I recently went to explore an area of South-Iceland called Landbrot. I had watched a programme on TV about this area and learned about the 11th-century wall, an Elf City and an Elf Church, a bunker where you could see ash layers from centuries ago and many more interesting things.
The Elf City at Efri-Vík
Those of you who read my travel-blog know that I search for elf spots and elf stories all around Iceland - so visiting the land of Efri-Vík, on which the family-run Hotel Laki is located, was an unexpected treat for me. We stayed at the hotel for one night.
We had been travelling all day long and arrived at Efri-Vík at dinner time. I was eager to visit the Elf City (Álfaborg) and Elf Church (Álfakirkja) before we turned in.
We had encountered hail on our way, which came from a very black cloud, so I was worried that I would not be able to visit the Elf City on that particular night, but all of a sudden the evening sun came out and lit up the Elf City and Elf Church with beautiful pink and orange colours, which added to the mystery of this amazing elf spot.
My husband stayed behind and I walked timidly into the Elf City. I asked the elves for permission and thanked them for allowing me to have a look around their city. I was in awe of the beauty of the sunlit city - I almost felt like I was entering a holy place.
When entering elf dwellings one should always show respect and be thankful for being allowed to have a look at their habitation - otherwise, mishap and strange things can happen. I will tell you a couple of such stories, which Hörður, the owner of the hotel and the land, told me.
I saw from the Elf City that a jeep had arrived and my husband was talking to the man in the jeep. I heard them talking and laughing, so I left them to it and enjoyed the serenity of the Elf City.
When I finally returned back to the car my husband introduced me to the man in the jeep; it turned out to be Hörður, the owner of Hotel Laki and the surrounding area, who had driven down to the Elf City to meet up with me to tell me some elf-stories. A truly lovely man; he knew so many stories.
After telling us several stories of encounters with the elves on this spot we stopped by the Elf Church and he told us to join hands and sing to the elves as a "thank you" for being allowed to visit their habitation. It was so lovely, a moment to truly remember; holding hands by the Elf Church singing to the elves in this mystical pink and orange light from the evening sun!
Hörður told us that he often showed small groups staying at his hotel around the Elf City and told them stories. And afterward, they always held hands and sang to the elves. What a lovely tradition.
Now I want to tell you some of the elf-stories which Hörður told me.
You will find ruins of an old turf farm on the land of Efri-Vík from way back when there was a farm with three households at Efri-Vík. The ruins date back to the time of the devastating volcanic eruption from a row of craters called Lakagígar in 1783.
This horrific volcanic eruption was called Skaftáreldar or the Fires of Skaftá river. The last inhabitants of that old turf farm had to leave the farm during this disastrous and tragic time. Earlier there lived a poor farmhand on the farm named Agnes.
You can see the ruins of the old turf farm in my photo above. It is located on the meadow by Hotel Laki and at the reception of the hotel, you can get a marked map of the surrounding area.
Agnes became pregnant by the married farmer on the next farm, Sigurður was his name. I have also heard another version of the story, that she had become pregnant by the son of the farmer, but a son of a farmer could not marry a poor farmhand. Either way, Agnes hid her pregnancy as this was not socially acceptable.
On an August night, Agnes felt that her child was due to be born so she sneaked out and delivered her baby, wrapped it in her shawl and left it on a hill not far from the farm.
That hill was later named Child's Hill (Barnhóll). What a tragedy! Thank God this did not happen on an ice-cold winter night. Agnes then returned back to the farm but regretted leaving her baby behind and went to fetch it on the hill.
But her baby was gone and no matter how hard she searched for it - she couldn't find it or the shawl in which she had wrapped the baby.
She searched for her baby for seven days and seven nights and then fell asleep out of pure exhaustion. She had a vivid dream and dreamt that a woman in a blue dress approached her. This woman was very elegant, tall and blond.
The woman said to Agnes: "Be not afraid, Agnes, I have taken your baby and will raise it, she is a beautiful girl named Anna, and she will lack for nothing". This elegant woman in blue seems to have been an elf lady living in the Elf City.
The inhabitants at Efri-Vík farm have always had great respect for the elves. But once a misfortune took place.
Hörður was fixing the fences on his land by the Elf City some 30 years ago, removing old fencing posts and putting up new ones. His young daughter, Lilja, was with him while he was working on the fence.
Hörður pulled up an old fencing post in a hasty moment and threw it away. Lilja all of a sudden cried out and would not stop crying, even though her father shushed her. She was inconsolable so her father stopped working to find out what was happening. Lilja told him that he had thrown the fencing post at her friend and hurt her - the fencing post had broken the leg of Anna!
