South Iceland

Understand

South Iceland's charm lies in its many large and impressive waterfalls and glaciers, unique geology and fascinating medieval history.

The area is the setting of of some of Iceland's most popular sagas and home to many of their heroes. Njáll's saga, one of the most famous sagas, is largely set in South Iceland with the title character Njáll living at Bergþórshvoll and the hero Gunnar hailing from Hlíðarendi in Fljótshlíð near Hvolsvöllur. These farms still exist today, but don't expect to see medieval ruins. Icelandic building materials were not made to last, and the farms you see today are twentieth century constructions. However, the nature and the scenery remain as impressive!

The region also contains two of the most important seats of power of medieval Iceland: Skálholt was the location of the bishop of Iceland from 1056 until 1106, when north Iceland received a bishop of its own but Skálholt remained the seat of a diocese covering east, south and west Iceland until 1801. Þingvellir was the meeting place of the Alþingi, the joint parliament and court founded in 930. Alþingi lost its legislative functions in 1662 but remained a court held at Þingvellir until 1800. Alþingi was later revived in 1845 as advisory and later legislative assembly in Reykjavík. It was also at Þingvellir that, on the 17th of June 1944, Iceland was declared a republic.

The eastern part of South Iceland is dominated by the glacier Vatnajökull and the water systems linked to it. Big rivers flow from the glacier in all directions and have created large flood planes along the southern coast. The glacier itself as well as some of the surrounding areas form Vatnajökull National Park, the biggest national park in Iceland.

Uniquely for Iceland, the south is not a fishing area. This is because it has practically no natural harbours. In fact the southern coastline from Þorlákshöfn in the west to Höfn in the east contains an almost unbroken sand beach open directly to the treacherous Atlantic Ocean.