Fun things to do in South Iceland

  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
    Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
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  • View from Behind Seljalandsfoss
    View from Behind Seljalandsfoss
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  • Trail Behind Seljalandsfoss
    Trail Behind Seljalandsfoss
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Most Viewed Things to Do in South Iceland

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    Skógafoss Waterfall

    by jmpncsu Written Feb 22, 2013

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    Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. We visited on our South Coast Tour with Iceland Guided Tours. It's right off Route 1 about 150 km from Reykjavík or about a 2 hour drive. The waterfall is very large - 25 m wide and 62 m tall - and has an almost perfectly rectangular shape. According to legend, the first viking to settle in Skógar, Þrasi hid a chest of gold behind the falls. A young man tried to get the treasure, but was only able to pull a ring off the chest before it disappeared. The ring was affixed to the wall of the church in Skógar and is now in the museum. They say that when the sun is shining, you can see the gold shimmering in the spray. But it was a cloudy day when we visited so no such luck. We did walk to the edge of the water and got an up-close view of how powerful this waterfall is. And a little wet from the spray. To get another view of the falls, follow the trail up the cliffs along the east side and get a view from the side and the top. The trail continues on here along the Skóga River with many more waterfalls as it leads up to the highlands and on to Þórsmörk. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to follow the river. But nevertheless, Skógafoss is a must-see in South Iceland even if you don't have a lot of time.

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    Landmannalaugar Day Hike

    by jmpncsu Written Oct 1, 2012

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    Most hikers come to Landmannalaugar to start (or finish) hiking the Laugavegur trail. But if you're only visiting for a short time, there is a wonderful and short 4-km loop trail at Landmannalaugar with absolutely breathtaking sights, without the time and commitment of a long-distance backpacking trip. We visited Landmannalaugar on a day tour with Iceland Guided Tours and only had about 2 hours here. After quickly eating lunch, the tour guide warned us that it could take up to 2 hours to hike the loop, but we assured him we could finish it in time. The loop starts following the Laugavegur Trail behind the huts up into the Laugahraun lava field and proceeds mostly west until it comes out in the most beautiful valley surrounded by the lava field on one side and multi-colored rhyloite mountains on the others. Although most of the area is devoid of life, this valley was full of green grasses and small white wildflowers. From here, the trail turns south and heads towards Mount Brennisteinsalda (sulphur wave). It's easy to tell that this volcano is still active from the numerous fumaroles spewing sulphurous gases. Quite beautiful, but not the most pleasant smell. The Laugavegur Trail continues up the volcano, while the Grænagil trail turns east and heads back into the lava fields. This trail goes through the lava fields and into the namesake gorge, formed by a river flowing between Mount Bláhnúkur and the lava fields. The river is quite small so the gorge is very narrow, but quite beautiful. The trail winds down into the gorge with side trails heading up Blánúkur and approaches the river as it exits the gorge. From here, the trail turns north and heads back to the camping area. We finished the hike in just over an hour, with taking many pictures, and still had time for a quick dip in the hot springs before our bus was getting ready to leave.

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    Lakes near Landmannalaugar

    by jmpncsu Updated Sep 21, 2012

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    Around the area of Landmannalaugar in Friðland að Fjallabaki (Fjallabaki Nature Reserve), there are several beautiful lakes. We had a short stop at two of these lakes during our Landmannalaugar with Iceland Guided Tours - Hnausapollur and Frostastaðavatn. Frostastaðavatn is a beautiful lake just north of Landmannalaugar on F208 with some of the most beautiful blue water I've ever seen. Hnausapollur is a crater lake just north of Frostastaðavatn, also with very pretty blue water. And of course the setting in the beautiful rhyolite mountains makes these lakes all the more beautiful. So if you're headed to Landmannalaugar, consider a short stop and admire a couple of the beautiful lakes.

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    Álftavatn: Climb Brattháls for Superb Views!

    by iblatt Updated Aug 22, 2012

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    We reached Álftavatn hut in the early afternoon, and were looking for a short side trip.
    We asked the advice of the young and pretty hut warden, and she recommended climbing Brattháls, the ridge on the east shore of the lake, a 45-60 minute hike uphill. It was a relief to leave the heavy backpacks behind in the hut, take a bottle of water and start walking.

    Part of the way up was a well trodden path, most of the way we improvised and created our own path. As we climbed the beautiful views started to appear on both sides. They got better and better as we neared the top of the ridge. Strange-looking basalt crags stood like monuments on the clifftop.

    To the west there was the dark-blue lake and the mountains surrounding it; to the north there was the Álftavatn hut and the valley leading to it; to the east there were more peaks and valleys, in shades of green moss, white snow and grey lava rocks.
    The way down, running towards the lake shore, was fun.

