Hvolsvöllur is a small town of 950 people in south Iceland, conveniently located by the Ring Road. It is often travelled through or stopped off in by those exploring the South Coast or encircling the country.
It is very popular as a place to stay in a cabin or bungalow for those who want to be close to the sites of the west and south, such as the Golden Circle, but away from the hustle and bustle of Reykjavík.
Hvolsvöllur’s main economy is services to the surrounding agricultural area, which has an additional 600 people. It is also a growing place tourism, considering its easy accessibility to Iceland’s capital and some of its major natural sites.
The area around Hvolsvöllur features prominently in one of the most famous Icelandic sagas, Njál’s saga. These sagas were epic works of fiction, which encapsulated much of the history (and folklore) of Iceland in its early era.
Njál’s saga is often thought of as one of the best, as many believe it to have been written by legendary historian and poet, Snorri Sturluson.
There is an excellent Icelandic Saga Centre in the town that those who love literature and history should not miss checking out.
‘The Exhibition of Njál’ is the first of its two exhibitions, introducing guests to the characters of the sagas, along with the Viking cosmology and the literary arts that have existed in Iceland for centuries.
The other is on the history of trade, commerce and the cooperative movement in the 20th century. While this may not seem fascinating, Iceland’s journey through this time is actually quite a riveting story.
In the early 1900s, the country had little changed since the medieval era. People still scraped a living off fishing and farming, lived in turf houses or, if they were extremely poor, caves, and had very little industry or infrastructure. The nation was still under the Danish Crown, with little to no contact with the outside world.
Fast-forward to 1999, and Iceland was already the developed country it is today, leading the world on issues such as gender equality, technological prowess, social fairness and civil rights.
You can also view a model of Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament, founded at Þingvellir in 930 AD here.
Hvolsvöllur also has homed the Lava Centre since 2017, an interactive museum where visitors can learn about the earthquakes and volcanoes that shape this country.
There is also a nice gallery in town, and a good restaurant in the Saga Hall, a replica of a medieval longhouse.
Hvolsvöllur has a number of interesting hiking routes in its vicinity. Among interesting sights is the large and peculiar rock Drangurinn by the farm Drangshlíð, under the Eyjafjöll mountains.
Hvolsvöllur is also a short drive from many other interesting attractions, among them some of Iceland’s most famous. One of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools, Seljavallalaug, is about 44 kilometres (27 miles) from the town. At a 14 kilometre (nine mile) distance is the rural area of Fljótshlíð and the farm Hlíðarendi. According to Njal's Saga, its hero, Gunnar, lived there.
There is good trout and salmon fishing in the nearby rivers. Several interesting caves, both natural and man-made are in driving distance from Hvolsvöllur.
Of course, as mentioned, the town is also a perfect launching point from which to explore the Golden Circle, which consists of the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park.