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Skalholt is an important site that has gone down in the history chapters of Iceland. Centuries ago, this was a political and cultural hub that was overseen by bishops. Skalholt spectacular stop along the Golden Circle route is located between the rivers of Hvítá and Brúará.

Where Is Skálholt Located?

Road sign showing where Skalholt is located, Icelamd

A stunning historical site in the south of Iceland is situated between the rivers of Hvítá and Brúará, near Þorláksbúð. The Skálholt cathedral can be found in the lower part of the Biskupstungur valley. Although not a highly populated area, this town still has about 160 residents and is a popular tourist destination that hosts many cultural events.

How to Get to Skálholt?

Skálholt site is an hour away from the capital city, Reykjavik, and is about 89.1 kilometers. If you are out and about to explore the Golden Circle, this site falls along the same route, and no detour is required. Start by driving towards the town Selfoss on Ring Road 1. Before you reach Selfoss, take an exit to road 35 and then to turn right on road 31. From there, this historic site is only about five minutes away.

History of Skálholt

Landscape of the Skalholt in Iceland

Skálholt has a lot of historical relevance in Iceland. For over 700 years, Skalholt was the center of ecclesiastic power and the episcopal seat. Being the center of culture and education centuries ago, the first bishopric was founded here in 1056. Ísleifur Gissurarson was ordained the country's first bishop. Among several firsts, in the same year, the first school of Iceland was founded at Skalholt itself. In the 12th century, the first cathedral was built here and was one of the most powerful institutions in Iceland. In the 16th century, under the rule of Denmark, Icelanders were forced to convert their religion to Lutheranism. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop, along with two of his sons, was then executed in 1550. This also took place at Skálholt and led to an end of Catholicism in Iceland. Today, since religious freedom was granted in 1874, Skálholt has become a popular destination for those who want to learn more about history and spirituality.

Things to See at Skálholt

Cathedral of the Skalholt in Iceland

Every year, tourists flock to Skálholt to see the new cathedral, the tomb of bishops, the museum and the 13th-century tunnel. This destination is not just popular for all the history that lies here, but also for spirituality and culture. If you are visiting Skálholt during the summer season, be sure to enjoy some of the best concerts featuring classical musicians, and choirs.

At the cathedral, you'll also find all the remains from an archaeological excavation that took place in 1954. A sarcophagus with the bones of Páll Jónsson was found during the excavation and is on display along with a bunch of other relics. With the vault, you'll also find two Icelandic tombstones. Some of the other displays include remains of the originally built church, ancient books, and eight church bells dating back to the middle ages.

As you continue to explore Skálholt, you'll also find a 13th-century tunnel that leads to the cellar. This is believed to have been the passage between the cathedral and the school. As you wander farther through the location, you'll also come across an archaeological site where numerous old relics have been discovered. Some of these discoveries are on display at the National Museum of Reykjavík.

Interesting Places Near Skálholt

Landscape of the gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

Skálholt, along the Golden Circle route, has several attractions and places to see. Experience the best of Skálholt and try out some of the signature local experiences while you are there. Visit the Gullfoss waterfall, check out the Great Geysir, and explore the Þingvellir National Park. These attractions are only a few miles away from Skálholt.