The scenic headland of Hjorleifshofdi, perched on the Myrdalssandur on the South Coast of Iceland, is a doorway to the Icelandic legends and geological phenomena. The latest uncovering of Hjorleifshofdi Cave, or Yoda Cave, has created a stir in the international scene with its rather uncanny resemblance. Whether you’re a Star Wars enthusiast or not, the promontory is worth visiting!
Similar to other places, the nomenclature of Iceland also goes according to early settlers and history. Evidently, Hjörleifshöfði was named after Hjörleifur, an early settler and brother of Ingólfur Arnarsson. A grave is dedicated to him on the top of the cave, and most travelers encounter it while hiking on the historical trails. Another great thing about these hikes is that you get to have an eyeful of stunning panoramas.
Hjörleifshöfði was a farm until 1936. It’s situated atop the cape following the movement created by the volcanic eruption a few hundred years before. The farmland attracted immense appreciation due to its rich wildlife, including birds like puffins and auk, whose eggs are still considered an authentic specialty of the region.
Hjorleifshofdi Cape got its name after the famous Viking settler Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, Ingólfur Arnarsson’s foster brother. Both started their voyage from Norway in different ships, but upon reaching the Icelandic terrain, they ended up in different capes for the whole of winter. Unfortunately, Hjörleifur met a sad end at the hands of his slaves, who carried out a planned murder and escaped with his women and things to Westman Islands, which take their names from these Irish slaves.
When the news came to Ingólfur, he sailed to the Westman Islands and slaughtered the Irish slaves in revenge. Today, the top of Hjörleifshöfði Cave has the burial spot Hjörleifshaugur, which is believed to be the burial spot of Hjörleifur, honoring his memory.
The Hjorleifshofdi Cape is located on Mýrdalssandur, around 202 km from Reykjavik and 15 km (9.3) from Vík.
GPS coordinates of Hjörleifshöfði: 63.4167° N, 18.7667° W
The gorgeous cape of Hjorleifshofdi can only be reached via Ring Road One by following the road down the cape, which is a straight entry. While driving from Reykjavik, turn left south toward the ocean and continue driving until you reach the parking lot.
Hiking in Iceland is the most loved adventure sport among adventure-freaks. Consequently, hiking up Hjorleifshofdi Cape is also possible, but there are different routes and ways you can follow. The easy trails lie to the west of the cape. This 7 km hike takes about 2-3 hours and has two routes. First, up Bæjarstaður, where Hjörleifur, famous as the Viking settler’s residence, is located, and the second, up the pass, Klif.
While on a hike, follow the map of the cape with clearly-marked locations to know the directions and options for walking down. The easiest way to hike in Hjörleifshöfði is by climbing up one way and then coming down by the other. This can be done both clockwise and counterclockwise. In either case, you will be rewarded with picturesque vistas.
The scenery of Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, Katla Volcano and the black volcanic sand beach Mýrdalssandur, come to greet you once you complete the hike. On the top of the cape, you will also come across a burial mound made on the old burial site of Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson next to another family plot to honor the memory of former settlers.
Views of the ruins of a former farm and small waterfall also await you while on this hike. The spot is popularized as a secret spot of elves and hidden people, so be welcoming to the prospects of who you might encounter on this trip!
The Yoda Cave is yet another gift that this hike will leave you with, given you follow this path. As the cave is situated between Gýgjagjá and Rituberg, we suggest you climb up Bæjarstaðagil and follow the downwards path near the cave. What a terrific way to conclude the hike, indeed!
Hjörleifshöfði and its neighbors are something that Iceland holds very dearly. However, it was only after the filming of Star Wars: Rogue One that the place received international recognition that was long overdue. And while caves and caverns are unique in their own way, the ethos of Hjörleifshöfði is something just too difficult to resist!
The cave is a piece of fancy and has a quintessence like most other caves, such as intense echoes, a unique structure and great depth. But if you look closer, you’ll get a sense of both peculiarity and familiarity. That is because the cave’s opening resembles the shape of an enormous Yoda – the Jedi Master from the Star Wars movies.
Yoda’s strong and powerful character made him an integral part in The Clone Wars, where he was involved in the training of prolific Jedis for over 800 years. Even if you haven’t watched the movie, there are still many memes and social media posts of Yoda, which you might have come across during your spare time scrolling.
The elderly premise of Yoda’s character in the film is felicitous to this ancient spot and formation of the cave. And with the shooting of the latest Star Wars film here, Star Wars fanatics can definitely add it to their checklist!
The formation of Hjörleifshöfði Cape has always been of interest to geologists. The geological phenomenon behind the creation of it was an underground volcanic eruption in the glacier, resulting in the tuff rock. While geologists haven’t been able to age-identify the cape, however, a general hunch is of it being 120,000 years to 200,000 years old.
The cape was submerged in the ocean after the last ice age, but as the water subsided from the beach and settlers arrived, the cape came into the limelight. The eruption of Katla Volcano in the 14th century led the meltwater from its glacier to impel the volcanic sand down to the ocean, making it the black sand cape as most people regard it today.
Being in close proximity to Vik, Hjörleifshöfði’s closest accommodation options lie here. Below we have listed the best types of accommodation that one can book while touring the place:
Starring as planet Lah’mu and a hiding spot, Iceland welcomed the cast, including Jyn Erso and her parents, of the film Star Wars: Rogue One. But do you know the actual location of the spot? Well, it's none other than Hjörleifshöfði!
The cinematic appeal of the movie was further empowered with the lunar-like topography of Mýrdalssandur and the capes of Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey. No matter how unreal the scene featuring stormtroopers treading on the black sand and neon grass looked, the truth is that Iceland is a potpourri of jaw-dropping landscapes in their rawest forms!