Svarfaðardalur is a wide, fertile and densely populated valley in North Iceland, dotted with quintessential farmsteads, gurgling streams and surrounded by a ring of spectacular mountain peaks. The highest mountain in the area is Dýjafjallshnjúkur, its summit measuring at 1445m.
Svarfaðardalur is part of the Dalvíkurbyggð municipality. The Svarfaðardalsá River flows through Svarfaðardalur, opening up at the coast of Dalvík, and is known to be an excellent spot for visiting anglers.
The Svarfaðardalur Nature Reserve, Iceland’s oldest wetland protection area, spans out across the valley’s lower marshlands. Covering almost 8 square kilometres, this area is famous as a nesting ground for a wide variety of bird species. The ‘Birdland’ exhibition within the reserve is the best place to head for avid birdwatchers, with its detailed information on local species and behaviour. There is even a concealed bird hide located at the small lake Tjarnartjörn. Trails from the Húsabakki campsites lead visitors on a gentle hike through this area.
At the bottom of the valley lies the glacier Gljúfurárjökull, within the mystic and awe-inspiring Tröllaskagi (“Troll’s Peninsula”) mountain range. It is just one of over 200 glaciers found nestled away in this region. The terrain elevation above sea level is estimated to be 929m. It is an alpine valley glacier, meaning it is an increasingly popular location for backcountry skiing.
Art enthusiasts can also visit the former residence of self-taught Icelandic painter and musician, Arngrímur Gíslason. Gíslason, an artist crippled by self-doubt and circumstance, was most famous for his altarpieces, two of which are lost, the rest housed by different churches around Iceland. However, he was also an accomplished and avid musician, who modern scholars now believe was instrumental in pushing a new wave of composition in the region and across 19th-century Iceland. The house can be found by the village of Tjörn, on the ancient farmstead, Gullbringa.