Lord of the Rings Inspiration in East Iceland


Did you know that the Lord of the Rings author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was inspired by Iceland? With stories of trolls and Icelandic folk tales, Tolkien studied and translated many stories from the Old Norse during his education. He drew upon Echoes of William Morris’s Icelandic Journals. With a land enveloped and steeped in magic, how could it not be part of one of the greatest series ever written?

A small detour off Ring Road will lead you to Bakkagerdi in East Iceland where you can find the Dyrfjöll hike (Door Mountains), or better known as, The Black Gates of Mordor (or so they appear to be!).

And as you know,

One does not simply walk into Mordor.

Unless you’re M. And you’re nuts. After eyeing the snowcapped mountains, a 10km hike just didn’t seem in the cards for me that day.

So we went on to Bakkagerdi, Iceland and went on our own little “expedition”. I can totally see how Tolkien became inspired. This whole area is just so otherworldly with tales and monuments dedicated to the history of elves and trolls.


The colors of the landscape is nothing like I’ve ever seen.


…and did you know the old churches contained grass roofs? Reminds you a bit of hobbit houses.


And there is art depicting legends of old.


We decided to hike up to the top of where the Queen of Elves holds court. A quick 5 minute jaunt to the top is exactly what I was thinking in regards to hikes. The only warning given is to “not disturb the residents” – otherwise known as the trolls which resemble rocks. Good luck looking for them.


But the top is what was so incredibly surprising. Giggling I said to Shaun, “You know what would be funny? If the hill was hollow.”


“Oh crap.”


…and it was. I hope I didn’t disturb the court.

And to add to the creepiness? A rune left on the floor of quartz crystal.


I have no idea where it came from and nobody has bothered it. I was starting to believe in elves more and more every day as we made our way through Iceland.

And M? He ended up taking the wrong turn at some point and as traveler luck may have it, we did run into him again.

In a tizzy he told us of the hike – including a quick snowstorm, glorious greens and lakes… and the possibility of seeing a troll. Something moved behind a rock while he was hiking at the top and he was VERY convinced of that.

After our experience at Court, I couldn’t argue.

In the land of fire and ice, just know that you are being watched by elves and trolls. And one you stop looking for them, they show up in the weirdest places.

Just you wait.

The last 3 photos were taken by M. Thank you so much for letting us use them!


42 Responses to “Lord of the Rings Inspiration in East Iceland”

  1. Liz October 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Great shots! I can’t wait to go to Iceland! Definitely looks straight out of Lord of the Rings 🙂

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      Right? I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of places that ACTUALLY looked like that!

  2. Addison S. @ Visa Hunter October 12, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Amazing photos. I’m big on outdoor activities so sure I would love to explore this region of Iceland. I still haven’t made it that far north in Europe but it is definitely on the list. There’re so many inspiring places to see on this planet!

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      I think that was the farthest north I have ever been! COLD but beautiful. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

      • Teresa Flores October 2, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

        I lived in Iceland for 18 months. In Keflavik to be exact. I highly recommend to anyone wanting to visit to go in the summer. Just beware the sun doesn’t really set in the summer. The weather is definitely rough the rest of the year. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there!

        • Erica October 26, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

          Oooo! That sounds amazing! What brought you to Iceland for 18 months? Snow is such a novelty to me that I’m intrigued. 🙂

  3. Naomi October 12, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    That is some serious fantasy fodder!!

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      Yes. It was a little scary too. We were trippin’ out MAN.

  4. Arti October 14, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    Stunning captures! Iceland is so wonderful! Would love to visit it once!

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      I would love to see you there Arti! The flight out isn’t too bad. 😀

  5. Ayngelina October 14, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I always assumed he was inspired by New Zealand but it is interesting to see how similar the two landscapes appear to be.

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      I know. I’m wondering if it has to do with the fact they are still such new land masses?

  6. Alex October 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I never read Lord of the Rings… I know, I know, I missed out on a cultural phenomenon! I just can’t get into that genre. However I totally loved learning about all the elf culture in Iceland, so maybe someday…

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      Did you at least see the movies?!

