Skip to content

Sights Along the Ring Road

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").
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.  
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.
Urridafoss Waterfall
Urriðafoss is a waterfall in Þjórsá River. Þjórsá is Iceland’s longest river, 230 km, and Urriðafoss is the most voluminous waterfall in the country. This mighty river drops down (360 m3/sec) by the edge of Þjórsárhraun lava field in beautiful and serene surroundings. Þjórsárhraun lava field is the result of the greatest lava flow on earth since the Ice Age. Located right off highway 1. 
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  
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.
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.
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.
Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon
Scenic Fjallsárlón is a glacial lagoon located around 10 km. west of Jökulsárlón, at the southern edge of Vatnajökull glacier. With the steep glacier tongue, Fjallsjökull coming down from Vatnajökull and all the way into the lagoon makes it a perfectly peaceful place for photos as well as enjoying the untouched nature. Fjallsárlón also offers boat tours on the lagoon as well as a bistro with fresh and tasty refreshments. 
Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon by the ring road and was recently designated as a part of Vatnajökull National Park. Its 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!  
Haukafell
Haukafell is a forestry project that was launched in 1985 and now offers ample shelter to the low-lying, local vegetation, which mostly consists of berry bushes that are ripe for picking in August. The area is situated east of Fláajökull glacier and is a popular outdoor area for the locals. There are various hiking trails to be enjoyed in the beautiful surroundings and the crispy fresh air. From Haukafell you find a marked hiking trail to Fláajökull glacier, where you cross a recent walkway over the Kolgrafardalsá river. In Haukafell you find a good campsite in a beautiful area. 
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.  
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.  
Almannaskarð
Almannaskarð is an old mountain road about 10 km to the east of Höfn. Today the southwest ramp is closed for car traffic, as in 2005 it was replaced by a 1300 m long tunnel that curves under a mountain. Since then the area has become a popular hiking path for locals and at the top of the road is a magnificent viewpoint where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Hornafjörður region as well as Vatnajökull glacier, on a clear day. It is a charming stop for those who crave the tranquility and natural beauty of the countryside. 
Lónsöræfi
In Lón District, the most eastern area of the Vatnajökull Region, lie the Stafafellsfjöll mountains, also called Lónsöræfi. They dominate the skyline east of the Vatnajökull glacier and have long comprised one of Iceland’s most extensive protected areas. Besides the deep, rugged canyons, the landscape displays a wide range of colors owing to the presence of rhyolite and other colorful rocks. In contrast, there are also lushly vegetated and sheltered valleys offering a very good chance of spotting reindeer. The numerous hiking trails make this area perfect for hiking. Keep in mind that getting there can be very difficult and one should seek advice from a visitor- or information center before attempting to go there.