South Iceland

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    A picture is worth a thousand words... and videos say even more. Mere words do not describe what the south of Iceland offers; glaciers, volcanoes, volcanic islands, geothermal spots, glacial rivers, black sands, green pastures, marshes, lakes, undisturbed highlands and black sand beaches.

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South iceland, power and purity

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Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon

The main lagoon measures about 7 square miles (20 km2) and until 1932 was covered in thick glacial ice. Then the glacier started to retreat, and nowadays more than 300 feet (100 m) of ice breaks away each year to reshape the lagoon and fill it with spectacular icebergs.

The lagoon is open to the sea and so contains a mixture of salt and freshwater, giving it a unique blue-green color. There are hundreds of seals here in the winter and the lagoon supports many species of fish including krill, herring, trout and, occasionally, salmon.

Recreation

Outdoor enthusiasts feel at home in South Iceland. Not only does the region have flourishing lowland agricultural communities, but majestic peaks for those desiring a challenge. Other recreational activities include scenic walks and bird watching, trips on the seashore, ice climbing, kayaking, rides on 4-wheelers, rafting down rivers, and the Njáll’s Saga Tours. A pleasant sequel is going swimming, golfing, fishing or riding the small but sturdy Icelandic horse. Another animal favourite is the whale, seen on trips from the Westman Islands. The more adventurous seek out 4WD vehicles or snow scooters on the glaciers, and in the summer trips are scheduled to Ţórsmörk and the Laki craters. 


The numerous museums include the Folk and the Natural History Museums in the Westman Islands, Skógar Folk Museum, and the Folk museum in Eyrarbakki. The region welcomes everyone to summertime family festivals, including Töđugjöld in Rangárţing county, Blóm í bć in Hveragerđi, The Lobster Festival in Höfn, Grímsćvintýri in Grímsnes and Grafningshreppur, and the mid-summer celebration at Eyrarbakki. 

South Iceland is an invitation to adventure.

Vík

Vík / Mýrdalshreppur
Vík is Iceland's most southerly village and one of the most popular tourist sites in Iceland. Although this community of about 450 inhabitants faces the open Atlantic, Vík is the only seaside settlement in Iceland left without a harbour due to natural circumstances. The average precipitation in Vík is high compared to Iceland This is, however, not always the case as the weather here changes very rapidly, the sun comes back out, and therefore rainbows are probably more frequent and vivid here than anywhere else.


Dyrhólaey, where the unique rock arch is found, is a 120-m-high promontory in the western part of the Mýrdalur district. Dyrhólaey is Iceland's most southerly tip. North of Vík rises the bulk of the 700 km2 Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland's fourth largest. Approximately 600 meters below the ice lies the dormant sub-glacial volcano Katla. Katla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and has on average erupted twice a century, the last occasion being in 1918.


On the south slopes of Reynisfjall can be found beautiful basalt-lava rock formations and sea-made caves. The historical palagonite mountains of Pétursey, Hjörleifshöfđi and Hafursey stand towering over the surrounding black expanse. A valley glacier from Mýrdalsjökull, Sólheimajökull, marks the westernmost part of the district. The river Jökulsá on Sólheimasandur originates from hot springs beneath the glacier. The river's strong smell of sulphuric hydrogen sulphide has also earned it the name of Fúlilćkur (Stinky River).


Thakgil is located between Höfđabrekkuafrétti and Mýrdalssandur. The name "Ţakgil", ţak meaning roof and gil meaning canyon, and as the name suggests the weather is usually very good. On site, there are a lot of beautiful hiking routes fit for almost everyone. Camping site, bathrooms and shower are also available. The dining room is a naturally formed cave, and inside of it there is a grill and a fireplace. You can also drive up the Kerlingardalur canyon where the movie "Beowulf" was filmed. The views at the higher vantage points here are stunning.


Vík has good travel services and offers plenty of camping and hotel space (one Edda Hotel is found here). Among the many aspects of Vík that make it attractive to tourists are the increasingly popular sea-and-land trips in the above-mentioned boats; sight-seeing flights; snowmobile trips, ice-climbing and dogsledding on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier; excellent salmon and trout fishing; horseback riding, a wool center, a fish farm/retail outlet of smoked salmon (arctic char in Fagridalur) to list a few. Few other places in Iceland offer as many contrasts of nature as Mýrdalur. The area is therefore an ideal place to visit for those travelers who want to enjoy good travel services and the best of what the country's natural environment has to offer.

