6 Day Summer Package | South Iceland with a Greenland Day Tour
Explore the high Arctic, from Iceland’s Golden Circle to the remote fjords of Greenland. This package takes you to Iceland’s south coast, where you'll explore many of the countries most iconic natural attractions, and offers the rare and unique opportunity of gaining insight into the daily life of the Inuit people of Greenland.
Your tour will start with a taste of nordic city life in Reykjavík, but soon you will be exploring Iceland's vast southern lowlands and hiking onto one of the mighty glaciers that are characteristic of the area.
Known for its raven black sand deserts, high waterfalls and its crown of glacier peaks and basalt mountains, Iceland's south is in sharp contrast to the remote Kulusuk island on Greenland’s east coast.
Located just below the Arctic Circle, the village of roughly 250 inhabitants is a mirror back in time; and visiting Kulusuk provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to know the ways of the hunters of the far north. Icebergs float lazily on the blue arctic ocean, which is home to the seals and fish that contribute to the everyday life of the people.
For a perfect experience, you will then end by visiting Iceland's Golden Circle: Þingvellir National Parliament Park, a UNESCO heritage site of tremendous importance, situated in a massive lava field, the exploding geysers at the Haukadalur geothermal valley and Gullfoss waterfall in glacial river Hvítá.
Get a taste of all the best the Arctic has to offer and experience the high north in Iceland and Greenland this summer. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jun. - Sep.
- Duration: 6 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Snorkelling, Hiking, Snowmobile, Horse Riding, Sightseeing, Cultural Activity
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 8 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Blue Lagoon,
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and is the single most popular attraction in Iceland.
The water is rich in silica and sulphur that helps make your skin shine like a baby. The Blue Lagoon also operates a Research and Development facility that helps find cures for skin ailments using the mineral-rich water.
The temperature in the bathing and swimming area is very comfortable, and averages 37–39 °C (98–102 °F). There´s a restaurant there and it´s a truly romantic and beautiful place one should not miss while in Iceland.South Iceland,
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.Reykjavík,
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.Jökulsárlón,
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,
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)
Skógafoss is one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls with an astounding width of 25 meters (82 ft) and a drop of 60 meters (197 ft). Due to the amount of spray the cascade produces, a rainbow is present any time the sun emerges from behind the clouds.
Located on the Skógá river, this mighty cascade is clearly visible from Route 1 and is an excellent place to stop and stretch the legs while travelling Iceland’s South Coast. The river below Skógafoss holds a large char and salmon population and is thus a favourite spot for fishermen in the summer.
The land underneath the waterfall is very flat, allowing visitors to walk right up to the wall of water. Keep in mind, however, that this will get you drenched. Skógafoss can also be viewed from the top as a steep staircase leads to an observational platform above the cascade.
Skógafoss is located near the small village of Skógar, south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano. There you’ll find the Skógasafn folk museum, an open-air museum with both old wooden houses and turf houses, as well as a regional museum with various artefacts from this area.
A part of the Skógasafn Regional Museum is the Museum of Transportation, which showcases the history and evolution of transportation, communication and technologies in Iceland. There, you can see how this nation evolved from the age of the working horse to the digital communications of the 21st century.
The Skógasafn museum also includes a café and a museum shop, and in the village of Skógar, you will find both a hotel and a restaurant.
At the eastern side of Skógafoss, you will find one of Iceland’s most famed hiking routes; the Fimmvörðuháls pass. The 22 km (14 mi) trail takes you along Skógá river, between two glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull, before ending in the beautiful Þórsmörk valley.
A gold ring is on display at the Skógasafn museum. According to legend, the ring is from a chest that was owned by Þrasi Þórólfsson, one of the first Viking settlers in the area. Folklore states that before his death in 900 AD, Þrasi buried a chest filled with gold in a cave behind Skógafoss waterfall.
Many attempts were made to retrieve the chest after Þrasi’s death, and years later, locals managed to grasp a ring on the side of the chest. As they pulled, the ring broke off, and the treasure was lost forever. The ring was then given to the local church before it made its way to the museum.Seljalandsfoss,
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,
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,
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.Eyjafjallajökull,
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.Þingvellir,
Þingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Þingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries. Þingvellir 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 Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Öxarárfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, Þingvallakirkja Church and Gjábakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.Reykjanes,
Reykjanes is a peninsula in Southwest Iceland, characterised by immense lava fields, volcanoes and strong geothermal activity.
