Information about South Iceland

South Iceland is a wonderland of many incredible features in both winter and summer.

South Iceland is the most popular part of the country amongst travellers and contains some of Iceland’s most beautiful natural attractions.

Amongst these are the sites of the world famous Golden Circle, and the features of the South Coast, such as the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

The south of Iceland can be roughly split into two areas, the lowlands in the west, and the east.

The South Icelandic lowlands

The South Icelandic lowlands stretch nearly 100 kilometres (over sixty miles) from Hellisheiði in the west to Eyjafjallajökull in the east. This region is flat and fertile farming land, and home to many Icelandic horses and sheep.

The whole area is geologically very young, formed during the last Ice Age by the lava flows from numerous volcanoes in the area. The lowlands are surrounded by volcanically active mountains, notably the aforementioned Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla.

The most notable features of the South Icelandic lowlands are the three on the Golden Circle, the country’s most popular sightseeing route.

These consist of the Geysir Geothermal Area, where geysers erupt and hot springs bubble, Gullfoss, a powerful two-stepped waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park, an oasis of forests and lava located between the tectonic plates.

The fissures and lava landscapes of this latter feature reveal the extent to which earthquakes and eruptions have shaped the region. The area is still very active; take, for example, the 1975 eruption in the Westman Islands that nearly destroyed the town and formed a new island.

It should be noted that Þingvellir is not just a site of natural, geological wonder. It was also the original site of the parliament Icelanders formed in 930 AD. This was a convenient place, considering the fertile lands of south Iceland meant that many settlers populated it.

Unlike most early Icelandic settlements, few of the communities formed in the south were based off fishing. The only town with a significant harbour in the south is Þorlákshöfn, where the ferry to the Westman Islands leaves.

Other towns in the lowlands are Selfoss, Hveragerði, Hella and Hvolsvöllur, all conveniently located by the Ring Road.

In terms of culture in the lowlands, it was once home to the ancient bishop seat of Skálholt. Also, Iceland's most famous saga, Njal's Saga, takes place in the region.

For sports, horse riding is popular, as is fishing for salmon and trout, hiking, snorkelling, sightseeing and river rafting.

Eastern South Iceland.

The areas south and east of Mýrdalsjökull, the glacier that covers the volcano Katla, are considered the eastern part of south Iceland. Glaciers, volcanoes and the Highlands dominate the view.

This landscape has also been shaped by volcanic eruptions, although these were much more recent, and thus the area looks dramatically different. Vast expanses of black sand stretch from the Highlands to the sea, part of several glacial outwash plains that flood during a volcanic eruption.

Some agriculture is found here, with farms nestled in the mountains, but because of the glacial floods, they are few and far between.

A few large glacial rivers flow through this area, creating incredible features such as Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. These are hardly the only sites in this part of the south worth seeing, however.

Sólheimajokull is a beautiful outlet glacier, a tongue of the greater Mýrdalsjökull, that you can hike on so long as you are with a guide. Skógar has a very interesting museum that discusses national traditions during Iceland’s development. One of Iceland’s most famous hiking routes, Fímmvörðuháls, cuts through the area.

Southwest of the village of Vík is one of Iceland’s most spectacular beaches, Reynisfjara. Near the promontory of Dýrholaey, and boasting incredible views of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, it is a marvellous stretch of black sand.

Even further east is the Skaftafell preservation area, an area so beautiful it was once a national park in its own right. Today it is part of the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which covers parts of the south, east, north and much of the Highlands.

Just a little further from here is the incredible, world famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, a deep lake that fills with icebergs. At the adjacent Diamond Beach, they wash upon the shore.

 

Services near South Iceland

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Attractions nearby South Iceland

Bláfjöll

Wikimedia, Creative Commons, photo by Reykholt The Blue Mountains, otherwise known as Bláfjöll, are a beautiful mountain range in the sou...

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Katla

Katla is one of Iceland’s most explosive volcanoes, located underneath Iceland’s fourth largest ice cap, Mýrdalsjökull. Sinc...

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Mýrdalsjökull

Mýrdalsjökull is a glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands. It is the country's fourth largest ice cap, covering nearly 600 ...

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Stórasúla

Stórasúla is a distinctive, cone-shaped mountain found in the southern highlands of Iceland. The mountain has an elevation of 693 m (2...

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Strútslaug

Strutslaug (also known as Holmsarbotnalaug) is a geothermal pool in the South Highlands, north of Myrdalsjokull glacier and close to Torfajokull glaci...

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Laugavegur Hiking Trail

Laugavegur is one of the most popular highland trails in Iceland. The scenery is breathtaking in its beauty and diversity, perfectly representing th...

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Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon

Photo Credit: Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Borvan53. Markarfljótsgljúfur is a canyon in Iceland's southern Highlands, west of ...

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Torfajökull

Torfajökull is the name of both a stratovolcano and a complex of subglacial volcanoes, north of Mýrdalsjökull glacier in South Icelan...

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Faxi

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by Kkaefer. Faxi is a wide, serene waterfall in South Iceland. It can be found in the Tungufljót Ri...

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Fimmvörðuháls

Fimmvörðuháls Pass is one of Iceland's most popular hiking trails. It made the world news when the Eyjafjallajökull eruptio...

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Móði

Flickr, Photo by Pavel Karafiet Móði, along with its neighbour Magni, is one of the two newest craters in Iceland. Formation of Mó...

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Magni

Magni is one of the newest craters in Iceland, alongside its neighbour Móði. Formation of Magni Magni was created during the 2010 erupt...

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Þakgil

Photo from: Þakgil and Remundargil Canyons - Beautiful Hidden Gems in South-Iceland. Þakgil ('Roof Canyon') is a hidden cany...

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Bláhnjúkur

  Blahnjukur (a.k.a. Blahnukur) is a volcano in the area of Landmannalaugar, in the south highlands of Iceland.  Blahnjukur's name (&#...

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Brennisteinsalda

  Brennisteinsalda (ca. 855 m) is a volcano in the area of Landmannalaugar National Park, in the south highlands of Iceland. Brennisteinsalda ...

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Tindfjöll

Tindfjöll is a mountain ridge that runs south from the glacier and volcano Tindfjallajökull. It was formed in an eruption 54,000 years ...

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Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar, or the 'People's Pools', is a vast area of stunning and unique beauty in the heart of Iceland's southern Highlands....

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Stakkholtsgjá

  Stakkholtsgja is an up to 100 meters deep and  2 kilometers long canyon in South Iceland. The canyon is located near the entrance to Tho...

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Tindfjallajökull

Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Photo by Bjoertvedt Tindfjallajökull is the smallest glacier in Iceland, covering an ancient stratovolcano. It...

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Sólheimajökull

Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier of the mighty icecap of Mýrdalsjökull on the South Coast of Iceland. It is one of the mo...

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