Booming waterfalls, massive glaciers, geothermal pools, beautiful coastlines, and fresh seafood: the South remains one of Iceland’s most popular regions for obvious reasons. Above any other area, southern Iceland bears witness to the tearing apart of the American and European tectonic plates and the immense geological forces which have formed Iceland over the millennia—spectacles that should be a part of any journey here.
A stone’s throw from Reykjavík are Iceland’s three most heavily trafficked destinations, the Golden Circle of Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir (Þingvellir). The breathtaking Gulfoss “Golden” Waterfalls is a colossal site where millions of gallons of glacial water crash into a vanishing crevice, while the Geysir geothermal area, with its explosive hot spots and bubbling mud pools, proves why its name has been passed on to all other geysers worldwide. Closing out the Golden Circle is Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, Iceland’s only accessible UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of the first Icelandic parliament, now deemed the oldest functioning parliament in the world. This valley marks the ever-widening boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and—besides the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa—remains the only place on Earth where the effects of two major plates drifting apart can be observed on the surface.
Further east and south, the terrain becomes an adventurer’s paradise. From the healing powers of the Fontana geothermal baths to the snowmobile-ready Langjökull (Long Glacier), the sites and activities are endless. The highlight here is the hidden valley of Thorsmork (Þórsmörk), or “Thor’s Woods”, an isolated nature reserve shielded on three sides by glaciers, mountains, and glacial rivers. An exclusive ride through Thorsmork (Þórsmörk) reveals an oasis of verdant forests, glacial lagoons, small gullies, incredible bird life, and the three looming glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull, and Tindfjallajökull. Given its challenges of unabridged rivers and rough gravel tracks, the average traveler rarely receives access to this jewel of the Icelandic landscape, but it comes standard on any Ker & Downey Iceland itinerary.