Highland Farms


The Touring Club of Fljótsdalshérað, the municipality of Fljótsdalshérað, and Vopnafjörðurs´ cultural and educational centre Kaupvangur have joined forces to increase cultural tourism services in Jökuldalsheiði and other nearby highlands. The old highland farms in these areas are being connected to each other by hiking trails. Receptacles are locasted at each set of ruins, containing a guestbook and a stamp along with information about that farm, including its residents and history. Cards for stamping at each site are sold at Sænautasel, the tourism information centres in Egilsstaðir and Vopnafjörður, Egilsstaðastofu by the camping place in Egilsstaðir and at the office of the Touring Club, Tjarnarás 8, Egilsstöðum. Those who submit cards stamped at 10 farms will be publicly recognised and their names put into a raffle, from which winners will be drawn in September each year at the office of the Touring Club. Grand prices.


SænautaselAtlhough this farm was unoccupied for five years following the 1875 Askja eruption, people lived there for a total of 95 years - longer than anywhere else on Jökuldalsheiði. Originally, in the spring of 1843, Sænautasel was taken out of the Hákonarstaðir estate, and the first residents were Kristrún, a daugher of Bjarni, farmer at Stafell; and Sigurður, a son of Einar, farmer at Brú. Sænautasel offered the advantages of excellent trout fishing in the lake, along with good summer ranges and grassy marshes for haying, however there was often deep snow there, and little shelter from the wind. The farm was abandoned in 1943 but reconstructed as a showpiece in 1992. The buildings now allow for a number of summertime activities which emphasise cultural heritage, demonstrating to the modern traveller how rural Icelandic people lived early in the 20th century.  

(1) GPS Cordinates (N65°15.72 – W15°31.24)



Rangalón1Rangalón is at the north end of Sænautavatn lake and was taken from the Möðrudalur estate in 1843 and settled by Þorgerður Bjarnadóttir, who was a sister of the Kristrún living at Sænautasel; and Pétur, a son of Guðmundur Magnússon, Bessastaðir.  This site had some of the same advantages as Sænautasel, in addition to being situated by a frequently used route through the highlands.  Nonetheless, and despite State Treasury support during the last years of habitation in order to maintain this home by the postal route, Rangalón was abandoned in 1923. 

(2) GPS Cordinates (N65°17.64 – W15°31.26)



Grunnavatn1Standing some 5 km south of Sænautavatn, at an altitude of 585m, Grunnavatn was established in 1853 on land acquired from Brú. The snow often lies deep here, but the land includes good summertime ranges. The first inhabitants hailed from Eiðaþinghá, Arndís Magnúsdóttir and Jónas, a son of Bergur Hallsson; however, they and their children left for the Americas in 1880. Others continued to reside here until 1923, but there was an 8 year gap in residence due to the ashfall of 1875, and people also stayed away for two years after the main living quarters burned in 1903.

(3) GBS Cordinates: (N65°13.52 – W15°34.08)



NetselThis land had belonged to Brú, and the late 15th-century folk tale figure Þorsteinn Jökull Magnússon is said to have moved there from Brú for at least one year to escape from the plague down in lower, populated areas.  Situated on a small peninsula on the west shore of Ánavatn lake, the ruins are 542m above sea level and a little over 2 km from Grunnavatn. Whereas part of the ruins pre-date an ash layer from 1477, 18th-century ruins also appear, and the youngest here must relate to Grunnavatn farm. There are several references to people saying they were from Netsel, but we have no knowledge of regular farming there.

(4) GPS Cordinates: (N65°12.68 – W15°32.16)



HeiðarselStanding beside the smaller lake of Pollur, just south of Ánavatn lake, Heiðarsel was started in 1858. The 553m high site was felt to provide a pretty setting and sweeping view. The first settlers were Kristín, a daughter of Jón, farmer at Aðalból, in turn a son of Pétur at Hákonarstaðir; and Jón, a son of Þorsteinn, farmer at Brú, who was in turn a son of Einar. This farm remained deserted from the time of the Askja eruption in 1875 until nearly 1900. The last family to live there stayed for 34 years and upon leaving in 1946 was the very last to desert Jökuldalsheiði, thereby concluding its highland community history of somewhat over 100 years.