      I didn’t think I would get into it until I started reading fantasy. Now I feel like I have to hide what I’m reading.

  7. Emily in Chile October 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I would have been really creeped out if I saw something move behind a rock on a solo hike. Although I probably would have assumed it was an animal hiding in wait to kill me rather than a troll 🙂

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      I would have too. I’m so glad I didn’t go up there. I would have had a panic attack.

  8. Camels & Chocolate October 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    I actually had NO idea about that! Nor did I hear that little factoid while traveling in Iceland (though I did drive through Hobbiton in NZ!).

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Our road trip mate is the one who told us about it! I would have never had know. Stowaways are awesome to have to fill you in with random information.

  9. Sebastian October 15, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    Not a big fan of Lord of the Rings but would definitely visit Iceland and maybe I get inspired to finally start reading it!

    Love your pictures!

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Why are so many people hating LotR?!

      Just think about these landscapes. How could you NOT read something like that?

  10. Pete October 15, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Wow, just beautiful. Such a beautiful country, it’s no wonder it is such an inspiration.

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:17 am #

      Seriously. I wonder what I could write while hanging out there and not running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

  11. Lizzie October 15, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    This is really interesting (and beautiful!). I would love to go to Iceland and this has peaked my interest as a Lord of the Rings fan! In fact my last blog post was about Hogsback in South Africa where Tolkein supposedly gained some inspiration for the book. However, this has been disputed recently! Can really see some of the likenesses in your photos – especially the grass covered church 🙂

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      I wonder how many places he visited to get the full range of LotR! How awesome is that?

      • Lizzie October 17, 2012 at 3:15 am #

        I know! It’s fascinating to see little bits of ‘Lord of the Rings’ all over the world!

        • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:10 am #

          And Tolkien was inspired by so many places!

  12. Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 16, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Iceland needs to get on that LOTR bandwagon and milk it for all it’s worth!

  13. Kent @ No Vacation Required October 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Fascinating! But are you certain that NZ wasn’t his inspiration?

    • Erica October 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      The interesting thing about Tolkien is that he studied old Norse and Viking texts and stories from Iceland throughout his academic years. I think he gathered his inspiration from multiple places – not just Iceland or NZ.

  14. Diana Edelman October 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Ugh. I want to go SO. BAD.

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      Well, there is always AFTER Thailand!

  15. Bram November 9, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    I consider myself one of the biggest LOTR fans ever. So I was thrilled to come across this post!
    I’m totally fascinated by the grass covered church. It’s like that little building went straight into the book. Definitely want to visit Iceland some day!

    • Erica November 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      It is super weird to see where the culture came from in the book. I mean, HOW FREAKING AWESOME IS THIS?!

  16. Kay Rodriguez December 26, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Wow, so lucky! Iceland just seems like such a magical place. I’m hoping I will get the chance to go in the next year, and if I do I’ll certainly look out for these things!

    • Erica January 2, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      If you need any help with the planning, feel free to send us an email!

  17. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs December 28, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Great pictures, remind me Norway a bit. So lucky, I wish to go to Iceland so much! One day, one day 🙂 Great post!

    • Erica January 2, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      I would love to go to Norway one day. The pictures look amazing!

  18. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs January 2, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    It is truly spectacular indeed but Iceland seems even better 🙂

  19. Karítas January 4, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Why didn’t they film the movies in Iceland I would have been so proud of our little island…

    • Erica January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      I think that would have been awesome! Can you imagine how much money that would have brought to the local economy?!

  20. Milena Yordanova July 15, 2014 at 2:30 am #

    Interesting post! I didn’t know the fact that Tolkien was inspired by Iceland. The country looks stunning. I’m a huge LOTR fan, so Iceland is definitely on my bucket list. 🙂

  21. Travelbllgr March 21, 2016 at 9:38 pm #

    I didn’t realise lord of the rings was inspired by Iceland and not New Zealand! I am currently living in NZ (we moved here in December), but I would love to visit iceland some day and compare the landscapes.

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