6 Days Circle of Iceland Guided Tour
Join a small group on a guided tour of some of the most popular tourist sites Iceland has to offer. The journey includes the famous Golden Circle with Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Geysir Hot Springs and Gullfoss Waterfall.
In addition, the South coast is home to Vatnajökull National Park, one of three national parks in Iceland. It encompasses all of Vatnajökull glacier and extensive surrounding areas.
Here, you will see a great variety of landscape features which were created by the combined forces of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity. Jökulsárlón, the glacial river lagoon, is located on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park.
Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake full of massive chunks of glacial ice after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
From there, you will drive to the East Fjords in order to hike to sites like Hengifoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland, and Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. Then, we will visit Lake Mývatn to take in the wetlands preserve there, home to stunning birdlife such as ducks and other water fowl, capped off with a stop by Goðafoss, the gods' waterfall.
Finally, we will end the day with a 3-hour whale watching tour, where you can try out sea angling if you wish. Surely all this excitement will prepare you for the next part of your journey: the Northwest and West part of Iceland.
Don't miss this chance to find your favorite of the most famous sites in Iceland. Will it be Þingvellir, where democracy was born? Will it be the famous waterfalls or the loveliest lake in the North Atlantic? Or will they all capture your heart? Check the booking availability above by pressing "Choose a date."
- Available: Jan. - Nov.
- Duration: 6 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Northern lights hunting, Cultural Activity, Fishing, Bird watching
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 10 years old
- Languages: English
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route to the 3 most popular natural attractions in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.
See this for Golden circle tours.
Geysir is a geyser that gives its name to hot springs all over the world. But although Geysir itself is not active anymore the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur (spouting a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, regularly about 15-20 meters into the air), Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
The 'Golden Waterfall', is the second part of the Golden Circle, and one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvita. It is Iocated about 10 km from Geysir.
Thingvellir national park
The largest attraction of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 and remained until the year 1798.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland, not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape.
Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcano range and is the site of a rift valley, where the tectonic plates meet, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
Of particular note at Thingvellir are the magnificent Almannagja gorge, and the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. The popular Gjabakkahellir lava cave is also in the area.
The fissure Silfra is located by Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake, and is famous for its clear waters and popular for diving and snorkeling, as you can literally swim between continents.
South Iceland is the most popular part of the country and contains some of the most beautiful natural attractions in Iceland, among them the Golden Circle, some of Iceland's most famous active volcanoes as well as the beautiful Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
South Iceland is usually divided into the fertile South Icelandic lowlands between Hellisheidi and Eyjafjallajokull volcano on the one hand - and on the other hand the eastern part with the big volcanic glaciers Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull (home of Katla) and flattened sands stretching towards the sea.
The South Icelandic lowlands
The South Icelandic Lowlands stretch nearly 100 km from Hellisheidi in the west towards Eyjafjallajokull in the east as a very flat and fertile farming land. From the shore the lowland stretches about km towards the inland. This is the best agriculture area in Iceland. The whole area is geologically very young, mainly of tuff type, formed during the Ice Age by the lava flows of the numerous volcanoes of the area. The area is indeed surrounded by volcanically active mountains on all sides. The glacier rivers of the area have helped filling the lavas with sand and clay, leaving it more and less smooth and fertile. Very strong earthquakes are found in this area as well.
The most active volcanoes of the area are Hekla and Eyjafjallajokull. No less active and not far off, but on the east side, is Katla, which we’ll adress in the eastern part-section. South of the mainland are the volcanic Westman Islands, famous for the 1973 eruption as well as the eruption in 1963, when Surtsey island was formed. Closely linked to the volcanic activity in the south is the geothermal heat found in many places, the best known being the Geysir area, which forms a part of the famed Golden Circle, which also consists of Gullfoss waterfall , Iceland's most famous waterfall as well as one of its most beautiful, located in the popular rafting river Hvita and Thingvellir National Park, comprising three of Iceland's most beloved natural attractions.
The earthquakes of the area bear witness to the fact that Iceland is still in shape. This is further evidenced by the endless number of fissures in the lavas, fractures in the mountains and certain pieces of lands sinking. The area of Thingvellir is the best known example of this, showcasing the continental drift. Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of the old parliament, Althingi, (now situated in Reykjavik) and one of Iceland's most important sites.