Volcanic & Geothermal Activity
The peninsula runs along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates are drifting apart. Because of this geological setting, the whole peninsula is extremely volcanically active, covered with lava fields and volcanoes and small earthquakes are very common there.
During the middle ages, many eruptions occurred in Reykjanes, but no eruptions have been recorded there for the last 500 years.
The main geothermal areas of Reykjanes are Gunnuhver, Krýsuvik and Svartsengi. Various mud pools and fumaroles can be seen at Gunnuhver while Krýsuvik is characterised by hot springs and mud pots that bestow multicoloured hues upon the soil. The green crater lake Grænavatn is also an impressive sight.
Svartsengi is home to a geothermal power station that produces 76.5 MW of electricity from the 475 litres of 90° C warm water that gush from the earth per second. The mineral-rich surplus water fills up the Blue Lagoon spa.
Nature & Wildlife
Reykjanes' cliffs are teeming with birdlife. Its best-known bird colony resides in Krýsuvikurbjarg which is the nesting place of approximately 80 thousand seabirds. North of Krýsuvíkurbjarg is Kleifarvatn, the largest lake on the peninsula and one of the deepest in Iceland.
Reykjanes is hammered by some of the most breathtaking breaker waves in the world. A short drive from Krýsuvík is Selvogur where one is able to witness some of the country's greatest waves. On Reykjanestá, the southwest tip of the peninsula, the waves are known to reach heights of 20-30 meters.
The peninsula's north side is dotted with fishing villages and towns, most notably Keflavík, Sandgerði, Garður and Vogar. Grindavík town is located on the south shore of the peninsula.
Near Keflavík is the Miðnesheiði heath, where the international airport, Leifsstöð (also known as Keflavíkurflugvöllur or ‘Keflavík Airport’) is located.
The World-Famous Spa
On the southern tip of the peninsula is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, an ideal place for relaxing and bathing.Sólheimajökull,
Solheimajokull is a beautiful outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull icecap.
Solheimajokull is a rugged glacial tounge riddled with crevasses and spectacular ever-changing ice formations, jagged ridges and sinkholes and is popular for hiking and ice climbing.
The glacier river Jokulsa a Solheimasandur has its source at the glacier, flowing over the sand plain of Solheimasandur towards the sea.Mýrdalsjökull,
Mýrdalsjökull is a glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands. It is the country's fourth largest ice cap, covering nearly 600 kilometres squared, and its highest peak is almost 1500 meters tall. It is most well-known for sitting atop the notorious and explosive volcano, Katla. Mýrdalsjökull is visible from Route 1 on the South Coast, sitting to the north of the village of Vík.
Eruptions beneath Mýrdalsjökull
Since 2010, the world has known of the volcano beneath Eyjafjallajökull; few, however, are aware of the much larger volcano right beside it. Mýdalsjökull conceals Katla, one of the country’s most active volcanoes, having erupted, on average, once every fifty years since 930 AD. Because of the glacier above it, these eruptions tend to cause enormous ash clouds.
The last major eruption beneath Katla was in 1918, in which such huge lahar floods occurred that the southern coastline was extended five kilometres outwards. This area is also very susceptible to glacial floods, or jökulhlaups, during eruptions, even when the lava does not break through the surface of the ice.
Historically, the area was little settled for this reason.
Katla is connected to the same volcanic system as Eyjafallajökull and usually erupts violently a few years after. As the ex-president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said in 2010:
Katla is monitored heavily, and roads around it closed when seismic activity increases. All road closures around Iceland can be found on Road and Coastal Administration's website.
Tours on Mýrdalsjökull
While there are no eruptions immediately imminent, tours continue to run on Mýrdalsjökull, allowing visitors to enjoy the glacier. It is, for example, possible to snowmobile across its surface throughout the year and take ice caving tours beneath it from October to April, with departures from both Reykjavík and Vík.
Considering the ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier are usually only accessible from November to March, this provides a wider window of opportunity for travellers to Iceland outside of the depths of winter. It should be noted that the caves in Mýrdalsjökull do not have the same blue ice, however.
Tours around Mýrdalsjökull
The best perspectives of the glacier, however, can be found on the popular Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, which goes between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Part of this hike can be done in a day, or you can take the complete route from Þórsmörk to Skógar on a three-day trek.Skaftafell,
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.Þingvallavatn,
Þingvallavatn (anglicised as Thingvallavatn, “Lake of the Parliament”) is a rift valley lake located roughly forty minutes drive from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik.
Features of Þingvallavatn.
