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Skógafoss - Waterfall
Only a few kilometers away from the south shores of Iceland, lies the village of Skógar along the Southern Ring Road. It is a popular summer-resort centre surrounded by unusual scenic beauty. The breath-taking view of Skogáfoss waterfall and scenic surroundings and the snow-capped heights of two towering glaciers are Skógar's major summer attractions. There are two settlements by this name. One is Ytri-Skógar (outer or western Skógar) and the other Eystri-Skógar (eastern Skógar), located at a short distance from each other. Ytri-Skógar, commonly referred to as Skógar, is the main settlement. It is an old farm and has a church from 1890. It is located between the Skógá and Kverná rivers.The greatest attraction of Skógar is of course the beautiful 60-metre high Skogáfoss waterfall in the river Skógá. Like the legends of buried treasures of Egill Skallagrímsson in Mosfell near Reykjavík and Ketilbjörn in Mosfell near Skálholt, there is a similar legend about the settler Þrasi who is believed to have buried his chest of gold under the Skogáfoss waterfall.If the sun conditions are favourable - one can see a vivid rainbow in front of the waterfalls. The river below the falls holds a large salmon and char population and fisherman are seen here fishing July - October. The path leading to the top of the waterfalls continues following the river upstream - where numerous more dramatic waterfalls of sheer beauty are to be found. A great hike - to say the least!One of the finest folk museums in Iceland is situated in extraordinarily beautiful natural surroundings. The interesting local folk museum has a collection of over 6000 artifacts and examples of various types of dwellings in Iceland since the early times. The collection of tools and equipment used at land and sea is outstanding. The museum also has an old turf farmhouse, where guests can experience the standards of living in Iceland in past centuries.From Skógar the Ring Road runs eastwards along the foot of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, across the southern sandy plains and over glacial rivers, passes Seljavellir and continues along the soaring glaciated massive of Eyjafjöll and the two waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi. From here runs a 10 km long trek along the river Skógá over the Fimmvörðuháls Pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers to the mountain oasis of Þórsmörk.Skógar is a place to explore the natural diversity of the south or, if the weather is good, to spend a holiday amid beautiful and rugged landscapes. It is also very close to the ocean and the unique black beach.
Eyjafjallajökull Glacier
The Eyjafjallajökull glacier is a 1651 m high glacier-capped stratovolcano. It is one of the smaller glaciers of Iceland. It is situated to the north of Skógar and to the south and west of the bigger glacier Mýrdalsjökull. The icecap of the glacier covers a volcano (1651m in height) that has erupted relatively frequently since the Ice Age. The crater of the volcano has a diameter of 3-4 km and the glacier covers an area of about 100 km². In June 1994 an earthquake swarm lasting for nearly a month occurred below the active volcano Eyjafjallajökull in South Iceland. It is otherwise a relatively quiet volcano – although it is not listed as being inactive. Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 1821-1823. The south end of the mountain was once part of the Atlantic coastline. As the sea has since retreated some 5 km, the former coastline has left behind sheer cliffs with a multitude of beautiful waterfalls, the best known of them being Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. In strong winds, the water of some of the smaller falls can even be blown up the mountain. It is one of the three glaciers that surround the Thorsmörk area - the other 2 being Myrdalsjökull and Tindfjallajökull. Specialized tours are arranged on the glacier for both skiing, super jeep tour, and hiking. One should never venture onto the glacier without guides and good knowledge of this kind of activity as this is a very dangerous area for inexperienced visitors. Eyjafjallajökull featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe. An ice cap with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull with a crater diameter 3-4 km wide. The outlet glaciers, Steinholtsjökull and Gígjökull, descend from the main glacier and can be visited by 4x4 trucks along the F-road to Þórsmörk. The area between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull with volcanic craters, Magni and Móði, created in the first stage of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April 2010.   
