#southregion

 

Eyjafjallajokull glacier is probably Iceland's best-known glacier. One of the main reasons is the volcano buried under the ice cap that spreads some 100 square kilometers by the south shore.  Eyjafjallajokull glacier stands 1651 meters at its highest point, and the volcano has a crater of 3-4 km in diameter that opens towards the north. The volcano Eyjafjallajökull last erupted in 2010 grabbing the world's attention as it severely disturbed flight schedules in Europe and the northern hemisphere.  The mountain is in proximity to some of Iceland’s most impressive and beautiful natural wonders like Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Þórsmörk.  The mountain's south face was once part of Iceland's Atlantic coastline, but across the millenniums the ocean has retreated as glacial rivers have carried billions of tons of sand to the shore, leaving sheer cliffs to display magnificent waterfalls.

Eyjafjallajokull is first and foremost a glacier

Although in its substance Eyjafjallajökull is a mountain and a volcano it is primarily a glacier.  It is the seventh largest glacier in Iceland and has been a spectacular white landmark by the south shore for centuries.  Even though the 2010 eruption caught much attention, the volcano is never viewed as one of Iceland’s main volcanoes. It is not likely to erupt anytime soon again.  The glacier has two spectacular outlet glaciers or glacier tongues, Gýgjökull and Steinholtsjökull.   Both are part of the fascinating north slopes of the glacier and part of the drive to the oasis Þórsmörk.  Gýgjökull is right below the crater and is where water and ice came with force into the river Markarfljót during the eruption.  The slopes are also packed with fascination wonders like waterfalls and mystical canyons.  From Seljalandsfoss all the way to Þórsmörk, a 30-kilometer drive, it is a world of history and landscape packed in one. 

Eyjafjallajökull during eruption in 2010

Eyjafjallajökull during eruption in 2010

Iceland's favorite hiking trail Fimmvörðuháls

Iceland's favorite hiking trail over the mountain pass Fimmvörðuháls leading into the lower part of the Highlands passes between Eyjafjallajökull glacier and Mýrdalsjökull glacier. One of the reasons for this popularity is the magnificent and unusual landscape along the way exposing new lava, beautiful mountains, ice, and highland vegetation.  It starts by Skógafoss just by the Ring Road and ends in the oasis Þórsmörk.  Today the track provides an excellent view of the new lava and both ice caps.  The trail was closed down for some time after the eruption but has been reopened much to the Icelander's joy.

Eyjafjallajokull eruption and airplane crash history

Although not a major player in the continuing history of eruptions in Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull had erupted on regular bases since settlement about twelve hundred years ago.  The volcano erupted in 920, around 1612, in 1823, and then again in 2010.  Eyjafjallajökull also seems to have a bit of a troubled history with aircraft. In 1952, a U.S. rescue plane, carrying five aboard, crashed into Eyjafjallajokull. One died instantly, but the other four survived only to perish on the vast glacier. Twelve years later one body was found and a ring from another. The glacier tongue delivered the last three bodies in 1966. Then, in 1966 an American couple crashed into the icecap and was instantly killed. When you drive the Ring Road in Iceland, you can not miss Eyjafjallajökull glacier or ice cap when you approach the magnificent waterfall Seljalandsfoss and continue the south coast.  It is quite visible less than an hour after you leave Reykjavik the capital of Iceland.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Eyjafjallajökull on the map of Iceland

Iceland's best-known volcano nowadays is by far Eyjafjallajokull

 

Dyrhólaey is a naturally formed arch on the shoreline west of the tiny village of Vík on the south coast in Iceland. It is one of the main attractions on the South Shore Tours and one of the most impressive stops when driving the Ring Road in Iceland. The 120 m high basalt rock is a former volcanic island, formed in an eruption some one hundred thousand years ago. The raging Atlantic Ocean has shaped the cliffs since the Ice Age. The hole in the middle was carved out by the ocean digging out the weaker remaining rocks over a long period.  In addition to the arch, interesting stacks are standing tall just south of the Dyrhólaey cliffs.  All have names like Kvistdrangur, Mávadrangur, Kambur, and Háidrangur (56 meters high).  When you look at Háidrangur, you can picture when it was first climed in 1893 by a famous daredevil named Eldeyjar-Hjalti. His task was to put nails into the cliff to make it easier for others to climb and collect eggs.

Dyrhólaey island and arch

Observe the huge and aggressive ocean waves of the Atlantic Ocean

A rare natural wonder it is

The whole formation, the island, the black beach and rocky shoreline around the island, the stacks and the arch is a spectacular natural phenomenon.  Officially there are two ways to view Dyrhólaey: From the top by the parking area by the old lighthouse that was built in 1910 and renovated in 1927, and on the east side of the arch by the new service center and parking lot. Both offer great views, and if you have taken the time to visit Dyrhólaey you should stop by both of them.  From the lower level, you also have an excellent view to the famous Reynisfjara black beach east of Dyrhólaey.

Dyrhólaey is a nature reserve

Consequently, in addition to being a great natural wonder, Dyrhólaey is a beautiful location for birdwatching. Needless to say, there are of course infinitive photo opportunities by Dyrhólaey.  Not only from the top but also from both viewing panels.   In 1978 Dyrhólaey became a nature reserve as nature and birdlife during spring, and early summer is quite sensitive and requires monitoring. Keep in mind that the Dyrhólaey area is sometimes closed in May and early June. During late summer, autumn and winter the site is a spectacular place to observe the huge and aggressive ocean waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  The waves that are continually molding the south coast of Iceland.  But during storms and high tides, extreme caution is needed.

