In August 2019, we were given access to visit and record inside the Hvítárnes hut.
Hvítárnes is the oldest mountain hut in Iceland. It was built in 1930 and is still operated by the Icelandic touring association. In terms of its interior, it is very basic. There is a downstairs room that sleeps 4 in bunk beds, and a kitchen space with a gas stove and running water from a water tank. Upstairs there are sleeping mats for up to 25 people. There is no electricity in this lonely hut, no WiFi, no telephones, and you certainly can’t get a mobile phone signal out here. This is the most remote you will ever be. It is located very close to the Hvítárvatn lake, which serves the River Hvítá (translates as White River) which flows into the famous Gullfoss waterfalls, which all tourists will see if they ever do a Golden Circle trip in Iceland.
The views are stunning – to the north, you can see the spectacular Langjökull glacier. If you’re lucky, you will see icebergs floating in the lake. About 20 miles to the west is Hofsjökull, another Glacier which is very much visible from the hut. Its hard to put into perspective just how remote this place is. Its possible that you can sleep here and be 15km from the next nearest hut. This hut is really for hikers, climbers and local shepherds…and that’s how the legends started.
The ghost stories of this hut are terrifying, especially for men. The stories go back pretty much to the opening of the hut when Englishman staying here claims to have seen a woman walking out of the hut, and vanish into thin air in its first season of operation.
A lawyer from the small town of Keflavík was so afraid, he slept outside in a tent. When he woke, he saw a woman in the tent with him, and claims to be able to see the fabric of the tent through her body. Until then, he knew nothing of the legend.
The hut has several guest books going back over 70 years. It is full of accounts of bizarre goings on. A regular occurrence is for men to be awoken in their sleep to that of a woman trying to physically pull them from their bunk bed. This occurs mainly in the bunk downstairs by the door. One man claims he was dragged out while his son watched him…3 times in one night.
In the 70’s, a group from Austria and Switzerland were on a hiking trip, and slept in the hut for the night. It is claimed that a woman was seen in the middle of the night talking in a strange language, and even went as far as pushing one of the guests out of the upstairs window and onto the roof.
Stories of the haunting also very common within large groups of people staying in the hut at the same time. In the early 2000s there is a report of a group of visitors that were woken during the night to the sounds of metal scraping on metal as if someone was trying to climb up to the top floor.
There have also been sightings of the face of a woman seen inside of the hut while people are standing outside. When people go inside to investigate, the hut is empty.
Another common phenomenon are people having strange dreams while staying in the hut. There are several cases in guest books where people have described the exact same dream. It starts inside the hut, and the person realises that they can see a woman standing out of the back of the hut. Every time she beckons them to follow her. When the person who is dreaming does follow her outside, she leads them past a fence surrounding the hut. This seems bizarre because there is no fence around the hut, but back in the early days, there was one. Once you get next to the woman she points back towards the hut and you can see the face of a man staring from the window. The woman seems distressed to see him and at this point to dream always ends. Since the first guest book in the 1930s there have been over 25 cases of people reporting to have had this exact dream. Descriptions of the woman are almost identical, and also match those who have seen her at the hut in a ghostly form.
So who could be haunting this hut? Many people theorise that it may have something to do with the ruins visible outside of the hut. It is believed that they are part of an old settlement that once existed on this site. According to legend and there was a murder here, although there have been several different variations in the story. One Legend claims that’s when this place used to be a village, a man murdered his wife for reasons unknown. It is claimed that he cut her body up into several pieces and either buried her in a shallow grave or dumped her body in the lake. Many people believe that it is her restless spirit that haunts the site. Could this ghost be trying to tell people where her body is hidden?
The settlement on this site was abandoned after the Hekla volcanic eruption some 70km away. Many other small settlements in Iceland were also abandoned because of the ash that travelled such a great distance in the year 1104. The Hekla volcano last erupted in 2000.
Another legend tells of a woman who got stranded during one of Iceland’s bad winters in the 1930s. It is said that she became lost and disoriented, and froze to death outside. This version of the story is least likely as there have been no records of a woman dying in these circumstances.
During my research, I spoke to Halldór Óli Gunnarsson who wrote his entire university thesis on this hut. During a stay, he captured this photograph.It clearly shows a strange mist n shot over the spot of the old ruins.He claims he took several other photos, and this is the only one with anything like this on. This is also the exact spot that people have claimed to see the woman in their dreams.
It was taken facing the hut from beyond the ruins of the old settlement. In the photo you can clearly see a strange mist over the old ruins. He claims that he took several photos, and this was the only one with this phenomenon in the photo. I can’t thank Halldór enough for giving me access to the research, interview transcripts and photos he has taken of this place and it’s guests.
The first thing I must stress is how difficult it is to reach this location. The only way that you can reach it it is with a 4×4. It is around a 3 hour drive from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The main route actually takes you past the Gullfoss waterfall, and then a mile or 2 later, the tarmac road ends and you drive on a single gravel road. It really does feel like you are on the surface of Mars, ad the orange dust, and large boulders on either side are similar to that of The Martian. Over 20 miles of the journey is on terrain that only a 4×4 vehicle can handle. If using a rental car, using a non-4×4 vehicle could void your agreement.
It is also worth noting that all hire car companies in Iceland have 4x4s, as the terrain can be unpredictable. Most rental companies require bookings made with a credit card, and do not accept debit cards. There is one company that will accept debit cards, but they do require you to buy the premium insurance package. Lotus car rentals do this, and they are based at the main Keflavik Airport.
Finding the hut can be tricky, but keep an eye open for sign posts. In fact, the drive from Reykjavik was very enjoyable. I chose to take the southern route, which takes you past the Blue Lagoon and over the former sea bed where today you can still see the old cliffs inland where the waves would crash against, up until the last ice age. The other route takes you through a lava field and through the town of Selfoss. This town was where the epicenter of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck in 2008, injuring 30 people. If you stop at the supermarket, you will see an earthquake simulator, which is terrifying.
Below shows where the Hvítárnes Hut is located. You will also appreciate from this just how remote this part of Iceland is, as there are no villages or towns nearby.
To book a stay in the haunted hut, visit The Icelandic Touring Association’s Ferðafélag Íslands.The cost of staying for the night is 6000KR (£37.50 as of 2019, or €43) per person, and it can accommodate up to 30. It Is essential that you bring your own food, as there are no shops for miles. There is an outdoor toilet located about a 30 second walk from the hut.
There is no postcode or address for the hut, but it’s GPS coordinates are 64°37.007 – W 19°45.394.
Summer if the best time to visit, as the roads are clear, and also there is no heating in the hut. Don’t forget your camera…the views are out of this world.
Top Tip: When leaving, leave early in the morning and stop at Gullfoss waterfalls. The coachloads of crowds won’t arrive until late in the morning, so get there early and appreciate the stunning photo ops.