(5) GPS Cordinates: (N65°10.71 - W15°33.51)



HneflaselHneflasel was built in 1847 west of Ytri-Eiríksstaðahefill and 3 km southeast of Heiðarsel. Hneflasel took over land that had belonged to Eiríksstaðir.  In fact located 575m above sea level, it may have formerly been a summer outpost of that farm.  Not only was the first male settler, Oddur Sæbjörnsson, born in Jökuldalur valley, but his housekeeper, Helga Guðmundsdóttir, was descended from there too.  Hneflasel was permanently abandoned after the 1987 ashfall.

(6) GPS Cordinates: (N65°10.19 - W15°30.46)




Started on Eiríksstaðir land, some 5 km northeast of Hneflasel, Háls was situated highest of any of the community´s farms, at 594m. Building here in 1859, the original settlers were Aðalbjörg, daughter of Jóhannes, farmer at Fjallssel; and Magnús, son of Jón, farmer at Mjóanes in Skógar, in turn a son of Ormur.  While the desertion date for Háls farm is unclear, it is thought to have been the site of a sheep barn for Eiríksstaðir in earlier centuries.

(7) GPS Cordinates: (N65°11.48 - W15°25.30)



VeturhúsWhen originally established in 1846 on land that had belonged to Hákonarstaðir, this farm was named Barð. It was situated at an altitude of 554m by the west bank of Krókatjörn (N65°13.87 - W15°28.40), which later took on the name of Veturhúsatjörn. Due to erosion, the farm was moved after 1900 beyond the east shore to an altitude of 556m. The first settlers were Guðrún, daughter of Gísli, farmer at Arnórsstaðir, Jökuldalur; and Benjamín Þorgrímsson, who had ancestors in the county of Suður-Þingey. Following the 1875 ashfall, some of the residents moved to the Americas and no one lived there again till nearly 1900, though the farm then had occupants til 1941.

(8) GPS Ordinates: (N65°13.85 - W15°27.72)



VíðirhólarSituated about 5,5 km north of Háls, this farm was started on Hákonarstaðir land in 1846, at an elevation of 540m. At first, the farm was named Víðirdalssel, and it was built by Rósa Jónsdóttir, whose ancestors had lived in Öxnadalur valley; and Vigfús Jósafatsson who came from Hamrar in the Reykjadalur district. Excepting a few years after the 1875 ashfall, people lived at this farm until 1905, but then found erosion related to the ash to have depleted the land so much as to make farming impossible. The sheep corral, less than a kilometre to the south (N65°13.63 - W15°22.71), was built of dry stones in 1900 and used for over 20 years.

(9) GPS Cordinates: (M65°14.09 - W15°22.46)





Ármótasel was built in 1853, 500 m above sea level, on land belonging  to Arnórsstaðir. Nowadays, Ring Road 1 passes close by the ruins, which are located near Gilsá river, little upstream from Víðidalsá river.  Ármót means river junction, and back then the farm was often simply called that.  Its original settlers were Sigríður, a daughter of Jón, farmer at Ljótsstaðir in Fnjóskadalur valley; and Jón, a son of Guðlaugur, farmer at Mjóidalur in Bárðardalur valley.  Though people lived at Ármótasel until 1943, it was sometimes abandoned for few years, and in 1945 was finally torn down.  For its time, Ármótasel was rather grand, with barns holding some 200 sheep.

(10) GPS Cordinates: (N65°17.94 - W15°17.38)



HlíðarendiHlíðarendi was built in 1853 on land which had belonged to the Arnórsstaðir estate and stood near the ruins of that farm´s ancient summer outpost, 6 km northwest of Ármótasel.  The first inhabitants were Guðrún Lára, daughter of Þórður, farmer at Staffell; and Jón, son of the farmer Stefán at Eyvindará.  Hlíðarendi changed hands frequently, and somtimes even had two proprietors at the same time.  In 1872 the farm was permanently abandoned

(11) GPS Cordinates: (N65°19.24 - W15°23.52) 




