If there is anyplace in the world that you can easily believe is haunted, it must be Iceland.
Frequently described as “otherworldly,” Iceland definitely has a landscape that will leave you saying, “damn, how is this for real?” Well at least for me.
Combined with its reverence for lore and story-telling and the profound feeling of emptiness and vast open spaces bereft of people, it’s not hard to believe that Iceland might be home to a supernatural place here and there.
After exploring Vik on the south coast of Iceland and getting to see the midnight sun from the terrifying Katla Volcano and Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, our Tiny Iceland crew and I decided it wasn’t enough, and we were determined to climb up Hjörleifshöfði (try saying that 5 times fast – actually, try saying that at all) on on our #IcelandChallenge on a 7 day stopover with Icelandair.
Hjörleifshöfði basically looks like a giant vibrant green island that has erupted vertically from a black sand ocean. It’s not a hill that slowly eases from the ground, nope, not at all; like most of the Icelandic landscape, it’s rugged, wild and a little bit jarring to look at, in a beautiful way.
Oh, and did I mention it’s totally haunted?
Back in the day roundabouts 874, Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, the badass viking brother of the first Nordic settler in Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson, sheltered here over the winter only to be killed by his Irish slaves within a year. Ing, being a badass viking, had to see revenge, hunting out the rebel slaves and killing them.
Ever since Hjörleifshöfði has an aura of bad juju surrounding it, and while farmers settled on the jutting mountain rock for a time, it was eventually abandoned, its buildings crumbling and overgrown once more. At the top you’ll find Hjörl’s tomb.
Icelanders love a good story and legend, with the supernatural having a definite place amongst its histories and culture. Next time you’re in Iceland, ask a local about Hjörleifshöfði and see what they say, that is, if you can pronounce it.
Parking our #IcelandChallenge-mobile at the foot of the green mountains in a field of pink and purple lupins sprouting up from the black sands, we just started heading, well, up. Because no trees grow on Hjörleifshöfði, you can’t really get lost. You just sort of follow the mushed-down grass and moss where a few adventurous souls have tramped before you.
Huffing and puffing we made it halfway before climbing to the cliff edges and taking incredibly stupid photos dangling off the sides of the mountains. With no gentle slopes downhill, the rock basically just drops off hundreds of feet below into the sands.
Like I said, otherworldly.
Eventually we made it to the top, gazing out all around the surrounding mountains, glaciers and sea. Literally jumping for joy, we spent some time lounging about snacking, making videos, taking too many pictures and of course, practicing our Hjörleifshöfði pronunciations.
But where were the ghosts?
I thought this place was supposed to be scary.
Source – Marika Paz
All of a sudden a misty cloud drops down and quickly begins creeping over the back of the mountain right towards us. Looking around, we realized it literally looked like a white wall was coming straight for us – it was really freaky!
Grabbing our things, we quickly made our way down the other side of the hill, forgoing the little path in search of our own. Sometimes we even took turns rolling down the side of the mountain on the spongy moss, because WHY NOT?!
Ok, that might have just been me. I just can’t help myself sometimes.
Source – L. Marck Photography
Source – Marika Paz
Halfway down, I realized something terrible, something horrific, something heartbreaking. Can you imagine what’s the worst possible thing that could happen to a blogger?
I realized I had lost my phone.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Cue weeping, screaming, and childish foot stomping.
With a look of utter horror on my face, I sank to my knees in the moss and almost started to cry when Marika came back up to me snapping me out of my drama queen moment.
“Snap out out of it you fool, I’ll help you find it.” This pretty much sums up our friendship in a heartbeat.
Source – L. Marck Photography
Realizing early on in the trip that my rain jacket wasn’t up to Icelandic rain and waterfall standards, Inga let me borrow one of her proper raincoats to wear. But being a shell, it didn’t have proper pockets, rather it zippered open so that you could reach the pockets of whatever fleece you were wearing on the inside.
Caught up in the viking ghost attack, I stuck my phone in the hole and not all the way inside to my hoodie pocket.
Dumb Liz, dumb Liz.
Knowing it was around there somewhere, not to mention there wasn’t really any proper trees or people to knick it, it was only a matter of time and how long the team would put up with me freaking out over my iPhone.
Crawling back and forth up the mountain, and bribing everyone to come and help me, after a solid 45 minutes I finally spotted it sitting on top of a pile of tall grass on the spine of the mountain.
Grabbing it, kissing it and rolling around in the grass like a puppy, I whooped and laughed for joy for a good 5 minutes before I realized just how ridiculous I was being.
I mean, sweet jesus, when did I get so attached to my phone?
To be honest, I was more upset about the potential loss of all my photos from the trip which I hadn’t backed up yet. I’ve started using my phone on trips more and more frequently, but that day I learned the important lesson of ALWAYS offloading that shit, ALWAYS dropboxing those pics and ALWAYS iClouding everything.
But even then it shouldn’t matter. I should have been happy enough that I had the memory of these places to take with me; that should have been enough.
Clutching my iPhone to my chest, I realized something profound on top of that great green mountain in Iceland – don’t mess with the viking ghosts on their turf because they WILL fuck with you.
Oh, and I also learned to be less materialistic and calm the hell down.
There are more important things than iPhones, like travel memories and true friends who will put up with you and help you search on top of a mountain for something not all that important.
So thank you Marika, Laura and Inga.
Have you been to Iceland and encountered viking ghosts? Ever lost your phone or something important on the road?