Iceland On Your Own | Highlights of Iceland Bus Passport
Choose to explore Iceland in your own way with this bus passport of Iceland’s highlights. Throughout the duration of your passport, you can board any bus without paying along certain routes, taking you to some of this country’s most incredible natural sites and back again.
This is a perfect option for those who seek independent travel, wish to hike through Iceland’s interior, and want to explore off the beaten track. It is also ideal for those travelling on a budget.
There are five kinds of ‘Highlights of Iceland Bus Passports’ you can get, depending on how long your stay is. The shortest is a 7-day pass, the longest 15-days, with 9-day, 11-day and 13-day passes in between. All of them provide you access to the same routes across the country. These routes take you straight to Iceland’s highlights; you just need to choose how long you’ll be on the road for.
With a Highlights of Iceland Bus Passport, you can travel all the way along the South Coast to the Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon, often called the crown jewel of Iceland’s nature. You can also take one of two highland routes that run through the country’s interior, through desolate, lunar landscapes few get the chance to see. These routes take you to the North and allow you to explore places such as Lake Mývatn, Akureyri, and the Ásbyrgi canyon.
The routes that this passport give you are tailored to suit hikers. Buses will take you directly to Þorsmörk or Landmannalaugar, for example, so that you can trek the world-famous Laugavegur trail. Those without an interest in hiking, however, will still enjoy the fact that the buses take you directly to the classic sightseeing sites such as those along the Golden Circle.
While a bus passport is excellent for travellers who do not like to be tied down, it does require a little organisation. While you do not need to book each leg of the route, you will need to organise accommodation prior to your arrival, as hotels, guesthouses and even campsites tend to fill up over summer.
You will also need to be aware of the individual schedules of the buses you are planning on boarding, and whether these are going to be affected by weather or road conditions.
The Highlights of Iceland Bus Passport gives you access to almost every route covered by the ‘Iceland On Your Own’ series; if there are any excluded routes from the other passports you wish to take, however, you can get a 10% discount for these buses.
Explore Iceland in this unique, independent way, and book your Highlands of Iceland Bus Passport now. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jun. - Sep.
- Activities: Hiking, Sightseeing, Hot Spring Bathing, Cultural Activity
- Difficulty: Easy
- 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.
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.
Myvatn is a beautiful lake with many small islands in the north of Iceland, the fourth largest lake in the country. Along with its surrounding area, the lake is one of Iceland's most amazing natural attractions.
Some of the islands in Myvatn are pseudocraters, formed by steam explosions. The lake has rich birdlife and more species of ducks than anywhere else in the world. As for vegetation, it is one of the few places in the world that grows Marimo, also known as Cladophora ball, Lake ball, or Moss Balls in English, a species of filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta).
The Myvatn nature baths are also renowned throughout the world, a perfect place to relax, surrounded by breathtaking landscape.
Close to the lake is Dimmuborgir, a fascinating area of dramatic and chaotic lava. Norwegian symphonic metal band Dimmu Borgir takes its name from the the lava field, and it continues to inspire travellers from all over the world.
The Myvatn area is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Don´t miss it!
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.
Husavik in Skjalfandi Bay in North Iceland is called the whale watching capital of the world.
Whale watching is highly recommended from Húsavík and visiting the village whale museum. Other places that visitors might like to visit are the wooden Húsavíkurkirkja church, built in 1907, and the civic museum for culture and biology, which amongst other things features a stuffed polar bear and ancient boats, bearing witness to the history of seafaring in Iceland.
In Húsavík you'll find cute cafés and restaurants offering tasty treats, and you'll have a gorgeous view over the Skjálfandi Bay from this small town of about 2,000 inhabitants.
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.
The glacier volcano of Eyjafjallajokull (1651 m) is located at the borders of the South Icelandic highlands. It featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe.
An ice cap of about 100 km with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull that stands at the height of 1651 meters. The diamaeter of its highest crater is around 3-4 km2 wide and the rim has several peaks.
Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano lies north of Skogar, and to the west of Myrdalsjokull glacier and the massive volcano there; Katla.
Eyjafjallajokull is thought to be related geologically to Katla in Myrdalsjokull and eruptions in the former have often been followed by eruptions in the latter.
