Karl og Kerling - Atlas Obscura

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Karl og Kerling

Jökulsárgljúfur, Iceland

Legend has it these two stones are petrified trolls. 


Legend has it that in northern Iceland, two petrified trolls stand guard over an ancient canyon. Created by the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which carved out the whole canyon that surrounds the strange stone outcroppings, these two stones are called “Karl og Kerling.” The name translates to “husband and wife.” The pair of stones stands near the mouth of the biggest cave in the canyon. The canyon is known as Jökulsárgljúfur.

According to Icelandic folklore, the married trolls started to argue as they made their way home one evening. But the pair soon lost track of time and night turned to early dawn. The trolls, still in the heat of the argument, didn’t notice the rising sun. When the sun finally crested the nearby hill, the sunlight turned the trolls to stone. Trolls, of course, are nocturnal creatures.

The trolls weren’t far from the cave they called home when the sunlight petrified the beasts. Still today, on the opposite side of the river, you can see the entrance of the cave called Trollahellir, the “troll cave,” where the pair slept.

Know Before You Go

Karl og Kerling is reachable from the park near the Verstardalur camp. It's about a two-mile hike due south. 

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August 24, 2023

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