Another of Iceland's most popular attractions is the beautiful Thorsmork valley, situated between Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull.
Natural harbour-sites are hardly any on the South shore, due to sand produced by the glacier rivers. A few towns are found in the area, Selfoss being the biggest one, Hveragerdi is another, then there are Hella and Hvolsvollur, all conveniently located by the ring road. By the shore are three fishing villages; Thorlakshofn, Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri. Thorlakshofn the only one of those that can accommodate modern ships and ferrys. The ferry to the Westman Islands sails from there. A new harbour has been built on the sandy coast opposite the Westman Islands. The whole south shoreline offers some of the most gigantic braker waves that you are likely to see.
Culturewise, in addition to Thingvellir, we reccomend the ancient bishop seat of Skalholt (weekends at Skalholt further offer rich music life). Also, Iceland's most famous saga, Njal's saga takes place in the South lowlands. We further recommend the large reconstructed turfhouse near Stong and the ancient excavated ruins.
For sports, horse riding is popular in the area as well as catching salmon or trout, hiking, and river rafting in Hvita.
The east part of South Iceland.
This is the area south and east of Myrdalsjokull. The volcanic glaciers Eyjafjallajokull (near the border of the eastern and western part) and Myrdalsjokull, dominate the view. The landscape has been shaped by volcanic eruptions and vast sands stretch to the sea. Some agriculture is found here, however, with the farms in a row alongside the mountains. A few large glacial rivers fall down in this area which also has striking waterfalls, such as Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
Eyjafjallajokull is already well known for its 2010 eruption, disturbing air communication all over Europe for many days. Much more serious,however, would be an eruption from Katla, a volcano in the eastern part og Myrdalsjokull.
Katla’s last eruption was in the year 1918, when an enormous flood of water exploded from the glacier in a matter of minutes, threatening the local farmers of the area. Large amounts of ash and muddy material were brought to sea to form a new land of sand, Kotlutangi, later washed away by the sea. No people were killed in this eruption. Eruptions in Katla throughout the ages have further created the vast sand area Myrdalssandur. Sixteen eruptions have been recorded for Katla since 930 at intervals of 13-95 years and the volcano is being closely monitored, as time may draw near to its next eruption.
In the same volcanic system as Katla (geologically speaking), are the Lakagigar craters, northeast of Myrdalsjokull. Those erupted in the years 1783-84; producing the largest amount of lava known in historic times. The ashes hindered the sunlight from reaching down to the surface of Earth, resulting in cold climate over northern Europe.
In this area – what we call the eastern part of South Iceland -, there are many places worth visiting: Solheimajokull is a beautiful glacier in a walking distance (an outlet of Myrdalsjokull); Skogar has a very interesting museum of older time traditions and Skogafoss is only a few km away from there. One of Iceland’s most famous hiking routes, Fimmvorduhals, starts from Skogar. Southwest of the village Vik is one of Iceland’s most spectacular beaches, Reynisfjara. Together with the promontory Dyrholaey, which is the southernmost tip of the mainland of Iceland, it offers a breathtaking view with amazing rock formations, a black pebble beach, an abundance of birds and the powerful waves of the North Atlantic Ocean crashing on the beach.
Further east stretches the world's most vast sand plain, Skeidararsandur. North of the sand is the fascinating Skaftafell preservation area. At its east end, south of Hvannadalshnukur, Iceland's highest peak, is Ingolfshofdi cape, with its rich birdlife, old fishermen's shacks and its lighthouse. Following the shore further east is the incredibly beautiful and ice-filled Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Not far off is the region of Sudursveit, featuring the culture center and heritage museum Thorbergssetur, erected in the memory of Icelandic author Thorbergur Thordarson.
Stretching from the wide Eastfjords mountain range, set with many small fjords, through the fertile Fljotsdalsherad district and towards the highlands, East Iceland is a vast area of incredible nature, striking contrasts and fascinating history and culture.
East Iceland is characterised by a large number of fjords, surrounded by high villages. Fishing villages can be found by most of them.
