Ruins of a real Viking Settlement-Age farm, Stöng, can be found in Þjórsárdalur valley. Some of the Vikings settled in in the valley, unaware that they were in the proximity of the notorious volcano Hekla - the Queen of Icelandic volcanoes.
Several of the farms were excavated and examined, but only one remains above ground, Stöng, the others were covered over again. It is believed that people lived almost continuously at Stöng until around 1300 though.
Other factors are also believed to have contributed to this place becoming desolate, other than the tephra covering the land, f.ex. cold weather.
Since the eruption in Mt Hekla in 1104, the volcano has erupted in 1158, 1206, 1222, 1300, 1341, 1389, 1510, 1597, 1636, 1693, 1766, 1845, 1947, 1970, 1980, 1981, 1991 and 2000, so one can see that it is very active and "due" to erupt again.
In 1939 archaeologists excavated the exceptionally well-preserved ruins of Stöng, which had been hidden away for 835 years under massive layers of pumice.
Many Viking things were discovered and there is a small section dedicated to Þjórsárdalur valley and the Viking stuff at the National Museum of Iceland. The Viking stuff in my photo above is a small part of the things discovered. I love the ornamental Viking brooches and own a replica of them, but such brooches have been found in several places in Iceland.
Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-age farm, a reconstructed medieval farmhouse, was erected in 1974, on the 1100th anniversary of the Icelandic settlement in another location in Þjórsárdalur. Þjóðveldisbærinn is a replica of the excavated ruins at Stöng.
What you can see here are stone foundations of a farmhouse, covered by a protective wooden shelter with a red roof.
Here ruins of a barn, smithy and a church can also be seen. Some of the ruins are open-air. A visit to Stöng is included in the Hidden Circle tour - I have written another travel-blog about that very interesting tour The Hidden Circle of Iceland - the Golden Circle with a very pleasant Twist.
The Viking Gaukur Trandilsson lived at Stöng. You can read a bit about him in the Saga of Njáll, but his Saga is unfortunately lost.
Gaukur was killed by his own foster-brother, Ásgrímur Elliða-Grímsson. They waged a duel of honour over Gaukur's affair with Ásgrímur's kinswoman, it seems.
In Þjórsárdalur on a protruding cape called Gaukshöfði ancient bones were found in the 19th century, which might as well be the bones of Gaukur, might not. The cape is right by the road so it is easily accessible.
It is possible to walk up to the top of the cape, where there is a fantastic view of Þjórsá glacial river, Iceland's longest river, and of the surrounding area.
Þjóðveldisbærinn (Commonwealth Farm) Saga-age farm is a reconstructed medieval farmhouse, a replica of the excavated ruins of the real Viking settler's farmhouse at Stöng in Þjórsárdalur valley.
In 1974, on the 1100th anniversary of the Icelandic settlement, Þjóðveldisbærinn was erected close to where Stöng farmhouse was excavated. But more easily accessible.
You can dress up like a Viking at Þjóðveldisbærinn
This farm is a "must-see" when visiting this area, there is something so magical about this place like you have just popped in for a visit to a Viking chieftain.
Inside the farm in the middle of the main hall, there is a long-fire. By it, the inhabitants worked, rested, ate and told stories.
The toilet area and a drawing of a woman helping her child
Here one can see how the Vikings lived. You will find a dining area, a sleeping area, a working area, a toilet room, and a pantry.
There is no guidance inside Þjóðveldisbærinn, but you can dress up in Viking clothes, and hold swords and knives which is a great photo opportunity.
Walking between some of the rooms of Þjóðveldisbærinn is strange as the ceiling in the corridors is really, really low.
I tend to bump my head a lot when walking inside turf houses. People were considerably smaller in the olden days as times were harder. I have written a long list of the turf houses in Iceland, so you can see how many times I have bumped my head during my travels in Iceland ;)
A church was erected by Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-age farm and consecrated in the year 2000. It is a small turf stave-church, built in the liking of the church excavated by the farm at Stöng - or what we think it might have looked like.
A small, serene waterfall can be seen next to the Saga-age farm. It is such a beautiful setting! And the distinctive Hjálparfoss waterfall is only a stone-throw away.
The church is open and it is really small, showing that the Vikings were smaller than people today. Watch your head!
The church belongs to the congregation of Stóra-Núpsprestakall benefice and the Icelandic state owns both the Saga-age farm and the church.
A scene from the TV-series Game of Thrones was shot at this location. A very violent scene, where all the inhabitants of the farm were killed by the Wildlings, but a small boy.
I have written a special travel-blog about the Game of Thrones locations I have visited in Iceland, where you can watch the scene shot at Þjóðveldisbærinn:
If you are a Game of Thrones fan like I am then the Complete Ring Road Game of Thrones tour will interest you. This tour is only available on the 17th of July and the 17th of August.
With the wonderful guide Kjartan of Glacial experience, who took me on the Vikings & the Sagas tour
A visit to Þjóðveldisbærinn is included in The Vikings & The Sagas | A Tour Through History, a wonderful guided Viking and Saga tour which I have joined and recommend.
This tour will take you to Hjálparfoss waterfall, Þjóðveldisbærinn and to the most important locations of Njálssaga - the Saga of Njáll - Hlíðarendi and Bergþórshvoll where Gunnar and Njáll from the Saga of Njáll lived. And end with a dinner at the Viking Village.
Kjartan is an expert in the Sagas, so it was a delight being guided around the Saga locations by him and I learnt a whole lot.
Notice how Þjóðveldisbærinn blends perfectly in with nature
The Saga-age farm is open daily from June 1st until August 31st. Check out the website of Þjóðveldisbærinn for more information. And remember the Icelandic word Þjóðveldisbærinn - which is a bit of a mouthful, I know, - as you have to follow that sign.
A little bit further down the road from Þjóðveldisbærinn is the Búrfell Hydropower Station.
Búrfell Hydropower Station is Iceland's second-largest hydropower station. It is second only to the new Kárahnjúkar hydropower plant. Some 800 people worked on building this massive structure, which was the biggest construction, Icelanders had undertaken.
It was opened in 1970 and harnesses the glacial river Þjórsá - Iceland's longest river.
The hydropower station is owned by Iceland's National Power Company Landsvirkjun and located almost next to Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-age farm. The National Power Company's aim is to make Þjórsárdalur valley as attractive to travellers as possible.
They had a part in building and running the Saga-age farm and left-over concrete from the dam was used for making a swimming pool in the valley. You can see the swimming pool, Þjórsárlaug, in my photo above, but it is now closed to visitors and forbidden to swim in it.
Notice the mural decorations on the Station, they are the largest of its kind in Iceland, made by the artist Sigurjón Ólafsson.
Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-Age farm is located by road 32 in Þjórsárdalur valley and Stöng manor is located by road 327 only some 7 km away. Here you can see the exact location of Þjóðveldisbærinn on the map.
The distance from Reykjavík to this beautiful place is some 122 km. You can rent a car in Reykjavík and go there on a day tour.
Or you can choose to be guided around this area with the knowledgeable guides of the aforementioned The Vikings & The Sagas | A Tour Through History, which takes you to Hjálparfoss and Þjóðveldisbærinn together with many other interesting Viking and Saga locations.
Another tour by the same tour company is called the Hidden Circle and will f.ex. take you to Hjálparfoss waterfall and Stöng and also to the 3rd highest waterfall in Iceland, the magnificent Háafoss waterfall. I have also joined this tour and can recommend it.
See also my other travel-blogs about places of interest in this part of Iceland:
Have a lovely time in Þjórsárdalur valley :)