The otherworldly landscapes of Iceland provide fantastic backdrops for films and television series. The gorgeous island seems to appear to the human eye as something simultaneously gorgeous, yet unrecognizable.
Just in the past two decades, blockbuster movies such as Batman Begins, Die Another Day, and Interstellar have employed the beauty of Iceland. Perhaps most famously, large portions of Game of Thrones were set to its surroundings.
The latest batch of Star Wars also filmed in Iceland. In The Force Awakens, the countryside became the planets of Hoth and Eadu. In the standalone Rogue One, a portion of the film transpired at a spot called Hjörleifshöfði. In addition to a staggering amount of diacritical marks, Hjörleifshöfði is notable for containing a cave with an apt name for the Star Wars saga: Yoda Cave.
Hjörleifshöfði is a small mountain that sits about as far south as one can go in Iceland. The crag rises just 725 feet above sea level, but when a mountain is right on the coast and clocks in with over 600 feet of prominence it is still rather a commanding presence.
The geological history of this location is quite quixotic. Hjörleifshöfði is technically an inselberg, an isolated knob or rocky outcropping that juts abruptly above the surrounding plain. Volcanic activity formed the mountain, but it did so underwater. Eventually, the seas receded to the point that Hjörleifshöfði became an island. When humans came to Iceland, the island had connected to the mainland, but a deep fjord still sat on one side. If one goes to the area now, the notion that a fjord existed there might seem laughable, as sand and gravel surround Hjörleifshöfði. It resides in an outwash plain called Mýrdalssandur.
How could the waters have receded enough to leave a fjord deep enough to use as a port, but the island became surrounded by debris? The answer is jökulhlaups. Another quintessentially Icelandic word, a jökulhlaup is a glacial outburst flood. They often occur on Biblical scales. A volcano near Hjörleifshöfði, called Katla, created so many jökulhlaups over the ages that the fjord disappeared and the mainland engulfed the entire island.
Hjörleifshöfði is resplendent and a marvel to geologists, but we came for Yoda.
Rogue One did film along the black-sand beaches of the region, but, as an astute scholar you might note: “Yoda isn’t even in Rogue One.” What does Yoda Cave have to do with the film?
Absolutely nothing, other than a (perhaps intentional?) flavorful coincidence. Yoda Cave isn’t in the film, at least not in a discernible fashion.
But when you see it, you’ll have no doubt why it received the moniker:
There’s no mistaking it. That’s definitely Yoda cut out of the cave.
As you can imagine, this location elicits a lot of visits from fans of the franchise, tourism that only increased after the release of Rogue One.
Some brave warriors even go there to do battle.
Iceland seems to be filled to the brim with fantastic natural sights. Yoda Cave certainly joins the list of impressive hardware on the island.
One might even say Iceland is so grand that the force is definitely with it. In this case, though, the force might just be aurora borealis. No doubt, the official light saber of Iceland must be the aurora’s Yoda-like green.
Fun sidenote: if the above photo is legitimate (and I have no reason to believe it otherwise), Iceland is so far north that one can see the northern lights by looking south!
Further Reading and Exploration
Hjörleifshöfði & Yoda Cave – Iceland Travel Guide
Hjörleifshöfði Travel Guide – Guide to Iceland
HJÖRLEIFSHÖFÐI – Hit Iceland
HJÖRLEIFSHÖFÐI CAVE WEDDING IN ICELAND – Iceland Wedding Planner
Film crews currently in Iceland shooting scenes for an upcoming Star Wars movie – Iceland Magazine