The 2010 eruptions
The end of 2010 saw some small seismic activity that gradually increased and resulted in a small eruption in March of 2010, characterized by a flow of alkani-olivine basalt lava.
This first stage lasted until April 12th and created the volcanic craters Magni and Modi at the Fimmvorduhals trail. They are so far Iceland's newest vocanic craters, and still eminate steam with lava glowing under the surface.
However it was the second phase of the eruption that started on April 14th that created the huge ash cloud that rose about 9 km into the skies.
This eruption halted air traffic in Europe for days, and its estimated that as many as 107.000 flights may have been cancelled during the week it lasted.
The ejected tephra measured around 250 million cubic meters. This ash cloud lasted for six days and some more localized disruption continued into May. The eruption was officially declared to be over in October 2010, as the snow on the glacier had ceased to melt.
Future volcanic developments?
Eyjafjallajokull erupted in years 920, 1612 and again 1821-1823.
Its latest eruptions were the two that occurred in 2010.
Future volcanic developments remain unclear. The area is still highly active and can be quite unpredictable. It continues, however, to be closely monitored by The Icelandic Meterological Office.
Thingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Thingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries.Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagja, which marks the eastern boundary of the north American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Oxararfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, and Gjabakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
The Sprengisandur highland plateau stretches between the glaciers Hofsjokull and Vatnajokull (Europe’s largest glacier) and was the main route between the North and South of Iceland in former times. It stretches between the North and South at around 200 km, reaching a height of around 750-800 meters.
The highland pass is mostly barren, with scant vegetation and is only passable during summer, and even then the weather can be unpredictable. It is accessible by car but it is a gravel road so a 4WD car is recommended.
To the north one can drive over to Eyjafjordur, Skagafjordur and Bardardalur. South of Hofsjokull is the nature paradise Thjorsarver. En route you’ll have view of three glaciers: Hofsjokull to the west and Tungnafellsjokull and the mighty Vatnajokull to the east. To the southeast is the oasis of Nyidalur with excellent lodgings.
Sprengisandur has strong connections with folklore and was a hiding place for outlaws in former times, the most famous being Fjalla-Eyvindur and his wife Halla, along with fellow outlaw Arnes, who resided at the southern border of Sprengisandur (ruins Eyvindarver bear witness to their stay). Already legendary, they were further immortalised in poet and playwright Johann Sigurjonsson's play Fjalla-Eyvindur, later made into a film by Swedish director Victor Sjöström. Poet Grimur Thomsen wrote a famous poem about Sprengisandur (A Sprengisandi = 'At Sprengisandur'), which was later set to music and is a highly popular song with Icelanders.
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.
Hofn a Hornafirdi, is a fishing town in southeast Iceland, with a population of 1641 (as of 2011). It has a strong harbour and its main industries are fishing and tourism.
Of note are several interesting museums and the annual Humarhatid (lobster festival). The area is also rich and varied birdlife and migratory birds from Scotland land here around April and leave around August/September.
Vik in Myrdalur valley is the southernmost village on the Icelandic mainland, located 186 km from the capital Reykjavik.
Vik is important as a service centre for the inhabitants and visitors of the marvellous Reynisfjara beach.
Reynisfjara is widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches on earth (see for example Islands Magazine). This black pebble beach boasts an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns called Gardar, which resembles a rocky step pyramid and out in the sea are the spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The area has rich birdlife, including puffins, fulmars and guillemots.
Kjolur/Kjalvegur is 600-700 m high mountain pass in the highlands, located east of Langjokull glacier and west of Hofsjokull. It starts by the popular rafting river Hvita (home of Gullfoss) in Arnessysla in the south and the Svartakvisl stream by Hveravellir in the North.
The area is mainly barren, consisting of gravel, sands and lava, though it was better grown in former times. Some high mountains are in the area, such as Hrutfell and Kjalfell. To the north is the geothermal area Hveravellir, popular with travelers.
The pass was the main road connecting North- and South Iceland in former times and it is mentioned as far back as in the sagas.
In the 18th century the brothers of Reynisstadur perished there and the place is said to be haunted. The road is accessible by car in the summer.
Egilsstadir is the largest town in East Iceland, with a population of 2257 people as of 2011. It is located on the banks of the river Lagarfljot in the wide valley of the fertile Fljotsdalsherad district.
