South Coast Adventure - 8 days

- starting from and returning to the capital, Reykjavík. 

You can download the printable version (pdf) here

 

Introduction

Many of the highlights of Iceland, such as the famous Geysir hot spring area, the waterfall Gullfoss and the historical site Þingvellir are situated in the southwest of the country. The southern part of Iceland is interesting because of its astonishing variety. Glaciers have formed the landscape and you can see the results of this process everywhere. In the eastern parts powerful glacial rivers find their way through huge black sand deserts down to the sea. Around the famous volcano Hekla there are obvious signs of volcanic activity such as large lave fields and impressive gorges. In the western part of the region you will find good farming land as well as interesting historical sites.


Possible extensions:

A. trip to Landmannalaugar for 1 or 2 days
B. trip to Westman Islands for 1 or 2 days
- further information see right



Day 1: Reykjavík → Laugarvatn/Árnes

 

- leave Reykjavík driving ring road no. 1 heading north, passing the small town Mosfellsbær

- just after Mosfellsbær turn right on to road no. 36 to Þingvellir

 

Gljúfrasteinn

- interesting museum a few km from Mosfellsbær just to the right of road no. 36

- former home of the most famous Icelandic novelist and Nobel-prize winner Halldor Laxness (1902-1998)

- continue on road no. 36


Þingvellir National Park

- most important place in Icelandic history

- National Park since 1928

- situated on the banks of lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland (84 km²)

- The historical Icelandic parliament (Alþingi) was founded here in the year 930. It was the biggest annual event for Icelandic farmers. They came together for two weeks every summer to meet each other and to follow the parliament sessions. At this site Icelanders voted to become Christians in the year 1000.

- Þingvellir is a large lava field, situated right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the European and North American plates are moving apart.

- service station and tourist information during summer

- excellent multimedia-exhibition on geology, wild life and history near the view point above the gorge Almannagjá

- many hiking trails, information spots

- leave Þingvellir along the lake Þingvallavatn (road no. 361 or 36), turn left onto road no. 365, heading for Laugarvatn, very interesting landscape

- be careful on gravel roads
 

Laugarvatnshellir

- cave, still inhabited by an Icelandic family until 1974

- situated to the left of road no. 365, follow the signs

- get back on road no. 365 heading for Laugarvatn


Laugarvatn

- lake with geothermal heat on the banks and the bottom

- When the Icelanders in the year 1000 voted to become Christians many of them were baptized in the warm spring at the bank of Laugarvatn (Vígðalaug).

- village with a number of schools, a College of Physical Education, sport grounds, a natural steam bath and greenhouses

- drive road no. 37 and road no. 35 to reach the Geysir area


Geysir

- hot spring area in the valley Haukadalur, named after the famous hot spring Geysir

- eruptions of Geysir itself are unpredictable, but the hot spring Strokkur erupts every 5 to 10 minutes

- restaurant, cafeteria and gas service station, souvenir shop etc.

- interesting multi-media exhibition on the geology of this area called Geysisstofa

- continue on road no. 35 to reach Gullfoss


Gullfoss

- famous and very impressive waterfall in the river Hvítá, the name means Golden Waterfall

- The water falls into a gorge which is 70 m deep. The waterfall itself is 32 m high and 250 m wide, falling in two cascades.

- exhibition on the nature reserve of river Hvítá situated in an information center called Sigríðarstofa

- cafeteria, souvenir shop etc. just beside Sigríðarstofa

- parking recommended “upstairs” on the parking lot at the service center

- turn back on road no. 35, passing Geysir and heading south

- to visit Skálholt turn left onto road no. 31


Skálholt

- former most important religious and educational center, bishopric founded 1056

- 1784 it was destroyed by an earthquake and the bishopric was moved to Reykjavík

- Many historical events are connected to Skálholt, in 1550 the last catholic bishop of Iceland, Jón Arason, was beheaded here, today there is a memorial stone in memory of bishop Arason.

