Hallormsstaðaskógur is Iceland's largest national forest, found in East Iceland near Egilsstaðir. The area is famous for its pleasant hiking trails, wildlife and collection of tree species.
Explore this area on a self drive tour in Iceland.
Development and Nature
For a largely treeless landscape, a forest in Iceland is something of an enigma. The nation was once covered in woodland, but the overuse of wood saunas by the early settlers, followed by several great volcanic eruptions, meant that for centuries, the land has been quite barren.
However, the reforestation service of Iceland has sought to change this. It cares for 53 patches of public access land, most of which are easily accessible for travellers on the Ring Road. Hallormsstaðaskógur is their largest success story, with trees covering 740 square kilometres (286 square miles).
Initial experiments in planting trees began as early as 1903, though large scale cultivation truly began in 1950. In 1905, Hallormsstaðaskógur was labelled a protected forest. Ever since then, the forest has been greatly venerated by the local population as an area of respite from the often barren, volcanic terrain of the island.
Common tree species include native dwarf birch and mountain birch, as well as over 80 different species of tree brought from 177 locations overseas.
Birds such as redpolls, goldcrests and ravens all use the forest as a sanctuary from predators, with red wings, snipes and meadow pipits joining the fray in the summer months. The area also presents opportunities for botany, as well as berry and mushroom picking. Streams running through the forest are perfectly drinkable spring water.
In June, Hallormsstaðaskógur hosts Skógardagurinn, or “Forest Day”, a weekend of accordion music, active festivities and competitions amongst the birch trees. Here, festival-goers can enjoy logging competitions, grilled lamb served by local farmers, art exhibitions and even mini-marathons (one 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) long, the other 14 kilometres (nine miles).
The Skógardagurinn celebrations are a fantastic treat for all the family and provide great insight into the culture of Iceland’s less-visited regions.
There are two camping areas in Hallormsstaðaskógur: Atlavík, located in the picturesque tree cover of the inner-forest, and Höfðavík, a site providing a more luxurious standard of service for visitors.