The Westman Islands
Westman Islands are also called Vestmannaeyjar. The largest island is called Heimaey and is the only one of the islands that is inhabited. The island was first settled in 930 A.D., although some sources (with evidence supporting) claim that fishing village had been established there 300 years earlier and that, by that time, Irish monks had already been to Heimaey, too. The islands are also the only part of Iceland to have endured violent foreign invasion. In the 15th century, the English came to Iceland to trade and occasionally to raid. They kidnapped one governor of Iceland and killed another, and bought local children, which gave rise to the contemporary legend that Icelanders gave away their children but sold their dogs dearly. Their headquarters were on Heimaey, where they built the fortress Skansinn which still remains. But after a war with the Danes and the Hanseatic League in 1468-73, the English withdrew. A more violent invasion was the “The Turkish Raid” in 1627. Actually, this was launched by Algerians, Moroccan-converted Europeans and commanded by a Dutchman. But as the captives were taken to Algeria, then a suzerainty of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople, the raid was blamed on the Turks. It was not until the 1970s that a contemporary law stating that any Turk found in Iceland should be killed on sight was withdrawn. Thankfully, this was never enforced. The Turks killed and captured some 400 people, most of these from Heimaey, and burned down the church and the warehouse. Ten years later, 27 of the captives were ransomed back to Iceland. The place where the Turks came ashore is still called “Ræningjatangi”, or robber’s peninsula. Heimaey has a population of about 4800 residents. Its economy is primarily based on commercial fishing. Over 50 fishing vessels work out from Vestmannaeyjar employing over 500 people. Two large fishing plants and several smaller ones employ another 400 residents.The island has a hospital, retirement home and apartments for the elderly, several nursery schools, two elementary schools and one secondary school. A scientific research institute operates in cooperation with the University of Iceland and the town of Vestmannaeyjar. An eruption on Heimaey in 1973 destroyed 417 houses and the island needed to be evacuated during the night. Over 5000 town residents left in a hurry on sea or air and the eruption added a total of 250 million cubic meters of new volcanic material to the island. To save the port people used sea to stop and re-direct the lava flow and today the Vestmannaeyjar port is good, one of the best in the world in fact. The Vestmannaeyjar´s natural majesty is rich sea and bird life and the island is also home to a burgeoning ecotourism industry. Visitors can tour the island both on land and sea and a visit to the aquarium devoted to local wildlife is an experience one should not miss. The Vestmannaeyjar archipelago is group of 15 islands first formed by volcanic eruptions some 10.000 years ago. The latest island, Surtsey, formed in 1963 in an eruption from the bottom of the ocean. The puffin colony in Vestmannaeyjar is the largest in the world. Millions of Atlantic puffins return to Vestmannaeyjar each spring and summer and provide base for a traditional, seasonal industry. Residents collect puffin eggs and hunt birds using nets, according to an elaborate and age-old set of rules and ethics. Annual catches do not exceed 1% of the total puffin population. The island is well known for cliff-hanging, a sport centuries old and involves climbing and descending the island’s most dramatic rock formations using ropes suspended from the cliff tops. Children and teenagers still practice this sport for its own sake as well as a puffin-hunting technique. Island’s children also save young puffins that have lost their way and direct them to the ocean. They also compete which puffin flies the farthest. Two overlooks with interpretive signage give breathtaking views of Klettsvik Bay and the town of Vestmannaeyjar. East of Eldfell is a monument to Guðlaugur Fridþórsson, who swam for six hours to reach shore in 1984, when his boat sank five kilometers east of Heimaey. At Hamarinn, on western Heimaey, there is a monument to Jón Vigfússon, who in 1928, scaled what is considered an unclimbable vertical cliff after his boat stranded, thereby saving the lives of his comrades as well as his own. A small sanctuary or oasis in the middle of the lava field called Eldfellshraun is cultivated by Erlendur Stefánsson and Guðfinna Ólafsdóttir. It throws into high relief the great contrasts in Vestmannaeyjar landscape. One of the best 18-hole golf courses in Iceland can be found on the island. It is situated in an old volcanic crater under steep cliffs. In spring there is a deep-sea fishing contest and a jazz festival. In summer the islanders host the national soccer tournaments for children and the annual islands festival is in August. Cliff scaling on ropes, can be observed, horses can be rented and many marked hiking trails up volcanoes, over lava fields and through puffin colonies interest visitors. Bird watching is great on the island and the island has a good swimming pool with sauna and hot tubs. A movie about the eruption and rebuilding of the town can be seen and the Folk and Art Museum should not be missed
Katla UNESCO Global 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 Rangárþing 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).  Further information about the area is on www.katlageopark.com 
Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon by the ring road and was recently designated as a part of Vatnajökull National Park. It's still blue waters are a sight not to be missed, as it is dotted with the icebergs from the edge of Breiðamerkurjökull, a part of the Vatnajökull glacier. The lagoon flows through a narrow gateway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the spectacular sight of the large chunks of ice on the black sandy beach. In wintertime, the fish-filled lagoon hosts a number of seals, which visit the lagoon for an easy meal. Year-round curious seals can be seen basking on the blue-tinted icebergs. The lagoon is accessible from the beach all year round, and so is the café on the banks of Jökulsárlón. For hikers, a marked hiking trail between Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón is recommended as a scenic trip through unforgettable surroundings.  A word of warning - don't jump onto the ice floating in the lagoon. Some tourists think it’s okay to do it, but it is dangerous play, and the ice can capsize leaving you stuck beneath it in the ice-cold water. So let's be very careful here.Please heed the advice of the locals and never ever step on the ice in the lagoon!  
