Information about Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir, said in Nordic folklore to lead to the catacombs of hell.

Dimmuborgir, or the Black Fortress, is a dramatic expanse of lava in the Lake Mývatn area. Steeped with folklore, it is one of the most popular destinations for travellers to north Iceland.

Geology of Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir was formed in an eruption that occurred in the area 2,300 years ago; the Lake Mývatn area is highly volcanic, as can be further seen in nearby locations such as the geothermal Námaskarð Pass, the hot spring cave Grjótagjá, and the dramatic Krafla fissure.

As lava flowed across the area, it passed over a lake, causing it to boil. This both quickened the cooling of the lava and caused pillars of steam to shatter parts of it. After it solidified, Dimmuborgir area became defined by large stacks of rock and many caves and caverns, caused by bubbles of intense steam.

As such, many have compared Dimmuborgir to a medieval castle, with its many hidden chambers and its rising towers.

Folklore of Dimmuborgir

In Icelandic culture, lava caves are allegedly the homes of the nation’s brutal and vile trolls. The most famous of these were the half-troll, half-ogre Grýla and her submissive husband Leppalúði. Grýla was renowned for her insatiable appetite for children, and her gigantic pet cat, that would eat children over the Christmas period for not getting any clothes (encouraging kids to finish their weaving, knitting and sewing chores before the season set in).

Grýla and Leppalúði had thirteen sons who lived in Dimmuborgir and are now known as the ‘Icelandic Santa Clauses’ or Yule Lads. On the thirteen nights before Christmas, these trolls come one by one to terrorise Icelanders, each with their own strategy after which they were named.

Sheep-Colt Clod, for example, would harass livestock; Skyr-Gobbler would steal and lick the house's supplies of yoghurt-like skyr; and Window-Peeper would stare into houses, looking for things to burgle.

Like most frightening Icelandic stories, the Yule Lads were most likely created to keep children from going out into the cold Icelandic winter nights, where many disappeared without a trace for centuries. As the nation modernised, they became mischievous tricksters rather than devilish monsters. Now, they have been ‘Americanised’; rather than traditional Icelandic garb, they wear Santa costumes, and although they still steal skyr, they now also bring gifts.

Due to Iceland’s remoteness and fondness for storytelling, the nation developed many unusual Christmas traditions.

During the Christianisation of Iceland, Dimmuborgir developed a new set of tales. Many began to believe, due to its starkness, that it was where Satan landed when cast from heaven, and where he created the catacombs to hell.

Dimmuborgir in pop culture

Dimmuborgir recently saw a surge in popularity, as it was featured on HBO’s Game of Thrones. In the series, it is where Mance Raider held his wildling army. It was shot here in winter.

The popular Norwegian black metal band Dimmu Borgir is also named after the area. 

 

Services near Dimmuborgir

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Attractions nearby Dimmuborgir

Hverfell

Hverfell is an explosion crater on the east side of Lake Mývatn in northern Iceland and is one of the largest explosion craters in the world. ...

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Hverfjall

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by Tong Hverfjall is a tuff ring volcano with an incredibly impressive crater, approximately one kilo...

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Grjótagjá

Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras Grjótagjá is a small lava cave located near lake Mývatn in north Iceland, famous for fe...

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Lúdentarborgir

Ludentarborgir is a crater row east of Lake Myvatn, about 15 meters long. These craters take their name from the explosion crater Ludent, to the...

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Bjarnarflag

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Photo by LV Corporate Bjarnarflag is the oldest geothermal power station in Iceland, having been first open...

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Skútustaðagígar

Photo from Lofthellir Cave Excursion from Lake Myvatn Skútustaðagígar is the name of a row of pseudo-craters in north Iceland....

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Mývatn Nature Baths

Photo from Goðafoss Waterfall and the Mývatn Nature Baths The Mývatn Nature Baths are a set of geothermally heated pools and steam ...

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Stóragjá

Stóragjá is a little-known rift in north Iceland which holds cave filled with naturally-heated geothermal water. Found next to the vill...

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Mývatn

Mývatn is a beautiful lake with many small islands in the north of Iceland, the fourth largest lake in the country. Due to its serenity, bird...

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Námafjall Geothermal Area

The Námafjall Geothermal Area is located in Northeast Iceland, on the east side of Lake Mývatn. At this area, also known as Hverir, ...

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Námaskarð

Námaskarð Pass is a geothermal area on the mountain Námafjall, in north Iceland, less than half an hour’s drive from Lake M&...

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Lofthellir

Lofthellir is a lava cave in North Iceland, situated in the lava field of older Laxardalshraun. The Lofthellir lava cave is renowned for having some ...

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Hvannfell

  Hvannfell is a mountain in Sudur-Thingeyjarsysla county in North Iceland. The mountain is located near the famous Lake Myvatn. The Burfellshr...

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Leirhnjúkur

  Leirhnjukur ('Mud Peak') is a 525 m high active volcano, located to the northeast of Lake Myvatn in North Iceland. Leirhnjukur is pa...

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Krafla

Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Photo Credit: Earthquakes Krafla Krafla is a caldera, part of a greater volcanic system of the same name, located north ...

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Víti in Krafla

Viti (meaning 'Hell') in Krafla is an explosion crater. It is one of the two most famous Viti craters in Iceland, the other being Viti in Askj...

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Svartá

Svarta is a river in Bardardalur valley in North Iceland, around 45 kilometers from the mighty Skjalfandafljot glacier river. Svarta is one of the gr...

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Ullarfoss

Ullarfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the river Svarta in North Iceland. The waterfall is located in a fresh spring river that flows through Bardarda...

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Diamond Circle

The Diamond Circle is a famed 260 kilometre (162 mile) sightseeing route in the northeast of Iceland, characterised by its sheer number of natural a...

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Aldeyjarfoss

  Aldeyjarfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the mighty Skjalfandafljot river, dropping from a height of 20 meters. Of particular note is th...

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