Búrfellsstöð - Búrfell Station hydropower-plant.
Búrfell Station is Iceland's second largest hydropower-plant. It is second only to the new Kárahnjúkar hydropower-plant. Ca 800 people worked on building this massive powerplant, which was the biggest construction, Icelanders had undertaken. It was consecrated on the 2nd of May 1970 and harnesses Þjórsá river.
The hydropower-plant is owned by Iceland's National Power Company "Landsvirkjun" and located almost next to Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-age farm and Hjálparfoss waterfall (see the previous tips).
35 people work here on an average, but in the summer time it employs a lot of students who work on environmental projects in the valley and in the power-plant. The National Power Company's aim is to make Þjórsárdalur valley as attractive to travellers as possible. They had a part in building and running the Saga-age farm and left-over concrete from the dam was used for making a swimming pool in the valley.
Notice the mural decorations on the Station, they are the largest of its kind in Iceland. The artist was Sigurjón Ólafsson a very well known Icelandic artist, see my tip on his museum in Reykjavík.
It is open to visitors during the summer months June, July and August week-days from 13-17 and weekends from 13-16. They have an excellent interactive exhibition on the second floor amongst other interesting things to see. Do pay them a visit when in the area of Þjórsárdalur valley. There is free entrance and complementary coffee.
The historical Keldur -the oldest house in Iceland
Turf-houses are Iceland´s contribution to the world´s architecture and nowhere else in the world can these houses be found.
The oldest turf-house in Iceland is he historical farm of Keldur in South-Iceland. It is the only preserved big turf-house in the south. The ruins of 16-18 farmsteads have been found at Keldur.
Keldur farm is a historical place and here lived one of the characters in the Saga Njálusaga, Ingjaldur Höskuldsson, who lived at Keldur from 974 until around year 1000.
In the 12th and 13th century Keldur was one of the manors of one of the most powerful clans in Iceland, the Oddi clan, and Jón Loftsson (1124-1197), who was their chieftain, lived at Keldur until his death in 1197. He was the most powerful chieftain of the old Viking religion, Ásatrú religion, in the 12th century. He also lived at the manor Oddi, which is nearby.
The turf-houses at Keldur have been rebuilt many times. The present turf-houses were rebuilt after big earthquakes shook the houses in 1896 and 1912. The hall of the turf-houses is the oldest turf-house hall in Iceland.
Lava rocks from Hekla´s eruptions were used for building the farmstead at Keldur. And driftwood was also used as a building material.
The other buildings apart from the farm are f.ex. a smithy, a cattle-shed, a stable, store-houses, a stockyard and a smithy.
The oldest remaining structure in Iceland is to be found at Keldur. An underpass was found by accident, as it were, when the residents were digging for a septic tank. It is believed to be from the 11th-13th century, at the time of the Viking Sturlungaöld age. The underpass leads from the farm to the creek and is believed to have been a way out during the Sturlungaöld age war.
My mother´s cousin and her husband are the farmers of Keldur now, and his ancestors lived at Keldur. His grandfather was the last person to live in the old turf-farm, or until 1946.
They allowed us to have a look into the old turf-farm at Keldur and the church.
Since people are no longer living in the turf-houses they get cold and damp. So a drying system is needed to keep them dry.
The National Museum of Iceland bought the old turf-farm in 1942 and the farmhouse is part of the National Museum Historic Buildings Collection.
Urriðafoss - The Waterfall of the Trout/Salmon.
Urriðafoss waterfall - The Waterfall of the Trout/Salmon flows with the highest volume of all waterfalls in Iceland with a quantity of 360 m3/second!! The fall is 6 meters and the power is more than 100 MW. It is greyish in colour as it runs in the glacial river Þjórsá. In the winter Urriðafoss can freeze up with the depth of the ice reaching up to 20 meters. There is a smaller "waterfall" which runs into the river, called Urriðafosslækur "Urriðafoss-stream".
I visited Urriðafoss again in May 2014 and Urriðafoss-stream, which is usually small, had turned into a reddish roaring waterfall, which coloured the Þjórsá river red in parts.
Take care while walking by the river and don't get too close, it can be dangerous as the area is really rocky and the ground is uneven, so stay off the grassy areas and only walk on the path-ways.
Years ago there were plans of building a power plant in Urriðafoss and make a railway from Reykjavík to Urriðafoss. These plans did not come through at that time. Now there are plans again to build a power plant there. Should this happen Urriðafoss would all but disappear.
Stokkseyri - the museum town!
