Laufskálavarða – Iceland - Atlas Obscura


Cairns built to bring travelers good luck stretch across the land like miniature stone mountains. 


Iceland’s landscape is notoriously dramatic. One road trip will take you from rugged shores to gloomy mountains to breathtaking waterfalls. But not all of its wondrous attractions are natural. One roadside oddity is essentially a field of rock piles that stretch across the landscape like clusters of miniature mountains.

Laufskálavarða is a lava ridge just off the main Ring Road #1. Traditionally, first-time travelers trekking across the black sands of Mýrdalssandur would leave little stacks of stones for good luck. Over time as more and more people began their trips, the amount of cairns grew to form the sweeping display that stands today.

There are other cairns throughout Iceland as well. For centuries, locals used these stacks of stones as navigational markers. Early settlers built them to mark their trails or other important sites, and the tradition grew as the years went on.

Now, however, people are asked not to add any more cairns to the countryside. As Iceland is inundated with tourists, any new rock piles risk damaging the environment and the already-existing pieces of cultural heritage.

Know Before You Go

It's just off the Ring Road about 30 minutes east of Vik.

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May 31, 2018

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