Kirkjubæjarklaustur, often called Klaustur is a village in South Iceland. With a population of around 160, it is the closest thing to an urban area within a vast municipality called Skaftárhreppur, and it's the only proper service centre on the almost 300km stretch of the ring road between Vík and Höfn.
Kirkjubæjarklaustur is named after an convent which stood there in Catholic times. Many of the local toponyms are related to nuns, usually referring to sisters, or to the convent itself (klaustur, in Icelandic). In recent centuries, the region has been shaped by catastrophic geological events, including the eruption in nearby Lakagígar (also known as Laki) in 1783-1784 which killed around 25% of the Icelandic population. In more recent years, eruptions under Vatnajökull glacier and the resulting floods have also played a role. However, all this activity also means that the landscape is stunning and often extreme in its beauty and the immediate vicinity of the village is a prosperous agricultural area.
Orienting yourself in Kirkjubæjarklaustur is very simple. Klausturvegur is the road that runs through most of the village, with smaller streets branching out from it.
Most visitors to Kirkjubæjarklaustur will arrive via the ring road. If you're driving, estimate three to four hours to arrive from Reykjavík, one hour if driving from Vík and two to three from Höfn. Another option, only to be attempted with good 4x4 vehicles and experienced drivers, is to arrive from North Iceland crossing the Interior via Sprengisandur and Skaftártunga.
There is a single bus daily between BSÍ bus terminal in Reykjavík and Höfn and back, passing through Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Kirkjubæjarklaustur is tiny and easily covered by foot but to explore the surrounding area, the main reason to go to Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a car will be necessary.
The village itself does not have many sights of interest. The local church is interesting for its modern architecture and to learn about the history of the 18th century priest Jón Steingrímsson who, according to legend, saved the area from devastation in the massive Skaftáreldar eruption of 1783. The graceful waterfall Systrafoss (Sister falls) overlooks the village, flowing from a lake on top of the small mountain. A climb to the top offers some great views.
- [dead link] Kirkjubæjarstofa, Klausturvegur 2, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A small research centre, which also houses an exhibition space. Check the website to see if there's anything on.
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur sports centre (Íþróttamiðstöðin Kirkjubæjarklaustri), Klausturvegur 4 (drive all the way through town, past the church and the hotel, turn left down the hill after the school), ☏ , email@example.com. Like all Icelandic towns and villages, Kirkjubæjarklaustur has a swimming pool with hot pots. 400 kr.
- Climb 1 Systrastapi. , a large cliff just west of the village. It is a difficult climb, straight up the vertical face of the cliff, but there are ropes and chains in place to hold on to. Two nuns are said to be buried on top of the cliff.
- Hike 2 Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. The 2km long and up to 100m deep canyon has steep walls and winding water. As of May 2019 the canyon was closed for general public.
There isn't much to be bought in Kirkjubæjarklaustur and apart from the supermarket (mentioned below) there are few stores.
Eat and drink
Given its size, it should come as no surprise that the dining options are relatively limited in Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The only supermarket, Kjarval, is found on Klausturvegur 13. Look out for locally-produced arctic char marketed under the name Klausturbleikja.
- Skaftárskáli (by the ring road), ☏ . 9am-8pm. A gas station by the ring road with a small fast food restaurant. Burgers, hot dogs and the like. 1000-1500 kr.
- Systrakaffi, Klausturvegur 12, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A nice, small restaurant/café/bar with a mix of traditional and local food, and the classic international features of pizzas, pastas and burgers. A surprisingly ambitious restaurant, given the size of the village. 1500-2500 kr.
- Icelandair Hotel Klaustur, Klausturvegur 6 (turn west at the roundabout and drive on past the church), ☏ , email@example.com. A mid-scale hotel with a nice restaurant and free wi-fi.
- Kirkjubær II camp site (to the west of the village itself), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Just outside the village, but within walking distance if you're fit. 1000 kr per person.
- Klausturhof, Klausturvegur 1-5 (continue on west past Hotel Klaustur), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 4pm, check-out: 10am. A hostel and guesthouse. 3700 kr in dorm with own sleeping bag, 18,200 kr for a double bedroom with private bathroom and breakfast included.
There is good mobile phone coverage in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, but it can get worse in some of the nearby valleys and up on the highlands.
The main reason to visit Kirkjubæjarklaustur is to explore the surrounding landscapes:
- Kirkjugólf (literally: Church Floor) is an interesting rock formation to the east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, flat basalt columns that look almost like a man made floor.
- Langisjór (literally: Long Sea) is a long and narrow lake in the highlands to the north of the village, one of the largest lakes in Iceland.
- Skaftárhraun, a huge lava field to the west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, can be compared to a desert. Despite being covered by moss, most of it is uninhabitable following an eruption in the 18th century.
- Vatnajökull National Park is nearby. Kirkjubæjarklaustur is an ideal base for exploring its western part which includes the row of volcanic craters called Lakagígar, responsible for one of the most devastating events in Icelandic history.
|Routes through Kirkjubæjarklaustur|
|Reykjavík ← Vík ←||W E||→ Hofn → Egilsstaðir|