Skaftafell
Scenic nature, favorable weather conditions and a network of hiking trails make Skaftafell an ideal destination to enjoy outdoor activities in Icelandic nature. Short and easy trails lead to the waterfall Svartifoss and Skaftafellsjökull glacier, but for those who want to reach further out Morsárdalur valley and Kristínartindar mountain peaks are perfect in terms of distance and labour. Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those who seek to climb Iceland‘s highest mountain peak, Hvannadalshnúkur. Private travel companies operate in Skaftafell and offer guided hikes on the nearby glaciers and mountains. Also on offer are sightseeing flights over Vatnajökull glacier and other renowned attractions.
Kerið Crater
Kerið, is a 55 m deep volcanic crater, about 3000 years old. It is a part of a group of volcanic hills called Tjarnarhólar, and is now filled with water, creating a lake whose steep circular slopes resemble an ancient amphitheatre.
Vatnajökull Glacier
Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland, and the largest glacier by volume in the whole of Europe. It covers over 8 percent of Iceland measuring an area of 7,800 km², with an average thickness of 400 m and the highest point, Hvannadalshnúkur, measures at 2,110 m (6,921 ft.). Vatnajökull has around 30 outlet glaciers flowing from the ice cap, all of which bear a name; glaciers and outlet glaciers all have names that end in “jökull” in Icelandic. Vatnajökull belongs to the Vatnajökulsfljóðgarður (Vatnajökull National Park) and covers a large area surrounding the glacier, including the glacier itself. The National Park offers numerous interesting sites to visit and is a must for all who are interested in Geology and beautiful, natural vistas.  
Landmannalaugar - Nature Reserve
Landmannalaugar derives its name from a hot pool that rises from under the Laugahraun lava field. Landmannalaugar has been a stopping point for people for centuries, and the mountain shepherds on Landmannaafréttur have stayed there while herding sheep off the mountain for as long as there have been reports of such travel. Many beautiful mountains can be seen from Landmannalaugar: Barmur, Bláhnúkur, Brennisteinsalda, Suðurnám and Norðurnám. There are considerable deposits of rhyolite, obsidian and rhyolite lava in the area, and the Landmannalaugar landscape is famous for its colourfulness and unique environs. The start of one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland, Laugavegurinn, is at Landmannalaugar. The trail proceeds along Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil, Emstrur and ends in Þórsmörk. Ferðafélag Íslands (the Iceland Touring Association) provides facilities, such as showers and accommodation, for travellers at Landmannalaugar. In addition, there is a horse rental and a small café operated during the summer.
Reynisfjara, Reynisfjall og Reynisdrangar
Reynisfjall is a 340 m high tuff mountain arising out of a volcanic eruption from under a glacier in the penultimate Ice Age, near the village of Vik.  Alternating in an irregular manner are layers of tuff, pillow lava and columnar basalt veins and loops.  Reynisdrangar stacks are a collection of 66 m high rock pillars that rise out of the sea and are of the same geological formation as Reynisfjall. On Reynisfjöru beach, very beautiful basalt formations in the south part of the mountain can be seen, and there you will find an exceedingly beautiful cave called Hálsanefshellir.  The waves here are deceiving and have caused the death of a number of visitors in recent years, even in the best of weather. Please take great care and keep a good distance from the sea.