LindarselLindarsel was the last home to be established in Jökuldalsheiði. That occurred in 1862, on a land which hade previously belonged to Skjöldólfsstaðir. Lindarsel was settled by Lovísa Dorotea, whose father was the doctor Jörgen Kjerulf at Brekka; and Guðmundur, a son of Hallgrímur farmer at Skörð in Reykjahverfi. The couple soon had a daughter, Ólöf Dorotea, but Lovísa died shortly afterwards and Guðmundur gave up farming, leaving Lindarsel in 1863. Before the Lindarsel farm was built, there was probably a refuge hut there, situated by the old trail between Möðrudalur and Skjöldólfsstaðir, a trail refferred to in 1532 as Skjöldólfsstaðavegur.

(12) GPS Cordinates: (N65°22.20 - W15°25.80)



HáreksstaðirHáreksstaðir was built on land taken from Skjöldólfsstaðir in 1841 and was the first farm to be founded in these highlands. Located at an elevation of 482m, it is however also believed to have been the site of a farm in ancient times.  Háreksstaðir was usually regarded as one of the best farms in the community, and benefitting from some of the broades and most continuous grassland, supported the most occupants. The first settlers were Katrín, daughter of Þorleifur, who in turn was a son of Þorleifur of Stóra-Breiðavík, Reyðarfjörður; and Jón, son of the farmer Sölvi, Víkingsstaðir in Skógar. Several Háreksstaðir residents moved to the Americas, along with their descendents. Háreksstaðir was farmed continuously until 1923, except for a single year of desertion. There is now a sheep herders´ shelter on this site

(13) GPS Cordinates: (N65°24.28 - W15°25.35)



Gestreiðarstaðir 1Gestreiðarstaðir was started in 1843, about 5 km west of Háreksstaðir. Although the land then belonged to Möðrudalur, an ancient farm is believed to have been located there.The first inhabitants were Una, a daughter of Jens Árnason, farmer at Hrjót; and Andrés, a son of the farmer Andrés Sturluson at Hallfreðarstaðahjáleiga.  While no one lived at Gestreiðarstaðir for four years after the Askja eruption, it was then resettled.  However, the land had no doubt been depleted through the ashfall, and changed hands frequently for some time, with some of the residents moving to the Americas. The farm remained abandoned as of 1897.

(14) GPS Cordinates: (N65°24.70 - W15°30.18)



HólmavatnHólmavatn was estabilshed at an elevation of 522m in the Vatnaflói wetlands, on the western side of Langhólmavatn lake.  The land was taken in 1861 from Skjöldólfsstaðir in the northeastern part of Jökuldalsheiði, a part called Tunguheiði. Hólmavatn was only inhabited for one year. The residents were Kristbjörg Guðlaugsdóttir, sister of the Jón who settled Ármótasel; and Jóhannes, son of the farmer Friðrik Árnason at Foss.

(15) GPS Cordinates: (N65°27.728 - W15°22.099)



MelurMelur was founded in 1848, with the first residents considering themselves to be building on public land (commons), but the pastor of Hof in Vopnafjörður disagreed. He filed a drawn-out lawsuit which the new farmers lost, and the land reverted to the church at Hof.  The settlers at Melur were Steinunn, daughter of Torfi Torfason, Arnkelsgerði; and Jón, a son of Guðmundur, whose family hailed from Mývatn.  Melur was occupied until 1904, excluding only a few uninhabited years. The farm is now the site of a sheep herders´shelter.

(16) GPS Cordinates: (N65°28.24 - W15°26.95)



Fagrakinn was built in 1848 in accordance with the views of Möðrudalur farmers, who considered the land to be part of their estate.  The settlers were Guðríður, a daughter of Vigfús, whose family came from Stöðvarfjörður; and Jón, a son of Ólafur in the Vellir area of Fljótsdalshérað. At an altitude of 420m, Fagrakinn was the most northerly of the highland community farms.  The distance from Fagrakinn to Brunahvammur was just over 3 km. Fagrakinn was abandoned permanently in the spring of 1886, mainly due to erosion of the once grassy place where the farm buildings stood.  The site is close to Highway 85, south of the Hölkná river.  There is a parking lot next to the river, from where you should head slightly upstream and up the slope for a walk of perhaps 7-800 metres.