From Seydisfjordur a ferryboat goes to Scandinavia, and the town also hosts the popular annual festival LungA. Neskaupsstadur features two highly popular annual festivals, Neistaflug and Eistnaflug, as well as being the home to a highly interesting museum and close to fascinating nature.
The main airport of East Iceland is in Egilsstadir, the largest town of the East and its main centre for service, transport and administration.
Further inland is the fertile agricultural district Fljotsdalsherad (see the link above). Natural birchwoods are in the area, the most famous being Hallormsstadaskogur, the largest forest in Iceland. Big rivers run through the district and by their estuaries many seals may be found.
Up in the mountains is also the Karahnjukar Hydroelectric Power Station, the construction of which led to hot debates and continues to do so. The station serves the aluminium smelter by Reydarfjordur.
The impressive mountain Snaefell is close by, Iceland's highest freestanding mountain. East of Snaefell is the highland oasis Eyjabakkar, one of the largest nesting place for the pink footed goose in the world.
Of particular cultural note in Fljotsdalsherad is the cultural and history center Skriduklaustur. In the middle ages a monastery stood there, and in the 20th century, Icelandic author Gunnar Gunnarsson lived there. Gunnar wrote such masterworks as Adventa (e. The Good Shepherd), Svartfugl (The Black Cliffs), Saga Borgaraettarinnar (Guest the One-Eyed, made into the Danish film Borgslægtens history in 1919) and the autobiographical novel cycle Fjallkirkjan ('The Church on the Mountain' published in English as Ships in the Sky and The Night and the Dream).
Other notable attractions of the beautiful Fljotadalsherad district, of which there are many, are listed under the Egilsstadir section.
Reindeer roam the mountains of East Iceland and a large number of migratory birds land near Hofn in Hornafjordur, in the Southeast, on their way from Skotland, returning back to Scotland in late summer.
Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier stretches to the boarders of East Iceland.
North Iceland is very popular area in Iceland and contains some of the best attractions on the island. Akureyri is the capital of North Iceland and is the second largest "city" in Iceland. Around 20.000 people live in North Iceland.
The North coast has four major fjords (or bays) with mountain ridges between them and each of the fjords has corresponding agricultural districts.
More attractions in the amazing Thingeyjasysla are mentioned below. Note that the first three areas are geologically speaking ancient formations, while Thingeyjasysla is recent and full of volcanic activity, young lava fields and tuff mountains.
In Eyjafjörður is the capital of the North, Akureyri with 17.000 inhabitants. It is a very charming town and highly popular with travelers, so we advise you not to miss it. Many cruisers land in the port of the town.
The older part of Akureyri is particularly worth a stroll. If you like skiing or snowboarding, one of the best skiing sites in the country is located nearby.
We also recommend the botanical gardens there, fine restaurants and many interesting museums, such as Davidshus and Nonnahus, dedicated to the memory of poet David Stefansson and Jon Sveinson, author of the Nonnabaekur ('Nonni’s books').
Not far from Akureyri is the unique turf framhouse of Laufas, a museum and a prime example of the old architecture and farmlife. Also not far from Akureyri are the submarine geothermal silica cones of Strytur, a natural wonder and an excellent place for a dive.
One of Iceland's most beloved poets, Jonas Hallgrimsson was born in Eyjafjordur, at the farm Hraun in Oxnadalur valley and the knife-edged lava peaks there are particularly stunning. Also essential when traveling in the area is the beautiful and peaceful island Hrisey, often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur'.
Siglufjordur has the distinction of not falling under the regular four part division, as it straddles the border of Eyjafjordur and Skagafjordur. Here we highly recommend the herring era museum and the folk music museum. Indeed, Siglufjordur hosts an annual folk music festival that is truly worth experiencing.
Among major attractions in Hunathing are the Regional Museum at Reykir in Hrutafjordur, the Seal Watching Center at Vatnsnes and the Arnarvatnsheidi heath, with a large numbers of ponds and lakes full of trout.
In Skagafjordur, the largest town of which is Saudarkrokur, we particularly recommend the historical bishop’s seat of Holar and the agricultural university there, the Glaumbaer museum, and Drangey island.
Near Myvatn is the chaotic lava field Dimmuborgir, a truly amazing sight (and paid homeage to by the Norwegian Black Metal band of the same name).
Husavik is the whale watching capital of the North so don’t miss that one either.
The Jokulsargljufur National Park is home to some of Iceland's most beloved natural attractions, Holmatungur, Hljodaklettar and the Asbyrgi canyon. In the river Jokulsa a Fjollum is Europe's most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss.
At the Melrakkasletta peninsula you can see fascinating birdlife and there is good trout fishing to be made there. Seals may be sighted as well as whales off the coast. The vegetation is rich and this is an ideal place to enjoy the midnight sun. Northern lights may also be spotted from late August to early April.
Far north, straddling the Arctic Circle is Grimsey island, the northernmost inhabited territory of Iceland, with a population of about 100 people. It is renowned for its fishermen, its rich vegetation and birdlife.
West Iceland is home to Europe's most powerful hot spring, Iceland's most significant lava tube, fascinating glaciers, beautiful waterfalls, some of Iceland's most important historical sites and more. It has three main districts:
Borgarfjordur has rich history, with Reykholt where Snorri Sturluson, author of Snorra-Edda and Heimskringla lived and featuring a medeval and cultural museum dedicated to his memory. In Borgarnes, the main village of Borgarfjordur, the Settlement Center can be found.The landscape is magnificent and includes the magical Hraunfossar waterfalls, Surtshellir lava cave, Deildartunguhver hot spring and Eiriksjokull glacier.
Breidafjordur is a natural reserve, a wide bay with countless small islands and home of thousands of birds. The inner part of Breidafjordur is the agricultural area Dalir. In Haukadalur is the old farm site Eiriksstadir, the home of Eric the Red, the first European to land in Greenland (in the year 984 AD). His son was Leif Ericsson, the first European to land in America (in the year 1000).
Akureyri, ‘The Capital of the North’ is a town in the fjord Eyjafjordur in North Iceland. It lies just 100 km away from the Arctic Circle. It is Iceland’s second-largest urban area with a population of about 17,800.
Akureyri is an important fishing centre and port, but in the last few years tourism, industry, higher education and services have become the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
An international airport is located about 3 km from the center. A large number of cruisers also stop at Akureyri. One of Iceland's best skiing sites is found by Akureyri, at Hlidarfjall.
Traditionally Akureyri has survived on fisheries and some of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, like for example Samherji, have their headquarters there. Other large companies include Brim, Nordurmjolk, and Vifilfell hf, the largest brewery in Iceland.
FSA/Akureyri Hospital is a major employer in the area and is one of two major hospitals in Iceland.
Akureyri has excellent facilities for travelers and is located a short drive from many of Iceland’s top natural, cultural and historical attractions.
Nature & Landscape
Akureyri is surrounded by mountains, the highest one being Kerling (1538 m). The area around it has rich agriculture and a beautiful mountain ring.
The innermost part of the fjord, Pollurinn ('The Pool') further lends the town a special character. The climate in Akureyri is generally very pleasant.
The islands Hrisey in the middle of Eyfjordur and Grimsey, straddling the Artic Circle, both belong to the municipality of Akureyri. Hrisey is often called 'The Pearl of Eyjafjordur' and Grimsey 'The Pearl of the Artic' and these beautiful and peaceful islands are highly popular with travelers.
History & Culture
During World War II the town was an important site for the Allies and the town grew considerably after the war, as people increasingly moved to urban areas.
Akureyri has a strong cultural scene, with several bars and renowned restaurants. Folk culture in general is more prevalent there than in Reykjavik. During the summer there are several notable festivals in Akureyri and its surroundings.
Sites of interest in Akureyri include the brand-new Hof concert hall and Akureyri’s many museums, The Nature Museum, Nonnahus, a.k.a. Jon Sveinsson Memorial Museum, for the writer, David's house or David Stefansson Memorial Museum, for the poet, Akureyri Art Museum.
Akureyri also has several churches, Akureyrarkirkja being the most notable, as well as beautiful botanical gardens. The old town is particularly charming, ideal for a nice walk.
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Dimmuborgir (e. ‘Black Forts') is a large area of chaotic lava, situated right east of Lake Myvatn, in North Iceland. With its dramatic view, Dimmuborgir is one of Iceland's most popular attractions.
