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History and Culture

Ægissíðuhellir

Many believe that the man-made caves in Ægissíða date from before Norse settlement in Iceland and that Celtic monks resided there. One of those who believed this theory was poet Einar Benediktsson, who recruited painter Kjarval to sketch the etchings on the wall. He also got Matthías Jochumson, the parish pastor at Oddi, to conduct a mass in Kirkjuhellir.

A total of twelve caves are known in the Ægissíða farmland. Several are currently accessible, but most are either closed or dangerous to access. All the caves are privately owned, so they cannot be accessed without the permission of the occupants.

For years, the caves have been a popular destination for travellers, with the most popular of them being Fjóshellir. Fjóshellir consists of a tall and wide dome. The ceiling is higher at the end of the cave, and its shape is reminiscent of an altar or chapel. There is an embossed cross on the middle of the cave wall, an indication that Christians dwelt there.

The caves have not yet been dated with any accuracy, and scholars disagree as to whether the caves can reasonably be assumed to pre-date the settlement period.

For years, the caves were used as shelter for livestock or to store hay. Fjóshellir was used as a barn for the Ægissíða cowshed. The cave was linked to the cowshed by rail, and the hay was pulled in a cart along the tracks.

Árnesinga Folk Museum - The House at Eyrarbakki

Húsið (The House) at Eyrarbakki is one of Iceland's oldest buildings, built in 1765 when Danish merchants were allowed to overwinter in Iceland for the first time. Merchant families lived in the House for almost two centuries and over that period the House was the center for art and European culture in Iceland; fashion, music and literature spread from there throughout the country. Eyrarbakki village was at that time one of the largest harbours and trading places in Iceland, serving farmers along the coastline from the extreme west to the extreme east.

At the Árnesinga Folk Museum's varied exhibitions in The House, visitors can experience past times and learn about the remarkable history of the building.

Opening hours:

15th May - 15th Sept. Daily: 11-18. And by arrangement

16th Sept - 14th May: By arrangement.

Ásavegur - trail

The trail Ásavegur used to be an important highway through the South of Iceland. This centuries-old man-made route would be used by people from different directions to go fishing, for example, or to collect their sheep and cattle from the mountains. Between Orrustudal and Hnaus is a marked hiking trail along the old Ásavegur trail which is about a 6 km. walk. On this trail is the highest point of Flóahreppur with breathtaking views in all directions. Information signs on Orrustudalur (The Valley of Battles), Skotmannshóll (Archer's Hill) and Mannabeinsmelur (The Human Bone Field) are located at different points during the hike. These locations are a great part of Icelandic history. Here is the stage of Flóamanna-Saga, two big battles were fought in Orrustudalur valley and from Skotmannshóll or Archer's Hill came one of the greatest bowshots in the saga

Baugstadir Creamery

The creamery was established by local farmers in 1905 and operated until 1952. Its products were butter and cheese. The Baugsstaðir creamery was powered by a water wheel and is the only one of Iceland's creameries that still retains its original equipment. A little to the west are the ruins of the creamery's storage, which was an icehouse and used to store products before they were transported to market. The creamery's main markets were in England as well as in Iceland.

Brydebud

Brydebúð is situated in the older section of Vík, on the west side of the village, below the so-called "banks". This small museum is at the roots of the mountain Reynisfjall, not far from the ocean.

The storefront was originally built in the Westman Islands in 1831 and was named Godthaabs-outlet. In the year 1895, the merchant J.P.T. Bryde bought this old storefront, had it taken apart and moved to Vik by ship.

Store business was ongoing in Brydebúð until 1980: Bryde-store from 1895 to 1914, Þorsteinn Þorsteinsson & Co. from 1914 to 1926 and Kaupfélag Skaftfellinga from 1926 to 1980.

Dælarétt

Dælarétt is a centuries-old sheep pen surrounded by beautiful landscape, built from rocks of the great Þjórsárhraun lava field. Dælarétt is considered to be the oldest sheep pen in the country and has now been preserved. Close by are earthquake fissure; use caution around the fissures.