Hoffell
Hoffell is a farmland area characterized by a large outlet glacier named Hoffellsjökull and gabbro rock. Gabbro rock is originated deep in the Earth but is visible in the area due to the uplift of the area and glacial erosion, which gives the environment a greenish hue in the otherwise dark rocks. Hoffell is an area and a farmland in southeast Iceland. It is characterised by a large outlet glacier, Hoffellsjökull, and gabbro rock, which originally formed deep in the earth‘s crust but is now visible due to uplift of the area and glacial erosion, which gives the environment a greenish hue in the otherwise dark rocks. The Hoffell area is 15 kilometres from the town of Höfn.Driving or hiking north from Hoffell along the sands of Hoffellssandur you will enjoy the spectacular scenery of mountain slopes carved out by earlier glaciers. Along the sands of Hoffellssandur you will enjoy the spectacular scenery of mountain slopes carved out by earlier glaciers. Along the way, there is also a borehole, constructed to extract geothermal water. Finally, you reach the ice of the glacier-tongue, Hoffellsjökull, skirted by the numerous hiking trails of the Geitafell mountain.The area is preserved for outdoor recreation, as it is rich in vegetation, wildlife, and geological variety. The area’s many hiking trails offer a stunning view of the diverse beautiful wonders it has to offer.  
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. The trails by Gullfoss can be closed so it's good to chech the conditions before going. To check out whether it is open or closed to visitors check out the website of Safetravel.is.  
Geysir Geothermal area
One of the greatest natural attractions of Iceland and part of the famous "Golden Circle Tour", The Great Geysir, or Stori-Geysir, has been dormant since 1916 when it suddenly ceased to spout. It came to life only once in 1935, and as quickly went back to sleep. Since then its repose has sporadically been disturbed by the dumping of tons of carbolic soap powder into its seething orifice in order to tickle it to spout. It is not exactly known when Geysir was created. It is believed that it came into existence around the end of the 13th century when a series of strong earthquakes, accompanied by a devastating eruption of Mt. Hekla, hit Haukadalur, the geothermal valley where Geysir is located. What is known is that it spouted regularly every third hour or so up to the beginning of the 19th century and thereafter progressively at much longer intervals until it completely stopped in 1916. Whether its silence is eternal or temporary no one knows. When it was alive and shooting, it could thunderously blast a spectacular jet of superheated water and steam into the air as high as 60 to 80 meters according to different sources. Its opening is 18 meters wide and its chamber 20 meters deep. One reason for cessation is believed to be the accumulated rocks and foreign objects thrown into it by thousands of tourists throughout the years. Though definitely damaging, this however could not be the only reason for its dormancy. The Great Geysir was among the most notable geysers in the world, such as those in Yellowstone Park, New Zealand and North Iceland. The English word "geyser" is derived from the Icelandic word "geysir" which means gusher. Though the Great Geysir itself is now more or less inactive, the area surrounding it is geothermically very active with many smaller hot springs. The attraction of the area is now Strokkur (The Churn), another geyser 100 meters south of the Great Geysir, which erupts at regular intervals every 10 minutes or so and its white column of boiling water can reach as high as 30 meters. The whole area is a geothermal park sitting on top of a vast boiling cauldron. Belching sulphurous mud pots of unusual colors, hissing steam vents, hot and cold springs, warm streams, and primitive plants can all be found here. A short distance away to the west stands the small Laugarfjall Mountain with a panoramic view overlooking the Geysir area. King Christian IX of Denmark visited the area in 1874 and by the foot of the mountain are the rocks where he leaned while his hosts tried to impress and amuse him by boiling eggs in the hot springs. The rocks are now called Konungssteinar ("The King's Stones").
Horn/Stokksnes
One of the first settlement farms in Iceland was Horn, built by Hrollaugur son of Rögnvaldur Earl of Møre in Norway. The Hornafjörður Municipality and several natural sites are named after the settlement farm. Horn means the same thing in Icelandic and English. The area is approximately a ten-minute drive away from Höfn. The Horn area is below Vestra-Horn, a 454-meter-high mountain and it is an interesting geological site composing of un-stratified plutonic rock, mostly gabbro but with some granophyre. East of the mountain is a strange-shaped outcrop called Brunnhorn that stretches out to sea. Seals also tend to hang out on the stretch of sand, so if you’re lucky you can catch a picture of a lazing seal as well. In the Second World War, the Horn area became a base for the British army and later a NATO radar station was set up at Stokksnes, south of Horn. At Stokksnes you can feel the power of the Atlantic Ocean as the waves hit the rocky shore with massive force.   
