South Iceland differentiates from the rest of Iceland in its flatness. By international standars, of course, it is still quite mountainous, but much less so than the rest of the country. The coastline is smoother as well, much less riddled with fjords and inlets,. This makes for softer beaches, with the iconic Icelandic black sand. In the south-west lies Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and in the south-east lies Vatnajökull National Park. The south is home to natural wonders such as the Golden Circle and the wilderness of Þórsmörk.
The main communities of the area, after Reykjavik, are Höfn in Hornafjörður and the Westman Islands. The south is filled with natural wonders and possibilities, such as waterfalls, rivers, lakes, hot springs, lava fields, volcanoes, glaciers, geothermal pools, amazing hiking trails, museums and outdoor adventure opportunities all year around. Popular activities in South Iceland include hiking, horseback riding and fish angling.
The south of Iceland, like the whole country, has a rich historical heritage, and you can tour the places where the Icelandic Sagas take place. For instance you can tour the whole setting of Njal’s Saga, Thingvellir where the first parliament was held, and Skalholt, the site of several important churches.
Sightseeing in South Iceland should be an easy task, and there are a lot of exciting destinations to choose from.
The Golden Circle is the classic south-Icelandic tour. It comprises Gulfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir.
Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. and it is truly one of the country’s treasures. During the first half of the 20th century there was much speculation about utilising the waterfall to generate electricity. At the time the waterfall was rented out to foreign investors by Tomas Tomasson and Halldor Halldorsson. Upon hearing about the plans for Gullfoss, Sigridur Tomasdottir (daughter of Tomas Tomasson) was determined to save it, and at one point she threatened to throw herself down the waterfall. She didn’t have to though, the plans were dropped and Gullfoss is now is protected. Sigridur’s stone memorial is next to the waterfall.
Other spectacular waterfalls in South Iceland are Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss.
Geysir is one of the greatest natural attractions of Iceland, and where the phenomenon of a "Geyser" draws its name. Geysir is an erupting hot spring which used to spout 18 meters of burning hot geothermal water into the air every two hours or so, until it stopped completely in 1935. Even though the area is named after Geysir and people come to view it, Strokkur is where the action is. Strokkur erupts regularly, every 10 minutes or so, and it’s white column of boiling water can reach as high as 30 meters. Walking around the area you will see other hot and cold springs, mud pots of unusual colors, hissingstream wents, warm streams and primitive plants. There are a lot of exciting things to do in the area surrounding Geysir. Right across from it there is a restaurant and a hotel. There’s also a camp site, a souvenir shop and a multimedia museum. Activities such as ATV tours, horse rental, geothermal swimming, river rafting, fishing, golfing and helicopter sightseeing are available in the surrounding area as well.
Þingvellir is one of the most important places in the history of Iceland. It’s the birthplace of Althingi, the oldest still-existing parliament in the world. It’s where the lawspeaker would recite the law to a gathered group of people, and where disputes were settled. Thingvellir is where Christianity was made the official religion of Iceland in the year 1000. Independence of the republic of Iceland was proclaimed at Thingvellir on June 17th in 1944. Thingvellir has been a national park since 1928 because of it’s invaluable natural beauty. In this beautiful area you’ll find the perfect view over Thingvallavatn, the biggest lake in Iceland. There are small rivers and waterfalls to be found as well.
Þórsmörk is a mountain ridge and woodland nature reserve that was named after the Norse god Thor. It´s situated in the south of Iceland between Tindfjallajokull and the famous glacier Eyjafjallajokull. The climate in Thorsmork is especially warm because the valley is enclosed between glaciers. The area is surrounded by rugged and majestic mountains, glaciers and glacial rivers. You’ll also see beautiful green vegetation of moss, fern, birchwood and other kinds of small shrubs. Thorsmork is a popular destination for hikers, and it’s possible to take a lot of different tours. Scheduled buses drive from Reykjavik to Thorsmork and back in the summer. Camping sites and mountain huts are available.
Landmannalaugar is an area that is also a popular tourist destination in South Iceland. Not only can you soak in a clear geothermal pool for as long as you like, but you can also go hiking and see a number of unusual geological elements, for example the multicolored rhyolite mountains, and the lava fields close to the cervice center. You’ll get to see mountains in many shapes and colors. It is best to travel to Landmannalaugar from June through late September, as the road closes soon after that due to bad driving conditions.
The Geothermal area in Hveragerdi, which is a small town pretty close to Reykjavik, it takes about 40 minutes to drive there. Inside the town of Hveragerdi is an area of hot springs, the geo-park. It’s truly one of a kind, as nowhere else in the world is a populated area so close to an active high-temperature geothermal area. You can cook your own eggs in one of the hot springs, or bathe your feet in anti-bacterial mud that has been taken from the hot springs and cooled down. When in Hveragerdi you can also try the earthquake simulator in an earthquake exhibition next to the public library, and have ice cream with your family at one of the small shops in and around Hveragerdi.
Seljavallalaug is an outdoor pool in southern Iceland. Built in 1923, it’s one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. Seljavallalaug is close to the town Seljavellir, and waterfall Seljalandsfoss where there is a surrounding camp site. The pool is 25 metres long and 10 metres wide, and it was the largest pool in Iceland until 1936. It’s not the cleanest of pools, the water is green and is not frequently cleaned, but swimming in the beautiful Seljavallalaug with mountains surrounding you on a hot summer day is an unbelievable experience.
Jokulsarlon is a large glacial lagoon on the borders of Vatnajokull National Park. It began to evolve into a lagoon when the glacier started to recide from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. It has grown a lot since due to the melting glaciers. It’s the deepest lake in the country. Jokulsarlon is an extraordinary sight of blue icebergs floating through opaque blue water. It has been a setting for a few well known Hollywood movies, such as "Tomb Raider", "Batman Begins" and the Bond films "A View to a Kill" and "Die Another Day".
In the process of planning your trip to Iceland, don't miss out on what this region has to offer - South Iceland is filled with unique spots and endless possibilities!