(17) GPS Cordinates (N65°30.03 - W15°28.80)



Brunahvammur stood on the highland side of a grassy, well-drained hollow at an elevation of 340m, below the slope of Brunahvammsháls.  This is quite some distance from the Hofsá river, somewhat downstream from the Hölkná river.  Highway 85 runs just above Brunahvammur hollow and you can see the farm from the road. Brunahvammur was probably a croft, rented from and long owned by Bustarfell farm. The first settler is thought to have been Páll Jónsson.  From the perspective of traditional farming practices, the farmland was considered generally good, but poor for cutting turf, lacking in peat and rather labour-intensive in regard to haying and tending sheep. From the turn of the century until 1913, Brunahvammur was left uninhabited twice, for a total of 6 years, but remained inhabited from 1913 to 1945.

(18) GPS Cordinates: (N65°31.62 - W15°25.89)



FossThe valley of Hofsá river is named Hofsárdalur up to Steinvarartungusporður, above which it has the name of Fossdalur, home to Foss farm.  Located 180m above sea level, Foss is thought to be a very old farmstead and originally formed from land previously belonging to the Bustarfell estate.  The same family lived at Foss almost continuously from 1800 until they finally deserted it in 1947. Running through the narrow, steep-sided valley, the Hofsá river has cut a gully a short distance below the farm and created the waterfall, or foss, from which both the valley and the farm take their names. The site is only 8 km upstream from Bustarfell farm and quite accessible from there. Go to the right down the hollow just before reaching the Bustarfell gate and drive below the hayfield, but continue driving no further than Snið.  The valley becomes very narrow there, with shrubs covering the steep slopes down to the river; however, the path allows for a clear, easy walk to the abandoned farmstead.

(19) GPS Cordinates: (N65°33.78 - W15°16.44)



KálffellKálffell was a tenant farm belongin to Foss. The farm stood at an altitude of 440m beside the mountain of the same name, north of Bunguflói and just north and west of Highway 85.  Although the origins of Kálffell are unclear and the name is sometimes spelled with only one f, sources mention a certain Bjarni Bjarnason as having been born there in 1840. If this is true, Kálffell is among the oldest frams in the moors above Vopnafjörður. For decades, the land was found to be excellent for farming, with broad, uncultivated expanses of grass for haying and good ranges in both summer and winter. In the last decades of the 19th century, however, land quality probably worsened due to erosion. By 1911, the farmstead had been deserted and every remaining building moved away. Today the picturesque farmstead and barn ruins are still present; interestingly, the sheep barn doors appear to open towards the slope.  The writer Gunnar Gunnarsson purchased Kálffell in 1932, six years after buying the neighboring estate of Arnarvatn.

(20) GPS Cordinates: (N65°35.26 - W15°20.94)



The large hollow called Brunahvammskvos contains both the Arnarvatn farm site (420m above sea level) and, on the Vopnafjörður side of the hollow, Arnarvatn lake.  This hollow lies below the slopes of the mountains Kálffell to the east and Brunahvammsháls and Súlendur to the south. The first farmers here, from 1867, were Sigurbjörg Sigurðardóttir and Jón Jónsson.  The farm was abandoned in 1935.  For centuries, Arnarvatn was by the main trail to Vopnafjörður for people coming from Möðrudalur and the northern part of Jökuldalsheiði.  Nowadays, one can walk to the ruins from Highway 85 either while still on the highland side of Kálffell mountain, which requires crossing a small watercourse next to the farm site, or via a dam at the lower end of the lake. While that route allows for driving to the dam and indeed all the way to the farm, it is worthwhile walking the whole distance, going along the lake to enjoy the tranquility and observe the birds.  Drinking water at the spring which is towards the highlands from the ruins is also a nice idea, and there is a shelter used by those rounding up sheep on Hauksstaðaheiði.