Drepstokkshóll

West of the village Eyrarbakki and close to Ölfusá River is the homestead of the medieval farm Drepstokkur and birthplace of Bjarni Herjólfsson the seafarer. There is a hill called Drepstokkshóll which is believed to be where Bjarni stood when he decided to sail for America and in 985 AD he was the first European to reach the American continent. His journey was recorded in the Greenlanders Saga on the vellum pages of Flatey Book in the 14th century. His discovery influenced later explorations to America, including those of Leifur "the lucky" Eiríksson. The voyages of Icelanders to Vinland and other lands west of Greenland were known in Europe long before the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Some scholars believe Columbus' idea for his famous journey to America sprang from a visit to Iceland.

Eyrarbakkakirkja - church

The wooden church in Eyrarbakki was built in 1890 and one of the first churches in Iceland to have two floors. The altarpiece is a famous artifact and was painted by Queen Louise of Denmark, wife of King Christian IX.

Eyrarbakki Maritime Museum

The museum takes the visitor back to old times in a small Icelandic fishing village. On display is a fine collection of artifacts connected with fisheries, crafts, social and cultural life of the common people durning the last 100 years.

Ferjunes

A medieval ferry dock for crossing Þjórsá River.

Flóaáveita - canals

Flóaáveitan are canals that run through the entire Flói region, from Ölfusá in the west to Þjórsá River in the east. This monumental construction consisted of 300 km long canals and 900 km of embankments. The Flói irrigation system reached over 12 thousand hectares of land and became a major transition in farming and production in the area at the time. The construction of Flói irrigation system began in 1922 and irrigation began its activities in 1927. When the irrigation was inaugurated in 1927 it was one of the greatest structures in Europe and to this day it plays an important role in transferring water between farms. Beside the sluice gate you will find an information board with more details about the Flói irrigation system. To the east of the sluice gate is a marked hiking trail along Hvítá (about 4,4 km, one way).

Folk Museum and Museum of Transport in Skogar

Situated next to the stunning Skógafoss waterfall in extraordinarily beautiful natural surroundings, the Skógar Folk Museum preserves the cultural heritage of southern Iceland through its collection of tools and equipment, handicrafts, old buildings, books, manuscripts, and documents. A key part of the Museum's work has been the reconstruction of several old farmhouses, so visitors can see how Icelanders lived in the past. In 2002 the Museum opened a new Museum of Transport. It not only explores the history of transportation, communication, and technology in Iceland in the 19th and 20th centuries but also includes a history of Icelandic postal services and electrification.During the summer the Café Skogar, with its delightful selection of Icelandic soups, sandwiches, and home-baked cakes, is a charming place for lunch or just a snack. (In winter, the Café is available only for group lunches.) The Museum shop, located in the Museum of Transport, offers an excellent selection of books and Icelandic memorabilia, all at reasonable prices.

Gaulverjabaer church

Gaulverjabær has been a church site and manor since early settlement. Loftur Gamli from Norway was Gaulverjabær's first settler and named the place after people from Gaular in Norway, which is a province of Sogn and Fjordane. In 1930 a significant collection of 360 silver coins from the first century of Icelandic settlement was discovered at this site. The current church was built in 1909 and has now been preserved.

Hafnarnes lighthouse and viewpoint

Hafnarnes is an area on the edge of the town Thorlákshöfn where you are surrounded by beautiful cliffs and the majestic ocean. A viewpoint is located in the area and from there you have panoramic views over the mountains surrounding the area such as the volcanoes Mt. Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull. This area is also very popular amongst surfers and usually you can spot a few surfing. There is a small lighthouse on the cliffs, it is not open for visitors but is very picturesque with the waves banging against the cliffs.

Heklacentre

The Hekla Center houses a contemporary, multimedia exhibition on Mount Hekla, its history, and its influence on human life in Iceland from the time of the island's settlement until now.

