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From afar this does not look too impressive but get closer and you will be surprised. PIC Google

From afar this does not look too impressive but get closer and you will be surprised. PIC Google

F or the average visitor to Iceland the name of Holar in Hjaltadal is unlikely to awaken any special passion. With two exceptions. Religious scholars might know about this place and so will probably any real lover of the Icelandic horse.

Few places in Iceland can boast of nicer location than Holar or Hólar in Icelandic. Lying picturesquely in a tiny valley known as Hjaltadalur and squeezed nicely on both sides by beautiful mountains, one could easily drive right by without realizing there´s much here at all.

But there is little danger of that. Holar is getting pretty popular among tourists in summertime. The majority of those are nicely surprised by what this place offers. Quite a lot actually by Icelandic standards.

First off you will find here the Holar church which is one of the most important one in the whole country. In years past this was the major seat of religion along with Skalholt in the South of the country. The old church building is quite nice and well preserved and the church tower gives very pleasant views over the area. The church is open over summertime and entry is free.

Close by you will find Audunarstofa or the House of Audunn. This is an exact replica of a building that was built at the same spot for the local bishop in the year 1313. Not far from this place you will also come upon a typical Icelandic turf house. One of the best preserved in the country and open to visitors in summertime. The place is known as Nýibær or Newhouse which is quite funny when you think about it. Inside is a small exhibition about life here in times past.

The largest building around is the Holar schoolhouse itself and within you will find tourist services in summer. A nice swimming pool is found here and it is possible to stay here should you want. Here also is, quite amazingly, a tiny place called Bjorsetur which roughly translates into Beer saloon. This is a small bar dedicated solely to micro-brewed beers from Iceland. Nice surprise on this holy site. Last but not least it is here you´ll find the Center for the Icelandic horse. Studies about that same horse are among things offered by the university here.

The surroundings are quite beautiful and loads of enticing hiking trail are found throughout the area. Hiking maps are available on-site.

De facto: It was here, in 1533, that the very first printing press in Iceland was set up.

To and from: This place is not far off the Ring Road in Skagafjordur. Turn left or right, depending on where you are coming from onto road 75/76 as if you are going to Hofsos or Siglufjordur. Then turn again onto road767. Do not worry. Holar is clearly marked.

Our humble opinion: This is quite nice a place. Fine for the outdoors type and great also for anyone with interest in history. For the rest a nice beer and a swim will make it worthwhile.