Reykjadalur

Reykjadalur valley is the most popular and arguably the most beautiful hiking area in and around the town of Hveragerđi. Hot springs and colourful areas full of geothermal activity entertain along a hiking trail which leads to a hot river. For some of the length of the river the temperature in it is perfect for bathing and that's a wonderful natural experience.

The hiking trails starts at a parking space just above the town of Hveragerđi where there are signs with maps and then it's marked along the way. Furhter hiking options are ample as one can continue to discover the whole area around mt. Hengill.

EYRARBAKKI

The friendly village of Eyrarbakki used to be the largest commercial community and the main harbour on the south coast of Iceland in earlier times. A large number of preserved houses from the period 1890-1920 are situated in Eyrarbakki and therefore a visit is like reverting a 100 years back in time. Other popular tourist attractions are The Eyrarbakki Maritime Museum and the Árnessýsla Folk Museum, located at the legendary "The House" in Eyrarbakki, built in 1765. In Eyrarbakki there is also a fine camping site, a guesthouse and a restaurant. On the rocky shore you can witness an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as watch the surf break. It is an ideal spot for hiking and bird-watching. The Flói Bird Reserve lies northwest of Eyrarbakki and is an important nesting area.

Fjađrárgljúfur

Fjađrárgljúfur is a magnificent and massive canyon, about 100 meters deep and about two kilometres long. The canyon has sheer walls, and is somewhat serpentine and narrow. The bedrock in Fjađrárgljúfur is mostly palagonite from cold periods of the Ice Age and is thought to be about two million years old. The river Fjađrá has its source in the mountain Geirlandshraun and falls off the heath edge in this stunning canyon until it makes it down into Skaftá river. Fjađrá has changed a lot in the course of time. Today Fjađrá is often rather low in water and therefore hikers can safely choose to walk inside the canyon. However, wading is necessary fairly often. Deep in the canyon there are waterfalls so one needs to walk the same way back. Most people choose to walk along a walking path up on the canyon's edge while simultaneously enjoying the view above the canyon.

Formation of the Fjađrárgljúfur canyon

It is believed that Fjađrárgljúfur formed at the end of the last Ice Age, about nine thousand years ago. When the glacier retreated, a lake formed in the valley behind a hard resistant rock. The run-off from the lake flowed to where Fjađrárgljúfur is today. Glacial rivers from the glacier's edge carried a lot of sediment into the lake and the river which ran from it dug itself down into the rock and down onto the palagonite in front of it. Because the cascade has been so large, it was powerful in digging out the canyon. Eventually the lake filled with sediments and the river's strength dwindled. When the lake filled up completely, the river began to dig itself into the sediment layers which it had previously left in the valley. Fluvial terraces on both sides in the valley give an indication about the original height and location of the lake while a deep channel in the palagonite serves as a silent reminder to the power of nature.

More geosites in the neighbourhood: www.katlageopark.com

Urridafoss Waterfall

Urriđafoss is a voluminous waterfall in Ţjórsá river, where the river falls off the margin of Ţjórsárhraun lava field (360 m3/sec) in beautiful and peaceful surroundings. Ţjórsárhraun lava field is the greatest lava flow on earth since the Ice Age. The waterfall is located right off highway 1.

Interesting museums

South Iceland has all kinds of museums and exhibitions. Most of them are pretty standard but others are dedicated to more abstract things, such as eruptions and other curious phenomena.

Gullfoss waterfall

Gullfoss is actually two separate waterfalls, the upper one has a drop of 11 metres and the lower one 21 metres. The rock of the river bed was formed during an interglacial period.

Water flows over Gullfoss at an average rate of 109 cubic metres per second. The heaviest floods have recorded a flow of 2000 cubic metres per second. During the summer the flow is 130 cubic metres per second, which would take only 3 seconds to fill this building. People were eager to exploit the power potential of Gullfoss and many plans for hydroelectric developments on the river Hvítá have been proposed.

Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui Waterfalls

A unique waterfall in the river Seljalandsá, about 30 km west from Skógar. It is 60 meters high with a foot path behind it at the bottom of the cliff, but with a thin cascade. It is the only known waterfall of its kind, where it is possible to walk behind it. The waterfall is very picturesque and therefore its photo can be found in many books and calendars.

