#southregion

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in Iceland.  The history of Hjörleifshöfði goes back as far as the Book Of Settlement.   When Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler in Iceland, came here around the end of the eighth century, his foster brother Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson accompanied him. On their way from Norway, they drifted apart.  Ingolfur landed at Ingólfshöfði on the east side on the south shore, and Hjörleifur landed at Hjörleifshöfði, more to the west.  At that time, the shoreline was at the cliffs of Hjöleifshöfði, not kilometers farther south as it is now.  That was before the many powerful eruptions in the volcano Katla up on the top of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, carried the sand down to the shore and extended the shoreline. To make a long story short, Hjörleifur met his fate here at Hjörleifshöfði as his slaves turned against him and killed him.  His bones are still on the top of the rock where he was buried in accordance with paganism.

Hiking around Hjörleifshöfði is a relatively light hike

A walk around Hjörleifshöfði is a time well spent. The hike is about seven kilometers and shouldn't take more than two to three hours.  It requires a bit of wading but is a spectacular walk passed the high cliffs and the two rock pillars on the south side; Arnardrangur and Lásdrangur.  Here it is nteresting to see the pillars standing on the sand and compare them to the rock pillars Reynisdrangar nearby that are constantly fighting the Atlantic Ocean. If you have more time a walk up to the Rock from the west side gives an impressive view of the south coast and the two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull and much more.  It is also interesting that not so long ago people lived and farmed here on top of Hjörleifshöfði.

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessable

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland.  It only takes about five minutes to drive to the parking lot on the west side of the Rock if you are driving your own vehicle or have a rent a car. It is also a great spot for a quiet stop and lunch or afternoon nap while traveling in Iceland.  

 

 

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in Iceland.

Few places have a higher place in the hearts and minds of Icelanders than Almannagjá at Þingvellir in the South Region in Iceland.  It is a place everyone should visit when traveling in Iceland.  It is not only a geological wonder and place of historical importance but also a sacred place. It is the place where our first settlers choose for their national assembly eleven hundred years ago to make law and settle disputes. It is the place where a final decision was taken to revert to Christianity and abolish paganism.  It is the place where Icelanders celebrate their sovereignty and independence.  It is probably one of the most important parts of Iceland. 

Geologically a part of the North Atlantic Rift System

Geologically Almannagjá is a part of the North Atlantic rift system that stretches to the south pole in the Atlantic ocean. The length of the Almannagjá gorge is eight kilometers and one of the interesting places where you can see tectonic plates drift apart. But you would, unfortunately, have to stay there for a few hundred years to see the movement.  The cliffs that tower over the walking path tell a long, complex and fascinating geological story.

A beautiful place with a dark history

Almannagjá also has a darker history.  In the 16th and 17th century, the beautiful calm, deep place by the bridge over the river Öxará was part of the Icelandic judicial system. Here women who were mainly convicted of adultery were drowned, and the deep pool carries the name Drowning Deep Pool, Drekkingarhylur.  Men were hanged, and women drowned by putting them in a sack and holding them under the water with a stick until they stopped moving.  So when you walk past that part, you should bow your head in respect to honor their memory as most of them were not criminals but innocent victims of rape,  incest, violence and ignorance.  Fortunately, only eighteen women were drowned here, which is eighteen too many.
 

Few places have a higher place in the hearts and minds of Icelanders than Almannagjá at Þingvellir

Yesterday while photographing at the waterfall Urriðafoss in the Southern Region in Iceland on the Ring Road we came across two gentlemen fishing for salmon.  The salmon fishing season has begun in Iceland. Their day had been exceptionally pleasant, and they were smiling with joy.

At Urriðafoss a young man from the group of tourists took the initiative

Hjállparfoss (Help waterfall) is a beautiful waterfall in the spectacular valley Þjórsárdalur in the South Region in Iceland. The waterfall is among 20 waterfalls in Iceland that are easily accessible and popular to visit and, on the list of most visited places in Iceland.  The waterfall is a joy to photograph in any season, from many angles, although the fall is the most spectacular and our favorite, due to the autumn colors of the vegetation around the waterfall.

The name Hjálparfoss has a historical explanation

Hjálparfoss and all the surrounding is a stunning placed. As can be seen in the photos, the beauty of the waterfall can be magnified by colors of autumn and a thin layer of snow.  The name is a bit strange since waterfalls seldom help but the name has its history. In the past when Icelanders traveled from the Northern Region to the Southern Region over the Highland, they had a hard time finding a field for their horses to bite grass along the way. As the altitude in the Highland barely allows for conditions that are favorable for vegetation.   So after a two to three-day journey on their horses the grass by the waterfall in Þjórsárdalur was the first grass they found for the horses, on the lower land after the long trip. And that was a lot of HELP for the horses. And that's how the waterfall got its name. The waterfall by the grass field that helped feed the horses after a few days journey over the sandy and rocky Highland.

