The Peculiar Rútshellir Cave in South-Iceland

In South-Iceland by the beautiful Eyjafjöll mountains one can find several caves. One of them is located in a peculiar, big tuff pillar of rock. Close to it, a little further east, is another similar rock called Drangurinn in Drangshlíð on which I have written another blog, as there are elves in that rock!

This peculiar rock must have fallen in one piece from the mountain above during an earthquake. We always stop by it when travelling in this area.

The Peculiar Rútshellir Cave in South-Iceland

There are ancient habitations in the rock and a cave called Rútshellir cave or the Cave of Rútur. Rútshellir cave is one of the man-made caves in Iceland and one of the most noteworthy caves in Iceland.

There are some structures in front of the cave, which have been erected through the centuries, so it looks like somebody still lives in the rock. There are 2 man-made caves in the rock. The main cave is arched and at least 20 meters long and 2,5 meters high on average. It was used for storing hay. There is another cave, the smaller cave, which is ca 8 meters long. It is called Stúkan and might have been a heathen temple, but it might also have been a smithy. There is an opening between these two caves.

The structure in front of the cave is an old sheepcote. When I visited it once we found a dead sheep inside and the smell was awful. When we passed it on our way back 2 days later a ram was standing proudly on the top of the sheepcote. It was quite a magnificent sight.

The Peculiar Rútshellir Cave in South-Iceland

The story goes that the man Rútur lived in the man-made cave, some say he was an evil troll, others say he was a looter and still other people say he was an evil chieftain. The people in this region attacked him and killed him by making a hole in the cave underneath his bed and ran him through with spears, while he was in bed. Others say that they made a hole in the cave from outside and ran him through that hole with spears and killed him. They were too afraid of him to meet him outside in the field. After killing him they were still afraid of him even though he was dead and one of his killers, Björn, ran away up to the mountain, Bjarnarfell, which bears his name ever since, and yet another fled into the wilderness of Iceland. 

This legend was recorded in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason 

But on the website of KatlaGeopark I found another version of this legend: "One such legend involves a man called Rút and his slaves who wanted to kill him. They proceeded to carve a hole under the ledge where Rút slept, so they could later on kill him with spears while he was sleeping. One night after arriving home, as he prepared to sleep he discovered their plot to kill him. He chased the slaves into the mountains and killed them all. The last slave, Guðni was killed on the glacier and this place is called today Guðnasteinn or Guðni's stone".

I wonder which one of these 2 legends is more accurate? 

The Peculiar Rútshellir Cave in South-Iceland

In 1936 Nazis from the SS-troops, Ahnenerbe, investigated Rútshellir thoroughly.  Ahnenerbe was a science academic wing in Nordic science under the command of Heinrich Himmler. They were looking for ruins of old temples in Iceland and thought that there might have been such an old temple in Rútshellir.

The Peculiar Rútshellir Cave in South-Iceland

Rútshellir cave might be the first man-made dwelling in Iceland and there seems to have been a forge here.  Some people have seen light in the rock, leading us to believe that Hidden People live here.

The rock is preserved and is listed on the Natural Heritage Register.

One can stop to take photos here and enter the cave Rútshellir. There is an information sign by the road and a gate through which one can pass. The cave is covered in sheep droppings so don't wear your best shoes while exploring the cave ;)

The Peculiar Rútshellir Cave in South-Iceland

The rock is ca 3 km west of Skógafoss waterfall by ring-road 1. GPS: N63° 31' 35.245" W19° 33' 3.601". 

To reach this area you can either rent a car in Reykjavík for a day or two, or check out these self drive tours:  

Also check out the most popular guided tours of the South Coast of Iceland!

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