- interesting modern memorial church, built in the 1950’s with a remarkable tapestry-like mosaic by artist Nína Tryggvadóttir and fascinating stained-glass windows by artist Gerður Helgadóttir

- ongoing archeological excavations

- cafeteria in the nearby school

- really worth a visit


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at Laugarvatn Hostel or Árnes Hostel


- to get to Laugarvatn drive back and turn left onto road no. 35 and then right onto road no. 37

- to get to Árnes continue on road no. 31 until you get on road no. 30, turn left and then right onto road no. 32

(Distances: Reykjavík-Þingvellir 42 km, Þingvellir-Laugarvatn 23 km, Laugarvatn-Gullfoss 43 km, Gullfoss-Skálholt 41 km, Skálholt-Laugarvatn/Árnes 28 km/19 km; total: 177/168 km)

 


Day 2: Laugarvatn/Árnes → Árnes/Fljótsdalur

 

- coming from Laugarvatn Hostel drive road no. 37 heading south until you reach road no. 35, turn left and later right onto road no. 31, drive road no. 31 passing Skálholt until you reach road no. 30, turn left and then right onto road no. 32, drive road no. 32 passing Árnes and along the river Þjórsá

- coming from Árnes Hostel drive road no. 32 along the river Þjórsá


Þjórsá

- glacial river, longest river in Iceland, 230 km, average flow 360m³/s, gathers its water from the glaciers Vatnajökull and Hofsjökull, but also from the Sprengisandur desert

- great view over the river and the valley from the viewpoint Gaukshöfði just beside the road


Þjórsárdalur

- a once fertile valley named after the river Þjórsá, inhabited by the vikings

- astonishing landscape, formed by the river and eruptions of the volcano Hekla

- nowadays home to a forest station with its center in Ásólfsstaðir

- after passing Ásólfsstaðir you can get to the waterfall Hjálparfoss to the right of road no. 32
 

Hjálparfoss

- picturesque waterfall, surrounded by basalt columns

- situated in the river Fossá in the middle of desert-like black landscape

- be careful not to harm the vegetation

- after getting back on road no. 32, continue on this road and turn left onto road no. 327 heading for Stöng (gravel road)


Stöng

- former Viking homestead, excavated by archeologists in 1939, now protected by a roof, but easily accessible, written information at the site

- walking path to reach Stöng

- very lovely landscape, inviting for a stay

- good hikers can go to Háifoss waterfall from here (2 hours hike)

 

Háifoss

- waterfall in the river Fossá, 122 m high

- reachable from Stöng only for good hikers

- from Stöng drive back to reach road no. 32

- after a short drive on road no. 32 you get to Þjóðveldisbærinn and Búrfellsstöð


Þjóðveldisbærinn

- longhouse replica of the original building of Stöng

- interesting museum, shows the living conditions before 1104 when an eruption of Hekla destroyed Stöng and many other farms in this region


Búrfellsvirkjun

- power plant station in the river Þjórsá, built in 1969

- one of four stations, generating power in a system of one lake (Þórisvatn) and three reservoirs (Krókslón, Hrauneyjarlón, Sultartangarlón)

- visitor center open during summer season

- when continuing on road no. 32 you get to the next station of this power plant system, Sultartangastöð, worth a stop to get a look at the canal as well as a piece of art at the front of the building

- when reaching road no. 26 you can chose to travel to Hrauneyjar, a former workers camp that serves now as a hotel and has a nice cafeteria, there is also a fuel station

- If you want to visit Hrauneyjar turn left, if you don’t turn right.

- travelers to Landmannalaugar (Extension A) drive to Hrauneyjar, further information see on the right


Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at Árnes Hostel or Fljótsdalur Hostel

- after visiting Hrauneyjar you can drive the same way back to Árnes Hostel or you can follow road no. 26 until you reach the ring road no. 1

- when getting to road no. 1 turn left to travel to Fljótsdalur

- continue on road no. 1, passing the small towns Hella and Hvolsvöllur

- from Hvolsvöllur drive road no. 261 to get to Fljótsdalur Hostel, passing Breiðabólsstaður



(Distances: Árnes-Stöng 23 km, Stöng-Hrauneyjar 42 km, Hrauneyjar-Hella 84 km, Hella-Fljótsdalur 31 km; total: 180 km)



Day 3: Árnes/Fljótsdalur → Skógar/Vík

 

