Thorsardalur or pjorsardalur (which is actually þjórsárdalur) is yet another Icelandic name that gets butchered through its spelling since the language has not evolved much from its original form. Whilst it’s a bit of a flex to us Icelanders who can still read many of our original and archaic texts, it does become problematic when spreading the word of our wonderful country around.
If you compare your computer with that of someone in the Nordic countries, you’ll find that we have all sorts of weird-looking symbols on ours. That’s actually not weird symbols, but just part of our alphabet. So, to simulate the pronunciation according to the English alphabet, we often “adapt” names to make it easier for our international and English-speaking friends. But let us tell you, if you think the name þjórsárdalur valley is impressive-looking, you need to see the real thing!
What is Thjorsardalur Valley (aka þjórsárdalur Valley)?
Yes, as the name suggests, Thjorsardalur is a valley, but it’s probably one of the most serene valleys in a prime location when it comes to interesting things to do and see here in Iceland. The valley earned its name since it runs along the longest river in the country, called Pjorsa.
With breathtaking views as far as the eye can see, Thjorsardalur is not to be missed when coming to the island. Repeated eruption by Hekla Volcano has ensured that the valley has the “flattened” look it has today, and is also what created Iceland’s biggest lavafield called Pjorsarhraun.
How was Thjorsardalur Formed?
Once again, the contrasting elements of the Land of Fire and Ice are responsible for creating this incredible terrain. Whilst volcanic eruptions, glacial floods, and normal geological shifts over thousands and thousands of years created the valley in the first place, it’s the volcanic activity that has made it the unique valley it is today.
Disaster & Discovery in Thjorsardalur Valley
In Iceland, what creates can also destroy, and this was exactly the case in Thjorsardalur Valley. Many farms lined the valley back in the day (at least 21 according to research). That was till a massive eruption occurred in 1104.
This Hekla Volcano eruption was so catastrophic that most farms were completely destroyed, whilst others were immediately abandoned. But despite the loss of farmland back then, you will still find farms in the valley today, and it’s one of these local farmers that’s actually credited for an incredible archaeological find of one of the former 1104 farms.
Bergur Por Björnsson found the distances between already discovered farmland ruins quite odd and decided to start looking in places he thought would make the ideal farmland. And he hit the jackpot. Upon arrival, archaeologists could clearly see the ruins of an old Viking Longhouse’s foundation, and since they started to dig, they have come across incredible treasures.
There were “normal” finds such as a fireplace, animal bones, a whetstone, and a cauldron, but then there were also things such as a buckle and a beautiful amulet representing Thor’s hammer. The latter was a truly incredible discovery since it’s one of only two amulets depicting the hammer that’s ever been found in Iceland and the only one that’s carved out of stone.
Where is Thjorsardalur Valley in Iceland?
Thjorsardalur Valley can be found in the Southern Icelandic Highlands, in the Arnessysla County. It lies between Mt. Skridufell and Mt. Burfell, and also calls Hekla Volcano one of its neighbors. Since it’s located conveniently close to our main road and popular road trip route, the Golden Circle, many opt to make it a stop along their road trip journey.
How to Get to Thjorsardalur Valley in Iceland
You essentially have two ways to visit Thjorsardalur:
Via a Guided Tour
We have numerous tour operators and private guides here on the island. Some offer set tour packages, whether day or multi-day trips, whilst others, such as the private guides, offer custom tour solutions created around what you want to see and do.
Just keep in mind that the summer season is considered peak season here in Iceland, and tours and guides can book up pretty quickly. So, if you’re planning a summer trip, you’ll be well-advised to book well in advance.
Via a Self-drive
This will always be our recommendation since there’s no better way to explore the island. As the capital city of Reykjavik is just an hour and 40 minutes’ drive away, it is possible to make it a day trip during the warmer months that offer plenty of daylight hours. But, this will still leave you little time to properly explore all there is to see and do in the area and the surroundings.
That’s why we recommend that you make it a stop along a Golden Circle road trip. Take Road 32 east, than take Road 332 after about 41 kilometers. Keep an eye out for the sign towards Laxargljufur where you will turn left. After about 7 kilometers after the Haifoss sign, you will reach Thjorsardalur.
What to Do at Thjorsardalur and Surroundings
There are many exciting things to see and do in Thjorsardalur Valley. Here are a few that you can look forward to:
- Haifoss Waterfall
- Pjorsardals Hot Springs
- Burfell Woods
- Pjodveldisbærin Stöng (as featured in the popular series Game of Thrones)
- Hekla Volcano
- Go hiking in the valley
- Go River Rafting in the valley
- Kerid Crater
Where to Stay Near Thjorsardalur Valley
If you would like to stay over for a night or two to take advantage of everything the valley and the area has to offer, we recommend the following:
Thjorsardalur, Pjorsardalur, or þjórsárdalur…
Shakespeare uttered the infamous words: “by any other name would be just as sweet”, and the same is true for Thjorsardalur Valley. Whether you know it as Thjorsardalur, Pjorsardalur, or þjórsárdalur, the valley will always remain as breathakingly beautiful and filled with exciting activities and natural wonders as it is.
If you’re planning on making it a stop along your road trip, rent a campervan in Iceland. This way, you travel and stay affordably whilst living in comfort, and truly immerse yourself in your Icelandic adventure.