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The word Dimmuborgir translates into the words Dark Castles, refering to the lava formations, pillars, chimneys, cones, and keyhole rocks that formed in this area east of Lake Myvatn around 2,300 years ago.  At this time the Younger Laxárhraun lava field flowed forth from the Ludentarborgir and Þrengslaborgir crater rows, creating the present day natural formations found at Dimmuborgir.  The bedrock is mostly comprised of basalt lava and tuff.

Dimmuborgir is an area that visitors over the centuries have described as "a remarkable place where the rocks speak of you in a clearer language than anywhere else... where there are many things to be seen, practically a figure in every rock as if many craftsmen... had been there at work... The hills are full of guardian spirits, some big, some small... elves, trolls and other rockdwellers."  The site is popular not only for the general touring visitor and cruise ship passenger but also for naturalists interested in understanding the unique geology at the site.

Hiking, nature study, and photography are popular activities at Dimmuborgir all year round.  There are posted footpaths within the area of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty.  The Service Centre provides guided hikes throughout the year. Pick up a map and inquire at the Guide and Events desk.


Trail Distance  Time  Description
Small Circle 570 m  10-15 min  Easy
Big Circle 840 m  20 min  Easy
Church Circle 2,250 m  60 min  Easy
Mellönd Circle 1,200 m  30 min  Easy
Switchback Trail 800 m  40 min  Moderate/Difficult


There is also a posted route between Dimmuborgir and Hverfjall/Hverfell and then on to the village of Reykjahlid, a distance of approximately 8 kilometres which takes 2-3 hours depending on the route you take.  When you reach Hverfjall/Hverfell there are two paths, the easier route follows the base of the volcano to a gently sloping trail that ascends to the summit.  For more experienced hikers there is a steep, "difficult trail" straight up the cone, with switchbacks.  This route provides a shorter, more direct and more demanding route to the top.  Follow the yellow markers from the Hverfjall/Hverfell crater parking lot to Reykjahlid.  Be sure to view the Grjotagja cave along the way, an area that use to be a popular swimming area until the water became too hot.

Whatever your interest, be sure to visit the sundial located near the Service Centre to orient yourself to the site.  It provides a panoramic 360 degree view of the area, and is great for photographs.

The Myvatn region is famous for its birdwatching and is popular amongst birdwatchers from all over the world.  European birdwatchers are especially keen to see the Barrow's Goldeneye and the Harlequin duck, two American species that are rarely seen elsewhere in Europe.  Up to 15 species of ducks can be seen during the summer in the Myvatn area and it's estimated that each year around 8,000 pairs of ducks breed here.

For the traveler interested in identifying local plants and flowers, there are approximately 250 species of plants identified in the region.  These plants are influenced by the bedrock and the climate.  Dimmuborgir, due to its protected and sheltered habitat has an extensive area of birch forests and thickets.  In the more exposed areas, fragile alpine flowers and plants, lichens and moss are found.

When visiting Dimmuborgir, please help us protect the fragile vegetation and geological formations in Dimmuborgir by staying on the path.