- get back on road no. 1 and to Hvolsvöllur

- people interested in the Icelandic sagas should stop at the Saga centre in Hvolsvöllur

- continue driving road no. 1, after crossing the bridge over river Markarafljót turn left onto road no. 249, after a very short drive you reach Seljalandsfoss


Seljalandsfoss

- very beautiful waterfall in the river Seljalandsá, 40 m high, narrow but powerful waterfall

- sensational walk on a foot path behind the waterfall

- bird colonies, fullmars

- turn back to the main road and continue on road no. 1, now you have the glacier Eyjafallajökull to your left, after a while you reach Skógar


Skógar

- the name refers to two farms, a school and an open air museum, near the waterfall Skógafoss

- very interesting folk museum: a church replica, various types of traditional stone and turf farm buildings and two modern building for exhibitions

- countless artifacts of former everyday life in a farming and fishing society, collected over more than 5 decades

- exhibition on history of transportation and infrastructure in Iceland

- guided tours available, nice café, worth a prolonged stay


Skógafoss

- one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, 60 m high, walking path beside the waterfall to climb up the mountain.

- not far from Skógafoss (just some 100 m down the road) you find the folk museum of Skógar

- accommodation recommended at Skógar Hostel or Vík Hostel



- if you are going to stay at Vík Hostel, turn back on road no. 1 and drive East

- to visit the bird cliff Dyrhólaey turn right onto road no. 218

- travelers staying at Skógar Hostel can visit Dyrhólaey the next day when driving towards Vík


Dyrhólaey

- small peninsula with 120 high cliff and offshore stacks with a good selection of breeding sea birds, including puffins, gulls and fullmars

- cliffs rising over a long expanse of black sand

- all the cliffs, rocks etc. are a protected area, be careful not to disturb the birds or damage the vegetation. During early summer, Dyrhólaey can be closed to protect the colony of eider ducks

- lighthouse build by a famous Icleandic architect (Guðjón Samúelsson)

- turn back to the main road and continue on road no. 1 to reach Vík


Vík

- small village in the picturesque landscape near the valley Mýrdal, 300 inhabitants

- southernmost village in Iceland

- restaurant, cafeteria, service station, wool factory, handycrafts.

- great view of the impressive cliffs “Reynisdrangar” (66 m high, folktales say they are trolls that turned to stone at first daylight)

- walking path on the mountain Reynisfjall, good opportunity for bird watching



(Distances: Árnes/Fljótsdalur-Hvolsvöllur 60/18 km, Hvolsvöllur-Seljalandsfoss 23 km, Seljalandsfoss-Skógar 27 km, Skógar-Dyrhólaey 24 km, Dyrhólaey-Vík 20 km)


Day 4: Skógar/Vík → Vagnsstaðir/Höfn

 

- starting from Skógar or Vík Hostel continue driving on road no. 1 heading East

- when you leave the glacier Mýrdalsjökull behind you the landscape will change dramatically and the large lava fields of Eldhraun will take over


Eldhraun

- “fire lava”, lava flow from a row of craters called Lakagígar, 75 km northwest from here

- this flow is the largest in the world, 565 km², caused by eruptions in 1783-84

- these eruptions meant one of the most dangerous catastrophes of nature to the Icelandic people, 20% of the entire population died

- the lava is now covered by a thick layer of moss, when you stop to watch around please be careful not to damage the moss by stepping on it

- continue on road no. 1. If you want to visit the canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur turn left onto road no. 206 or follow the signs, it is not far from the main road


Fjaðrárgljúfur

- impressive canyon in the small river Fjaðrá

- very beautiful landscape covered by moss and grass, nice environment for a little walk

- the fissure can also be seen from the main road (there is an information board there)

- turn back to road no. 1, continue on road no. 1 heading for Kirkjubæjarklaustur


Kirkjubæjarklaustur

- small village in a beautiful landscape

- Christian settlement all from the beginning of Icelandic history

- from 12th to 16th century there was a convent, many place names remind on it (for example sisters fall, sisters lake etc.)