The area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel. In folklore the Dimmuborgir lava field has been connected with hell, Satan was to have landed there after being cast from heaven and the Norwegian symphonic black metal band derives its name from the region.
Goðafoss waterfall is located the river Skjálfandafljót in north Iceland, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, falling from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres.
The fall's name means either waterfall of the gods or of the 'goði' (i.e. priest/ chieftain). It is said that when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði declared Christianity the official religion in Iceland, after his own conversion, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.
Dettifoss, in the glacier river Jokulsa á Fjollum, flowing from the glacier Vatnajokull, is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
This thunderous fall has an average waterflow of 193 m3 per second. It is 100 meters (330 ft.) wide and plummets 45 meters (150 ft.) down to Jokulsargljufur canyon.
Skogafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the island with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland for travellers to visit. It is located in South Iceland, not far from Skogar, which itself features a highly interesting regional museum. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall often produces a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.
Hraunfossar in Borgarfjordur district is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
The lava field flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. The waterfalls pour into the Hvita river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. These are some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland and not to be missed.
Deildartunguhver, by Reykholt, in Borgarfjordur district, has the highest flow rate for a hot spring in Europe.
The flow rate of Deildartunguhver is 180 liters/second and water emerges at 97 °C. The place is also unique for being the only place in the country where the hard fern grows.
Skaftafell is a nature preserve in Oraefasveit. It used to be a national park of its own but joined the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Skaftafell is notable for its rich flora, growing between sands and glaciers, and overall for its amazing and contrasting scenery. You can take short and easy trails to the waterfalls Svartifoss and Hundafoss, as well as Skaftafell glacier, with the mountain Kristinartindar and Morsardalur valley further off.
Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those seeking to climb Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur.
Falljokull ('Falling Glacier') is an outlet glacier from the Vatnajokull icecap.
Hiking on Falljokull means experiencing a dramatically carved landscape, impressive and ever changing ice formations and getting a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains and crevasses. The massive icefall, from which Falljokull derives its name, ice crashing down the mountain towards the ocean, is a truly awe-inspiring sight that should not be missed. A small brook, Fallsjokulskvisl falls from the glacier and close to it are two canyons, Graenafjallsgljufur and Storalekjargljufur, also well worth checking out.
Borgarfjordur is a fjord and a district in south western Iceland, by Faxafloi bay. It takes its name from the farm of viking and poet Egill Skallagrimsson, of Egil’s Saga fame.
Economy, History & Culture
Several farms and townships are in the fjord, the largest rural area being the town Borgarnes (population around 1763 people), a commerce and service center for a large part of the southwest. Of particular note for travelers are the Settlement Center and the Centre for Puppet Art.
At Hvanneyri there is an Agricultural University and a Technical museum shows the developing of Icelandic farming. The same latter building has an interesting handicraft center.
Reykholt is one of the most historically important places in the country and hosts a center for medeval studies, Snorrastofa. Snorrastofa is named after writer and chieftain Snorri Sturluson, author of Snorra-Edda and Heimskringla. Snorri's Edda is the main source we have about the olden northern gods and the history of Scandinavia. Among the many who have found inspiration in it are author J.R.R. Tolkien (most famous for The Lord of the Rings) and composer Richard Wagner with his four operas collectively named Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Hvita river runs through the fjord, but should not be confused with the popular rarfting river of the same name in Arnessysla. The mountains of the district are highly scenic and varied, lending further beauty to the area. Many rare minreals have been found here. The district also has some of the best salmon rivers in Iceland. The horseriding culture is particularly strong and many riding tours available for travelers.
Natural attractions further include the Hraunfossar waterfalls, streaming out of Hallmundarhraun lava over a distance of about 900 m into Hvita river. In the same lava field is Surtshellir, the most famous and longest lava cave in Iceland. Its innermost part is called ‘The Ice Cave’. There the ceiling is lower and remarkabe ice formations, ice candles and columns may be sighted. In Reykholtsdalur is Europe's highest-flowing hot spring, Deildartunguhver.
Reynisfjara is a world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal.
With its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland’s black sand beaches. In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
Reynisfjara is found around 180 km from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and is a popular stop-off for those taking a sightseeing tour along South Coast. Driving to the beach is particularly easy, taking an approximate two and a half hours from the capital.