(21) GPS Cordinates: (N65°35.29 - W15°24.05)



At an elevation of 439m and with a pleasant view of grassy wetlands and the mountains, Desjamýri stands on a hill on the seaward side of Arnarvatn lake, next to Desjamýrarlækur brook.  This farm was estabished by Matthildur Sigurðardóttir from Grímsstaðir and her husband Eymundur Arngrímsson from Hauksstaðir, who also served as a sexton. It is possible to walk to Desjamýr from the Arnarvatn dam, but good footwear is a must due to marshes. Alternatively, one can walk up from Hauksstaðir and head inland to Desjamýri.  While the latter route is much more difficult, it also offers the opportunity of climbing up Þverfell mountain to enjoy the panorama. The route on the north side of Þverfell used to be part of the main trail from Möðrudalur down to Vopnafjörður.  Desjamýri was deserted in 1880. 


(22) GPS Cordinates: (N65°36.796-W15°20.827)




Mælifell is named in old records; i.e., as owned by the Hof church in Vilkins´1397 church register, in a similar register in 1570 and also the record of the 1641 visitation of Skálholt´s bishop Brynjólfur. The farm is bordered by the rivers Selsá, Selá and Innri-Almenningsá and the mountains Bunga, Heljardalsfjöll and Kistufell. The vegetation around Mælifell is rich and plentiful, valued as summer pasture for 3-400 sheep. The 1849 farm valuation says the pasture rental fee was 40 fish. Mælifell was listed as a new farm, settled in 1854 by Arngrímur Jósefsson though the legal permission wasn´t granted until 26. January 1856. He felt he had the right to tithe- and tax-free status due to clause in the 1776 regulation for new farmlands, but was denied because the farm had been in use before and the credit already applied. Mælifell was farmed off and on until 1906 when the craftsman Páll Jónsson and his wife Margrét Eiríksdóttir left.


Fossvellir is inland from the farm Mælifell and was a small crofter´s parcel. The first settler was Björn Guðmundsson of Torfastaðir; permission to settle there is dated 11 April 1861. In the parish census that fall, Björn is the farmer there. Fossvellir was the last of seven farms settled in the fifty years marking the settlement of Almenningur and the loss of grazing rights for the church at Hof. Björn paid two sheep to rent the land. The farm was not used after Björn´s death in 1864 and his widow, Ólöf Arngrímsdóttir, quit the farm in 1865. Sources indicate that after the farm was abandoned, this part of Mælifell´s land was called Fossvellir.

More photos from Fossvellir



Selsárvellir, the innermost farm in the Almenningur area, was first settled in the summer of 1860 when Grímur Grímsson and his wife Aldís Jósefsdóttir moved there. They are there in the 1860 census with two children and Grímur´s sister, Guðrún, in the home. Grímur lived at Selsársvellir until 1871. Sigurður Einarsson took over from Jóhanna Tómasdóttir in 1874, who farmed there after Grímur. Sigurður and his wife, Guðrún Jónsdóttir, had been at Mælifell and moved to Selsárvellir as farm workers in 1866, so they knew the farm, and were there until 1877 in partnership with Jón Jónsson and Sigurbjörg Sigurðardóttir. Sigurður and Guðrún were still at Selsárvellir on 22. August 1876 but something happened to split up the partnership that fall, as shortly before New Year they moved to Aðalból, which had been deserted for 13 years. Farming at Selsárvellir ended in the spring of 1878 when Jón and Sigurbjörg moved away.


Aðalból was occupied 1851 - 1863 and with breaks until 1878. The first settler was Páll Guðmundsson from Hnefilsdalur in Jökuldalur and the farm is first mentioned in the Hof parish census at the end of 1951. In 1852 Páll is the farmer there, unmarried. According to the parish register, Páll was there until 1863 with his wife, Ingibjörg Indriðadóttir. Also, in 1859, Grímur Grímsson is recorded as farmer there and Páll the shepherd. After 1863 little is known about residents at Aðalból, except according to the parish census of 1877 a family was there, farming partners with those at Selsárvellir. The border between Selsárvellir and Aðalból in Búastaðatunga is unknown; the annual rent of three sheep was due before Michaelmas (29. September) and the landowners retained usage rights. Páll dies at Vakurstaðir in 1873. His wife Ingibjörg died 1. January 1878, caught in a storm near an old sheep shelter between Lýtingsstaðir and Vakurstaðir. Since then, the ruins have been called Ingibjörg´s ruins.

More photos from Aðalból

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