The exhibition emphasizes the influence of the volcano on the inhabited areas close to it, that is, the districts of Landsveit, Holt, and Rangárvellir. The history of these districts is traced and the story of people's struggles with sandstorms and eruptions told. The Center has an outstanding restaurant and facilities for meetings and conferences.

The Hekla Center strongly supports cooperation with scientists, organizing and sponsoring conferences and exhibitions where the latest scientific research and findings can be presented. In addition, the Center has special educational materials for the schoolgroups that visit from all over the country, as well as for other visiting groups of Icelanders or foreigners.


The restaurant
Leirubakki has a first-class restaurant run by chefs who have earned excellent reputations at popular restaurants in Iceland and abroad.

A splendid specialities menu is available for guests, as well as special group menus on request. The highest standards are met in choice of ingredients and preparation. The ingredients are purchased locally, such as lamb from the Landmanna pastures and trout from Veiðivötn and Ytri-Rangá.

The morning and lunch menus focus on lighter dishes, while dinner menus are more extensive and varied. Coffee, cakes, bread and rolls are served all day until 6 pm, when the dinner menu takes over.

The dining room is in the Hekla Center, where a unique view of Hekla through its large windows underlines the proximity of the mighty volcano and Iceland's highlands.

The restaurant is open every day in the summers from 10 am until 10 pm, and in the winters according to a flexible schedule and special arrangements.

The Hekla Center is a working tourist information center, providing tourists advice about all of the surrounding area, including Mount Hekla, and organizing numerous trips to the mountain from Leirubakki.

Hella

Hella is the municipality's main population centre, with over 800 residents. The economy of Hella consists mainly of services to the agricultural sector. The town hosts a slaughterhouse for large livestock, a meat processing plant, chicken slaughterhouse and adjacent processing plant, veterinary centre, incubation station, automobile workshop, electrical workshop, woodworking shop and various other smaller agricultural service providers.

Hella also has a grocery store, restaurants, hotel and guesthouses, nursing and retirement homes, swimming pool, laundry, healthcare centre, glass workshop, fish processing and seafood store, electrical appliance and gift store, bank, post office, camping ground, pharmacy, tyre shop, gas station, sports facilities, primary and nursery schools, as well as various other services and public bodies. In addition, the town hall and service centre for the municipality are located in Hella.

Hella's history began in 1927, when a shop was opened at the location. It was later replaced by the co-operative society Þór, and as the co-op grew and prospered, Hella became the main trading centre in the western part of the Rangárvallasýsla region, extending across the farmlands Gaddstaðir, Helluvað and Nes at Rangárvellir.

The village grew considerably in the sixties when many of the people working on the development of power plants in the area built homes and settled there. Growth slowed down after that, but since the turn of the century, Hella has grown steadily, with new apartments being constructed every year.

One of the best-known equine sports facilities in Iceland is located in Hella: Gaddstaðaflatir, also known as Rangárbakkar. The facilities include competition pitches for riding sports as well as an indoor riding arena. Five national meets have been held there, in 1986, 1994, 2004, 2008 and 2014, and the sixth is planned in 2020.

Herdisarvik

The former estate Herdísarvík, now abandoned, stood on the synonymous cove in Selvogur. The steep cliffs of Mt Herdísarvíkurfjall (329m) protrude behind it to the north and several lava tongues in its slopes bear witness to prehistoric eruptions in the area and some of them reached the sea. Along the coastline are still a few obvious ruins of ancient fishing outfits, which were declared inviolate in 1973.
According to the legend, a woman, Herdís, lived in Herdísarvík in the past and her sister, Krýsa, in Krýsuvík. They did not see eye to eye and were constantly at each other's throat. Both sisters practiced witchcraft and constantly played tricks on each other.
The renowned poet and entrepreneur Einar Benediktsson spent the last years of his life in his house in Herdísarvík. In 1935 he donated it to The University of Iceland and union professors sometimes spend their holidays there.

