Kirkjubæjarklaustur , often called Klaustur is a village in South Iceland. With a population of around 160, it is the closest thing to an urban area within a vast municipality called Skaftárhreppur, and it's the only proper service centre on the almost 300km stretch of the ring road between Vík and Höfn.
Kirkjubæjarklaustur is named after an convent which stood there in Catholic times. Many of the local toponyms are related to nuns, usually referring to sisters, or to the convent itself (klaustur, in Icelandic). In recent centuries, the region has been shaped by catastrophic geological events, including the eruption in nearby Lakagígar (also known as Laki) in 1783-1784 which killed around 25% of the Icelandic population. In more recent years, eruptions under Vatnajökull glacier and the resulting floods have also played a role. However, all this activity also means that the landscape is stunning and often extreme in its beauty and the immediate vicinity of the village is a prosperous agricultural area.
Orienting yourself in Kirkjubæjarklaustur is very simple. Klausturvegur is the road that runs through most of the village, with smaller streets branching out from it.
Most visitors to Kirkjubæjarklaustur will arrive via the ring road. If you're driving, estimate three to four hours to arrive from Reykjavík, one hour if driving from from Vík and two to three from Höfn. Another option, only to be attempted with good 4x4 vehicles and experienced drivers, is to arrive from North Iceland crossing the Interior via Sprengisandur and Skaftártunga.
There is a single bus daily between BSÍ bus terminal in Reykjavík and Höfn and back, passing through Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
Kirkjubæjarklaustur is tiny and easily covered by foot but to explore the surrounding area, the main reason to go to Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a car will be necessary.
The village itself does not have many sights of interest. The local church is interesting for its modern architecture and to learn about the history of the 18th century priest Jón Steingrímsson who, according to legend, saved the area from devestation in the massive Skaftáreldar eruption of 1783. The graceful waterfall Systrafoss (Sister falls) overlooks the village, flowing from a lake on top of the small mountain. A climb to the top offers some great views.
There isn't much to be bought in Kirkjubæjarklaustur and apart from the supermarket (mentioned below) there are few stores.
Eat and Drink
Given its size, it should come as no surprise that the dining options are relatively limited in Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The only supermarket, Kjarval, is found on Klausturvegur 13. Look out for locally-produced arctic charr marketed under the name Klausturbleikja.
There is good mobile phone coverage in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, but it can get worse in some of the nearby valleys and up on the highlands.
The main reason to visit Kirkjubæjarklaustur is to explore the surrounding landscapes: