Hvítserkur rock formation in northwest Iceland

On Vatnsnes peninsula in North-West Iceland just off shore stands the majestic Hvítserkur, a 15 meter's high monolith or seastack.  It looks like an animal of some sort, an elephant or a rhino - or even a dinosaurs drinking.

It is quite spectacular.  Especially in summer time when you will find a lot of fulmar nesting on it so it seems to be alive.  It is half-white from their excrement, thus the name Hvítserkur - "hvít-" meaning white and "-serkur" meaning a long shirt. I just love monoliths like this one and it is a big tourist attraction! 

The legend goes that Hvítserkur is a petrified troll. The troll lived in Strandir in the Wesfjords and wanted to tear down the bells at Þingeyraklaustur convent. The Icelandic trolls are not Christian and don't like the sound or sight of churches or church-bells.  Fortunately the troll got caught by daylight and as we all know trolls turn into stone by daylight ;)  

Hvítserkur Rock Formation - The Troll of North-West Iceland

The less fun, so to speak, version is that Hvítserkur is actually a volcanic plug from a long time ago.  The sea has eroded what was once a volcano, leaving only the plug behind.  And even the volcanic plug was in danger of sea erosion and the base of it had to be strengthened with concrete.

A gravel road leads down to Hvítserkur from Ósar hostel which takes you to a parking lot where there are benches and tables. 

You can either see Hvítserkur from above or walk down to it.  A trail leads to it from the parking lot and from there you can see it from above.  From there is a steep trail leading you to the shore.

Seal colony near Hvammstangi town in northwest Iceland

It is also possible to go straight down to the shore from the parking lot, from where there is an easy walk down.  But there is one hindrance in the summer time as the cranky Arctic tern may prevent you from reaching Hvítserkur on that route.

The Arctic tern is very annoying here in Iceland in summer time - there were so many of them there but one in particular attacked everything that moved - so get yourself a stick or even better an umbrella and chase them away when they attack.

As so many times before you could see me running away in panic from this cranky bird, which loves attacking me :(  Last time I visited Hvítserkur, I wasn't even able to drive this cranky bird away and had to return the same way from where I went down to the shore.  Next time I will succeed ;)

Hvítserkur Rock Formation - The Troll of North-West Iceland

I have only once made it all the way to Hvítserkur and the tide was coming in.  But on low tide it is possible to walk straight down to the monolith.  My photos from that visit are from 2010 and I need to go there again to take better photos.  I will fight the Arctic tern for my right to visit Hvítserkur!

This area is home to one of the largest seal-colonies in Iceland and in Hvammstangi village, which is on the opposite side of the peninsula, one can visit the Icelandic Seal Centre. There are a lot of seals resting on the shore - so do include a seal-watching tour on your visit to Hvítserkur.

Jellyfish in northwest Iceland

While I was visiting the shore was covered in very big, multi-coloured jelly-fish making this even more special - it was awesome seeing this, never in Iceland have I encountered such beautiful big jellyfish. They were blue...

and golden...

Jellyfish in northwest Iceland

There were just so many of them - I have never seen so many in one place here in Iceland.

My photo below shows another angle of Hvítserkur, which makes it look totally different.  I took it the only time I was able to fight off the Arctic tern and carry on along the shore side.  I just had a small digital camera back then.

Hvítserkur rock formation in northwest Iceland

On the western side of the Vatnsnes peninsula you will find another monolith, the Ánastaðastapi rock, which is also worth a visit. Like Hvítserkur then Ánastaðastapi rock can barely be seen from the road.  

To visit it walk down a steep grassy hill for a couple of minutes or so on a path which leads to the monolith.  It it much more colourful than Hvítserkur, but on the other hand Hvítserkur looks like a dinosaur while Ánastaðastapi is just a beautiful rock.

Hvítserkur Rock Formation - The Troll of North-West Iceland

The winter of 1882 was a harsh one with drift ice closing off this area.  Fortunately for the inhabitants 32 leviathans - big whales - also drifted ashore, saving the inhabitants of this area from starving.

Hvítserkur Rock Formation - The Troll of North-West Iceland

To visit Vatnsnes peninsula you can either rent a car in Reykjavík and drive on the gravel road from Hvammstangi village, which is 197 km north of Reykjavík, or take road 711 off ring-road 1 and make a semicircle on Vatnsnes peninsula.

Also check out the many self-drive tours available, some of which include Vatnsnes peninsula in the itinerary.

Hvítserkur Rock Formation - The Troll of North-West Iceland

Also check out this guided tour: Wild North Super Jeep Tour | Grábrók Crater, Kolugljúfur Canyon & Borgarvirki Citadel.

There are many more things to see here on Vatnsnes peninsula, and I have written another travel blog on Borgarvirki fortress on Vatnsnes peninsula.

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