Hjorleifshofdi

Hjörleifshöfði or "Hjörleifur´s Headland" is a 221 m tuff rock promontory in the southwestern part of Mýrdalssandur, formed in the latter part of the Last ice age, by an eruption under the glacier.

Hraungerdi church

Hraungerði is a church manor and former assembly site. The land once belonged to Hróðgerður the Wise, one of the first settlers and progenitor of the clan Oddverjar. The first mention of a church in Hraungerði is in Bishop Páll's records from around 1200 AD and since then there have been numerous churches built in Hraungerði. The current church, established in 1902, was designed by architect Eiríkur Gíslason from Bitra and is now preserved.

Icelandic Wonders

The Ghost Centre is located in the same building as the Icelandic Wonders museum. It features all of Iceland's most famous ghosts. Ghost appearances are frequently mentioned in the sagas, dating back to the beginning of Icelandic history. Ghosts can appear in all living shapes or forms and some of these are still around today. Upon entry, guests are provided with a CD-player to guide them through the 24 ghost stories. Guests walk through the ghost-maze, where they will experience the stories in the environment where the spooky tales actually happened. The stories can be listened to in Chinese, English, German, French, Scandinavian, Japanese, Russian and Icelandic. In the reception area guests will find our Ghost Bar with drinks and a fabulous view of the ocean.

Kambur

A notorious robbery, called Kambsrán, was committed at this spot in 1827. Four men broke into the farm at night, tied up the farmer Hjörtur Jónsson as well as the members of his household and ransacked the house in search of money. They ended up stealing about 1000 state dollars. The thieves left behind some evidence and it was the famous sea captain Þuríður Einarsdóttir who finally solved the case.

Keldur at Rangárvellir

Keldur is a historic settlement where Jón Loftsson, the chief of the Oddaverjar clan, lived during the last years of his life. Keldur also had a Catholic monastery. There is a medieval-type turf farm at the site, the only large turf farm that has been preserved in South Iceland. There is an underground tunnel leading from the hall, thought to date from the 12th or 13th century, which was probably built as an escape during a time of conflict.

Although most of the houses date from the 19th century, the oldest part of the farm building is the oldest preserved part of a turf farm in Iceland. A number of outhouses have also been preserved at the farm. There is also a church there, built by constable Guðmundur Brynjólfsson in 1875.

The church is built of timber and clad with iron. The pulpit, altar and candle arms were built by Hjörtur Oddsson, joiner and farmer at Eystri-Kirkjubær. The altarpiece illustrates the Last Supper and is by Ámundi Jónsson, joiner in Syðra-Langholt. The church underwent repairs in 1956-1957. Gréta and Jón Björnsson painted and decorated the church, like they did with the church at Oddi.

Keldur derives its name from the springs that can be found in the farmland. The farm and its occupants are mentioned in many works of medieval literature, including Njal's Saga, Sturlunga Saga and the Saga of Saint Thorlákur.

The old farm at Keldur is managed by the National Museum of Iceland and can be visited daily during the summer.

Knarrarósviti - lighthous

Built in 1938-1939, the lighthouse was the first one in Iceland to be built out of reinforced concrete. The lighthouse is the tallest building in South Iceland, 26,2 metres (86 feet) high. It was designed by the engineer Axel Sveinsson as a blend of functionalism and art nouveau (jugendstil).

Kolsgarður

Kolsgarður is a path made from turf believed to be from the 10th century. Kolur from Kolsholt made this path so he could meet a woman called Ragnheiður from Ragnheiðarstaðir since swamps were between their two farms and Kolur did not want to meet Ragnheiður all wet and muddy. To this day the path can be spotted in the landscape.

LÁ Art Museum

LÁ Art Museum (Listasafn Árnesinga) welcomes you. It runs ambitious and various shows of contemporary as well as modern art in its four spacious exhibitions rooms. The exhibitions reflect our cultural heritage and our contemporary change.

