All the best experiences
24/7 customer support
Only verified quality services
Icelandic travel experts

Laufskalavarda Lava Ridge Travel Guide

906 Google reviews
Cultural attractions
Average rating
Number of reviews
Average temperature
0°C - 1°C / 32°F - 33.8°F

Laufskalavarda, an area of stone cairns in South Iceland.

Laufskalavarda, spelled Laufskálavarða in Icelandic, is a lava ridge with a collection of stacks of stones, or cairns, not far from the main Ring Road in South Iceland.

At the Laufskalavarda lava ridge, all travelers who were going to cross the Myrdalssandur desert for the first time were supposed to pile up stones to create a cairn before setting off on their journey. There are now hundreds of them, creating a fascinating and otherworldly landscape.

A cairn is a pile of carefully placed rocks with great symbolism in Nordic history. Creating one was thought to give good luck for the traveler's journey, and they now tell a story of South Iceland's history and traditions.

The Laufskalavarda lava ridge is a great place to visit on a self-drive tour of South Iceland. This eight-day summer self-drive tour of the Ring Road and Golden Circle and this seven-day northern lights self-drive tour through South Iceland are examples of itineraries that provide opportunities to visit Laufskalavarda while you are in South Iceland. 

The attraction can also be explored by those who choose to rent a car during their trip to Iceland.

Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Oblomov2 No edits made.

History of the Laufskalavarda Lava Ridge

Laufskalavarda, a lava ridge with a selection of stone piles of different heights.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Denkhenk No edits made.

For centuries, Icelanders used piles of stones to mark their way along trails and to designate important sites. The tradition continued, and now cairns can be seen throughout Iceland.

These sites are referenced through Icelandic folklore and have an important role in local traditions and culture. More cairns can be found at the Laufskalavarda lava ridge than anywhere else in the country, making this area even more special.

Visitors are now asked not to add any more stone piles in Iceland as this can cause damage to the environment and existing cultural heritage. 

The name Laufskalavarda comes from a farm that used to be on the site from the earliest days of Iceland's settlement. The first recorded eruption of the Katla volcano destroyed the farm in 894 BC, and this volcano is one of the country's most famous and explosive.

The lava rocks used to create the cairns come from this dramatic peak.

Exploring the Laufskalavarda Lava Ridge

When you arrive at the Laufskalavarda lava ridge, you'll be greeted by a striking sight – a vast expanse of stacked stone piles.

Laufskalavarda offers fantastic photo opportunities with its unique landscape. Capture the contrast between the rugged terrain and the serenity of the cairns, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.

Laufskalavarda during winter in Iceland, with the tops of the cairns peeking out above the snow.

Guests are welcome to take a stroll around the stacked rocks and the surrounding wilderness. Just be mindful not to tread on the delicate moss and avoid disturbing any natural features or the historic cairns.

There is a fantastic viewing platform at the Laufskalavarda lava ridge. From here, you’ll get fantastic views of Myrdalsjokull glacier, where the famous Katla volcano is located.

There are toilets on site, so it’s an excellent place to stop off during a road trip of the Ring Road.

Getting to the Laufskalavarda Lava Ridge

Laufskalavarda is on the Ring Road (Route 1) in South Iceland. It is easily accessible by car, making it a convenient stop for travelers exploring the famous Golden Circle or the South Coast, and there is a car park.

The nearest town is Vik, which is around 24 miles (39 kilometers) away. If you’re starting your journey in Reykjavik, you should head east on the Ring Road. Laufskalavarda is approximately 140 miles (226 kilometers) from Reykjavik.

Other Attractions Near the Laufskalavarda Lava Ridge

A paraglider over Seljalandsfoss waterfall in South Iceland.

There are several other attractions near Laufskalavarda. The Reynisfjara black sand beach is one of the closest at around 31 miles (49 kilometers) away. It is a dramatic coastal area with unique basalt columns and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks.

About 62 miles (100 kilometers) away, Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls. You can even walk behind the curtain of water for a unique perspective.

Visit the Skogar Folk Museum, approximately 45 miles (73 kilometers) away, to learn more about Iceland's history and culture. Nearby, you can also hike to the top of Skogafoss waterfall for breathtaking views.

Attractions Nearby

Link to appstore phone
Install Iceland’s biggest travel app

Download Iceland’s biggest travel marketplace to your phone to manage your entire trip in one place

Scan this QR code with your phone camera and press the link that appears to add Iceland’s biggest travel marketplace into your pocket. Enter your phone number or email address to receive an SMS or email with the download link.