Anna was seemingly a small elf girl living in the Elf City. Hörður's two daughters had often played with Anna in the Elf City. But after the incident with the broken leg, Lilja did not see Anna again. When she visited the Elf City, as she often did, she was told that Anna had moved away. Could this be the same Anna as in the story above?!
You can see the Elf Church in my photo above and the majestic mountain Lómagnúpur in the background.
Hörður, the owner of Hotel Laki and the surrounding area, helped the rescue team Víkverji out for one weekend by allowing them to have a rescue practice by the lake. One end of the lake is very close to the Elf City and the Elf Church. The rescue team put up a training camp to practice the stranding of a ship and rescue.
The rescue team fastened a rescue line from their truck to the Elf Church, which was to be used as a lifeline from the stranded ship and the rescue team. They also shot a lifeline from the truck to a buoy, which they had positioned at a suitable distance to practice shooting the rescue line.
Everybody was watching in anticipation when the line was shot from the truck towards the buoy, but when the line had reached half of the distance it all of a sudden turned around and headed in the direction of the rescue team! The rescue team ran in all directions to avoid being hit by the line.
The line then changed its direction again and headed alongside the rescue truck towards a rescue team member, who was running away at full speed to avoid being hit by the line.
But he couldn't avoid the line and was hit by it and had to be taken to the hospital with a broken leg. No explanation was found as to why the line had changed its direction twice, but the rescue team member, who had been hit by the line, was the one who had tied the lifeline to the Elf Church!
Hörður told us this story while we were visiting the Elf Church. The rescue team member in question is a relative of his. This incident has been filed by the rescue team as an inexplicable incident. But if we take into account that they had tied the line to the church of the elves then the explanation, in my opinion, is obvious.
When we visit the habitations of the elves we must always be respectful and thank them for allowing us to visit them. We must never be disrespectful and never ever shout and make too much noise as to not disturb the elves.
Hörður once allowed a couple of guys on Motor Cross bikes to practice by the lake Víkurflóð, as they were going to compete in a Motor Cross race later that same day at Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. Hörður was watching them from a distance and saw that they were too close to the Elf Church and that they didn't show enough respect.
He mentioned it to them and told them that they had to respect nature because there are a lot of things we don't sense in nature and more things than meet the eye. He also told them to be careful for the next three days in case they had indeed disturbed the elves. They didn't take him that seriously, so I guess they didn't heed his advice.
Three years later Hörður met some young guys who told him that they were the ones he had scolded by the Elf Church.
They told him that when they arrived at the location of the Motor Cross race in Kirkjubæjarklaustur after having practiced by the Víkurflóð lake in the morning, they could not start any of the Motor Cross bikes and couldn't compete in the race!
The Elf-Church is on the left-hand side and the Elf-City is on the right-hand side
The guys told Hörður that they hadn't put this in perspective until later. The elves were seemingly paying them back for not having shown enough respect by their church and habitation.
Here you can see the distance from Hotel Laki to the Elf City. It is just across the Lake Víkurflóð
After showing us the Elf Church and telling us all the elf stories in this area Hörður showed us more interesting places on his land; the ruins of the old turf farm, Agnesarlaut impression, where Anna was conceived, the remains of the old wall Bjarnagarður and the Bunker of Ash Layers, which Hörður built to show people different layers of ash from volcanic eruptions in this area.
And he also told us about the myriads of pseudocraters in this area, Landbrotshólar, which we visited the following day.
In the photo above you will see Hörður by the turf house he and his family is building. Hörður is a truly knowledgeable man and I applaud his work.
I have written another detailed travel-blog on Hotel Laki and its amazing surroundings, but I wanted to dedicate this travel-blog to the Elf City and the Elf Church.
By now it was getting dark so I couldn't take any more photos, but I woke up early next morning to visit the Elf City and Elf Church again in daylight. What a truly memorable visit this was!
The Elf City
Check out the amazing surroundings in this area in my travel-blog, including the farm ruins from Skaftáreldar in 1783, the Bunker of ash layers and the remains of the 11th-century wall Bjarnagarður, plus Landbrotshólar pseudocraters:
Once in this area, you can join a guided tour to Lakagígar with departure from Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the summertime.
Also check out the many self-drive tours on offer.
Hotel Laki and the Elf City are located some 260 km away from Reykjavík and only 5 km away from Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. From ring road 1 turn on road 204 just before you reach Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Have a lovely time in South-Iceland :)