The bright seating area offers visitors the chance to relax in a peaceful setting whilst browsing through art related reading material supplied. The Museum also houses a small café and the children´s corner gives the museum´s younger visitors a chance to enjoy themselves.

The Museum is owned by the eight Municipalities in Árnesinga County and supported by the Museum Council of Iceland.

LÁ Art Museum on Facebook

Laugardælir

Laugardælir is a small hamlet near the town of Selfoss. Laugardælir was one of Iceland's busiest ferry sites until a bridge was built across Ölfusá in Selfoss in 1891. The church at Laugardælir was built in 1965 using mainly concrete and it is 300 m2 in total. In the church cemetery is the burial site of former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer (1943-2008).

Loftsstaðir

Loftstaðir is a medieval fishing station. A great sorcerer called Galdra-Ögmundur lived there around 1600. On a hill nearby, called Loftstaðahóll, is a huge and age-old stone cairn.

Nupsstadur

At Nupsstadur there are remarkable old buildings that are believed to be typical for farms in Iceland in past centuries. The one you should notice is the chapel, one of very few remaining turf churches in Iceland. The chapel is most likely from a church built in 1650. However church has not been at Nupsstadur since 1765.

The chapel was proclaimed inviolate in 1930 and was the first house in Iceland to receive that and was then re-conscrated in 1961.

Just north of Nupsstadir lies the Nupsstadaforest, magnificent copsewood that grows west of Skeidararjokull glacier and close to the famous Greenlagoon. The forest is a paradise for hikers but guidance when driving there is recommended.

Oddi church

Oddi at Rangárvellir is a historic church site, farm and vicarage. In earlier times, Oddi was one of the most important seats of chieftains and education, with Snorri Sturluson being one notable figure who grew up there.

Oddi stands quite far down in the Rangárvellir region, just between Ytri- and Eystri-Rangá, with the river Þverá flowing just below Oddatorfa. Oddi was a major farm for a number of centuries and was blessed with rich pastures. The farm controlled numerous smallholdings and had enormous influence.

One of the more famous pastors who served at Oddi was poet Matthías Jochumsson, author of Iceland's National Anthem, whose poetry includes glowing descriptions of the surrounding landscape.

It is believed that a church has stood at Oddi since Icelanders first adopted the Christian faith. The current church is a timber church from 1924 and seats around 100. The church was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the State Architect of Iceland. The church was renovated, painted and decorated in 1953 by Gréta and Jón Björnsson and re-consecrated the same year.

Among the most important items owned by the church are a silver chalice believed to be from around 1300, an altarpiece from 1895 showing Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and a baptismal font carved and painted by carpenter Ámundi Jónsson.

During the Commonwealth Era, Oddi was the ancestral home of the Oddverjar clan, one of the most powerful family clans of the period. The most famous member of the family was Sæmundur the Learned Sigfússon. Sæmundur the Learned studied at the Black School (the Sorbonne) in Paris. He was probably one of the first Icelandic historians to write a history of the Kings of Norway, although the manuscript is now lost. The grandson of Sæmundur the Learned was Jón Loftsson, who was one of the most powerful chieftains in Iceland and was, moreover, one of the most respected of them all, the most peaceful and beloved. Jón fostered Snorri Sturluson and educated him.

Six pastors serving in Oddi have become the Bishop of Iceland: Ólafur Rögnvaldsson, Björn Þorleifsson, Ólafur Gíslason, Árni Þórarinsson, Steingrímur Jónsson and Helgi G. Thordarsen.

The Oddi Association (Oddafélagið) was established in 1990. One of the main objectives of the Association is to re-establish the seat of learning at Oddi in Rangárvellir. Members currently number 200, and the patron of the Association is Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the former President of Iceland. The Association holds the Oddastefna (Oddi conference) each year, where numerous lectures are given on the importance and history of Oddi.

The current pastor of Oddi is Elína Hrund Kristjánsdóttir.