Þingvallavatn is partially within the boundaries of Þingvellir National Park, Iceland’s largest national park and only one with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Covering an area of 84 km&³2;, Þingvallavatn is the largest natural lake in Iceland with its greatest depth measuring at 114 m. Þingvallavatn is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Rift, on a part of the ridge known as the Reykjanes Ridge. The lake has only one outflow, the river Sog.
Of particular note to biologists and fishermen are the four morphs of Arctic Char that inhabit the lake. The lake’s char are an excellent example of species evolving to fit and adapt to a secluded environment; over ten thousand years, one species of Char has transformed into four different-sub branches. Other fish in the lake include the the Brown Trout and the Three-Spine Stickleback.
History and Geology
Þingvallavatn takes its name from the historical founding of the Althingi, which occurred in 930 AD at what is now known as Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir literally translates to “Fields of Parliament.” The Althingi was the first democratically elected parliament in world history; Icelanders used to travel by foot or horseback simply to congregate at Þingvellir where they would hear the latest laws and judgements of the island.
Þingvellir National Park is also notable for its geology. Given its position on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the park is one of the only places on the planet where visitors can see both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates standing exposed from the earth. Footpaths allow you to get up close and personal to the plates, standing right where the ancient settlers once did. In between the tectonic plates lies fields of dried volcanic rock, blanketed with a thick, yet fragile layer of Icelandic moss.
Scuba Diving at Silfra / David's Crack
Scuba diving around Þingvallavatn revolves around two sites, Silfra Fissure and David’s Crack, the former being one of the most popular spots on the planet for snorkelling and underwater exploration. Silfra Fissure is situated between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is filled with crystal-clear glacial water originating from the Langjokull ice cap. The water measures at between 2-3 degrees Celsius all year round, a slight current preventing the fissure from ever freezing over.
David’s Crack is found within Þingvallavatn and is often considered the darker and more dramatic cousin of Silfra Fissure, resembling the gorge formation so prevalent across the Mid Atlantic Rift. Only certain tour operators provide David’s Crack, so make sure to do some research beforehand if you are looking to access this dive site during your time in Iceland.
Header Photo: Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Axel Kristinsson.Höfn,
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.Vík í Mýrdal,
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.Reynisfjall,
Reynisfjall is a tuff mountain on the South Coast of Iceland, which is 5 kilometres long, 800 metres (2625 ft) wide and 340 metres (1115 ft) tall at its highest point.
The peak is best known for towering beside two of the most popular sites of the South, Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar. Reynisfjara is a black-sand-beach, once voted one of the world's most beautiful stretches of non-tropical coastline, which is becoming as famous for its sneaker waves as it is for its haunting, ethereal appearance.
Reynisdrangar, meanwhile, is composed of two basalt sea stacks that were once part of Reynisfjall. They are said to the petrified remains of two trolls, who were caught in the morning sun when trying to pull a ship to shore.Reynisdrangar,
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
Pickup time : Flexible
4 nights of accommodation in Reykjavik (different levels available; breakfast not included for Super Budget level; breakfast included for Comfort and Quality levels; more detailed info below)
Airport transfer on arrival/departure
South Coast 2-day minibus tour with glacier hiking
1 night of accommodation in a country hotel in Vatnajokull National Park during the 2-day south coast tour (breakfast included, private bathroom depending on availability)
Guided day tour with flights to Kulusuk, Greenland
Golden Circle sightseeing tour in a minibus (upgrades available with other activities)
Blue Lagoon standard entrance (upgrades available) and return transfer
Detailed Itinerary with fun and practical information on the nature, history and culture of Iceland
Hands-on travel agent to oversee your itinerary
Flights other than the day tour to Greenland
What to bring:
Warm clothes. Windproof and rainproof clothing
Swimsuit & towel
Good to know:
Although it is summertime, the Icelandic weather can be very unpredictable. Please bring appropriate clothing. Please be aware that your itinerary may have to be rearranged to fit your arrival date and time better.
Please note that if you need a visa to travel to Iceland, a specific visa for the Schengen area is needed to visit Greenland.
Day 1 - Arrival day
As the wheels of your plane touch down in Reykjanes peninsula, adventure is already starting. With the airport situated in the middle of a lava field, you’ll get a hint of Iceland’s harsh nature the moment you arrive.
You will hop onto your airport transfer and head to the city of Reykjavík, known for its quirky cafés and colourful houses, and have the day and the long night at your leisure.
To get rid of the aches and sore muscles after your flight, you can choose to start your journey at the Blue Lagoon. This azure blue lake, surrounded by ink black lava field only fifteen minutes away from the airport is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature at the start of your journey.
