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South Iceland A Bit of This and That

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South Iceland A Bit of This and That

South Iceland - A Bit of This and That

This tour is tailored for groups on a coach with a guide. You will travel around the up-country of South Iceland. This is an educational and historical tour with amazing waterfall sights.

Day 1 - Rivers and waterfalls

After breakfast you drive to Þjórsá visitor centre. There you can view an exhibition about Þjórsá river and get information about the land and its nature, the people and the history of the Þjórsá region, and the services available there, with the principal focus on the great Þjórsá river itself. After Þjórsá visitor centre you will drive to Búrfell power plant and there you will see an interactive energy exhibition about renewable energy and the history of its usage. Near Búrfell power plant we have Þjóðveldisbær (a reconstructed farm based on the excavated farmhouse Stöng from the commonwealth era in Iceland). It provides visitors with an opportunity to study the buildings of our ancestors and learn about their background and daily life. Later you will have the chance to see the farmhouse Stöng. After experiencing a bit of history you will see a couple of waterfalls on your way back to the hotel. They are Háifoss and Hjálparfoss.

10:00 – Þjórsárstofa

Þjórsárstofa  – the Þjórsá visitor centre at Árnes – is a collaborative project of the Skeið and Gnúpverjahreppur local authority and Landsvirkjun.

The objective of the Þjórsá visitor centre is to provide information on the land and nature, the people and history of the Þjórsá region, and the services available there, with the principal focus on the great Þjórsá river itself.

Website: www.thjorsarstofa.is

11:30 - Gaukshöfði / Búrfell

All around the world there is increasing demand for renewable energy. At Búrfell power plant there is an interactive energy exhibition showing renewable energy opportunities linked to that and the history of the use of energy in Iceland.

12:30 - Þjóðveldisbærinn – Packed lunch

This reconstructed farm is based on the excavated farmhouse of Stöng from the commonwealth era in Iceland. It provides visitors with an opportunity to study the building sof our ancestors and learn about their background and daily life.

14:00 - Stöng – Gjáin

In 1104, Mt. Hekla erupted for the first time in the recorded history of Iceland. The eruption destroyed, for instance, an entire district of at least 20 farms in the valley Þjórsárdalur in Árnessýsla.

Over eight centuries later, in 1939, a team of Nordic archaeologists excavated several of these farms. In one location the exceptionally well-preserved remains of an early medieval farmhouse, unparallelled elsewhere in the Nordic cultural area, were discovered under a thick layer of pumice. It was formerly known as Stöng.

15:30 - Háifoss waterfall

The waterfall Háifoss is situated near the volcano Hekla in the south of Iceland. The river Fossá, a tributary of Þjórsá, drops here from a height of 122 m. This is the second highest waterfall of the island.

From the historical farm Stöng, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Hekla in the Middle Ages and reconstructed, it is possible to hike to the waterfall along the Fossá (5 to 6 hours both directions). Above the waterfall, there is also a parking lot, so the hiking can also be made in the other direction.

16:30 – Hjálparfoss waterfall

Hjalparfoss is a beautiful, two stepped waterfall near the confluence of Rivers Thjorsa and Fossa in the Thjorsa Valley. The surrounding area is called Hjalp (Help), because the travellers across the Sprengisandur Route found great help in reaching a vegetated area to graze their horses after a long journey in the barren interior.

As elsewhere in the valley, the signs of the eruptions of Mt. Hekla are very prominent by the waterfall, ashes everywhere.

20:00 – Check-in at your accommodation in or near Flúðir

Near Flúðir you can choose between different range of accommodation and prices.

Accommodation near Selfoss and Hveragerði

Hotels:

Icelandair Hótel Flúðir – http://www.icelandairhotels.com/is/hotelin/fludir

Hótel Hekla – www.hotelhekla.is

Guesthouses and other accommodation:

Syðra-Langholt – www.sydralangholt.is

Day 2 – Icelandic production and history

After breakfast you will drive to Friðheimar. They residents of Friðheimar are proud to invite their guests to a treat, both for body and mind, presenting to them how it is possible to grow tomatoes all the year round. You will visit their greenhouse, see the horse show they offer and have lunch. After Friðheimar you will visit Skálholt. Skálholt is one of the most important cultural and historic places in Iceland.

8:00 - Breakfast

10:00 – Friðheimar – visit the greenhouse, horse show and lunch

A visit to the greenhouse in Friðheimar offers an educational and pleasant experience and an insight into a vivid place of work in the Icelandic countryside. They are proud to invite their guests to a treat, both for body and mind, presenting to them how it is possible to grow tomatoes all year round in our dark and cold country.

