Vatnsdalur ('Lake Valley') is a valley in Hunavatnssysla in North Iceland. It is located just south of the Ring Road. As well as being well vegitated, the valley is notable for being the site of Iceland‘s last execution, for its countless hills, one of Iceland's best fishing rivers and as a saga site.
Explore this area while on a self drive tour in Iceland.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Christian Bickel. No edits made.
The valley takes its name from a small lake, Vatnsdalsvatn ('The Lake Valley's Lake) and vice versa. Some trout can be found in this lake. There is also a small pond in the valley called Kattarauga ('Cat's Eye'). This pond is unusual in featuring several floating islets and is a protected area.
The river Vatnsdalsa enters the valley as it plunges by way of many beautiful waterfalls into a magnificent river canyon. The highest of the falls is Skinandi, and a little lower are Kerarfoss and Rjukandi. Lower still are Dalfoss and Stekkjafoss.
Vatnsdalsa boasts some of the largest salmons to be found in Iceland. Good trout and char fishing can be made there as well. If you wish to fish there, you'll need to apply for a fishing permit. Fly is the only bait allowed and there is a firm catch and release policy. The fishing season is from June 20th to September 23d. Excellent facilities can be found near to the river, at the Flodvangur lodge.
At the mouth of the valley is a cluster of countless hills of all sizes, covering 4-5 km2. These are known as Vatnsdalsholar. The hills are said to be the debris of a tremendous landslide from the mountain Vatnsdalsfjall. The largest hills are over 84 meters above sea-level.
The last execution in Iceland took place westernmost of the hills, at Thristapar. A memorial stone marks this spot where in 1830 Fridrik Fridriksson and Agnes Magnusdottir were beheaded for murdering Natan Ketilsson and Petur Jonsson. The execution block and axe can be seen at the National Museum in Reykjavik.
Vatnsdalur is the site of the family saga Vatnsdaela Saga which tells the story of the people of Hof in Vatnsdalur. It begins with Ingimundur the Old settling the valley around 900 and ends in the first half of the 11th century. A grove in the valley is dedicated to Ingimundur‘s daughter Thordis, the first native of the Hunathing district.