these books, Margrét tells us about many of the extraordinary sights she has had of the Hidden people and elves in Iceland. This account is written in the book Skyggna konan on page 31.
There are many stories in our folklore about human encounters with the elves, so you never know what might happen when you visit Ásbyrgi!
Eyjan cliff - can you see me waving my hands?
Ásbyrgi is divided in the middle by a 250 meters wide cliff, which is called the Island or "Eyjan" in Icelandic. From the camping site, a hiking trail leads to the top of the Island and all the way to the end where you can have a fantastic view of Ásbyrgi.
To get an idea of how big this rock is, then if you look closely you can see in the photo above, how small I am waving my hands beneath the rock :)
Eyjan as seen from above - I zoomed in on it when I hiked on the rim of Ásbyrgi
The hike starts by a sign which reads "Eyjan". In the first part of the hike, you have to climb up onto the top of the rock, just a small climb.
When you are on top the hike is easy, as you go gradually higher up and don't feel it.
The sign leading to the start of the hike on Eyjan
The hike is all in all 4.5 km back and forth and takes approx. 2 hours. In some places one has to follow narrow trails, we call them "kindastígar", or sheep trails. You will find these trails all over Iceland, made by sheep that walk in a row.
This is such a lovely hike as the view from here is breathtaking, to say the least. Well, I am so much in love with Àsbyrgi, that I find everything beautiful here.
The view from Eyjan
To me, a whole magical world opens up when I look down into Àsbyrgi from the Island.
I did this hike some years ago and only took photos on a small camera, so they are not good, but I hope to do this hike again soon.
In the summer of 2020, I hiked for the first time on the rim of Ásbyrgi, and zoomed in on Eyjan while I was doing that hike.
That is also a marvellous hike, highly recommended - I tell you about it a little later in this travel-blog.
You will find several hiking trails in Ásbyrgi, one leading to the beautiful Botnstjörn pond. It is called Skógarstígur trail and is 3.6 km long one way, but a very lovely easy hike by the cliff face, where you can see various formations, some of which look like faces.
The hike also takes you through a small forest. It is indeed a very lovely hike. This hike starts opposite the road from the campsite and takes you by the cliffs on the eastern side of Àsbyrgi.
The view from the rim of Ásbyrgi of Botnstjörn pond
It is also possible to climb up the cliffs and walk on the edge. There is a path up the cliffs with chains to make it easier to ascend or you can start from the Information centre and cross the golf course.
I did that 4-hour-hike in the summer of 2020 and started from the Information centre. I will show you this fun and beautiful hike a little later but add one photo here above.
Botnstjörn pond and the surrounding cliffs are in my eyes out of this world and I could stay there for hours, which I have done many times. If you want to drive there then you drive to the inner parking lot and the easy walk to and from the pond is 0.8 km.
This beautiful pond is what is left of a big waterfall, which once fell from the cliffs. It is extremely peaceful there.
It is very well marked and the first sign says: "Útsýnisstaður - Botnstjörn" - "útsýnisstaður" is the Icelandic word for a panoramic viewpoint.
You walk down a few steps to get to the pond and then up to the observation platform which gives you an excellent view of the pond and Ásbyrgi.
I zoomed in on Botnstjörn when I did the hike on the rim of Ásbyrgi
You can even go up more steps and to a higher point, but that is riskier - but the view from there is breathtaking.
Here is another video I shot from that view-spot in the summer of 2017:
More and more people have discovered this beautiful, serene place and I am not alone here anymore like I used to be 10 years ago, but I still enjoy it immensely.
I love the presence of the fulmar here, but not everybody shares my opinion and some people even want to shoot them down and drive them away.
Botnstjörn pond - upper level
One year the fulmar didn't nest in Ásbyrgi as they lacked food when the Ammodytidae (sandsíli), or at least I think that is what they are called, didn't show up. I missed them a lot that year, as their squeaking adds to the magic of Ásbyrgi and Botnstjörn pond.
On the pond, there are some types of ducks, the most common being the wigeon. Let's not feed it as Ásbyrgi is a national park and the ducks need to be able to survive in nature by themselves. I can understand people wanting to feed them though as then you can see them up close.
Ducks on Botnstjörn pond
While visiting the pond I have seen quite a few people feed the ducks, as when tour-guides lead groups to the pond sometimes they have their lunch here sitting on the benches by the pond.
I know people want to try out the echo here, but to me, this is kind of a holy place and I prefer the sound of nature echoing in the cliffs - I get the same feeling as when inside a church, so man-made sounds bother me here.
That is why I choose to camp in Ásbyrgi during the bright summer nights. Then I walk to the pond in the middle of the night from the campsite and to the pond and stay there alone, surrounded only by the sounds of nature.
It is heaven on earth, my absolute favourite place here in Iceland - too bad that it is so far away from Reykjavík, where I live.
By Botnstjörn pond in 2020
As I mentioned earlier then Ásbyrgi is believed to be the capital city of the elves or the Hidden people.
A folktale tells us a story that took place at Botnstjörn pond - the Hidden People and a Beast. You can read up on the folktale by Botnstjörn on the information sign by the parking lot.
Do greet the Hidden people and let's be respectful and refrain from making loud noises in their city. If we respect the dwellings of the elves and thank them for allowing us to pay them a visit they will respect us in return - but woe to those who show disrespect and make a racket!