   We invite our guests to a short presentation of our way to grow tomatoes and, through a standing exhibition, we provide an insight into the history of Icelandic horticulture. In a restaurant area next to the plants we serve a delicious warm tomato soup with home-baked bread, a selection of our tomatoes and, on good occasions, tomato-shots!

Website: www.fridheimar.is

13:00 - Skálholt

Skálholtsskóli – the centre for education, culture and dialogue of church and society – welcomes individuals and families as well as larger groups of different kinds for a longer or a shorter stay all year round, offering housing accomodation and restaurant services.

In the summer Skálholt is a much visited place by tourists of many nationalities, some only looking around for a while or staying for a good meal or a cup of coffee in the restaurant. But Skálholtsskóli is also an ideal place for meetings, conferences and similar events during the winter.

At Skálholt you can find religious services, rooms and cottages, a restaurant, a tour of the site the and 12th century dinner, conference facilities, tranquility days during winter months, workshops and retreats, exhibition facilities, Skálholt cathedral museum, hiking trails, a historical exhibit, a souvenir shop and a botanical garden

Website: www.skalholt.is

18:30 - Medieval dinner at Skálholt

Day 3 - The Golden Circle

After breakfast you drive to Gullfoss waterfall. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. After spending a good bit of time at Gullfoss waterfall you drive to the Geysir hot spring area. The Great Geysir was among the most notable geysers in the world and has been inactive for decades, but there are many other hot springs around it. From Geysir your direction is to the farm at Efsti Dalur where you will have your lunch. At Efsti Dalur there is a restaurant and a café. At the restaurant and café you can see into cowhouse. After lunch you will be driven to Þingvellir. Þingvellir is a natural wonder on an international scale, with the geologic history and the biosystem of Lake Þingvallavatn forming a unique entity, a magnificent sight. When you have seen the sights at Þingvellir you will drive towards Keflavík international airport. Along the way you will see a little bit of Reykjavík before travelling back home.

8:00 – Breakfast

10:00 - Gullfoss

Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. It is in the wide Hvítá river which rushes southwards. 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.

11:00 - Geysir

One of the greatest natural attractions in Iceland and part of the famous Great Geysir, or Stóri-Geysir, which has been dormant since 1916 when it suddenly ceased to spout. The Great Geysir was among the most notable geysers in the world, such as those in Yellowstone Park, New Zealand and North Iceland.

12:30 - Lunch at Efsti Dalur

At Efsti Dalur there is a restaurant and a café. At the restaurant and café you can see into cowhouse. The restaurant and the café are very homey and cozy. They offer local food, for instance vegetables, milk, icecream, etc.

Website: www.efstidalur.is

14:30 - Þingvellir

No single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Þingvellir by the river Öxará.

At Þingvellir – literally "Parliament Plains" –  the Alþingi general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. Today Þingvellir is a protected national shrine. According to the law, passed in 1928, the protected area shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation, under the preservation of the Alþingi.

In the last few decades research has made it clear that Þingvellir is a natural wonder on an international scale, with the geologic history and the biosystem of Lake Þingvallavatn forming a unique entity, a magnificent sight.

Website: www.thingvellir.is

 

 

 

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.

Stong, Commonwealth Settlement and Gjáin gorge

Some early settlers of Iceland chose the fertile valley of Thjorsádal as the site for their farmsteads. They were unaware of the fact that the tranquil-looking, snow-capped mountain towering on the south was an active volcano. In 1104, there was a massive eruption in Mt. Hekla, and In 1939 Scandinavian archaeologists excavated Stöng and revealed what was left of the smothered Saga-age farm. The findings provided fresh data about the design and construction of Viking long-houses and their evolution up to the 12th century and other valuable information about the period known as the Commonwealth.the settlement in Thjorsádal was buried under tons of volcanic debris and ash.

In 1974, on the 1100th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland, architect Hordur Agustsson and a team of historians pieced together the available data and meticulously constructed a replica of Stöng at Skeljastadir, a few kilometers down the valley.


The reconstructed farm is called Thjodveldisbaer (Commonwealth Farm), and is perhaps the best representation of Icelandic medieval dwelling. What is actually left of the original farm at Stöng are some stone foundations, now covered by a large protective wooden shelter.