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    Baugsstaðir creamery.

    by Regina1965 Updated Aug 20, 2012

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    Baugsstaðir creamery is the only creamery left in Iceland with its original equipment. It is now a museum.

    The creamery was established in 1905 by the farmers in this area and it was in operation here until 1952. By the creamery is a creek and from there the creamery got its power by a waterwheel.

    The products made here were butter and cheese, both for Icelanders and they were also exported to England.

    The women working here, who were dairy technicians, had their quarters in a small room in the creamery. My great-grandmother was a dairy technician.

    It is quite interesting visiting the creamery. All this old equipment and information and photos of the people working here. It is well worth a visit.

    Entrance fee: ISK 500.

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    Laugavegur Trek: Day 2

    by iblatt Updated Aug 20, 2012

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    We woke up in the Hrafntinnusker hut to a morning of sunshine which came through the loft window directly to our sleeping bags. It was a glorious day for trekking.

    The second segment of the trek, from Hrafntinnusker to the Álftavatn hut, is 12 km long, an easier hike than the first day. At first we descended from Hrafntinnusker to the valley below, with beautiful sweeping views of snow and lava fields and snowy peaks beyond them. What looked at first like a large plain to the horizon turned out to be a chain of undulating hills separated by small creeks. Some of the creeks were dry, some had flowing icy water and others contained boiling hot water from geothermal sulfuric springs, creating interesting color schemes on the lava rocks, light green, grey or rusty-red.

    On the second day of the trek we also had our first experience crossing a stream wading in ice cold water. We spent some time looking for the optimal spot to cross: neither the narrowest part, where the flow was stronger, nor the widest spot with the largest distance to wade through. My friend changed from his hiking shoes to sandals; I did not bring sandals in my backpack, so I followed the Hrafntinnusker hut warden's advice, took off my shoes and crossed the stream wearing socks (and of course changing them once I got to the other side). This proved a good idea, avoiding some of the coldness of the icy water and softening my step on the pebbles.

    During the next part of the trek we came closer to the long descent into the Álftavatn valley, and enjoyed great views of the glaciers ahead of us and the volcanic formations around us. Finally, the long steep drop to Álftavatn was an enjoyable end to this part of the trek.

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    Laugavegur Trek: Day 1

    by iblatt Updated Aug 16, 2012

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    We set out from the Landmannalaugar hut, and started following the trail marked by red-tipped wooden sticks. Here it was, Laugavegur, the 4-day trek that will take us through mountains and valleys, lava fields and snow, ice-cold rivers and steaming hot springs, to Thorsmork, 55 km to the south-west...

    The first day's hike was 12 km long, with a net 500 meter ascent.
    We started climbing uphill from the starting point, and were almost immediately rewarded by great views of the Landmannalaugar basin. Continuing a bit further we reached the Storihver geothermal field: you can't remain indifferent to the sight of the rising steam, the bubbling noise and the sulfuric smell!
    The trail continued with colorful rhyolite hills on both sides, like a patch-quilt of colors with the white snow patches creating patterns which prompted us to see shapes of animal figures and other figments of our imagination.
    We climbed up and down snowy hills, sometimes slushy, following in the footsteps of previous trekkers who had created "stairs" or "ladder-steps" with their shoes in the mountain-slope.
    On the first part of the trek there were quite a lot of hikers, and as it turned out most of them were day-hikers coming from Landmannalaugar and returning there. As the trek went on we saw fewer and fewer hikers. We were most impressed by a small group two guys and a girl who carried their mountain-bikes with them; there were very few places where they could ride their bicycles, and most of the time they had to climb the snowy hills carrying their bikes on their shoulders.

    The weather changed from partly sunny to cloudy and windy, but fortunately no rain. We were walking against the wind in a desert of lava and snow, following the cairns and wooden sticks that marked the almost imperceptible trail, not sure how far we were from our destination, the Hrafntinnusker hut. It was then that we reached a small peak, and suddenly saw the hut right below us, only 5 minutes' walk away: a very welcome sight!

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    Landmannalaugar

    by iblatt Written Aug 15, 2012

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    Go to Landmannalaugar for the natural beauty of the colorful rhyolite hills, for the open hot springs, and for hiking and trekking. We took the "Reykjavik Excursions" bus to Landmannalaugar as the starting point of the well-known Laugavegur trek.

    Route F225 road to Landmannalaugar is very scenic. It is navigable in summer to 4 wheel drive vehicles. If you continue further east along Route F208 you will reach the Ring Road near Kirkjubaejarklaustur, so making this road an alternate inland East-West route to the paved Ring Road. A couple of centuries ago, when there were no paved roads or motor vehicles, and the horse was the sole means of transportation, this route was more often used and was deemed safer than the coastal road. Today, in the Ring Road era, this seems very strange: How could one prefer the hardships of the mountainous inland terrain to the convenient coastal plain? However, if you imagine the coastal plain without any bridges, with wide gushing rivers of ice-cold water, the answer becomes clearer.