Stokkseyri is the town next to Eyrarbakki, they are only 7 km apart, and jokingly these towns are often referred to by Icelanders as "Stokkseyrarbakki".
It is a small town with ca 470 inhabitans, but a lot of activities, surprisingly so for such a small town. There is a very good restaurant there (see my tip on that) and people come especially there from Reykjavík (65 km) to get the lobster-soup and visit the museums. There is the "must-see" Icelandic Wonders museum, with its elves, trolls and Northern lights. There is also a Ghost museum in the same building and art galleries and art studios, where one can buy handmade Icelandic craft.
At Stokkseyri there is also "Veiðisafnið" or The Hunting Museum and is the only place in Iceland where you can see a giraffe :)
Plus there are organised Kayak tours, both on lakes, in the swamps and in the ocean.
The shore-side is very popular as well - I have added a tip on that. This town is just so worth a visit!
I have made a special page on Stokkseyri with tips on the museums there.
The beautiful river by town Hella.
Hella is the first town you reach after Selfoss town when driving in South-Iceland going east. Here are ca 780 inhabitants. It is a lovely agricultural area.
There is a brand-new hotel only 15 minutes away from Hella Hotel Lækur, which is a good place to stay if one is looking for Northern Lights as there is minimum light-pollution there.
By Hella is the most wonderfully calm river, my favourite river here in Iceland. It is wide (on an Icelandic standard) and so calm that it looks like a mirror.
Always when I travel in this part of Iceland I cannot resist stopping at Hella and having a picnic by the river and I recommend it - it is ever so calming.
The name of the river is Ytri-Rangá or Outer-Rangá river and is one of the best salmon rivers in Iceland further up inland.
Þorlákshöfn is a small fishing town in S-Iceland ca 50 kilometres from Reykjavík.
The population of Þorlákshöfn is ca 1.522 and the town is named after Bishop Þorlákur Helgi, who lived in the Middle ages. The town is the center of local government administration and has got a swimming pool, a church, camp-site, a guest-house, a library and a folk-museum. The Tourist information is at Town-hall (Ráðhúsið).
The main industry in Þorlákshöfn is fishery and fish processing. One of the largest lobster fisheries in Iceland, Rammi hf., is in Þorlákshöfn.
One of the best surfing places in Iceland is by Þorlákshöfn and even though the ocean is ice-cold, the surfers can be in the ocean for 5-6 hours if they are wearing a wet-suit.
From Þorlákshöfn the ferry Herjólfur used to leave for the Westman islands. On the 21st of July 2010 Herjólfur left for its first trip from Landeyjarhöfn and stopped sailing from Þorlákshöfn.
There are two roads leading to Þorlákshöfn, one through the so called Þrengslin, in between the mountains. The other one is high-way one and takes you up on the mountain called Kambarnir.
Eyrarbakki - village.
Eyrarbakki is a lovely little village by the ocean with a population of ca 580 people. It was once one of the most important harbours in Iceland and the largest trading centre in Iceland. If you want to see what Icelandic fishing villages looked like in the early 19th century then you should visit Eyrarbakki as many of the houses which have been preserved from that period are in the centre of Eyrarbakki. There is also one house there built in 1765 which is now a folk museum (see my next tip).
Rauða húsið "Red house" restaurant in Eyrarbakki was built in 1919 as a retail shop and is now a very popular restaurant, with great lobster. I include their website which includes a lot of information about Eyrarbakki as well.
In Eyrarbakki there is a lovely church and a gallery called "Gallery Regína" :D yes, you can see the little gallery shed by the ocean in summer time (I include more pictures in a travelogue).
There is a library in Eyrarbakki, Konubókastofa, dedicated entirely to books by Icelandic women. And books on Icelandic women. Women authors were looked down upon here in Iceland in olden times, so their books were not preserved. The library now owns ca 1.400 books.
The sea-shore makes for an excellent walk.
Litla-Hraun "Small lava" prison is situated by the road just as you leave Eyrarbakki. It was originally built as a hospital for South-Iceland in 1919.
About half the population of Eyrarbakki works in the neighbouring towns and even in Reykjavík, the other half works in town and in the prison.
There is a tale about a spirit in Eyrarbakki, called Semesúma. She lived under the ceiling of a house and people heard some rustling there and saw black liquid drip from the ceiling. This liquid was called the black milk of Semesúma.
Flúðir - village - the vegetable Mekka of Iceland.
