Right in the middle of "nowhere" in the wilderness of Iceland, you will find the highest inhabited farm in Iceland Möðrudalur á Fjöllum - Möðrudalur in Öræfi at 469 meters (1,539 ft) above sea level. It is like entering an oasis after having driven through the rugged wilderness of Iceland.
There has been a farm in Möðrudalur since the settlement of Iceland and one of the leading farms of Iceland was located here in the olden times. Important crossroads were in this area, the Trail of the Bishops and the Trail of Sámur, but you can read about Sámur in the Viking Saga Hrafnkel's saga freysgoða - the Story of Hrafnkell, Frey's Priest.
Fjallakaffi in Möðrudalur
Some ancient farm-ruins have been discovered north of the farm in Möðrudalur, which have been declared as protected. The farmland here at Möðrudalur is one of the most extensive in the country.
Grettir was a belligerent Viking, who was an outlaw in Iceland for almost 20 years. He lived in several locations around Iceland during his outlawry and for one summer he stayed outside on Möðrudalsheiði heath and in other places in the vicinity.
By Fjallakaffi restaurant in Möðrudalur
Grettir the Strong would never have been able to survive on Möðrudalsheiði heath in the wintertime as it gets very cold so high up in the highland of Iceland.
The lowest temperature recorded in Iceland, -38 degrees C (-36.4 degrees F) was recorded in Möðrudalur, and at the same time at Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum close by, on the 21st of January 1918, but that winter was so cold in Iceland that it has gone down in history as Frostaveturinn mikli or the Winter of the Great Frost.
Fjalladýrð lodging at Möðrudalur
Möðrudalur was once on the ring-road 1, but when the ring-road was moved north of Möðrudalur in 2001, Möðrudalur was literally cut off. The farmers were thinking of closing down and moving away.
But Vilhjálmur Vernharðsson, the son of the owners of the farm, who by now was living in Reykjavík, decided on building up his birthplace. Vilhjálmur's ancestors had lived on Möðrudalur farm since 1875 and Vilhjálmur couldn't bear the thought of his family's farm being abandoned.
Vilhjálmur's friends thought he had gone mad, moving to Möðrudalur after it had been cut off from ring-road 1, but I am glad that he took the risk as Möðrudalur is thriving today, with a restaurant, accommodation, guided day-tours, 100 sheep and 14 goats. Kudos to Vilhjálmur and his wife Elísabet Svava Kristjánsdóttir!
Here high up in the wilderness of Iceland you will find the restaurant Fjallakaffi or the Café in the Mountain, which serves traditional local food. Although being so far away from everything, as it were, Fjallakaffi is well known across Iceland for its locally sourced, traditional food.
The lamb on the menu comes from the Möðrudalur farm, the Arctic char was caught by the farmers and the geese on the menu were shot by the farmers. The farmers in Möðrudalur also smoke their own meat and fish. So you see that it cannot get any more local than that.
Icelandic sweaters for sale at Fjallakaffi
For sale at Fjallakaffi, you will find the traditional Icelandic woolen sweaters — which can come in handy in the highlands, as once in July when I was visiting Fjallakaffi it snowed on us!
Notice the black cloud in my photos of the church - this cloud turned into snow a little bit further on. I know that Möðrudalur is located high up in Öræfi, but I was not happy to see snow in July.
You will find a lovely little church at Möðrudalur, Möðrudalskirkja, built in 1949 by the farmer Jón A. Stefánsson (1880-1971). Jón built this church in memory of his deceased wife, Þórunn Vilhjálmsdóttir, who died in 1944.
Jón built and decorated this church himself, and even painted the altarpiece, which depicts Christ and the Sermon on the Mount. What a lovely gesture :)
There hadn't been a church in Möðrudalur for 22 years when Jón decided on building this memorial church on the foundation of the old church. Once there was a vicarage in Möðrudalur, but when the farm was abandoned in 1716 for some years the vicarage also moved away.
Inside Möðrudalskirkja church
The houses in Möðrudalur are built in the old turf house style, which was the traditional way of building houses here in Iceland - I love turf houses and have written travel-blogs about all of the remaining turf houses in Iceland. This old traditional look adds to the charm of Möðrudalur.
Möðrudalur farm offers accommodation for up to 27 people, and 14 people at a time can stay in two houses called the Baðstofa. More people can stay at Möðrudalur in the summertime when the campsite is open. Visitors can book guided day tours at Fjalladýrð tourist services and explore the vicinity.
To book a room contact Fjalladýrð.
My husband by the turf houses of Fjalladýrð lodging
The view from Möðrudalur is unparalleled as you can both see far and wide with no trees to block the view. And the beautiful Queen of Icelandic Mountains, Mt. Herðubreið, can be seen from here.
It is such a lovely place and it is so nice to visit it after driving through the barren landscape of Öræfi - which literally means wilderness.
The campsite at Möðrudalur
To reach this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive around Iceland, either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The drive clock-wise is around 553 km from the capital city, with a lot of stops on the way, so allow for at least some 2-3 days or more to reach this destination.
Möðrudalur is located in north-east Iceland, 95 km from the closest town Egilsstaðir, and 80 km away from the Mývatn area. From Egilsstaðir, drive on ring-road 1 for 62 km (of paved road) and turn left onto road 901 (Möðrudalsvegur), where you will drive another 30 km (on a gravel road).
If you prefer, you can drive for 102 km (on paved road) and then turn left onto road 901 and drive another 8 km (on gravel).
Have a lovely time in Iceland :)