Ölfusárbrú - suspension bridge

A suspension bridge over Ölfusá River was first built in 1891 and became the largest bridge in Iceland at the time. In September 1944, when the bridge had been in use for 53 years, the eastern bearing cables broke due to the weight of two trucks. A new suspension bridge was built in 1945 which only took five and a half months but while it was being constructed the old bridge had been fixed for temporary use. The bridge is 84 meters long and is in the town Selfoss.

Rútsstaða-Suðurkot

The birthplace of the great Icelandic artist and painter Ásgrímur Jónsson (1876-1956). He was a pioneer of Icelandic visual art and the first Icelander to become a professional painter. Ásgrímur studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen between 1900 and 1903.

Self guided walk in Hella

The archaeology app takes you on a self-guided tour in the village of Hella. Hella does not have a very long history but there has been a farm, Gaddstaðir, at Hella for few decades. The first inhabitant to move to Hella which didn 't have the goal to be a farmer was Þorsteinn Björnsson. He moved in in 1927, he opened a store which he named Hella. From that moment that village started to develop and the name Hella grew to the village. The app will take you for an approximately 1 1/2 hour walk around the village where you will get to know a lot more. To download the "wapp" app search in app store or google play, it's free.

Selfosskirkja - church

Selfoss Church was built from 1952 to 1956 and consecrated on Palm Sunday, 25 March 1956. It was designed by the headmaster of the Technical College in Selfoss, Bjarni Pálsson (1912-1987). The building was expanded between 1978 and 1984; a tower, porch and congregation hall with a kitchen and facilities, which now serve the purpose of a convention center, was added to the structure.

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.

Skogar church

Skógar was a church site from shortly after the adoption of Christianity in Iceland around 1000 AD; the first church was built by about 1100, dedicated to St. Nicholas. In the early centuries Skógar Church was wealthy, but after the Reformation of 1550 it went into decline. The last church at Skógar was a modest wooden church, built in the mid-19th century, and demolished in 1890.
The present Skógar Church at the museum site was designed by architect Hjörleifur Stefánsson and consecrated in 1998. The exterior structure is new, while most of the interior fittings are from Kálfholt Church, built in 1879. The windows, which date from 1898, are from Gröf Church. One of the bells, which dates from about 1600, is from Höfðabrekka, the other from Ásar, Skaftártunga, from 1742. All the ecclesiastical goods date from the 17th and 18th centuries. The altarpiece is from Ásólfsskáli Church (1768), the candelabra from Steinar Church and Eyvindarhólar Church (16th century). Various religious ceremonies take place each year in Skógar Church. The church is non-denominational, and welcomes all Christian ceremonies.

The present Skógar Church at the museum site was designed by architect Hjörleifur Stefánsson and consecrated in 1998. The exterior structure is new, while most of the interior fittings are from Kálfholt Church, built in 1879. The windows, which date from 1898, are from Gröf Church. One of the bells, which dates from about 1600, is from Höfðabrekka, the other from Ásar, Skaftártunga, from 1742. All the ecclesiastical goods date from the 17th and 18th centuries. The altarpiece is from Ásólfsskáli Church (1768), the candelabra from Steinar Church and Eyvindarhólar Church (16th century). Various religious ceremonies take place each year in Skógar Church. The church is non-denominational, and welcomes all Christian ceremonies.

Stokkseyrarkirkja - church

There has been a church in Stokkseyri for centuries. Its current church is the fifth one and was built in 1886. The main building material is wood, surfaced with corrugated iron. A common held belief was that if the church door would be kept open a ship would not sink and well into the 20th century the church door was propped open when ships were at sea in bad weather.

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).

