Iceland Erupts: A visit to Thorvaldseyri Visitor Center

I’m guessing most of you remember that little volcano that caused a lot of havoc and disrupted flights all over the world back in 2010. I’m sure some of you have even tried pronouncing its name, Eyjafjallajökull, without much luck and have unexplained sympathy with the poor journalists that have been made fun of endlessly ever since for failing at the same task. Thorvaldseyri, today’s subject, is a farm that uses mostly organic ways to grow their crops and livestock and has been in the same family for generations. It also happens to be located just beneath said volcano (not far from Seljavallalaug) and as you can imagine they didn’t have the best of times during that eruption.

Eyjafjallajokull erupts - The Visitor Center is clearly marked and very visible from the ring road

Eyjafjallajokull erupts – The Visitor Center is clearly marked and very visible from the ring road

On our way around the south the first day of our 10 day road trip around Iceland we decided to stop at Þorvaldseyri Visitor Center. I was curious to check it out since people had been recommending their movie to me and because its convenient location by the ring road makes it an ideal stop for curious visitors. You guys, more precisely.

The farm Þorvaldseyri across the street

The farm Þorvaldseyri across the street

 

I can’t say that I regret this stop. We were greeted by Inga Júlía, the daughter of the farmer at Þorvaldseyri, who told us a little bit about how the exhibition came about and the things we saw around us. She also told us about how the farm made it’s own electricity before the eruption using a little power plant on the property made by her great grandfather and how the sand and ash from the eruption carried down by the rivers has forced them to shut it down. They still make their own electricity but through another source and they also have hot water from the ground which they use for all their heating.  They have a lot of information on eruptions in Iceland in general but cleverly combine it with the story of their family and the farm.

Inga behind the counter

Inga behind the counter

Inga explaining things to our Canadian and American friends

Inga explaining things to our Canadian and American friends

Although I enjoyed the exhibition in itself I think the real draw at Þorvaldseyri Visitor Center is the short film they show quite frequently during the day and is available in many different languages. It runs for about 20 minutes and follows the trials and tribulations of the family in Thorvaldseyri, narrated by themselves, during those difficult days in 2010. Þorvaldseyri was one of the farms that was hit the worst by the ash and I’m not sure I would have faced their situation with the same serenity they seem to have had. It’s also fairly entertaining and not too long for busy days driving around the south. I really like that it is a family enterprise and that you can actually see the person standing behind the counter shoveling ash in the movie which makes the experience a bit more authentic.

The details

The exhibition is open daily from April to September and during the weekends in the low season. Opening times vary a bit between months so I recommend you check them out at their website. Admission in 750 ISK  and children aged 12 and younger don’t pay at all.

Their souvenirs are quite unique and mostly connected to the area and they even have some postcards made for them that you won’t get anywhere else. So if you are having troubles with what to get your great aunt Millie that has everything this might be the place for you.

Volcanic ash from the area in a jar

Volcanic ash from the area in a jar

Finally, the farm itself is rather special in a way that they grow all kinds of crops and grains that are not native to Iceland. They make products out of it like barley breakfast cereal and rapeseed oil that you can also buy at their shop.

All in all our visit was most enjoyable and I see no reason not to recommend them to anyone interested in learning more about what it is really like having a volcano practically in your backyard.

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