- church reminds on the rev. Jón Steingrímsson who is believed to have stopped the lava flow of 1783 by his fire sermon (eldmessa)

- all necessary service available, bank, post office, supermarket, tourist information, fuel station, restaurants, swimming pool

- leaving Kirkjubæjarklaustur on road no. 1 you can turn left to see Kirkjugólf, follow the signs


Kirkjugólf

- “church floor”

- formation of basalt columns that looks like the floor of a mediaeval church

- nice little walk

- turn back onto road no. 1, continue driving east


Skeiðarársandur

- largest black sand desert, formed by glacial rivers and catastrophic glacial floods coming out from Skeiðarárjökull glacier

- longest bridge in Iceland, 904 m (but in summer 2009 the river disappeared)

- in 1996 this bridge like several others was destroyed after volcanic eruptions underneath the glacier, followed by glacial floods, see the memorial after crossing the


Bridge over Skeiðará

- ever changing breathtaking landscape of glaciers, mountains, rivers, black sand and the ocean


- all the glacier tongues you are going to drive along for the rest of the day are part of the biggest glacier in Iceland and Europe, Vatnajökull


Vatnajökull

- largest glacier in Iceland, 8.200 km², up to 900 m thick

- underneath the glacier is one of the most powerful geothermal areas of the world and many active volcanoes

- there are many possibilities to stop and take photos of the glaciers, be careful not to disturb the traffic

- the highest point of Iceland is Hvannadalshnúkur (2110 m) in the southern parts of Vatnajökull, called Öræfajökull


Breiðamerkurjökull and Jökulsárlón

- broad glacier tongue that once reached the ocean but started to retreat during the early 20th century

- today between glacier and coast line there is a deep glacial lagoon: Jökulsárlón

- here we have the lowest point of Iceland

- often the lagoon is covered by ice bergs floating on the water before melting down

- Jökulsárlón is a must stop. Take a walk and we recommend that you join a guided boat tour on the lagoon

- guided tours, cafeteria, souvenir shop etc. at Jökulsárlón

- continue on road no. 1


Accommodation

- accommodation is recommended at Vagnsstaðir Hostel or Höfn Hostel

- if you are going to stay at Höfn Hostel, continue on road no. 1 until you get to the small town Höfn

- staying in the area you can book guided jeep excursions on Vatnajökull glacier, see here for further information


Höfn

- small town at the south coast of Iceland

- 1800 inhabitants, living on fishing, tourism, service

- all necessary service available including library, new swimming pool, restaurants, shopping centre, tourist information etc.

- very interesting glacier exhibition

- nice walk on Nes, an area near the harbor, great view on the Vatnajökull, memorial for fishermen, bird colonies, especially the arctic tern


(Distances: Skógar/Vík – Kirkjubæjarklaustur 105/71 km, Kirkjubæjarklaustur-Jökulsárlón 122 km, Jökulsárlón-Höfn 79 km)



Day 5: Vagnsstaðir/Höfn → Vík/Skógar


- start driving back on road no. 1, heading west

- coming from Höfn or Vagnsstaðir you could stop at Hali or make a trip to Ingófshöfði


Hali - Þórbergssetur

- cultural heritage exhibition on novelist Þórbergur Þórðarson (1888-1974)

- very nice exhibition showing the life of Þórbergur as well as living conditions here in Öræfasveit during the late 19th and early 20th century

- you can see a building looking like a bookshelf containing the works of Þórbergur from the ring road

- Öræfasveit was the most isolated district of Iceland until the 1960s

- it was surrounded by the glacier to the north, the sea to the south and dangerous unabridged glacial rivers to the west and east

- fully licensed restaurant, nice walks in the surroundings


Ingólfshöfði

- jutting 10 km out to the sea, said to be the landing point of first Icelandic settler Ingólfur Arnarson

- cliffs are home to bird colonies, such as puffins, razorbills and guillemots

- tipped by a lighthouse

- you can book tours by a tractor-like vehicle to cross the sands and marshes and get to Ingólfshöfði (contact at the farm Hofsnes)

- continue on road no. 1, just before getting on Skeiðarársandur turn right to reach the service centre of Skaftafell National Park


Skaftafell National Park

- boundered by glaciers the Skaftafell National Park covers 1.700 km²

- it is an excellent area for hiking, there are several hiking trails for long and short hikes, difficult and easy

- most famous is the hike to Svartifoss (the Black Waterfall), a lovely waterfall surrounded by picturesque basalt columns (1,5 hour), during the hike you also get a great view over Skeiðarársandur and over to Hvannadalshnjúkur

- you can also walk to the glacier Skaftfellsjökull, get information at the visitor centre

- interesting exhibitions, video on the volcanic eruption and glacier flood in 1996

- cafeteria, souvenir shop, guided mountain and glacier tours etc.