Flúðir is a small village in Hrunamannahreppur in South-Iceland. It has got a very popular camping place. I tried to camp there once, but there was such loud music playing and small "streets" of big RVs parked there with verandas around them. I was there with my small tent and felt really out of place so I opted for another camping place, at Árnes, which is 24 km south of Flúðir. There is other lodging here, guesthouses and an Icelandair hotel.
And of course there is a geothermal swimming pool there like in all towns around Iceland. Here is also a supermarket, which comes in handy for stocking up on food when driving in this area.
The population here is ca 412, but in the whole of Hrunamannahreppur is ca 774.
There is so much geothermal energy in the ground by Flúðir and a lot of greenhouses, and they specialise in mushrooms amongst other vegetables. The company Flúðasveppir (sveppur=mushroom) produce ca 600 tonnes of mushrooms every year.
At Flúðir is also the food industry Matarsmiðjan Matís, where Icelanders can bring their own recipes to see if they will be good enough to produce.
During WW2 the most precious possessions of the National Archives and The Icelandic National Library were moved to Flúðir - just in case an air-raid were to be made on Reykjavík. The British protected us here and the Germans were attacking our ships.
The photos were taken in February 2012, the date on the photos is incorrect, due to me having a new camera and not knowing how to change this...hehe.
The Candle Workshop at Sólheimar eco village.
I love the candles from Sólheimar eco village. They are all handmade at the Candle Workshop. The candles for indoor use are made from pure beeswax and paraffin wax. And the candles for outdoor use are made from recycled wax.
We Icelanders recycle the candle stubs and hand them in at Sólheimar, or Sorpa drop off centre or the Olís gas-stations, where they are picked up by the staff at Sólheimar.
They make beautiful candles and awesome candle sculptures. And I love the napkin candles.
The candles are sold at the convenience store at Sólheimar.
My Uncle´s wife, Erla Thomsen, is in charge of the Candle Workshop at Sólheimar, so when travelling with tourists and VT members on the Golden Circle we always go to Sólheimar and have a look inside the Candle Workshop.
Sólheimar - Sesseljuhús.
Sesseljuhús - Sesselja House is dedicated to the founder of Sólheimar, this wonderful woman Sesselja Hreindís Sigmundsdóttir (1902-1974) who established Sólheimar on July 5th 1930.
Sesselja established Sólheimar in 1930, when she was 28 years old, as a haven for children who had a rough time due to loss of parents or the parents being too ill to raise them. In 1931 the first handicapped child came to Sólheimar and since then Sólheimar has been a haven for handicapped people with 42 handicapped people living there now. Sesselja always put emphasis on the fact that Sólheimar were a proper home and not an institution.
Sesselja studied in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and was the first Icelander, who studied tendance for mentally handicapped people.
Sesselja was a pioneer in environmentalism and organic cultivation and can be referred to as the first Icelandic environmentalist.
Sesselja House was opened on July 5th 2002 on Sesselja's 100th anniversary. It is a sustainable building made with timber and sod roof. It hosts seminars with educational work and can be rented out for meetings and courses. It is open to public so when visiting Sólheimar have a look inside.
Sólheimar - the oldest registered eco village.
Sólheimar eco village is a lovely little sustainable community upcountry in South-Iceland. There are ca 100 residents at Sólheimar, 42 of them are living with disabilities of some kind. It is the oldest registered eco village in the world.
The Icelandic word Sólheimar means "Sun-world" :)
There are many work-shops at Sólheimar: The Carpentry workshop, The Candle workshop, The Pottery workshop, The Weaving workshop and The Herbal workshop and the production is for sale at the art gallery at Verslunin Vala store (see my tip under shopping).
Sólheimar eco village is such a diverse community with green-houses, a sculpture garden, swimming pool, an organic café Græna kannan "The Green mug" (see my tip) at Sólheimar square, Brekkukot guesthouse and Sólheimakirkja church with their own minister, Birgir Thomsen who is my Uncle.
There is also a bakery at Sólheimar where bread and cakes are made, under the brand name "Nærandi" meaning nutrisious, and food industry where jam and seasoned oils are produced. They also make cosmetics. All of this is organic.
Sólheimar has received the Environmental Prize of the Iceland Tourist Council and every year 30.000-50.000 guests visit the eco-village. Groups can receive a guided tour (2-3 hours) of the Sólheimar community.
There is also a drama society at Sólheimar, so one can see how creative this small society is.