Afterwards, you’ll spend your first evening, and first night, in the city of Reykjavík
Day 2 - The South Coast
Today you will head out from the city and start your exploration of Iceland. Travelling along the south coast, you will pass great glaciers and volcanoes. One of them is the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano, famed for putting Europe’s air traffic to a complete standstill, not so long ago.
You will visit the village of Vík, and the raven black Reynisfjara beach, where the Atlantic ocean rushes up on the shore with terrifying force, while the Reynisdrangar black rock stacks loom over the scene in solemn silence, as your guide relays local myths and tales.
The end of the day will bring you to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Situated under the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, the lagoon is home to birds and seals that swim among the massive icebergs that crumbled down from the glacier above.
In the evening you’ll stay in a country hotel on the south coast.
Day 3 - Glaciers and Waterfalls
The day will start with a glacier hike on one of the south coast glaciers. The guide will choose your location based on weather and conditions, and the hike will give you a unique opportunity to experience the ice up close and personal.
Armed with crampons and ice axes, you will be lead through a wonderland of white and blue, learning the basics of ice climbing from your guide as you go.
After returning to the lowlands, you will visit the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, and the less known Glúfrabúi, but all three fall from what once was the coastline of south Iceland in prehistoric times. Vastly different from one another, they all offer incredible beauty and certainly great photo opportunities!
You’ll return to Reykjavík late in the evening, and stay there on this night.
Day 4 - Greenland Awaits
Today you’ll head out even further than before. You’ll board a plane at Reykjavík Domestic Airport and fly to the remote village of Kulusuk, on an island on the east coast of Greenland.
Your guide will await you at the airport in Kulusuk, and accompany you on a four-hour hike around the village and its surroundings. Icebergs floating in the blue ocean make a sharp contrast with the brightly coloured houses of the village and the majestic mountains towering over the land.
Small, private museums of the Inuit people who inhabit the island and explanations of the way of life in this harsh terrain will be the highlights of the tour. If you’re lucky, you might see a local performing a drum dance.
In the late afternoon, you will board your plane at Kulusuk Airport, and return to the now seemingly huge city of Reykjavík.
Day 5 - The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Iceland. Located in the southwestern lowlands, it includes three of the most famous natural landmarks of Iceland: Þingvellir National Parliament Park, Geysir hot spring and geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.
You’ll start your journey early in the morning, heading to Þingvellir. This UNESCO world heritage site offers vast lava fields filled with history, as this is where Icelanders formed their democratic parliament in the year 930.
Next stop is then Haukadalur valley. Home to the great Geysir, which lends its name to all others, the site has numerous hot springs. The most active one, Strokkur, blows every five minutes or so, hurling water up to 30-metre height.
The final stop of the day is the Gullfoss waterfall. This tiered waterfall is situated in the glacier river Hvítá, and the sheer force of the water plummeting 32 meters into the canyon below causes water to spray over the banks and cliffs.
If you’d like to add some adventure to your day, there is plenty to choose from. You could opt to go snorkelling in the Silfra fissure at Þingvellir, known for its crystal clear waters. You could go snowmobiling on the white glacier caps on the nearby Langjökull glacier, or, if you prefer a more natural steed, go horseback riding in the countryside as a part of your tour.
Whatever you choose, the day will be sure to be amazing. You will then return to Reykjavík for your last night in Iceland
Day 6 - Departure
Your journey has now come to an end. You will be picked up at your hotel in a timely manner to get to the airport before your flight.
If your flight leaves in the afternoon, you could opt to visit the Blue Lagoon on this day, or maybe join a whale watching tour down at Reykjavík harbour, as one last adventure.
Accommodation in Reykjavik
See our accommodation levels below. Super Budget booking will be arranged in hostel dormitory bed accommodation. For Comfort and Quality bookings, single person bookings will be arranged in a single room, while bookings of 2 or more people will share twin/double room(s) or triple room(s). If you are travelling in a group, but prefer a single room, please make separate bookings. For multi-day guided tours, accommodation cannot be upgraded and the levels below do not apply. We always do our best to accommodate special requests, which may incur additional costs.
Rooms or dormitory beds with shared bathrooms in guesthouses or hostels, such as HI Hostels. Located in the capital region. Breakfast is not included.
Rooms with a private bathroom at three-star hotels such as Fosshótel Barón, or quality guesthouses. Located in the city center or in close vicinity. Breakfast is included.