Upon visiting the beach, travellers will immediately observe rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, known as Reynisdrangar. According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns were once trolls engaged in trying to pull ships from the ocean. However, as bad luck would have it, the dawn quickly arose, turning the trolls into solid stone.
Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
The sea stacks themselves are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species that can be found here include Puffins, Fulmars and Guillemots, making it a must-see location for all birdwatchers out there.
Visitors to Reynisfjara must be made well aware of the potential dangers present at the beach. First of all, the rolling, roaring waves of Reynisfjara are particularly violent, often pushing far further up the beach than many would expect.
Visitors are advised to never turn their back on the waves, don't go chasing after them and keep a safe distance of 20-30 metres.
Aside from these sudden and dramatic shifts in tide (known as “sneaker waves”), the currents off the shore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag helpless people out into the freezing cold open ocean. A number of fatal accidents have occurred at Reynisfjara, the last of which occurred in January 2017.
Barnafoss ('Children's Waterfall') is a waterfall in Hvita river in Borgarfjordur.
The waterfall runs through a narrow rocky gorge and legend has it that there once was a natural stone arc over the river, that was demolished after two children fell from it to their death. Not far away is the stunning series of waterfalls Hraunfossar, flowing out of a lava field into Hvita.
Siglufjordur is a town of about 1300 people, located it North Iceland. It is the northernmost town of the mainland. Along with its natural beauty, its Herring Era museum, Folk Music Museum and the annual Folk Music Festival attract ever more travelers.
Siglufjordur has one of Iceland's best harbours and the fishing industry has been the mainstay of the economy for a long time, but in recent years services have become and increased part of the economy. Since the tunnels through the fjord Hedinsfjordur opened in 2010 there has been a large increase in visits to the town, as the town indeed has much to offer for travelers.
History & culture
Siglufjordur has an eventful history and saw a steady rise in the 20th century, from being a tiny village in the early 1900s to becoming a town no later than as 1918. In the middle of the 20th century it was one of the largest towns in Iceland. For a long period it was the capital of herring fishing in the North Atlantic, and the town's cod fishing museum bears proud witness to this history. The old houses there are charming and its nice to take a stroll through the town and enjoy the architecture and the surrounding nature.
The Herring Era Museum is one of Iceland's largest seafaring- and industry museums in the country. The museum is split into three houses were one can learn about the fishing and its processing. One can see many ships and boats in the Boathouse, recreating the feel of the 50's. The salting station retains the old look of the place and on good summer days traveleres may observe the salting process in action and there is a dance. The old Grana factory shows how herring was transformed into meals and oil.
The Folk Music Center is located where the reverend Bjarni Thorsteinsson, 'The father of Siglufjordur', lived and brings the old folk songs to life. Here you can here recordings of people singing quint songs or tvisongur, chanting the epic rhymes (rimur), playing langspil (similar to dulcimer, featuring one melody string and one to five (usually two) drone strings), and the old Icelandic (two strings), nursery rhymes, doing folk dances etc. The center also depicts the life of reverend Bjarni.
The Folk Festival
In early July, Siglufjordur hosts it annual Folk Music Festival, introducing the folk music of various nations and ethnic groups, with a special focus on Icelandic folk music. Various events take place, including lectures and courses on music and handicraft aklong with dances, concerts and overall partying.
Siglufjordur is a particularly beautiful fjord, and high and dramatic mountains tower of the town. The birdlife is varied and some 2000 birds of 16-18 species may usually be found in the fjord. Popular hiking trails include the passes Holsskard and Hestsskard, which lead to the beautiful fjord Hedinsjordur, which may also be accessed by boat or car.
The deserted Hedinsfjordur is set by steep and impressive mountains and has a beautiful valley with good trout fishing in the Hedinssfjardarvatn lake. The last farm of Hedinsfjordur was abandoned in 1951. In the 20th century there would on average be five inhabited farms in the fjord. The vegetation is rich and food could be obtained from land and sea, but the winters were hard and saw many avalanches. The fjord was also hard to reach.
Northeast of Hedinsfjordur you'll find the remnants of one of the remote farms in Iceland, Hvanndalir. Hvanndalir can be reached from Hedinsfjordur through the Hvanndalaskridur ('Hvanndalir landslides'), though we would only suggest this to seasoned hikers, accompanied by professional guides.