The emphasis at Sólheimar is on everything organic, organic forestry, organic agriculture, organic café and recycling based on the beliefs of the founder of Sólheimar, Sesselja Hreindís Sigmundsdóttir (see my tip on Sesselja House). Ever since 1930 they have been growing organic vegetables and now they make many tonnes of organic vegetables every year, ca 10 tonnes of tomatoes and ca 5 tonnes of cucumbers, kale, pepper (paprika) and herbs. Iceland was back then the first of the Northern countries to grow organic vegetables.
I used to work at Sólheimar in 1987 so this place has been dear to me for special reasons. It has changed a lot since then with many additions - it only gets better and better :D
I have added more pictures of Sólheimar in a travelogue.
Selfoss - town in South-Iceland & Ölfusá river.
Selfoss is the next town after Hveragerði if you drive along the ring-road 1. It is bigger than Hveragerði with ca 6.437 inhabitants and a hospital, swimming pool, hotels, lots of shops, supermarkets, horse farms, a cinema and a lot of activites.
Selfoss is sometimes referred to as "Bílabærinn" or the Car town, as there are 3 car-dealerships here. We used to come here a lot from Reykjavík when we were looking for a car to buy.
The meaning of the name is Seal-waterfall as there used to be lot of seals in the river by which Selfoss stands, Ölfusá river. I know this name is confusing and I have been asked where the waterfall is, but there is no waterfall here. There is a waterfall thought named Selfoss in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon in North-Iceland next to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
Ölfusá river is a glacial river and thus white in colour. It is a dangerous river as it is the most voluminous river in Iceland and very deep by Selfoss. Several people have drowned here - and have drowned themselves here. But as you can see from my first photo the river turns into almost a calm like lake before it reaches the ocean. The current bridge, Ölfusárbrú, is from 1945, but there have been talks on moving the road to another place further up the river and make a new bridge.
As Selfoss is so close to Mt. Ingólfsfjall where the tectonic plates meet it gets hit very hard when there are earthquakes here (last one in 2008).
If you take the first turn left before driving on the bridge leading to Selfoss that road (nr. 35) will take you to Kerið, Skálholt cathedral Gullfoss and Geysir. A right turn in Selfoss just after the bridge (road 34) will take you to Stokkseyri, Eyrarbakki and Þorlákshöfn. So you see that there are many small towns here of which Selfoss is the biggest. But they have merged and are now called Árborg.
Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
In the 1970's, a U.S. Navy plane had crashed on the black sand beaches in South Iceland. The plane wreck is still there and I think a lot of the South Iceland jeep tours will take you to the site. It is possible to drive out there only if the road conditions are fine. I wouldn't recommend it if the ground is wet and soggy as the road is mostly black sand.
The GPS coordinates are roughly 63.459082,-19.364759. If you type in these coordinates on Google Map and use the satellite view, you can even see a ghostly picture of the plane. Note that Google Maps does not show you the road. However, if you go to OpenStreetMap.org and type in the coordinates, you can see a brown dotted line. The GPS units should also be able to take you on a road pretty close to the wreckage. Note that the road itself is virtually indistinguishable as the black sand "non-road", so just listen to your GPS. The road takes you close to the wreck but ends before, so you'll have to walk the last little bit. I also found some good discussion on how to get there on your own on the Tripadvisor forum.
It is kind of cool to see, especially because the surroundings look so harsh and isolated. Again, only go if you're either on a tour with experienced drivers and proper vehicles or wait till the conditions are good and you have a proper vehicle. I suppose you can walk there from the main roads too.
Trolls in trees - "Tröll í tré"
There is an exhibition in Sólheimar eco village by one of our artists, Lárus Sigurðsson. It was opened in the summer of 2012, when Sólheimar celebrated their Cultural Feast, but my photos were taken in the summer of 2013.
The exhibition got the name "Tröll í tré" or Trolls in trees. It is quite interesting. I have seen exhibitions like this in Québec in Canada, but not here in Iceland.
The trees are located next to the convenience store.
Knarrarósviti lighthouse - The tallest building.
Knarrarósviti lighthouse is one of the most beautiful lighthouses here in Iceland, in my opinion. It is such a funky lighthouse, I like the shape of it a lot. It is a blnd of funtionalism and art nouveau styles and designed by Axel Sveinsson, an Icelandic engineer.
Knarrarósviti is 26,2 metres and the tallest building in South-Iceland.
The work of The Icelandic State Architect Gudjon Samùelsson influenced Axel Sveinsson, but Gudjon Samúelsson designed Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík and the National Theatre.
The lighthouse was built in 1938-1939 and was the first lighthouse built in this way, in reinforced concrete.
The lighthouse is closed.
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