When you drive on ring-road 1 just east of Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, you will notice a cluster of dark maroon hills. These hills are called Rauðhólar - Red Hills and are around 5,000 years old pseudocraters - give or take a few years.
Pseudocraters are as far as I know rarely seen outside of Iceland and on the planet Mars, so they are quite an interesting phenomenon. They are formed when 1,100°C molten lava flows over ponds and swamps causing the water to boil. The pressure of the steam from the boiling water then causes explosions, which in turn create the pseudocraters.
Top photo: a lovely couple on top of one of the pseudocraters
These prominent pseudocraters, Rauðhólar, are located in the Leitahraun lava field, which flowed in this area during an eruption from the shield volcano Leitir. The part of the lava field by Rauðhólar is called Elliðaárhraun lava field located in the Nature Reserve of Heiðmörk.
What makes Rauðhólar pseudo craters so beautiful to me is that they are bright red in colour, which is caused by the scoria being coloured by the oxidation of the iron in the lava.
I have seen pseudocraters in several other places in Iceland, f.ex. the shapely Skútustaðagígar pseudocraters at Mývatn in North-Iceland. And the Álftaver and Landbrotshólar pseudocraters in South-Iceland. The area of Landbrotshólar is actually the largest area of pseudocraters in Iceland, covering some 50 sq.km. I have written about them in my travel-blog:
I know that people travel far to see these pseudocraters and I have searched for them all around my country. But we often tend to overlook what is in our own backyard. I am so used to seeing Rauðhólar pseudocraters that it wasn't until I made a special trip to take photos of them for my travel-blog that I actually saw how extraordinarily beautiful they are.
They are especially beautiful when the sun shines on them making the red vibrant colours very vivid.
There is something so magical about walking amongst these red pseudocraters and I can only compare them to the mystical Dimmuborgir in Mývatn, which were formed under similar circumstances with a different outcome though. Dimmuborgir is on a bigger scale than Rauðhólar, but nevertheless, in the right light, Rauðhólar will make you feel like you entered another planet.
My husband on top of Rauðhólar
The Rauðhólar protected area covers some 130.2 ha and earlier on there were around 80 pseudo craters here. Material for different purposes was taken from Rauðhólar, such a filling material, most of which was used for the domestic airport, Reykjavíkurflugvöllur, during WWII. Rauðhólar were preserved back in 1961 and declared a nature reserve in 1974.
It is such a pity that large parts of Rauðhólar were destroyed, they must have been quite magnificent before truckloads of red gravel were removed from them. I have visited other craters in South-Iceland, Seyðishólar, which are bright red in colour and very exotic but are now used as a quarry. You can see parts of the craters in my photo below, but the quarry is closed to traffic.
Seyðishólar quarry in South-Iceland
In North-Iceland in the magnificent Jökulsárgljúfur canyon another set of maroon craters are to be found.
In the summer of 2020, I spent several days hiking in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and hiked from Hljóðaklettar Echo Rocks to Rauðhólar. I had seen a photo of the maroon pillars in my photo below and really wanted to see them with my own eyes.
Aren't they amazing, like some fairytale creatures?
Rauðhólar craters in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon
During my recent visits to Rauðhólar in the south, I have encountered many people on horseback.
Horseback riding tours are popular here and the volcanic landscape at Rauðhólar is an ideal spot for this type of outdoor sport.
I found some horse riding tours at Rauðhólar to show to you:
Horseback riding at Rauðhólar
Also, check out the Mountain bike adventure in Heidmork Nature Reserve
Here is a video I shot last winter of the Icelandic horses playing:
I was a bit unprepared as this was my first time on board a helicopter and it took me some time to recognise the landscape of my own country from above ;)
In the photo, you can see how close Rauðhólar are to ring-road 1 and how easily accessible they are.
To visit these beautiful red pseudocraters you can rent a car in Reykjavík and take ring-road 1 going south-east out of Reykjavík and drive for 6-7 km out of the city. Turn right on road 408 when you reach a sign for Heiðmörk and right again for the pseudocraters.
Also, check out the combined Golden Circle Day Tour with Raudholar Red Hills
And if you will be driving further on along the south coast of Iceland then I would recommend a visit to the extraordinary colourful Raufarhólshellir lava tube.
Also check out: The unique Phenomenon Pseudocraters in Iceland
Tröllabörnin hornitos in SW-Iceland
In Lækjarbotnar some 5 km east of Rauðhólar pseudocraters you will find another preserved natural phenomenon, which is also right by ring-road 1. Most people don't know about this spot, which we call Tröllabörn or the Troll Children.
The Troll Children, which were formed at the same time as Rauðhólar pseudocraters, are a cluster of hornitos - spatter cones - covering some 4.7 hectares of land, and are well worth a visit. The Troll Children were formed during a volcanic eruption when the hot steam from the lava flow tried to find its way through the ceiling of the forming lava tunnel.
The information sign by Tröllabörnin
When the steam managed to force itself through the forming lava ceiling and connected with the oxygen in the air, it burned at a really high temperature - and molten lava splashed up and solidified. Thus the steep spatter cones were formed. These cones actually show how the steam or gasses left the lava flow, which makes it a really interesting geological phenomenon.
You can see in the sign above how it happened - this sign is by the parking and was donated by the Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary clubs.
Tröllabörnin hornitos in SW-Iceland
The volcanic eruption in this area took place some 5,000 years ago in the shield volcano Leitir and formed the Leitahraun lava field. You will find some 10 Troll Children varying in sizes and shape in the reserved area, more in the surrounding areas. Also, notice the different colours of the lava - this is an old lava field, but you can still see the different colours in the accumulated solidified lava in the hornitos.
These lava formations were preserved back in 1983. I have seen similar lava formations up north in Aðaldalur and written a travel-blog about them - the Peculiar Knútsstadaborg Lava Chamber in Aðaldalshraun in North-Iceland.
Colourful lava at Tröllabörnin hornitos
Tröllabörn - the Troll Children are located right next to ring-road 1. To visit this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and stop by both Rauðhólar and the Troll Children on your way to the many interesting sights in South-Iceland.
Here you can see the exact location of Tröllabörn on Google Maps.
With Jón contemplating on which turf house to buy
On your way from and to Reykjavík be on the lookout for the man in my photo above - his name is Jón Karlsson and he often sells beautiful handmade replicas of the traditional Icelandic turf-houses. He is usually stationed close to the first roundabout by ring-road 1 when leaving the city going south-east.
I spotted him last summer and wanted to buy a red turf house, but unfortunately, the red ones were all sold out. But, for my last birthday, my husband surprised me with a beautiful red turf house :) He went to Jón's home and made sure that he had a red turf house in stock. I am elated :)
My birthday present from my husband - a lovely red turf-house :)
These replicas are very popular amongst Icelanders and you can see them in many gardens in Iceland. They are sometimes referred to as elf-houses :)
Have a lovely time at Rauðhólar :)