Reykholt is a tiny village in west Iceland, which was once home to one of the world’s greatest medieval writers. Packed with history and culture, this little settlement should not be overlooked.
The best way to explore Reykholt is on a self drive tour in Iceland.
Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Jabbi. No edits made.
Reyholt’s fame comes from the fact that it was the home of the legendary writer, historian, chieftain and lawspeaker Snorri Sturluson. Though his name is not well-known outside of the Nordic world, without him we would know much less about medieval northern European history than we do today.
His two most famous works are Prose Edda and Heimskringla. The former is an account of the Old Norse Mythology, which was otherwise kept alive only by oral tradition.
It tells about how the pagans thought the world was created and how it would end, and the deities that sparked fear and awe in them, most famously Odin, Thor and Loki. Considered an epic poem akin to Homer’s Odyssey to many, it has inspired the fantasy genre perhaps more than any other work in the world.
Heimskringla is an account of Norwegian kings, told as sagas. It depicts what most historians consider to be an accurate depiction of relations across northern Europe from the 9th Century to the end of the 12th.
It is through this work, therefore, that we can learn about how the Vikings related to the kings of places such as the not-yet United Kingdom, how the jarls and clans disputed, and how they formed governments that have lasted to this day.
Though Snorri is best remembered for his works, his life was also a fascinating tale somewhat similar to that of a Game of Thrones character.
Aside from being a beloved poet and writer, he was a chieftain and later lawspeaker for Icelandic parliament, as well as a spokesperson, agent and, to some, lackey of the Norwegian king.
His influence and actions propelled Iceland’s civil war into chaos, and he met betrayal from every side, resulting in his eventual assassination. The taboo of this execution, however, meant that Snorri was remembered as a hero, rather than the divisive figure he often was.
To add to the Game of Thrones flavour, he was also notorious for infidelity, and fathering children up and down the country.
In honour of Snorri’s life and works, Reykholt is home to Snorrastofa, a centre on his contribution to medieval studies.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Christian Bickel. No edits made.
Even if you have little interest in Snorri, Reykholt is a beautiful town, well worth a visit. It has a wealth of geothermal activity, and one of the country's oldest structures, Snorralaug geothermal pool, can be found here.
Reykholt is also the closest settlement to the popular waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. The former of these, the ‘Lava Falls’, are serene and unique, while the latter, the ‘Children’s Falls’, is rapid and dramatic.
It is also close to Deildartunguhver, the highest flowing hot spring in Europe.
If you're looking to stay more than a day in Reykholt or nearby, there are several hotels in the vicinity, among them the the beautifully built boarding school that functions as an Edda-hotel in the summer. There are also a wealth of cabins and bungalows to be rented here.