Hellisgerdi Park Travel Guide
Hellisgerdi is a small public park in the town of Hafnarfjordur, known for its lava formations, lush vegetation, connection to folklore, and festivities during Christmas.
Hafnarfjordur is part of the Capital Region and is just a 20-minute drive with a rental car from central Reykjavik or a 30-minute public bus ride. The charming harbor town can make for a good base for your visit to Iceland, as you can find varied accommodations in Hafnarfjordur. This will let you stay in a more peaceful environment while still being close to the city and major attractions.
If you prefer the energetic, bustling downtown of the capital, you can also simply visit Hellisgerdi park as part of a day trip from your accommodation in Reykjavik.
About Hellisgerdi Park
The town of Hafnarfjordur is often referred to by two titles: the "Town in the Lava" and the "Town of Elves." This stems from the lava that surrounds the town and the local folklore.
Hellisgerdi Park is the prime location to see these natural qualities, as it features beautiful lava rock formations among rich vegetation. Take a tranquil stroll along winding paths, view the varied plants, and relax by the charming fountain. It can be a great place for a picnic on a sunny day, where you can also enjoy a tea-time treat at the park's tiny café.
The history of the park reaches back to the 19th century, when Anna Cathinca, the wife of the local merchant C. Ziemsen, took an interest in the plants surrounding an old cave in the lava formations. She took to growing a small garden there and called it Hellisgerdi.
In 1922, the area became an official park when a local association got permission from Hafnarfjordur to shape and build a botanical garden that would be the pride of the town. Hellisgerdi was chosen because of its unique natural features and has since been a popular site for outdoor recreation, events, and celebrations in Hafnarfjordur. The cave can now be found in the center of the park, though it's much smaller than it used to be.
- See also: Top 21 Parks in Reykjavik
Visiting Hellisgerdi Park
Hellisgerdi is just a 5-minute walk from the center of Hafnarfjordur, and it has its own bus stop, making it easy to visit. There is a parking area nearby, and entry is free.
The park is worth visiting in the summer when everything is in bloom, and you can include it as a part of a day trip to Hafnarfjordur. You can visit nearby attractions like the Hafnarfjordur Museum and Hafnarborg Center of Culture and Fine Art or stroll along the charming Strandgata main street.
Another attraction is the Viking village, a themed restaurant, and hotel which recreates a Viking settlement. During mid-June, you can also visit the popular Viking festival at the nearby Vidistadartun park.
During late November and through the start of January, Hellisgerdi is worth a trip on its own. Around the advent, the park is transformed into a wonderland, with fairy lights and decorations everywhere, creating a festive and otherworldly atmosphere. In February, the park is also lit up as part of the Winter Lights Festival in the Capital Area.
It's best to go in the evening as you'll be able to enjoy the lights more in the darkness. You can then extend your park stroll and walk along the shoreline of Hafnarfjordur, and you may even be lucky enough to spot the northern lights.
If you visit during any of the four weekends leading up to Christmas, you can also stop by the Hafnarfjordur Christmas market, just a 5-minute walk away from the park. It's usually located on the Thorsplan town square, and visiting the market, along with a stroll through Hellisgerdi, has become a yule-time tradition for many locals.
The entry part of the garden is wheelchair accessible, with a stone pathway. The town has recently improved the infrastructure of the park and added a snow-melting system to the main path. However, most paths leading deeper into the garden are small and made from gravel, and there are multiple stairs, making accessing those areas more difficult.
- See also: Christmas in Iceland
- See more: Top 20 Festivals in Iceland
- Plan your trip with the Guide to Iceland in December
The Folklore of Hellisgerdi Park
Many say that Hellisgerdi is home to elves and "hidden people," with stories of them being spotted among the rocks. One story tells of a girl playing in the park when she heard singing coming from one of the caves, and another tells of people seeing the folk drying their laundry on the rocks.
This may also be helped by the atmosphere of the park, as it's truly a unique little spot hidden among the city landscape.
Hellisgerdi can therefore be an interesting place to visit for those that are interested in Icelandic folklore. If you're traveling with children, you can also go to the Elf Festival in the park, which usually takes place in early August. It features fun activities, music, and food, all intended for children.
If you don't want to make the trip to Hellisgerdi but still want to get to know Icelandic folklore, you can take this 1.5-hour folklore walking tour of Reykjavik. You'll get to know stories of trolls, elves, and hidden people while getting a new perspective on your surroundings in Iceland.