Easily accessible all year long

The waterfall is located in Þjórsárdalur, a valley where the mighty river Þjórsá runs.  Hjálparfoss, on the other hand, is a part of the river Fossá that originates in the lower part of the Highland north of Þjórsárdalur and merges with Þjórsá not far from the waterfall. When driving from Reykjavík on the Ring Road (1), you take the road (30) northbound and turn east on the road (32) after approximately 30 minutes.  After driving your car for 20 minutes or so you will see a sign by road (3361) that says Hjálparfoss, and you are basically there. 

The waterfall Hjálparfoss is among 20 waterfalls in Iceland that are easily accessible and popular

Sólheimajökull is a glacier tongue that is part of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull.  It is one of few places in Iceland where you can easily come near and take a walk on a glacier.   It is not recommended though that you take a walk on the glacier without professional guidance. At Sólheimajökull, there are companies that offer short hikes on the glacier with all the necessary equipment required to take such a walk.  It is an unusual and breathtaking experience. 

A glacier tongue from Mýrdalsjökull

The glacier tongue is a glacier falling from the Mýrdalsjökull glacier at a very slow pace. Step by small step icebergs fall from the glacier and break away from it into the small lake below and melt.  In the process, the glacier tongue forms all kinds of beautiful small natural wonders like cracks, holes, ice-ravines, and ice caves.  Although all this is quite astonishing great caution is recommended. 

Easily accessible from the Iceland Ring Road

Sólheimajökull is easily accessible from the Ring Road (1) in the South Region turning north to the road (221). The drive to the glacier tongue is about 4 kilometers from the main road.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the ice.  There are two paths; one in the slope by the lake, which gives a great view of the glacier tongue and the other path, is down by the lake and is great if there are icebergs in the water.  In winter, you would diffidently want to wear ice grips as both paths are often extremely slippery.

It is not recommended though that you take a walk on the glacier without professional guidance.

Foss á Síðu (Waterfall at Síða) is a farm right on the Ring Road in Iceland in the Southern Region approximately 10 kilometers east of the small village Kirkjubæjarklaustr. It is noticeable because of its spectacular surroundings and the small waterfall falling from the beautiful cliffs lightly covered with moss vegetation. A work of art with nature's hand.

The farm is mentioned in the Book of Settlement and has thus been here since Iceland times of settlement, in the 9th century. Placed in front of beautiful cliffs with its stunning small waterfall it is hard to pass by without noticing.  The farm takes its name after the waterfall that comes from a lake, Þórutjörn, on the top of the cliffs.  The cliffs are accessible at a steep walking path right by the waterfall and is worth walking. From the top, the view is spectacular.   Although the waterfall doesn't have a lot of water, it is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. 

Sometimes the waterfall is blown away by heavy winds when a limited amount of water is coming from the lake. 

According to a local folklore story, a rare kind of ghost wanders around the area around the farm Foss and the nearby farm Hörgsland. The ghost is a dog who's name is Móri, or simply Ghost, who carries with him a curse that was directed at a particular family in the 16th century. The curse was set out to last for nine generations.  There are those that argue that the curse has finished its course, and Móri has disappeared forever, but not all. Throughout the centuries, Móri has never done any harm to people outside this unfortunate family.

Foss á Síðu

If you are planning to take a vacation or a tour in Iceland, you might be thinking about how to plan your trip. One of the best options is a self-drive road trip or to drive the Ring Road in a car for hire. The whole drive with all the loops and secondary roads included is around 1.550 kilometers. Notably, although most of the so-called Ring Road in Iceland is on the official road defined as nr. 1, the term Ring Road doesn't necessarily always refer to that particular road, as the Ring Road concept is a travel or tour concept. 

