There are many caves in southern Iceland, moreso in the Eyjafjöll (yes, of Eyjafjallajökull fame) mountains. One of these, Rútshellir (Rútur’s cave) is in a peculiar rock right off the Ring Road, its entrance marked by a traditional Icelandic turf-roofed house.
This rock is presumed to have broken loose during an earthquake from the mountain towering its present location. The thing about a self-drive in Iceland is that it’s impossible to drive more than a few minutes without having to stop to marvel at a waterfall, a mountain, or in this case, a bizzare rock on the side of the road.
The (mostly) man made Rútshellir cave has a very picturesque little house as its entrance and it immediately gives the impression that someone actually lives there. Well, in fact, a few souls do live there, even if you can’t see them, you’ll just know from the smell. Just make sure you don’t wear your best shoes when you pass through the area, because the smell of sheep poo will follow you for a while 🙂
There’s a fence around the property, but when we got there it was broken. The fence is there mostly to keep the sheep in, rather than to keep the visitors away. If you do hop in, make sure you don’t break it.
There are two man made caves inside the rock. The main room is arched and is 20 meters long and 2.5 meters tall. It was used for centuries for storing hay. The second room is approximately 8 meters long, it’s named Stúkan and there are two theories here: that it was either a forge or a pagan temple. Who knows?
Iceland is famous for its sagas. One of these tells of a man named Rútur once lived there. Some say he might have been a naughty troll, others that he might have been a robber. People were afraid of him so they concoted a plan to kill him while he slept since they were afraid of fighting him face to face: they secretly dug a hole beneath his bed and used sharp spears to kill him from below as he slept. Brutal.
Allegedly, even nazis were fascinated by this cave and investigated it as part of their campaign to identify and collect relics of old cultures, but they didn’t find anything of value in Rútshellir.
How to get to Rútshellir cave
Rútshellir cave is right on the Ring Road, 3 km west from Skógafoss waterfall. It’s right on after a rather sharp turn so pay attention when you’re in the area so you won’t miss it.