- drive back onto road no. 1, crossing the black desert of Skeiðarársandur

- you will see ahead the impressing inland cliff Lómagnúpur (approx. 700 m high)

- just after passing Lómagnúpur you should stop at Núpsstaður


Núpsstaður

- farm from early 20th century, still inhabited 

- buildings (sheds, houses, stables) from different periods, some of them turf buildings with grass roofs

- very nice and interesting small chapel, owned by the National museum of Iceland, open to visitors

- enlisted on UNESCO, World Heritage here

- continue driving on road no. 1


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at Skógar Hostel or Vík Hostel


(Distances: Höfn-Vík/Skógar 273/306 km)



Day 6: Vík/Skógar → Gaulverjaskóli


 

- possible extension to Westman Islands, see right

- after passing the village Vík and driving across the mountain Reynisfjall turn left to visit Reynisfjara


Reynisfjara

- very impressive black sand and pebbles beach at the foot of the mountain Reynisfjall

- cliffs and caves with interesting basalt column formations

- nesting site of puffins and other seabirds

- great view of Dyrhólaey

- it is a very beautiful place but please be careful, the ocean is extremely dangerous here and rock falls have occurred

- turn back to the main road and continue on road no. 1


Selfoss

- modern town on the banks of the river Ölfusá, about 4.300 inhabitants

- mostly living on service and trade, but there is also the biggest dairy industry here

- the bridge over Ölfusá is the most important connection between the Reykjavík area and the south of Iceland, the first bridge there was built in 1891, after that the town started to develop

- all necessary service available, including swimming pool, shops, cafes, supermarket, fuel station etc.

- from Selfoss turn onto road no. 34 to get to Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri

- before getting to Eyrarbakki you could also turn right and visit the impressive estuary mouth of the biggest river in Iceland, Ölfusá


Ölfusá

- biggest river in Iceland, glacial river with grey “muddy” water

- impressive estuary into the ocean in the southwest of Iceland

- stop near the bridge Óseyribrú

- turn back on road no. 34 to get to Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri



Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri

- two former fishing villages, today very quiet but most attractive

- during the middle ages Eyrarbakki had one of the most important harbors, here all the goods for the bishopric Skálholt were unloaded from the ships and stored, farmers came to Eyrarbakki to trade their goods

- near the harbor you can see a model of the former stores, there you can also climb the storm wall, that protects the area against the often stormy sea

- very attractive timber houses from early 20th century, church from 19th century

- very interesting folk museum, Húsið (the house), specialized on fishery and education

- in Stokkseyri you can find the Ghost Centre

- lovely restaurants, specialized in sea food and fish


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at Gaulverjaskóli Hostel


(Distances: Hvoll-Selfoss 227, Selfoss-Stokkseyri 14 km; total: 241 km)



Day 7: Gaulverjaskóli → Reykjavík


- coming from Gaulverjaskóli drive back to Selfoss, continue on road no. 1 to reach Hveragerði


Hveragerði

- so called greenhouse town, 1.700 inhabitants, situated in a very active geothermal area, hot springs and steam all around the town

- the geothermal power is used for heating homes, greenhouses and swimming pools

- small geysir Grýta erupts several times daily (20 minutes walk from town centre)

- great swimming pool, walking paths and horse riding possibilities

- tourist information

- continue on road no. 1, crossing the highland plateau Hellisheiði


Hellisheiði

- highland plateau to the south of the mountain Hengill, separates the Greater Reykjavik area from the south coast of Iceland

