Lóndrangar, Iceland’s Formidable Rock Formation

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Encompassing the northwestern tip of Iceland, Snæfellsnes peninsula offers a plethora of spectacular places to explore, all of which lie on the backdrop of the snow-capped Snæfellsjökull Volcano. With only a handful of manmade landmarks, it seems as if mother nature is behind all of the region’s unmissable monuments. Often dubbed as the “Rocky Castle”, Lóndrangar is a pair of volcanic columns that together form a remarkable fortress-shaped crag.

Gestastofa Visitor Center and Malarrif Farm

The Lóndrangar rock formation is part of Snaefellsjokull National Park, and is accessible by two main entry points, one of which is the east off-road parking, merely 250 meters away from the main lookout. Alternatively, you can park your car near the Gestastofa Visitor Center (west of Lóndrangar), from where the lookout is reachable by a scenic walk along the ocean.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Offering detailed maps and insightful tips, the visitor center serves as the trailhead of a pathway that runs parallelly to the coastline. The pleasant hike is chockfull of intriguing things to see, while Snæfellsjökull Volcano constantly looming in the background, where ever you opt to go.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Once almost completely isolated from the outside world, the adjacent Malarrif Farm has been serving as a processing plant for fish from the nearby seafood-rich waters.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The Malarrif Lighthouse, which towers over the surrounding ocean and grassland, had an indispensable role just a few decades ago, when it guided fishing boats across the choppy seas.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Originally constructed in 1917, and rebuilt 30 years later, the 24-meter-tall structure is still operational, yet nowadays, its greatest merit probably lies in its scenic monumentality.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Multiple whale bones that are strewn across the meadow serve as a testimony for the ample fishing and whaling industry that used to thrive here.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Following a 10-minute walk, you’ll come across a makeshift zip line that offers a short, yet incredibly joyful ride, accompanied with expansive views of Snæfellsjökull and the lava fields along the five-second journey.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Scenic Walk

Roughly one kilometer separates between the visitor center and Lóndrangar rock formation, the majority of which passes along the ocean. While each and every person who comes here does so primarily to marvel at the rocky monument, a secluded pebble beach along the way is a worthy attraction by its own right. The water might be too cold and rough to swim, yet its wild ocean scenery is more than enough to make up for that.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Curiously, most of the trail traverses an open lava field, created over the course of millennia by successive eruptions of the nearby Snæfellsjökull Volcano.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Whereas most of the volcanic terrain is covered by a thick layer of Icelandic moss, every now and then, a puddle with a tussock-rich rim can be spotted.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The well-marked trail alternates between a relatively wide gravel road, open grassland and stone-littered dirt path.

photography by: Omri Westmark


As you proceed along the trail, you’ll finally come across our protagonist, Lóndrangar, that upon revealing itself, immediately grabs all the attention away from anything else, whether it is the snow-capped volcano or the rough seas.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Lóndrangar

Once a giant crater that was formed as a result of a devastating volcanic eruption, all that remains today of the ancient formation after millennia of erosion by the battering waves is Lóndrangar‘s pair of basalt pillars.

 

The volcanic stacks were curved out of a softer rocky layer over the course of thousands of years by the elements, after which the structure successfully endured massive eruptions, insanely strong winds as well as constant sea abrasion.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The massive natural monument consists of two iconic columns, the taller of which is 75 meter tall (246 ft), while the shorter is 61 meter tall (200 ft).

photography by: Omri Westmark


Shorter than most modern skyscrapers, the basalt stacks might be a far cry from the world’s tallest peaks, yet their rigid and uneven surface make them extremely challenging to climb. In fact, the taller pillar’s top was first conquered only in 1735, by a man called Ásgrímur Bergþórsson, whereas the shorter one was climbed for the first time as recently as 1938.

photography by: Omri Westmark


As you walk around Lóndrangar, you’ll notice that even the slightest change in perspective is enough to generate a completely distinct appearance. The shape can be interpreted in so many ways, whether it’s a resting dragon, a sphinx or most commonly, a coastal rocky castle.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The latter of which is well-integrated into the local folklore, as over the centuries, the rock was referred to as a castle, where dozens of elves reside in. Local farmers even took this fable a step further when they refrained from cultivating the surrounding lands as a gesture towards the mythical creatures.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Delicately rising from crevices between the volcanic rocks, the golden root, otherwise known as Rhodiola rosea, is a succulent plant that grows all across the arctic region. Interestingly, several medicinal properties are attributed to this graceful flower, which despite never being conclusively proven, prompted a sharp increase in global consumption, making it an endangered species.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Svalþúfa and Þúfubjarg

Whilst the basalt pillars of Lóndrangar are incredibly beautiful and photogenic at every possible angle, it is a scenic point on a verdant headland called Svalþúfa that offers the most stunning views of the “rocky castle”. From Lóndrangar, it is roughly a 700-meter hike along the coastline that culminates in an uphill climb over the cliff.

photography by: Omri Westmark


As you walk along the trail, you’ll come across various coastal rock formations that enclose tide pools and tiny inlets.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The ascend over Svalþúfa’s slope might look intimidating at first, however, the hillside path is by no means overly steep.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The higher you climb, the better the views get, with not only Lóndrangar majestically looming in the background, but also the entire surrounding lava field.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The last leg of the journey is a short walkway made of paddock slabs, which ends at the Lóndrangar lookout of Þúfubjarg, the name given for Svalþúfa Headland’s dramatic promontory. As previously mentioned, most people who visit the area decide to leave their car in the nearby parking and take the short walk to the lookout.

 

Some Icelanders strongly believe that hill of Svalþúfa serves as home to groups of Elves, and as such, mowing its grass is strictly forbidden.

photography by: Omri Westmark


As you reach the lookout at the tip of Þúfubjarg cliff, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most iconic views of Lóndrangar, alongside the area’s medley of geological features.

 

Legend has it that the 17th century Icelandic poet, Kolbeinn Grímsson, had a rhyming contest with the devil itself on the Þúfubjarg’s rim. Inspired by the full moon during that night, the former won by challenging the latter to find a matching word for “Moon”, which as it turns out has no rhymes in the Icelandic language. After his defeat, the devil fell into the ocean and never challenged Kolbeinn with any contest ever since.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The jaw-dropping panorama of Lóndrangar is accompanied by a clamorous orchestra of seabirds, which during their mating season, nest on the vertical side of Þúfubjarg that faces the Atlantic Ocean.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Among the species that inhabit this ample bird colony are fulmars, kit fowls, common barbets, barn owls and occasionally, even puffins. With their nest perilously perching on small ledges and crevices across the cliff, the birds often switch roles, when one of whom guards the egg or the chick while the other scatters the nearby waters for fish.

photography by: Omri Westmark