    Landmannalaugar is part of the Fjallabak nature reserve. There is an information hut with friendly rangers who can advise you about the various trails, and also update you about the weather forecast along the way (important piece of information!). For those who wish to stay overnight there is a hut (accommodating 75 people) and a campsite.

    We were stunned by the beautiful and colorful mountains, the lava fields and snow patches, and the hot springs giving the area an eerie, bewitched feel. Landmannalaugar is one of the biggest geothermal fields in Iceland. The Storihver field of steaming sulfuric vents is an unforgettable sight.

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    Fagrifoss Waterfall

    by iblatt Written Aug 12, 2012

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    On our bus ride back from the Laki craters to Kirkjubæjarklaustur we stopped near Fagrifoss.
    The bus sometimes stops there on the way to Laki and sometimes on the way back, the decision is left to the driver's discretion.
    The beautiful waterfall lookout is an easy 5 minute walk from the parking lot.

    Iceland's waterfalls did not cease to amaze me: There are Dettifoss, Gulfoss and a few other big and mighty ones; but many others have their own unique beauty and attraction, and Fagrifoss is one of them. The name means "Beautiful Falls", and beautiful they are indeed: Twin waterfalls tumbling down noisily yet gracefully.

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    Þjóðveldisbærinn - A Saga-age farm.

    by Regina1965 Updated Jul 30, 2012

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    Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-age farm is a reconstructed medieaval farmhouse, an exact replica of the escavated ruins of a real Viking settler's farmhouse at Stöng in Þjórsárdalur valley. Mt. Hekla, one of the most notorious volcanoes in the world, erupted in 1104 causing the devastation of 20 settlement farms in Þjórsárdalur valley. In 1939 archaeologists escavated the exceptionally well preserved ruins of Stöng which had been hidden away for 835 years under layers of pumice (volcanic ash). In 1974 on the 1100 years' anniversary of Icelandic settlement Þjóðveldisbærinn was erected close to where Stöng farmhouse was found.

    This farm is a "must-see" when visiting this area, there is something so magical about this place, like you have just popped in for a visit to a Viking chieftain. Inside the farm on the middle of the floor there is a fire where lamb is smoked. There is a dining area, sleeping area, working area, a toilet area and a "dairy-making" area. Walking between some of the rooms is strange as the ceiling in the corridors is really, really low.

    There is a waterfall next to The Saga farm and you can go right up to it, very beautiful surroundings. And of course Hjálparfoss waterfall is only a stone-throw away (see my previous tip).

    If you want to see where the original Stöng farm is located then go back to road 32 and take a left turn on road 327 which is a gravel road for jeeps.

    The Saga-farm is open daily in the summer time from the 1st of June til the first week of September from 10-12 and 13-18.

    Admission: ISK 600 for adults, free for kids under 13.

    And remember the Icelandic word "Þjóðveldisbærinn" as you have to follow that sign. A little bit further down the road from Þjóðveldisbærinn is the Búrfell Station hydropower-plant, Búrfell (see my tip).

    The mountain by the farm is called Sámsstaðamúli.

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    The church by the Saga-age farm.

    by Regina1965 Updated Jul 30, 2012

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    A church was raised by Þjóðveldisbærinn Saga-age farm and consecrated in year 2000. It is a really small turf stave-church and was built in the liking of a church found by the farm at Stöng. The church is open and it is really small, showing that the Vikings were much smaller than people today. One has to take care not to bang one´s head.

    The church belongs to the congregation of Stóra-Núpsprestakall benefice.

    The Icelandic state owns both the Saga-age farm and the church.

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    Reykjavik

    by toonsarah Updated Mar 10, 2012

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    We spent much of our first day in Iceland seeing a bit of its capital, Reykjavik. I have made a separate page about the sights we saw here, so this is just a brief summary of the highlights of our visit.

    On the advice of Regina1965 we parked near the university; there was certainly plenty of space there and it cost a reasonable 80 krona (about 45p) per hour. From there we crossed the road we had driven in on and started our walk towards the oldest part of the city. Our path took us along the western side of the Tjörnin Pond, which was iced over at this time of year. The sun came out almost on cue and the light shining on the nearby houses was lovely, so we took lots of photos here and around the pond itself. At its northern end is the City Hall, a modern building that makes an interesting contrast with the nearby more traditional houses. We could also see Hallgrimskirkja, the city’s striking hill-top church, which we would visit later in the day.