The information sign at the start of the hike to Botnstjörn pond
On the way back to the parking lot and closing the ring from the upper view platform by the pond, take a left turn and walk some 50 m. This path takes you to a small man-made platform, which is called "Danspallurinn" or the Dance Platform.
Danspallurinn was made in 1950 and used for dancing by the youth during the Ásbyrgi festivals. It is kind of hidden from view, but it is off the parking lot, on the west side of the parking lot. It is not more than a molten floor, but there can be a lot of fun here during concerts.
Danspallurinn in Ásbyrgi
At the Visitor Centre at Ásbyrgi, Gljúfrastofa, one can see Falcon puke and Ptarmigan poo on display, amongst other things ;)
There you can also get detailed information from the park ranger on Ásbyrgi and the National park, the wildlife, vegetation, and landscape, including maps on hiking trails and camping in Ásbyrgi.
The start of the hike on the rim of Ásbyrgi
I bought a map with the hiking routes in Ásbyrgi, and off we went hiking on the rim of Ásbyrgi - my father-in-law and I. It was a glorious summer day with temperatures as high as 25 degrees C!
In the summer of 2020, my father-in-law and I went on a 10-day round-trip in Iceland just the two of us, and for the majority of the time, we got sun and temperatures around 20 degrees C - how lucky was that :)
The hike to Klappir is 9 km back and forth and it took us approx. 4 hours to complete it. We started from Gljúfrastofa and ended the hike by the restaurant next to Gljúfrastofa.
Looking down at the treetops and road from the rim of Ásbyrgi
There are two ways of getting to the top of the rim, as midway through the golf course you will find ladders and ropes, and can get to the rim via the ladder. We chose to go through a gate close to Gljúfrastofa, and go straight to the rim on an ascending hike.
There you hike through a field and a big part of the hike is on a trail through a forested area so you don't see the rim. But there are observation spots where you can have a look at Ásbyrgi from above. And there are colourful flowers and trees on this hike in abundance.
I have added many photos from this hike here above in my travel-blog where you can see the view we got of Eyjan - the Island and Botnstjörn pond.
1.5 hours into the hike we reached stiles on the trail.
And a little later we could see the wonderful view of Botnstjörn pond :) It was getting windy so we had to be careful and not get too close to the rim.
I was very happy to see Botnstjörn pond, my favourite spot in Iceland, from above :)
I could not get enough of this beautiful sight from above, Botnstjörn pond, my favourite spot in the whole of Iceland :) Isn't it breathtaking?
I took a myriad of photos but also tried to be in the moment and enjoy this beautiful sight. As way too often I am so busy travelling and taking photos instead of just enjoying being in nature.
Botnstjörn pond and the mountain tops as seen from above
Fifteen minutes later we rested and had a picnic in a beautiful spot on the hike. It is a true oasis, a small pond, and a small trickling waterfall by tall lava walls.
The water in the pond turned brown in my photos, but that was not the case and we drank plenty of water from it and filled a water bottle. And my father-in-law drank from the small waterfall.
Resting in a beautiful spot on the hike on the rim of Ásbyrgi
By now it was only a short hike to the end of our hike at Klappir, and we got a better and better view of Botnstjörn pond. We could see other people on the hike as the trail goes further on into Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, all the way to Dettifoss waterfall.
Some people were lying flat on their stomachs on the rim of Ásbyrgi as to not lose their balance and fall down into Botnstjörn while enjoying this breathtaking view.
The view of Botnstjörn pond from above
I sat down and enjoyed the view of Ásbyrgi, but by now it was getting way too windy though for it to be safe to be close to the rim, so I went exploring further and saw many potholes and ponds.
I had read about there being potholes on the rim of Ásbyrgi and was eager to see them.
The view of Ásbyrgi from above
We call these potholes "skessuketill" in Icelandic, or the kettle of the giantess. These potholes on the rim of Ásbyrgi were large and colourful.
I also wanted to see the spot where once a waterfall cascaded down into Ásbyrgi. You can see a rift in the cliffs of Ásbyrgi, where I believe that the waterfall used to be. Here water trickles down the walls of Ásbyrgi from above.
Potholes on the rim of Ásbyrgi.
My father-in-law really went out on a limb photographing that rift in the wall. It was so windy and I was scared for him.
But he is an avid mountain climber and loves going out on limbs, whereas I prefer staying at a safe distance.
My father-in-law out on a limb photographing the rift in the walls of Ásbyrgi
We spent half an hour at Klappir, just enjoying the view and taking in all this rugged beauty of our country.
But by now it was time to return back as we had a long way ahead of us. It would have been lovely camping in Ásbyrgi and making the most of the day in this wonderful location. But we were headed for Mývatn.
Camping in Ásbyrgi back in the summer of 2010
After the hike, you can get some food at the fast-food restaurant by the road, which has got a surprisingly varied selection of food in their store - and good very reasonably priced coffee. The following day we hiked in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.
Ásbyrgi is located by roads 85 and 861 in North-Iceland and here you can see the exact location of Ásbyrgi on the map
I have written several travel-blogs about Jökulsárgljúfur and the surrounding area if you want to see what else there is to do in this part of Iceland:
Have a lovely time at Ásbyrgi, my favourite spot in Iceland :)