The Kirkjugolf stone slabs (spelled Kirkjugólf in Icelandic) are a protected natural monument in South Iceland with historical and geological significance.
The South Coast of Iceland offers many places to explore and has a diverse landscape for tourists to discover. Visit Kirkjugolf as part of a self-drive tour, then enjoy the rest that the region has to offer. From beautiful boat tours across the lagoon to glacier hikes, there are plenty of activities to choose from and combine.
Travelers interested in unique geological formations will appreciate visiting these ancient basalt stones. From Kirkjugolf's car park, a 656-yard (600-meter) out-and-back walking trail leads visitors to the rock formations. This means it's perfect for those who need to take a break from the car and stretch their legs but don't want to give up an afternoon of their vacation.
Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, by Jennifer Boyer. No edits made.
What Makes Kirkjugolf Special?
The main appeal of Kirkjugolf is the fascinating rock formations you'll see on the ground. The hexagonal stones resemble manufactured cobblestone paths and floors, giving the area the appearance of an old church floor.
"Kirkjugolf" translates to "church floor." The attraction gets its name from the rock formations. However, these tile-like formations occurred naturally, so the name reflects a centuries-long misunderstanding. The tiles were formed out of lava thousands of years ago.
Despite the inaccurate name, the rock formations are a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in geology. They're also quite beautiful to see.
Basalt Rock Formations at Kirkjugolf
Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, by Danny Nicholson. No edits made.
The basalt stones at Kirkjugolf have such a uniform shape that for many years, locals and travelers alike believed they must have made up part of a floor or path.
In reality, the basalt columns were formed when lava cooled and contracted, cracking the rock. When this happened, the lava broke apart evenly, creating the distinctive hexagonal shape you'll see at Kirkjugolf.
Today, the basalt stone area measures around 860 square feet (approximately 80 square meters). Soft moss and grass cover some of the stones, but it's still easy to make out the hexagonal pattern of the natural basalt columns.
Some stones are slightly raised, some are a little sunken, and others remain directly on the ground's surface. Overall, though, it's easy to see why people used to think this was a place of worship. They do look like tiles that must have been placed incredibly precisely.
Although the name "church floor" does not accurately describe this place, the name stuck. The area has now become a local landmark, and the Icelandic government designated it a protected natural monument in 1987.
Where are the Kirkjugolf Stone Slabs?
The Kirkjugolf basalt stones are in South Iceland, 163 miles (approximately 263 kilometers) from Reykjavik and around 45 miles (roughly 70 kilometers) from Vik i Myrdal, the southernmost village in Iceland.
The stones are just east of Kirkjubaejarklaustur village. This settlement, also known as Klaustur, is an excellent place to stock up on essentials if you're traveling further around the Ring Road, as it has gas stations and a supermarket.
The Kirkjugolf car park is only 550 yards (about 500 meters) from Route 1. This makes it an ideal place to stretch your legs while you travel around the Ring Road in South Iceland.
How To Get to Kirkjugolf
Arriving at Kirkjugolf is simple. Follow the Ring Road to Route 203, and you'll find a small parking lot just off the road. You can follow the short path to the basalt columns from here.
Other Attractions Near the Kirkjugolf Stone Formations
Due to its convenient location close to the Ring Road, Kirkjugolf is close to several of the best sights in South Iceland.
Vatnajokull National Park, the largest of the three national parks in Iceland, is within easy reach. The park, which includes popular attractions such as the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and the Skaftafell nature reserve, is under 45 miles (about 70 kilometers) from Kirkjugolf.
Vatnajokull National Park is also home to the Vatnajokull glacier, the largest of its kind in Europe. It is the highlight of many Icelandic tours, including glacier hiking tours, boat tours, and ice cave tours.
Other famous sights nearby include the Reynisfjara black-sand beach. This beach is often referred to as Iceland's most beautiful black-sand beach. It's also just around the corner from the beautiful Dyrholaey cliffs. Both landmarks are roughly 50 miles (around 80 kilometers) from Kirkjugolf.
You can find a few gorgeous waterfalls worth visiting closer to the attraction. The closest, the Stjonarfoss waterfall, is only 550 yards (about 500 meters) from Kirkjugolf, so it's easy to visit both during a short stop at the car park.
The Systrafoss and Raudarfoss waterfalls are within 2 miles (about 3 kilometers) of the car park. The area is excellent for seeing beautiful waterfalls and taking photos.
Also in the local area, around 6 miles (roughly 10 kilometers) from Kirkjugolf, is the Fjadrargljufur canyon. It's an enormous and ancient river canyon that's a fantastic place to go for a hike. The rocks are covered in green moss, and visitors are rewarded with incredible views.
Places to Stay Near Kirkjugolf and Kirkjubaejarklaustur
If you want to spend the night around the Kirkjugolf basalt columns, the Magma Hotel and Hotel Laki are excellent options.
Both are conveniently located for trips to the stones and are perfect if you want to explore the South Coast at your own pace. Taking a day or two to explore the attractions in this area fully can help you see much more of the place besides what you see on the surface.