Why is the Southern Region special? 7 Cool Reasons – 🇮🇸 Iceland

Going down south … in Iceland, that is. This will be the last Earth’s Face post about Iceland, and what a great note to finish on! This region is truly special within this country and in the world. Want to share what you like about the Southern Region or about Iceland, in general? Share it with us below! I’m all about sharing knowledge and enthusiasm for geography, haha. You can read about Iceland’s other regions in the Geography section. But back to the question:

What makes the Southern Region so special? Well, you’ll just have to read on.

The Southern Region (Suðurland) on a map highlighted in red
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Suðurland: Quick Geography

The trend continues in Iceland. Just like all the other regions, we can tell exactly what part of the country this one is in by its name, Suðurland in Icelandic. Located in the south, it’s actually pretty close to Reykjavík as well, though its capital is at Selfoss. It’s got some interesting geography features too. Even though it’s in the south, several of Iceland’s ice caps and glaciers are actually located here due to altitude.

The nation’s biggest lake, Þórisvatn (Thorisvaten) is here, and the region sits right along a rift valley between the North American and European continental plates. That creates some interesting scenery throughout. Besides that, you also get a group of volcanic islands off the coast called Vestmannaeyjar. Intriguing. Now let’s see those features!

1. Selfoss – town

Since Selfoss is the capital town, that’s naturally where the intro to the region begins. Besides being the biggest town in southern Iceland, it’s also got some interesting cultural features. They have a Bobby Fischer Center dedicated to chess if you’re into that, and there’s a special summer event called Summer in Selfoss. It’s basically this outdoor festival to enjoy the summer which, in the Southern Region, is one of the “hottest” in Iceland.

During the festival, they make elaborate decorations on houses and gardens, and they have a big outdoor gathering/party called a fete. Definitely after the pandemic, you can try to get out there. One of the main features around Selfoss though is its nature. Selfoss is on the Ölfusá River, great for witnessing open space and hilly scenery. Don’t confuse the name with Selfoss, a magnificent waterfall way off in northern Iceland. It’s kind of far but, off topic, really a special sight to see.

A river valley in the Landmannalaugar highlands area, Iceland's Southern Region
Landmannalaugar – by Joshua Sortino

2. Landmannalaugar – mountains

One incredible mountainous region is Landmannalaugar. This place is a vast natural area stocked with lava fields and vividly colored hills. There are reds and yellows and swirling oranges. Add the smoke that constantly seeps out of the rocks and it looks like a winding mountain range on fire. Still relatively safe for exploring, there are huts available for camping out in the heights and even horseback tours.

Canyon in Iceland's Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) region
Þórsmörk – by Robby McCullough

3. Þórsmörk – canyons & waterfalls

Down the road, Þórsmörk (or Thors-moerk, maybe) is a beautiful highlands area, actually named after the god, Thor. That makes enough sense since inside these mountains is a big canyon that looks like Thor smashed his hammer right into the earth! The landscape is beautifully scenic with a snakey river that runs down the bottom of the green cliffsides. Another cool feature here is the Stakkholtsgjá (Stak-holts-gyah) area. It’s a specific part of the canyon that is especially pretty with green cliffs, caves, and more of those spectacular views we’re used to seeing in Iceland.

Special waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, partially covered in ice, Southern Region
Seljalandsfoss – by Robert Bye

In the region around Þórsmörk are some iconic waterfalls. Iceland is known for its many beautiful falls, but the Southern Region may take the cake on that topic. Two particular falls that deserve mention in these parts are Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the latter of which flows in a rolling green setting. There is access in a cave behind the falls to watch the water flow down from within. Truly breathtaking, I’m telling you.

Part of Þingvellir (Thingvellir) area, rift valley in Southern Region, Iceland
Þingvellir rift valley – by Harshil Gudka

4. Þingvellir – rift valleys & history

Yet another pretty geological site is Þingvellir (Thing-vel-lir). This is basically a large natural area of rivers, canyons, and thermal sites wrapped all around a continental rift valley. The sight of rivers flowing down into the rift is enough to make you love this place. Tacking onto its natural beauty, it’s also significant to Icelandic history.

The famed Alþingi (Al-thing-y) was one of the first, if not the first, parliament systems in all of Europe. The area of Þingvellir is the place where the parliament used to meet up for hundreds of years before more recently moving to Reykjavík. The history and the scenery together pack a punch to make this place especially unique inside of Iceland.

Misty waters at Gullfoss, powerful waterfall in Southern Region
Gullfoss falls – by Theodor Vasile

5. Gullfoss & Geysir – waterfalls & geysers

We couldn’t talk about the Southern Region without bringing up Gullfoss. These are some of the most powerful and impressive waterfalls in the whole country, ripping over hills and falling into a canyon where they seem to disappear.

Gushing waters at sunrise, the Great Geysir in Iceland
the Great Geysir – by David Köhler

I also have to mention the Great Geysir. This is one of the biggest geysers in the world and is the reason why we call them geysers today, though with a slight spell change. It was reportedly the first geyser to be witnessed by Europeans and probably anyone else. Otherwise, it’s just amazing to watch. Another important geyser is Strokkur, just to give you some options. These are a perfect alternative if you’re in Europe and can’t make it all the way out to Yellowstone.

View of a town and some islands from the red rocks of a volcano, on the islands of Vestmannaeyjar, the Southern Region
Vestmannaeyjar – By Hansueli Krapf (User:Simisa)

6. Vestmannaeyjar – islands & volcanoes

Yet another unique place is the Vestmannaeyjar (Vest-man-nay-yar). These are a group of islands off the coast of the Southern Region known for their consistent volcanic activity. Fear not, these islands are truly breathtaking and offer up some great views of the volcanic hills surrounding their towns and coasts. Small compared to the main island, they still offer up some majestic views juxtaposing the wild sea and rugged land up against each other. They’re not far at all and a close hop from the “mainland.”

7. Culture (Last Thoughts)

Oh, Southern Region. If I were Icelandic, I’d be surely proud of you. Being in the south and with all its valleys and thermal activity, it’s a bit warmer than other parts of the country. That makes it so that people get a little more outdoor time, allowing people to be more active. Vestmannaeyjar is the only offshore island group with any significant population. That makes the lifestyle and culture here unique from the rest of Iceland.

Being reasonably close to the capital, yet still centrally located, this region is a major stopover for travelers and visitors passing through the island. A significant place for the history of Iceland, it’s the site of the first known geysers and one of the first parliaments in Europe. All that aside, Iceland is a waterfall chaser’s dream, and the Southern Region is arguably the best place to see these magnificent forces of nature.

**We did it! Iceland is in the bag. But this isn’t all that makes these regions special. Share what you think is special or just plain cool about Iceland. Know a video or photo that makes these places look awesome? Share a link with us! Keep growing your mind and take care of each other! Peace.

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