Egilsstadir is the main center for service, transportation and administration in East Iceland.
The town provides all basic services and features an airport, a college and a health center. Egilsstadir also has an annual jazz festival that we can recommend. The town is furthermore close to many of East Iceland's and indeed Iceland's main attractions and as a center of the area, many East Iceland tours are directed from there.
The area of Fljotsdalsherad has many notable points of interest, whether natural, historical or cultural. Click here for further information about those.
Laugarvatn is a hamlet of around 200 people, by the lake of the same name and originally formed around the boarding school there. It is located in South Iceland, around 93 km from Reykjavik. Laugarvatn is popular as a summer resort and as a stop for travelers, as it is located near many of Iceland’s top attractions, such as Gullfoss and Geysir (part of the Golden Circle) and the ancient Skalholt bishop seat.
Environment & Spa
The environment of Laugavatn is very pleasant, as a forest has been planted there and brooks and streams further contribute to the scenery. A beautiful and shallow lake, Lake Laugarvatn is rich in aquatic life and good char and lake trout fishing can be made there as well. Boats and gear for watersport can indeed be rented at Laugarvatn. As the shores of the lake feature geothermal springs, it was decided to build a spa there.
At the Fontana spa at Laugarvatn you can relax in the excellent geothermal swimming pool and the three steam rooms known collectively as Gufan. The spa also features a Finnish-style sauna and three interconnected mineral baths. At the spa you can also enjoy the stone artwork of artist Erla Thorarinsdottir. At the Viska hot tub you’ll further have a nice view of the Laugarvatn surroundings. Vatnid (‘The Lake’) and Strondin (‘The Beach’) complete the experience, the black sand of the former having been shown to be beneficial to those suffering from joint illnesses and Vatnid offering a healthy cooling down between visiting Gufan and the Ylur sauna.
Gallery & Accommodation
While at Laugarvatn, we also recommend checking out the Gallery Laugarvatn, which features a wide display of Icelandic handicraft and offers bed and breakfast as well.
Laugarvatn has a boarding school that functions as a popular hotel, i.e. Hotel Edda, in the summer. A number of guesthouses, hostels, rental apartments and cottages are also to be found in the area. Laugarvatn offers all basic services and is highly popular throughout the year.
Reynisdrangar are rock formations situated near the shore of Reynisfjara beach by the coastal village Vík í Mýrdalur on the South Coast of Iceland.
The formations are large and impending sea cliffs, made up of the rock type basalt, that serve as a vital part of the area’s allure as they shoot dramatically out of the ocean under the looming cliffs of Mt. Reynisfjall.
- Visit Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar on these South Coast Tours
The village of Vík only houses around 300 permanent inhabitants, but on a daily basis, travellers scouting the South Coast make their way there to visit what has been voted as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. The beach of Reynisfjara, however, can be highly dangerous if proper caution is not taken. As is evident from how the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash upon Reynisdrangar, the currents here are strong, and sneak waves can easily carry anyone that’s standing too close out to sea. The beach is not for wading, but for admiring, and especially the mighty surf bursting on the base of these rocky cliffs.
There is an Icelandic folk tale that explains the origin of the pillars’ eerie appearance. According to legend, a couple of trolls were busy dragging a stranded three-masted ship to shore when the sunlight hit them and turned them into pillars of rock for all eternity. In fact, numerous rock formations in Iceland carry with them tales of trolls or elves, and one has only to look at them to fathom why.
Surroundings & Wildlife
An alternative view of the bewitching cliffs and their surrounding sea can be enjoyed by venturing up Mt. Reynisfjall, by a road to the west of the village. The mountain furthermore functions as a puffin colony every summer, from April to September, meaning guests can enjoy the view in good company. Other birds can be seen gliding around the cliffs such as Arctic terns, fulmars and seagulls.
- See also: Puffin Watching Tours
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
Departure time : Flexible
BSÍ bus terminal
Iceland On Your Own bus passport for selected routes
Entry fees and camping fees
Good to know:
The Highlights Passport is available from 13 June to 7 September. Note that some routes start later or end earlier, please observe each individual schedule. Road and weather conditions might affect individual routes as well.