Dimmuborgir – Iceland - Atlas Obscura


These ominous lava formations were said to be an entrance to the netherworld so of course they inspired a famous metal band. 


Iceland has countless picturesque volcanic features, but possibly none is more ominously named as the Dimmuborgir site near Mývatn Lake in the country’s northland. 

The volcanic field is covered in jagged black lava stacks and caves that were formed in a massive eruption some 2,300 years ago. At the time of the eruption, there was likely a small body of water at the site that filled with lava, creating unique features once the excess magma flowed away, leaving the bleak geology behind. One of the most impressive features is a naturally formed rock arch known as “The Church.”

The name Dimmuborgir translates to “Dark Castles,” or “Dark Cities,” and the ominous name is a fitting monicker not only thanks to the eerie rock formations but also thanks to the creepy folklore associated with the site. Dimmuborgir has often been associated with hell, often as a gate to the nether realms. As Christianity came to the country the site was said to be where Satan landed when after being tossed out of Heaven. More traditional folklore says that the lava field is the home of the endlessly creepy Icelandic trolls known as The Yule Lads. These proto-Santa figures are mischievous trolls with names like Spoon-Licker and Window-Peeper.

All of this stark geology and creepy mythology doesn’t just sound like a heavy metal dream, the site inspired the name of black metal legends, Dimmu Borgir. Rocks have never looked so metal, or so beautiful.   

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