Stöng is also known for being the home of the prominent farmer and warrior Gaukur Trandilsson, who according to a brief account in Njáls Saga, was killed by Asgrimur Ellida-Grimsson, his foster-brother, in a duel of honor apparently over Gaukur's affair with a kinswoman of Grimsson. In the 19th century some old bones were discovered in a steep cliff on the north bank of Thjorsá River, further down the valley, supposed to be those of Gaukur from Stöng. The place is called Gaukshofdi (Gaukur's bluff).

Haifoss and Granni

The waterfall Háifoss is situated near the volcano Hekla in the south of Iceland. The river Fossá, a tributary of Þjórsá, drops here from a height of 122 m. This is the second highest waterfall of the island.

From the historical farm Stöng, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Hekla in the Middle Ages and reconstructed, it is possible to hike to the waterfall along the Fossá (5 to 6 hours both directions). Above the waterfall, there is also a parking lot, so the hiking can also be made in the other direction.

Hjalparfoss Waterfall

Hjalparfoss is a beautiful, two stepped waterfall near the confluence of Rivers Thjorsa and Fossa in the Thjorsa Valley. The surrounding area is called Hjalp (Help), because the travellers across the Sprengisandur Route found great help in reaching a vegetated area to graze their horses after a long journey in the barren interior.

As elsewhere in the valley, the signs of the eruptions of Mt. Hekla are very prominent by the waterfall, ashes everywhere.

Mini-Zoo & Open farm

For family travelers, mini-zoos or petting zoos are an enjoyable option. Another option is a visit to an open farm where visitors are allowed to watch the farm animals and pet them and assist in feeding them. These visits are very popular with the youngest generation.

Skalholt Church

Situated in the lower part of the Biskupstungur valley between the rivers Hvítá and Brúará, Skálholt is one of Iceland's places of special historical interest. For seven centuries it was the scene of the most dramatic events which shaped the political, spiritual and cultural life in Iceland. Its early history is traced back to the 11th century when religious disputes were at their sharpest in Iceland. Within two centuries of the settlement of Iceland, the first bishopric was founded at Skálholt in 1056 for South Iceland, and soon a second at Hólar in 1109 for North Iceland.

The man who chose Skálholt as the site of the first Episcopal see in Iceland was Ísleifur (1006 - 1080), son of Gissur the White. Skálholt had earlier been his patrimonial estate and his grandfather, Teitur Ketilbjarnarson, was the first settler there. According to an old account, Skálholt was at that time "the largest town in Iceland". Ísleifur's father, who was a wealthy aristocrat and a redoubtable political figure as well, played a decisive role in the Christianization of Iceland and the future status of the church. He built the first church in Iceland at Skálholt around the year 1000.

In the 12th century bishop Klængur Þorsteinsson built a great cathedral at Skálholt. It was a sumptuous edifice made of timber shipped from Norway. For centuries Skálholt was the centre of learning and culture in Iceland, a status which lasted up to the Reformation in 1550.

In 1954, a team of archaeologists, while digging up the foundations of the old cathedral, came upon a sarcophagus which was believed to contain the skeleton of Páll Jónsson, one of the most powerful bishops of Skálholt. His sarcophagus, together with a few relics found at the scene, is now on display in an underground vault beneath the new memorial church built during 1956-1963 on the site of the old cathedral. All churches in Scandinavia contributed financially to its construction.

The last Catholic bishop of Iceland, Jón Arason, was executed at Skálholt in 1550, along with his two sons. He had opposed the Reformation imposed upon Iceland by King Christian III of Denmark. Today, a memorial stands at the site of the execution. Arason's Episcopal robes are on display at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík.

Today, Skálholt is visited for the new cathedral, the tomb of bishops, the museum, and the collection of ancient books in the tower. A public high school is at Skálholt.

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 Great Geysir

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").

Cafés

They are everywhere. Quite a few are in the capital and larger towns, but some can be found in the most unlikely places such as an old barracks in a field or a shed by the sea.

Thingvellir, National park

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 geysirs of Haukadalur, Þingvellir is part of the most famous sights of Iceland, the Golden Circle.

Þingvellir is a designated UNESCO World Heritag Site

Thingvellir, 50 km (31 miles) to the east of Reykjavík, is the national shrine of Iceland. Icelands most historic site, and one of its most beautiful places, it 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 is 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 for 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 centre 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, the large quantity of sulfur and salt, the lake is extremely light and the water seems to be in less weight than other lakes.

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 Kirkjubæjarklaustur Vík Vestmannaeyjar Hvolsvöllur Flúðir Laugarvatn Reykholt Laugarás Borg Brautarholt Hveragerði Árnes Selfoss Hella Stokkseyri Eyrarbakki Þykkvibær Þórlákshöfn