The South Coast of Iceland is the country's most visited sightseeing route, along with the Golden Circle.
The famed South Coast shoreline stretches from the greater Reykjavík area and is dotted with natural wonders such as cascading waterfalls, volcanoes both active and dormant, black sand beaches and glacier lagoons.
Geography, Nature & Wildlife
Iceland is divided into eight geographical regions. Out of these, the Southern Region is the largest, as it spans over 24.000 square kilometres with its administrative centre in the municipality of Selfoss.
What is known as the South Coast embodies the shoreline of this particular region. The area consists of a lowland that is mostly composed of marshlands, bays and cultivated pastures that are met by a series of black beaches where the estuaries to the east and west of the district close off the coastal body.
Underneath the soil rests a vast lava field, known as Þjórsárhraun. Its edges reach several hundred metres offshore where the ocean waves crash upon them, thereby protecting the lowland from the invasion of the sea. This results in the South Coast being unusually lacking in the deep fjords that so distinctly characterise the rest of Iceland's shore line.
The region boasts vibrant bird life during all seasons. It is not only rich with both marshland birds and seabirds but also migrating birds such as the North Atlantic puffin. Some species stay throughout the harsh Icelandic winter, including the northern diver, the loom and various species of gulls and ducks.
Highlights of the South Coast
The South Coast offers an unprecedented array of natural wonders that draw thousands of visitors each day. When driving the route from Reykjavík City, the highlights in their correct order are:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Vestmannaeyjar; The Westman Islands
- Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Volcano
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Dyrhólaey Peninsula
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
- Coastal Village Vík í Mýrdal
- Skeiðarársandur Glacial Sand Plain
- Vatnajökull National Park
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
These attractions count for but a fraction of what the South Coast has to offer. The vast sand plains of Sólheimasandur are home to a crashed DC-3 Plane Wreck, and close to Seljavellir by the Skógar Village there's Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland.
- Explore the many wonders of the area on these South Coast Tours
Starting time : 08:00
Pick-up from your hotel in Reykjavík.
Guided tour in a minibus
Hotel room with private bathroom for 5 nights and breakfasts
Glacier Hike with a certified glacier guide
Whale watching and sea angling
Entrance fee to Mývatn Nature Baths, but can be added
No meals are included, except breakfast at the accommodation
What to bring:
Warm outdoor clothing, a waterproof jacket and pants, headwear and gloves.
Good hiking shoes are recommended.
Day 1 - Reykjavík - Golden Circle - South Coast
The day starts with a pick-up from your accommodation in Reykjavík. First, we will head out to explore the famous Golden Circle, which includes Þingvellir National Park where Icelanders founded their parliament in the year 930 A.D., the oldest parliament in the world. The Circle includes Geysir hot springs and Gullfoss waterfall. Next, we will drive to the beautiful South Coast. Our first stop is at Seljalandsfoss, a unique opportunity to experience the power and wonder of nature. Don´t view this one from a distance – the walking path will take you directly behind the waterfall itself. Next, we will stop at the scenic Skógarfoss, where the water crashes down over sea cliffs that marked the coastline of Iceland long ago. Watch out for rainbows – the incredible spray from this waterfall makes it an ideal spot to catch one or even two at a time! The final stop of the day is at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, the home of the famous Reynisdrangar peaks, rumored to be the figures of two trolls caught in the sun and turned to stone, and a basalt column cave. After that, we will make our way to a country hotel near the charming village of Vík, where we will rest for the night.
Day 2 - Vík - Skaftafell - Jökulsárlón - Höfn
The journey continues along the South coast in the direction of Skaftafell and Vatnajökull National Park. At Skaftafell, another of Iceland´s three national parks, we will take a 3-hour glacier hike on one of Vatnajökull outlet glaciers, led by one of our skilled glacier guides. After that bracing experience, we will explore a little further Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where we can expect to see floating icebergs and the occasional frolicking seal. Beside the glacier lake, we will find another black sand crystal beach, which is usually filled with clear icebergs that have floated back to shore. For the evening, we will lay our heads in accommodations in the pleasant seaside town of Höfn.
