Beinakerling cairn in Kaldidalur

I had an enjoyable, if bumpy and rather rainy, drive across Kaldidalur in August. This short highland route can be accessed from Þingvellir and driven in an afternoon and will give you a taste of the highlands, including glaciers and the volcano Skjaldbreiður, after which shield volcanoes are named.

Parts of the road were (and generally are) full of holes and in some places the surface is like corrugated iron, requiring either very slow driving, which will take time but give you a good chance to observe the landscape, or driving at around 60 km/h, which will reduce the shaking but requires considerable skill and experience in driving on gravel and so much concentration that you’re liable to miss all the magnificence of the landscape. We call these corrugated iron-like road surfaces “washboards” after the surface of old-fashioned laundry washboards.

The gravel road ends near Húsafell in Borgarfjörður and the blessedly smooth tarmac road down to highway 1 will take you past Barnafossar and Hraunfossar and through the verdant landscapes of Reykholtsdalur and Borgarfjörður.

The cairn is a nice place to stop and look at the desert landscape of the highlands. Just remember to add a rock to the cairn for luck before you leave it.


I never fail to stop at this place when I’m in this area. It’s a place where Hvítá, a glacial river, comes down through a very narrow ravine, almost just a crack, in the rock and you can really see the power in the water as it gushes down the ravine:




This small cairn is a waymarker on the route to Beinahóll on Kjölur, in the Icelandic highlands. Looming out of the mist it at first looked like something alive.

A collection of cairns

Several years ago people started making small cairns in the area below the information sign for Þingvellir National Park. The cairns proliferated for a while, were knocked down my the authorities and erected again by passers-by, and now seem to have gained acceptance. They make nice foreground detail for photographing the lake.

When I took the photo below there were two other people there. The man was adding rocks to various cairns and the woman was photographing him and both were assuming all sorts of strange poses while doing it. The woman assumed several of the funny poses you see photographers use when they are concentrating deeply on their subject, including the crouch, the half-split and the limbo, and I think I saw the man, out of the corner of my eye, rise up from something resembling the downward dog yoga position. I only regret not having photographed them, but I think maybe they might have gotten mad if I had disturbed the strange ritual they appeared to be engrossed in.

Anyway, here is photo of the cairn garden:


Click to enlarge