South Iceland and Thorsmork
Hot springs, waterfalls, glaciers and glacial rivers
East of Reykjavik lies a mountain named Hengill. Hengill is made from a Palagomite tuff and its highest point is around 800 meters over sea level. Hengill is a central volcano and under it is a giant magma chamber.
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The Hengill area is one of the largest and powerful geothermal areas in the world. The surface of the area consists of several thousand hot springs and two geothermal plants get their energy from the power generating from the magma chamber. North of Hengill is Nesjavallavirkjun geothermal plant and to the south is Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal plant.
Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal plant generates electricity produced by geothermal steam that vents from the ground. The plant is located close to highway nr.1. The plant started in 2006 but the productivity of the plant has risen year to year ever since and generates now over 300 megawatts of electricity. We will stop by the plant and take a tour around it.
Around the town of Hveragerdi are a number of interesting hot springs, both mud pools, hot water springs, steaming vents and geysers. We will take a sightseeing tour around the town and look at the multitude of hot springs and green houses located in the town.
We will drive over Olfusa river, which has the most volume of water per second of all rivers in Iceland, 420 cubic meters per second. The bridge over the river was built in 1891 and still functions as such even though the car has taken over the duty of transportation from the icelandic pony. The town of Selfoss rose around the bridge after its construction. Selfoss is now the largest town in southern Iceland with around 6500 inhabitants.
The town of Selfoss sits on top of a lava field that flowed from the highlands about 8700 years ago. The lava field of Thjorsarhraun covers over 1000 sq. kilometers and 26 cubic kilometer. Thjorsarhraun lava field is one of the largest lava fields that have flowed in Iceland since the last ice age.
Our tour takes us over the Thorsa river which is the longest of all rivers in Iceland, around 230 kilometers long and has around 370 cubic meters of water per second. Several large hydroelectric plants are located around Thjorsa river.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall cascades from ancient sea cliffs over 60 meters down to a shallow pool. It is possible to take a walk behind the waterfall and the scenery there is really beautiful.
East of Seljalandsfoss waterfall lies a fertile countryside and north of there rises the beautiful Eyjafjallajokull glacier, 1666 meter over sea level. This glacier is the sixth largest in Iceland. A magma chamber is located under the mountain which the glacier lies on top of and there have been 2 major eruptions there in historic time, in the year 1612 and again from 1821-1823.
To the south, out at sea,lie the islands of Vestmannaeyjar, that where formed in a sub-aquatic eruption. The last eruption there was in 1973 but 10 years earlier the island Surtsey was formed in a sub-aquatic eruption. That island is the southernmost point of Iceland.
At Skogar is Skogarfoss waterfall. Skogarfoss waterfall cascades around 65 meters down from ancient sea cliffs and is by many considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. At Skogar we will find two museums, a communal museum established 1949 and a transportation museum. Interesting museums to visit.
Myrdalsjokull glacier is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. Under it lies the central volcanic system of Katla, which has erupted upon several dates in historic time, last October 12th 1918. Another eruption in Katla is imminent in the near future. Southwest of Myrdalsjokull glacier lies Solheimajokull glacier. Solheimajokull is a creeping glacier and from it flows the river Jokulsa down to the lowland. We will hike up to the glacier and upon it and see how the glacier has carved out the surrounding nature.
On our way back to Reykjavik, we'll stop by in Thorsmork which is a valley surrounded by glaciers and central volcanoes. In the north is Tindfjallajokull glacier, in the east is Myrdalsjokull glacier and in the south is Eyjafjallajokull glacier. To get there, we will have to cross several rivers and streams but when in Thorsmork, you'll see a valley of extraordinary beauty with lush vegetation.