Strandarkirkja church

Strandarkirkja church is located in Selvogur (Seal Cove) and was originally built in the 12th century. The story relates that during one night when a group of sailors tried to navigate back to Iceland in a storm. The southern coast of Iceland is notorious for its hidden reefs and rough coast. The distressed sailors prayed to God for a safe return and vowed to build a church wherever they landed. When they ended their prayer an angel, seemingly made of light, appeared before their bow. The angel guided them through the rough surfs and led them into a bay for safe landing. The sailors kept their promise and built a wooden church at the site and named it Strandarkirkja. The bay nearby is named Engilsvík (Angel's Bay) to commemorate the incident. Many miracles have been attributed to Strandarkirkja and there was a time when it was one of the richest churches in Iceland from the donations of Icelanders coming from all over the country in hopes of having their prayers and wishes come true. It has more supporters all over the world than any other church in Iceland and is often referred to as the 'miracle church' with the locals' longstanding belief that it has profound, divine powers.

Strönd at Rangárvellir

Strönd at Rangárvellur is now best known for its 18-hole golf course, run by the Hella Golf Club, but there is also an excellent restaurant there, located in the golf club's club house. The restaurant is open to the public year-round, where the emphasis is on local produce.

The Hella Golf Club moved to Strönd in 1972 after operating for two decades at Gaddstaðaflatir at Hella. Since then, the club has put much work into improving and expanding the area, and it is now one of Iceland's best golf courses.

Strönd has a much longer history, however, and from 1933 to 1970, a boarding school for the district was located there. Strönd was also the district assembly site for Rangárvellir and had a post office, central telephone office and an assembly hall, where many of the district's biggest events were held.

The Ægissíða Caves

Many believe that the man-made caves in Ægissíða date from before Norse settlement in Iceland and that Celtic monks resided there. One of those who believed this theory was poet Einar Benediktsson, who recruited painter Kjarval to sketch the etchings on the wall. He also got Matthías Jochumson, the parish pastor at Oddi, to conduct a mass in Kirkjuhellir.

A total of twelve caves are known in the Ægissíða farmland. Several are currently accessible, but most are either closed or dangerous to access. All the caves are privately owned, so they cannot be accessed without the permission of the occupants.

For years, the caves have been a popular destination for travellers, with the most popular of them being Fjóshellir. Fjóshellir consists of a tall and wide dome. The ceiling is higher at the end of the cave, and its shape is reminiscent of an altar or chapel. There is an embossed cross on the middle of the cave wall, an indication that Christians dwelt there.

The caves have not yet been dated with any accuracy, and scholars disagree as to whether the caves can reasonably be assumed to pre-date the settlement period.

For years, the caves were used as shelter for livestock or to store hay. Fjóshellir was used as a barn for the Ægissíða cowshed. The cave was linked to the cowshed by rail, and the hay was pulled in a cart along the tracks.

The Icelandic Farmhouse

At Austur-Meðalholt is the Icelandic Turf House exhibition and where one of Iceland's best preserved turf farms can be found. It is a great example of houses built using natural materials, a subtle and almost seamless extension of nature itself. The farmhouse tradition embodies an important element of Icelandic history and the Icelandic way of life over the centuries.

The Saga Centre at Hvolsvollur, The story of Burnt Njall

At the Saga Centre in Hvolsvöllur, guests are invited into a medieval world of Icelandic culture in the early centuries of Iceland's history. The exhibition covers such subjects as ocean travel and navigation, religion, Viking cosmology, and the literary art of the sagas, Iceland's most important contribution to world literature. Prominence is given to Njáls Saga, the masterpiece of Icelandic sagas, which takes place in the Rangárvellir region. The saga tells of the close friendship between the hero, Gunnar of Hlídarendi, and the sage, Njáll of Bergthórshvoll; and it tells of their wives, who are sworn enemies and think nothing of sacrificing the lives of slaves and labourers in the service of their own virulent disputes, it tells of powerful love, conflicts and deceit, battles and holy reconciliation. The pagan way of thinking and complicated intrigues, gives Gunnar´s enemies the right to kill him and the sage Njáll and his wife are burned to death in their home with their sons. In the Viking Hall, a replica of a medieval longhouse, its walls paneled with timber, and the benches are clad with horsehide, the guest can sit down or continue to the model of the assembly site at Þingvellir around 1000 AD. The Centre also houses an interesting exhibition on the history of commerce and the cooperative movement in South of Iceland.