    We spent some time exploring the narrow streets around Aðalstræti, the oldest street, and Grjótaþorpið or "Rock-village", where the original character of the one-time fishing village can be best appreciated. The light was beautiful for photography and the colourful corrugated metal houses very distinctive. From here we made our way to the harbour where there were yet more photo opportunities, with views across the water to the snow covered mountains beyond.

    But soon it was time to head back to Aðalstræti, where we had an appointment to keep – lunch with Regina and her fiancé. It was great to finally meet the VT member who had helped me so much with my planning for this trip, and the café she had recommended, Uppsalir, was cosy, so we spent a very pleasant hour there. But with the short days here we knew we couldn’t stay too long, so we said goodbye and headed back to the car to drive the short distance up the hill to Hallgrimskirkja. We managed to get (free) parking there too, although it was much busier than at the university. We had a quick look inside this stark modern church, but the main purpose of our visit was to see the view from its tower, so we paid the 500 krona fee (about £2.70) and took the lift up. When you emerge from the lift you are directly behind the large clock-faces, and from here have to climb two flights of stairs to the viewing room. There are fairly narrow openings from which you can look out in all four directions, and on a sunny day such as we had it is well worth making the ascent for the views that await you here. We spent quite a while taking pictures in all four directions, but my favourite views were those towards the west, with Reykjavik’s colourful houses, and the north, with the beautiful mountains beyond the city.

    But the sun was already sinking lower in the sky, and we had a drive to our hotel in front of us, so we left Reykjavik behind us, vowing to return one day.

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    Hafnarfjördur

    by toonsarah Written Feb 26, 2012

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    On our first morning we drove from Keflavik to Reykjavik, and on the way we stopped briefly in Hafnarfjördur, as Regina1965 had told me that the so-called “Viking Village” (a hotel and restaurant complex) was quite photogenic. It was, but I liked even more the lovely light over the harbour that morning, and the pretty white church. We didn’t stay long, but we enjoyed the odd trolls and other statues and assorted objects decorating the “village”.

    Later I read that Hafnarfjördur is Iceland’s third-largest town, with just over 22,000 residents, although it seemed pretty small to us, used to the UK’s large cities. The name of the town means 'harbour fjord' and refers to the excellent natural harbour. Apparently legend has it that some of Iceland’s elves live secretively in Hafnarfjördur’s lava cliffs and rocks, in peaceful coexistence with the town’s human residents, but we weren’t lucky to spot any of these, other than the stone versions!

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    Hveragerdi

    by toonsarah Written Feb 26, 2012

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    At first sight the small town of Hveragerdi, on the Ring Road between Reykjavik and Sellfoss, seems fairly unprepossessing, but the landscape that surrounds it is quite striking. Dotted around the black lava strewn hillsides are small vents, or fumaroles, from which steam puffs out constantly – it is as if the hills are breathing.

    Hveragerdi is known as the “hot-house town”, and all this steam is put to very good use, heating large greenhouses where fruit and vegetables can be grown, even in the depths of winter. You can see these from the main road, but for a closer look at the steam vents themselves it is best to turn off into the town. We drove a short distance through the town to its northern edge, where we found parking next to a small house with a sign, indicating it was built in 1929 and is the oldest house in Hveragerdi. Nearby paths led into a park next to a river, the Varmá, above which steam issued from the hillsides all around. This was a good spot from which to take some photos of the phenomenon, and as the sky had got rather cloudy and the sun was fast disappearing, the landscape had quite a sombre air.

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    The Golden Circle

    by toonsarah Updated Feb 26, 2012

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    The Golden Circle is a popular drive, linking three of southern Iceland’s main sights: Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir. As the days were short during our February visit we only had time to properly see the first two of these, so decided to leave Thingvellir for a future trip to Iceland. Despite the limited time however, we really enjoyed our day out. The scenery all along the drive is fantastic, so don’t rush it – take your time, and maybe stop when you see any particularly great views. My favourites were along the banks of the River Hvita (which means White River in English). The river is fed by glaciers and at the point my photos were taken (on Highway 30 a few miles south of Geysir) runs through a narrow valley. The road crosses the river on a narrow bridge, either end of which are pull-offs where we parked to take some photos (photos one and two). Later we stopped again by the Hvita, but further downstream, where the river is wider and the waters flow more gently (photo three).

    We also made a brief stop at Skalholt, which was the centre of Christianity in Iceland from the mid-11th until the 18th centuries. There is a striking church there, but it was all closed up when we stopped there (maybe this is normal in winter?) and the skies were growing leaden, so I don’t have any decent photos unfortunately.

    The entire Golden Circle is about 300 kilometres or 190 miles in length. If you don’t have a hire car you can easily book a day trip by coach, even in winter, but of course you will not have control over how long you spend in each place and are unlikely to be able to stop for roadside views such as these. We found the driving easy and would certainly recommend getting your own car if you feel able to.

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South Iceland Things to Do

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