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
Fjaðrárgljúfur 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 Fjaðrárgljúfur is mostly palagonite from cold periods of the Ice Age and is thought to be about two million years old. The river Fjaðrá 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. Fjaðrá has changed a lot in the course of time. Today Fjaðrá 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. The trail by Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon can be closed so it's good to chech the conditions before going. To check out whether the canyon is open or closed to visitors check out the website of Safetravel.is. Those who plan on visiting the canyon need respect the rules and stay on the paths. Please help us to protect the fragile vegetation around the canyon! Formation of the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon It is believed that Fjaðrárgljúfur 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 Fjaðrárgljúfur 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
Hekla volcano
The volcano Mt. Hekla is Iceland’s most famous volcano and the one that has erupted most frequently in recent years. Mt. Hekla rises 1,491 m over sea level and can widely be seen in the south of Iceland. Hekla has been dubbed the Queen of Icelandic Volcanos and is well known internationally. Considerable superstitions have been attached to the mountain, with the most famous legend being that it is the entrance to Hell and might even be Hell itself. The first documented expedition onto the mountain is from 1750 when the naturalists Eggert Ólaffson and Bjarni Pálsson scaled the mountain. The route to the top of Hekla is quite popular, although hikers must be aware of the danger that can occur if the mountain should erupt. The route taken normally starts from Skjólkvíar. Hekla is located in an area where the South Iceland fracture zone meets the South Iceland volcanic zone, which probably accounts for its frequent eruptions. Hekla has erupted in the following years since Iceland was settled: 1104, 1158, 1206, 1222, 1300, 1341, 1389, 1501, 1597, 1636, 1693, 1766, 1845, 1947, 1970, 1980, 1981, 1991 and 2000. Geologists have repeatedly reiterated in recent years that Hekla is ready to erupt and can erupt at any time. However, the mountain does generally provide an hour’s warning.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall
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 Hamragarðar 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. During winter the area around Seljalandsfoss waterfall can be dangerous as paths can be slippery and large pieces of ice falling making it extremely dangerous to venture too close to the cliffs, and particularly dangerous to walk behind the waterfall. The fine mist from the waterfall freezes on the cliffs and the ceiling of the path behind the waterfall, but when the weather warms and the ice begins to thaw, it can fall of in large chunks which can be dangerous. People are advised to show caution and respect the closure of the paths. More information can be found on www.safetravel.is  
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-east and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north. Today Vatnajökull National Park covers 14% of Iceland and ranks as Europe's second largest. In general, national parks are protected areas which are considered unique due to 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. Description Vatnajökull is Europe's largest glacier, with a surface area of around 8,100 km2. Generally measuring 400-600 m in thickness and at the most 950 m, the glacial ice conceals a number of mountains, valleys and plateaus. It even hides some active central volcanoes, of which Bárðarbunga is the largest and Grímsvötn the most active. While the icecap rises at its highest to over 2,000 m above sea level, the glacier base reaches its lowest point 300 m below sea level. Nowhere in Iceland, with the exception of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, does more precipitation fall or more water drain to the sea than on the south side of Vatnajökull. In fact, so much water is currently stored in Vatnajökull that the Icelandic river with the greatest flow, Ölfusá, would need over 200 years to carry this quantity of water to sea. The south side of Vatnajökull is characterised by many high, majestic mountain ridges, with outlet glaciers descending between them onto the lowlands. The southernmost part of the glacier envelops the central volcano Öræfajökull and Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur. Sheltered by the high ice, the vegetated oasis of Skaftafell overlooks the black sands deposited to its west by the river Skeiðará. These sands are mostly composed of ash which stems from the frequent eruptions at Grímsvötn and is brought to the coast by jökulhlaups, or glacial floods. Substantial volcanic activity also characterises the landscape west of Vatnajökull, where two of the world's greatest fissure and lava eruptions of historical times occurred, at Eldgjá in 934 and Lakagígar 1783-1784. Vonarskarð, northwest of the glacier, is a colourful high-temperature area and a watershed between North and South Iceland. Preservation objectives The objectives of designating Vatnajökull as a preservation area, along with the main regions it affects, are the following: • To protect the nature of the region, including the landscape, biota and geological formations, as well as cultural features • To allow the public to get to know and enjoy regional nature, culture and history • To provide education on nature and nature conservation and on regional history, society and cultural features, as well as encouraging research to gain greater knowledge of these aspects • To strengthen communities and business activity in the vicinity of the park. Visitor centres and other tourist information offices working with the park Visitor centres and other tourist information offices working with the park provide information and services for the park and its immediate environs. The following offices operate along the south coast of Iceland: Skaftárstofa Visitor Centre | Kirkjubæjarklaustur | open in summer Skaftafellsstofa Visitor Centre | Skaftafell | open all year Skálafell farm | Suðursveit | varying hours - all year Hoffell farm | Nes | varying hours - all year Gamlabúð Visitor Centre | Höfn | open all year * *Opening hours for Christmas and New Year celebration can be found on the website http://www.vjp.is