Day 3 - Höfn - East Fjords - Egilsstaðir
We continue to the East coast. Rich in history, these areas were both used as a base for the British Army in WWII. Now, they provide charming vistas of Iceland´s unique geology. Feel the power of the ocean as the waves pound the rocky shore of Stokksnes!
The scenery continues as we follow the coastline of the East Fjords to Egilsstaðir, a picturesque town on the banks of the Lagarfljót River. On the way there, we will go for a 3-hour hike to Hengifoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland which drops into a striking gorge. Next is Litlanesfoss waterfall – look for the red strata climbing the walls around the waterfall, created by volcanic ash and basaltic lava over thousands of years as the cliff was formed in the heat of many mighty eruptions. We will then make our way to our accommodation for the night.
Day 4 - Dettifoss - Mývatn - Goðafoss - Akureyri
This day is filled with highlights of Iceland. Our first stop is at the magnificent Dettifoss, the largest waterfall in Iceland. Next, we head to the Lake Mývatn area. Here our first stop will be Námaskarð geothermal area, filled with mud pools and fumaroles, which are an interesting geological feature marking a vent for steam and hot gasses in the Earth´s crust. We'll then make a stop at Mývatn Nature Baths, where you have the opportunity to bath in the hot spring pools. The entrance fee can be added when booking or paid on site. For those that don't wish to go in the water, they can stroll around the area and enjoy the views or sit down in the cafeteria. Next, we will take a walk to the Hverfjall crater, caused by a volcano eruption 2500 years ago, and Dimmuborgir, the “dark cities” of lava formations that tower overhead. We will continue our drive around Lake Mývatn before heading in the direction of Akureyri, with a stop on the way at Goðafoss Waterfall. Our accommodation will be at an inviting country hotel near Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland.
Day 5 - Dalvík - Siglufjörður - Borgarfjörður
We will start the day by exploring the town of Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland. Then, we will drive to the neighboring town of Dalvík where we go for a 3-hour whale watching tour in Eyjafjörður fjord. Take this opportunity to enjoy the wonders of sea life, including humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, and the occasional blue whale! If fishing interests you, give sea angling a try and taste whatever you catch. Next we will travel the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, which will take us through a couple of fishing hamlets before we stop in the cozy village of Siglufjörður. Thereafter, we will head to West Iceland, where we will spend the night in a hotel in a small college community.
Day 6 - Borgarfjörður
On our final day, we will explore part of West Iceland, voted one of the best travel destinations in 2016 by Lonely Planet. We will stop at Deildartunguhver hot spring, Europe‘s most powerful hot spring. Next, we will view the Hraunfossar waterfalls flowing from underneath the lava field and walk to the nearby Barnafoss waterfall. Our final stop of the day is at the historic site of Reykholt where Snorri Sturluson, medieval historian, politician and writer of some of our greatest sagas, lived. We will then head back to Reykjavík, completing our circle, arriving in the late afternoon.
Great. Loved the tour. Guide was very accommodating and felt worth money for all that is included on the tour. We saw a great variety of sights. Agree with previous bus comments. Would put microphone on the bus. It was hard to hear in back.
We just got back from the inaugural offering of 6 Days Circle of Iceland Guided Tour. Overall the experience was very positive . You will experience a lot of natural beauty of Iceland , especially evry major waterfall . We chose this tour over more expensive offering from other tour operators , cheaper guided tours that put you in hostels with shared bathrooms and self guided tours where you do the driving . For us the camaraderie of a smaller group and not having to drive was attractive. it might be for you. Our tour guide Friman was great and was very knowledgeable about Iceland . He went out of the way and showed our tour some Icelandic horses not officially included in the tour which made the whole experience worthwhile for my girlfriend. Since this was their first offering I am think they will improve upon it with future offerings. My biggest suggestion for Artic adventures for future offerings would be use a larger vehicle or cap the tour at less than the 16 person capacity of the van as no one wanted to sit in the cramped 4 person back row. I'd also suggest updating the offerings in East Iceland day of the tour as it was the least memorable . . . officially add a visit that includes Icelandic horses and take out the images of puffins and take out any mention of Egilsstaðir because we didn't stop there. Thanks again for fulfilling a memorable bucket list item for me