Access to the waterfall is from the farm of Seljaland along the Ring Road, Iceland's main highway. A little further to the west there are several other falls, among them the interesting Gljúfrabúi which is partially masked by its own canyon. Access to it is from Hamragarđar farm along the road, east of Markarfljót.

Both of these "do-not-miss" attractions lie very close to the main Ring Road at the base of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, on the road leading in to Thorsmörk.

Katla Geopark

Katla Geopark includes geological features of global significance. Over 150 volcanic eruptions have been recorded in the area since the 9th century. The eruptions created the landscape and influenced where people settled. Through the centuries, man and nature have affected the region's history. The area is constantly changing due to the volcanic activity.

A geopark is defined as a territory, which includes a particular geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy to promote development. It must have clearly defined boundaries and sufficient surface area for true territorial economic development.

The Geopark covers about 9% of Iceland, 9542 km2, and follows the borders of three municipalities, Skaftárhreppur, Mýrdalshreppur and Rangárţing eystra. About 2700 people live within the Geopark.
GeologyIceland lies astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where tectonic plates move apart from each other, causing a rift zone. A mantle plume exists below the country, centred beneath Vatnajökull ice cap. In South Iceland the interaction of the rift zone and the mantle plume results in complex and diverse volcanic activity. Volcanic activity and its widespread effect on the area's nature and landscape make Katla Geopark very special.

The Geopark is in the most volcanically active area of Iceland, and the volcanic systems at Eyjafjallajökull, Katla, and Grímsvötn are particularly active. The region is characterised by central volcanoes, eruptive craters and fissures, rootless cones, lava fields, table mountains (tuyas), and hyaloclastite ridges which trend SW-NE, like the rift zone.

Ice caps are prominent in the landscape, topping the highest volcanoes. Outlet glaciers and glacial rivers flow from them and glacial landforms, e.g. moraines and ice-dammed lakes, occur in the area. Large floods, usually glacier outbursts associated with subglacial eruptions, have formed outwash plains in the lowlands. The oldest bedrock in the area is about 2.5 million years old, and can be found at the base of Lómagnúpur, an old sea-cliff (671 m). Other interesting features in the Geopark are fossil-bearing xenoliths, and tephra layers which are useful for dating (tephrochronology).

National Parks

Ţingvellir National Park

History
No single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Ţingvellir by the river Öxará. At Ţingvellir - literally "Parliament Plains" - the Alţing general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Ţingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. Today Ţingvellir is a protected national shrine.

Nature
In the last few decades, research has made it clear that Ţingvellir is a natural wonder on a international scale, with the geologic history and the biosystem of Lake Ţingvallavatn forming a unique entity, a magnificent showcase.
Being able to witness the evolution and formation of new species in a place like Lake Ţingvallavatn is of immense value.
The Ţingvellir area is part of a fissure zone running through Iceland, being situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
The faults and fissures of the area make evident the rifting of the earth's crust.

Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park, established in 2008, encompasses not only all of Vatnajökull glacier but also extensive surrounding areas. These include the national parks previously existing at Skaftafell in the south and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north, so that today's national park covers 14% of Iceland (about 13.920 km2 as of June 2014) and ranks amongst Europe's largest.

In general, national parks are protected areas which are considered unique because of their nature or cultural heritage. The unique qualities of Vatnajökull National Park are primarily its great variety of landscape features, created by the combined forces of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity.

 

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    South Iceland

    Towns & Villages

    The south of Iceland has several towns and villages, each with its own style, charm and points of interest. Selfoss is the largest town and has a variety of shops, services, many restaurants and fast food places. Most towns are close to the main route, making them accessible and enjoyable.

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    Map Höfn Kirkjubćjarklaustur Vík Vestmannaeyjar Hvolsvöllur Flúđir Laugarvatn Reykholt Laugarás Borg Brautarholt Hveragerđi Árnes Selfoss Hella Stokkseyri Eyrarbakki Ţykkvibćr Ţórlákshöfn
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    Like to visit other parts of Iceland?

    Planning to visit other regions of Iceland? North, South, East, West, with non-stop panoramas and natural wonders to be discovered. Every region has its unique qualities. Take your time and experience some of the most amazing scenery that Iceland has to offer and let us help you plan your trip.