Þingvellir
Þingvellir (Icelandic "Þing": parliament, "vellir": plains) is a place in the southwest of Iceland near the peninsula of Reykjanes and the Hengill volcanic area.It is famous for two reasons:As one of the most important places in Icelandic history. In the year 930 the Alþingi, one of the oldest parliamentary institutions of the world, was founded. The Alþingi met yearly, where the Lawspeaker recited the law to all of the gathered people and decided disputes as well. In the year 999 or 1000, the Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. After the conversion, it is said that, upon returning from the Alþingi, Þorgeir then threw his statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall that is now named Goðafoss ("Waterfall of the Gods"). At this historical place, the independence of the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed on June 17, 1944.As a national park (since 1928) because of the special tectonic and volcanic environment. The continental drift can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which are traversing the region, the biggest one, Almannagjá, being a veritable canyon. This causes also the often measurable earthquakes in the area.Þingvellir is situated on the northern shore of Þingvallavatn, the biggest lake of Iceland. The river Öxará traverses the national park and is forming a waterfall at the Almannagjá, called Öxaráfoss Together with the waterfall Gullfoss and the Geysir of Haukadalur, Þingvellir is part of the most famous sights of Iceland, the Golden Circle.Þingvellir is a designated UNESCO World Heritage SiteThingvellir, 50 km (31 miles) to the east of Reykjavík, is the national shrine of Iceland. Iceland's most historic site, and one of its most beautiful places, is also part of The Golden Circle tour. The oldest existing parliament in the world first met here in AD930. The Alþing met here every year to enact laws, including the law passed in AD1000 to introduce Christianity into the island. It has always been the focal point for the country, and whenever a major event is to be celebrated, thousands of people come here. At the celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the first settlement in 1974, more than 60,000 people packed into Thingvellir.Nearby Lögberg is the cliff overlooking the place where the Alþing (assembly) met, and speakers stood to address the gatherings from this point. Nearby is Drekkingarhylur (The Drowning Pool), where mothers of illegitimate children were drowned. It is sited in the river Öxará in Almannagjá, a lava gorge, which with the Öxarárfoss waterfall, is an impressive sight.Peningagjá (The Money Chasm) is a deep fissure filled with crystal clear spring water; people throw coins into it from the bridge that lies across. The coins give off strange reflections as they drop through the water, it is said that if you can follow the coin all the way down until it comes to rest on the bottom, your wish will come true. Scubadiving and snorkeling in wet suits are becoming increasingly popular here.There is an old church at Thingvellir. Beside the church is the national burial ground.Thingvallavatn is the largest lake in Iceland, 83sq km (32sq miles) and over 100m (328ft) deep. The only outflow from lake Thingvallavatn is the river Sog, a famous salmon river with beautiful blue water. The lake's catchment area is 90% underground and the water from the thousands of cold springs has a constant temperature of 3-4°C the whole year-round.The anglers, who use boats for their fishing, have to be careful and watch out for changes in the weather. The lake becomes a boiling pot when the wind starts blowing. The catch in the lake has always been a necessary part of the survival of the farming families on the lake. They have netted the lake traditionally for centuries. Angling permits are sold in the little shop and visitors center in the camping area or at Hotel Valholl. The catch consists of brown trout and lake char.It is said that these fish became isolated in the lake in the wake of the last ice age when the terrain rose at the south end of Þingvallavatn. These two species are a living testimony to how the evolution of species occurs in nature, as over a period of 10,000 years they have adapted themselves to various habitats in the lake. The constant, regular influx of groundwater into Lake Þingvallavatn, together with a very varied habitat, has created good conditions for fish and other life forms in the lake, to which they have adapted even more. This has resulted in the fact that both the brown trout and char in Thingvallavatn are amongst the largest to be found in the world. The trout are said to be as big as over 20 kg (max weight) and the char over 10 kg (max weight), which is at the max of both species size range.The lake is part of the Þingvellir National Park. The volcanic origin of the islands in the lake is clearly visible. The fissures around it - the famous Almannagjá is the biggest of them - indicate that here the tectonic plates of Europe and The Americas are in a conflict. In this lake, with the large quantity of sulfur and salt, the lake is extremely light and the water seems to be in less weight than other lakes.