- 374 m above sea level, often bad weather conditions

- covered by lava fields and typical Icelandic moss vegetation

- you will see many signs of a geothermal power plant

- the power plant Hellisheiðarvirkjun (situated to the right of road no. 1, follow the signs)


Hellisheiðarvirkjun

- new geothermal power plant on Hellisheiði in the mountain ridge Hengill

- really interesting visitor centre with a lot of multi-media information, friendly staff and a small coffee bar



Hengill

- mountain ridge, nice hiking area not far from the capital, great views, good hiking trails

- get back onto road no. 1 or if you went hiking in the Hengill area choose one of the other roads leading to Reykjavík


Accommodation

- accommodation recommended at Reykjavík City Hostel, Reykjavík Hostel Downtown, or Loft Hostel

 
(Distances: Stokkseyri-Selfoss 14 km, Selfoss-Hveragerði 12 km, Hveragerði-Reykjavík 50 km; total 76 km)


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Map

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Day by day plan


Reykjavík → Laugarvatn/Árnes
  Sights: Gljúfrasteinn, Þingvellir, Laugarvatnshellir, Geysir, Gullfoss, Skálholt


2 Laugarvatn/Árnes → Árnes/Fljótsdalur
  Sights: Þjórsárdalur, Stöng, Háifoss, Þjóðveldisbær, Búrfellsvirkjun, Hjálparfoss


3 Árnes/Fljótsdalur → Skógar/Vík
  Sights: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, folk museum Skógar, Dyrhólaey,


4
Skógar/Vík → Vagnsstaðir/Höfn
  Sights: Eldhraun, Kirkjugólf, Fjaðrárgljúfur, Skeiðarársandur, Vatnajökull, Jökulsárlón


5 Vagnsstaðir/Höfn → Skógar/Vík
  Sights: Hali, Ingólfshöfði, Skaftafell National Park, Núpsstaður


6 Skógar/Vík → Gaulverjaskóli
  Sights: Reynisfjara, Stokkseyri, Eyrarbakki


7 Gaulverjaskóli → Reykjavík
  Sights: Hveragerði, Hengill, Hellisheiðarvirkjun, Reykjavík

 

 

 Extension A: Landmannalaugar

-please note that the road into Landmannalaugar normally opens around the middle of June

-to drive yourself into Landmannalaugar, you need a car which is allow on highland roads (at least a G type car)

 

- coming from Hrauneyjar highland station (see day 2) drive road no. F208
Landmannalaugar 

- One of Iceland’s natural jewels, protected area.

- The landscape is famous for its unique play of colors caused by rhyolite rocks and mountains.

- Geothermal water and spring water mix in a natural pool where you can relax.

- Several walking and hiking paths, ask the local guides and wardens for assistance.

- Campsite and huts run by Icelandic Touring Association.

 

- If you want to stay overnight you have to contact the warden. Pre-booking is recommended during the high season.

- Please note: There is no service station, no possibility to buy food, fuel or anything else. You have to bring with you what you need for your comfort.

 

Extension B: Westman Islands

- transportation to the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) is possible via ferry or plane

- for further information on ferry transportation see here

- scheduled flight to Vestmannaeyjar goes from Bakki Airport and from Reykjavík Airport

- for further information on flights see here

- accommodation is recommended at Vestmannaeyjar Hostel


Vestmannaeyjar

- a group of small islands south of Iceland, part of the state Iceland

- the biggest island, Heimaey, is inhabited by approx.  4.500 people

- the town Heimaey is centered around the harbor, the “life line” of Westman Islands

- people live on fishing, tourism and services

- in 1973 inhabitants experienced a catastrophe when the volcano Eldfjall erupted and its lava and ashes destroyed half of the township, it also threatened to block the harbor

- fortunately nobody lost his life and harbor conditions afterwards were better than before

- in 1974 most inhabitants turned back and started rebuilding their homes

- today you can still feel the warmth of the volcano and people call Heimaey “little Pompeii”

- grassy hills and sea cliffs are home to bird colonies of puffins, fulmar and guillemot

- guided tours by bus, boat and foot, swimming pool, cinema, Volcanic Film Show, folk museum, archeological excavations

- in 1963 the island Surtsey was formed by a submarine eruption, today it is a nature reserve

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