The best option for your trip to Iceland, the Ring Road

Reykjadalur (Smoke Valley), just north of the town of Hveragerði is possibly Iceland's most popular hiking trail and hiking area. The river snaking along the valley is extraordinary; there are hot pools and mud pots in the river bed making the water hot in various places. A mere five minutes after starting your trot along the trail you are surrounded by wilderness. The hike to Ölkelda is approximately 3 km long. Along the way, you'll be able to observe gurgling mud pots and super-heated natural pools of water close up. Hiking this extraordinary valley is very pleasant, indeed. It is also quite easy, with only modestly rocky areas. Practically anyone can do it. The route is a treat to the eyes, with colorful strata and vegetation typical for geothermal areas. This valley contains quite some great photo moments. Upon reaching the end of the trail, at Ölkelda you are in for a treat. There, cradled in the bosom of colorful mountains, riddled with amazing and gigantic rock formations is a natural pool: Smack in the middle of the river. It is the number one reason for the trail's popularity. The Icelanders love bathing in their natural pools. They also love just sitting there gazing at the amazing nature surrounding them. So, take your swimsuit along and enjoy the day.

Reykjadalur near Hveragerði town

Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lake or a lagoon in southeast Iceland. It is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attraction, and not without reason. The lagoon is one of a handful of places where you can get near a glacier without entering the wilderness or the Icelandic highland. It is easily accessible located on the Ring Road, the main road in Iceland.  Lón means a lagoon and Jökulsárlón is usually full of icebergs breaking away from the large glacier tongue Breiðarmerkurjökull, which is part of the glacier Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe. It is a tourist attraction that visitors are more or less stunned after viewing and watching for a few hours.

A stunning work of nature

Some centuries ago the glacier tongue reached the coastline by the Atlantic Ocean. Gradually, the glacier started melting and thus declining and forming the lake on the sandy shore.  The lake is getting larger, and the glacier tongue is retreating.  In the seventies the lake was eight square kilometers, today the lake covers 18 square kilometers and is Iceland's deepest lake approximately 248 meters.  The fascination revolves around the ongoing icebergs falling from the glacier tongue, falling into the lagoon, melting,  rolling and floating the one and a half kilometer towards the Atlantic ocean. Sometimes overcrowded with icebergs each with its character and form and sometimes almost empty. It is like viewing and following nature's working hours.

Access to the Jökulsárlón lagoon is as simple as it gets and often in movies

If you travel the Ring Road, Road Nr. 1, you can not miss Jökulsárlón as it is practically on the main road between Skaftafell and Höfn.  It is by any measure an impressive sight and has been a setting for many internationally acclaimed films: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as, the reality TV series Amazing Race. At one point in time, it was such a popular setting for films that it was nicknamed the Bond Lagoon.  For photographers, it is a wealth of motives as the foreground is ever changing and the background also as it is consistently affected by weather in the mountains and glaciers surrounding the lagoon.

A lot of life in the cold and deep lagoon

Although many visitors might think of the lagoon as a lifeless lake it is far from the truth. The lagoon is full of life and is filled with herring, trout, salmon and krill drifting from the sea with the tides.  Often a large number of seals are playfully enjoying the day in the water, and thousands of seabirds are nesting nearby, especially the Arctic terns, skuas, gannets, and puffins.

Sailing on the lagoon is an experience like nothing else and unforgettable

Several tour companies offer sailing along the lake, which is an experience you are not likely to forget. Be sure to bring your camera along as the lagoon almost always delivers stunning photos. There is always a new form of iceberg around the corner.

Jokulsarlon is simply a great place to stop while driving the ring road selfdrive

When the first settlers started arriving in Iceland between AD 874 and 930, South Iceland was the area with the most arable land. Even so, Þjórsárdalur must have looked like a veritable Shangrila. This beautiful, lush valley, with its fertile soil, picturesque waterfalls and tranquil ponds attracted some people to build gladly farms and crofts and to count their blessings. That is, until 1104 when the ferocious volcano, Mount Hekla erupted and destroyed the valley.  Þjórsárdalur is rather flat, and the soil is mostly pumice due to Hekla's frequent eruptions. And for the very same reason you will find uniquely fascinating rock and lava formations throughout the area. It is also true that whenever an eruption destroys beautiful rivers and waterfalls, it equally creates new natural wonders. Apart from Mount Hekla, there are other volcanoes adjacent to Þjórsárdalur, e.g. the Vatnaöldur volcanic system that produced Iceland's largest lava field, Þjórsárhraun (The Þjórsá Lava Field).

But, the Icelander's are nothing if not resilient. Today, Þjórsárdalur is mostly fertile farmland as both farmers and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland work tirelessly at reclaiming the earth covered by pumice with lupine and several varieties of grass.

There is much to see and admire in Þjórsárdalur – and if you go to the Stöng farm, you will get a piece of history. Stöng was covered in ash in the 1104 eruption, but was excavated in 1939 and has now been rebuilt. It is an excellent opportunity to learn what life was like in Iceland in ancient times.
 

Þjórsárdalur has many interesting spots

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