A view to the Reynisfjara beach

A view to the Reynisfjara beach

Caution is needed if you choose to walk the black beach

Some years ago, the black beach surrounding Dyrhólaey was accessible by walking down to Kirkjufjara beach by the lower parking lot.  Although a marvelous place when the tide is low, and winds are still it is a hazardous place in different situations, and even life-threatening.  After some horrifying accidents, the beach was closed, and access is not allowed. We can only emphasize that you should stay on marked trails and keep in mind that the waves are extremely dangerous and unpredictable.

Dyrhólaey is easily accessible from the Ring Road.

When you are driving on Suðurlandsvegur or the southern part of the Ring Road, you take a turn to the south on the road Dyrhólavegur nr. 218.  The drive to the top of the Dyrhólaey island by the Lighthouse is approximately six kilometers.  And between the parking lots, you only drive about 500 meters. 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Dyrhólaey on the map of Iceland

Dyrholaey is one of the southern most part of Iceland

 

Sometimes the Icelander find it mind-boggling to figure out how their nature and landscape ended up the way it did. Sometimes totally chaotic and menacing, and then sometimes beautifully carved and mesmerizing. Icelandic folklore will, of course, provide you with excellent explanations concocted throughout the ages; tales of trolls, giants, and elves, as well as, the hidden people and the dwarfs.

Dverghamrar one of many basalt column formations

One of the most stunning rock formations in Iceland is Dverghamrar (The Dwarf Cliffs), some 10 km east of the Kirkjubæjarklaustur village right on the Ring Road. The cliffs are hexagonal columns of basalt, topped with cube-jointed basalt, shaped like a horseshoe. Inside the cliffs are home to both dwarfs and elves, according to folklore. But mind you, quite a number of Icelanders still believe it to be true and the rest can't prove it isn't. So, Dverghamrar is treated with great respect – just to be on the safe side. You never know what those superhuman beings are capable of doing.

Folklore vs. geological explanation

Even if the Icelanders would like to tell you superhuman beings built Dverhamrar, the geologists will tell you otherwise. This extraordinary landscape is believed to have formed during the Ice Age. At the time, the sea level was much higher, and the sea-waves are believed to be the force behind the peculiar façade of the rocks. Columnar basalt forms through the cooling of lava and a build-up of contraction forces. Today Dverghamrar are a protected natural monument.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Dverghamrar cliffs on the map of Iceland

One of the most stunning rock formations in Iceland is Dverghamrar (The Dwarf Cliffs), some 10 km east of the Kirkjubæjarklaustur village.

 

Iceland is full of surprises. You are walking along a great stretch of sand, minding your own business in the arms of a glacier. Only three colors to take in, white, gray and black when suddenly you are faced with lush green mixed with a myriad of colors.  In the middle of the 10 km long Morsárdalur, you have come upon Bæjarstaðarskógur, a small forest of willows and birches close to a sublime geothermal pool.

Bæjarstaðarskógur is a small forest at the edge of a glacier

This 22-hectare forest is the most robust birch forest in Iceland, its birches reaching 12 meters high. They are also the island's straightest birches and the most precious. Bæjarstaðaskógur also has rowans and the most beautiful display of Icelandic wildflowers. Even the Icelanders wonder how a forest came to be in the remote and isolated area; The only means to get there is by foot – and it will take you approximately three hours from the Visitor's Centre in Skaftafell

Bæjarstaðarskógur hiking trail is an exciting day tour for hiking

A peaceful place out in nature

An old farm, an oasis in a landscape of change

The forest's name suggests there used to be a farmstead here during the Middle Ages. Indeed, its ruins were quite visible until the 18th century. Bæjarstaðaskógur is a beautiful oasis in the vast spread of sand. The hike from the Visitor's Centre is relatively easy and pleasant. You have a stunning view of Morsárdalur the whole time - and might even want to venture further than the forest.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Bæjarstaðarskógur on the map of Iceland

Bæjarstaðaskógur is a wonderful oasis in the vast spread of sand.

It is almost impossible to separate the town Vestmannaeyjar, and the clusters of islands Icelanders call Vestmannaeyjar or Westman Islands.  It is a small town on a tiny island south of Iceland placed on a rock in the middle of harsh forces of the Atlantic Ocean with an active volcano underneath.

For visitors, Þorlákshöfn is a good place to stop.  The village offers most of the necessary facilities and service visitors look for when finding an overnight place to stay or a place to rest.  Þorlákshöfn has a great swimming pool, a good camp site, a convenient store and excellent accommodations.  It is a young village with a short history. Throughout history, the question of a good harbour

Þorlákshöfn is a tiny village in the Southern Region in Iceland

One of the main factors preventing growth in recent centuries for most of the towns and villages on the south shore in Iceland was the difficulty of building a harbour or even a small dock on the sandy shoreline.

Eyrarbakki is a tiny village in the Southern Region in Iceland

In some areas in Iceland, two almost identical villages developed although the distance between them is just a few kilometers.  Sometimes this is a puzzle as nothing can explain why.

Stokkseyri is a tiny village in the Southern Region in Iceland

The town of Hveragerði is different and like no other town in Iceland. Hot springs and hot water coming from the ground is the origin and the premise of the town's existence. For this reason, the livelihood of the residents is also different. It is a town of greenhouses, health spa and flowers. It is a town of warmth.

Hveragerði is a small town in the Sourhern Region in Iceland

In the last decade of the nineteenth century,  Iceland as a small country took on an enormous task in transportation, building a suspension bridge over the river Ölfusá.

Selfoss is a large town and center of the Southern Region in Iceland

Pages