Open summer 09:00 - 19:00 from June 1. - Septemer 1.

Þingdalur

Þingdalur was formally established in the 16th century but was an assembly site ever since the settlement of Iceland and last used in 1947. Þingdalur is located inside a forest close to the farm and has beautiful panoramic views in all directions. It is also the last known residence of the ghost Kampholts-Móri; in the 18th century a young boy drowned after having been denied shelter at a farm from severe weather conditions outside. Before he died he is said to have sworn to haunt the farmer's family for 9 generations.

Thingvellir Educational Centre

Þingvellir was declared a national park in 1930. A law was passed designating Þingvellir as "a protected national shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of parliament, never to be sold or mortgaged."

Preservation measures at Þingvellir were modelled on the national parks that had been established somewhat earlier in the United States to stem changes to the natural environment there resulting from encroachment by settlers. National parks conserved large uninhabited areas, which people could visit and enjoy - but not settle or develop.

Iceland identified a similar need to preserve certain natural and historical sites for future generations to enjoy them in their original state. Today, Þingvellir is one of the most frequently visited tourist sites in the country. Each year, thousands of visitors go there to become better acquainted with Iceland's greatest historical site and jewel of nature.

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.

Thuridar cottage

Þuríðarbúð was erected in 1949 in memory of Þuríður Einarsdóttir and old working procedures.

Þykkvibær

Þykkvibær is the oldest rural village in Iceland and was in fact the only rural village in the country for around a thousand years. Þykkvibær used to have a range of services, such as a grocery store, slaughterhouse, meat processing plant, primary school and nursery school. Over time, however, as the population dwindled, these services have been moved to Hella or discontinued. At present, the local authorities operate a sports centre, and there is also a potato processing plant in the area, Þykkvabæjar. Þykkvibær boasts of one of the most extensive potato growing operations in Iceland, and the trademark Þykkvibæjar is extremely well known in Iceland.

In years gone past, Þykkvibær used to be isolated, as the river Þverá flowed above the village and made transport difficult. In 1923 came a remarkable turning point in the history of the village when local people banded together and constructed the Djúpósstífla dam, which diverted Þverá into the Hólmsá river. The land above Þykkvibær slowly dried out, and the farmers in the area were able to use it to grow crops. The construction is all the more remarkable as everything was done by hand. The dam is 340 m long and 15 m wide and is still standing.

Fishing used to be practiced extensively from Þykkvibær, and farmers would often travel there from further inland for the fishing season. Seafaring was subject to a wide range of difficulties, and in 1896, the entire Þykkvibær fishing fleet was destroyed. All fishing vessel operation subsequently stopped until 1916, when one vessel was operated from the area. Their number then steadily increased. In 1923, however, no one went fishing, as all working hands were busy constructing the Djúpósstífla dam. Late in March 1955, an eight-oar boat with 11 seamen on board was sailing out the sea. When the boat came out of the outflow channel, however, it capsized, throwing everyone into the ocean. Luckily, all survived. The event was considered particularly remarkable as a photograph was taken at the very moment that the boat was capsizing. This accident put a complete stop to all fishing activities in Þykkvibær.

Tourism services are being developed in Þykkvibær and in the surrounding areas. At present, accommodation and refreshments can be found in several locations, and riding tours along the Þykkvibær shoreline have become a regular feature.

Villingaholt church

A church and farm site and home to the great 17th century saga writer Jón Erlendsson; thanks to his work many of the Icelandic Sagas were preserved that would otherwise have been lost. Later the home of Jón Gestsson (1863-1945) craftsman and farmer who designed and constructed the current church in 1910-1911. The church has a tower, choir loft and seats for 100 people. A little further to the south is a hill next to the school which used to be where the church and farm were located. Due to frequent sandstorms and heavy damage from earthquakes in 1784 they were moved to the current location.

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