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  • Craig Cooper Photography

8 Must-See, Remarkable Locations in Iceland's Southern Region

Not only is Iceland's history rich with mythology and folklore tales from centuries passed, but the country also features some of the most unique landscapes worth exploring.

There is a reason Iceland has become such a popular destination for adventure seekers, historians and travelers around the world. Find out why these 8 remarkable locations along the southern route of Iceland simply cannot be missed.

I have developed a map (below) highlighting my stops along Route 1 on course to the small nordic village of Höfn and the Stokksnes Peninsula. These 8 destinations, in my opinion, can most definitely not be missed if you plan to travel along Iceland's southern region.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

My journey along Iceland's southern region commenced in the charming city of Reykjavik. As I am not much of a city guru, I was anxious to initiate my adventure and relish in all that Iceland had in store for me.

However, as the country's capital and largest city, Reykjavik has plenty to offer and is worth checking out if time is allotted. One of the most popular destinations in the city includes Hallgrímskirkja, a modern church offering stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains from the observation deck at the top.

Hallgrímskirkja is situated in the center of town and clearly visible in most parts of the city and is one of the tallest structures in the entire country.

The unique architecture of Hallgrímskirkja church.

Gorgeous views of the architecture since the church.

The observation deck atop the church offers stunning views of the city and mountains.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss waterfall has quickly become one of Iceland's most visited tourist destinations, largely due to its close proximity to Route 1.

The impressive waterfall features a drop of approximately 200ft and is a chunk of the Seljalandsá river, originating from Eyjafjallajökull glacier.

Seljalandsfoss is a unique waterfall in Iceland, as visitors are able to fully encircle the waterfall along a pathway that leads into a cavern and caves behind the waterfall.

View from the pathway and cave behind Seljalandsfoss.

Skógafoss Waterfall

Skógafoss is another incomparable waterfall in the southern region that has become popular for many reasons. Located only a short 28km from Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss also originates from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and features a hiking path that takes visitors to the top of the 197ft cascading waterfall.

The path to the top of Skógafoss can be difficult and steep at times, and contains up to 500 steps depending on where you start. The views from the top are worth the extra effort, offering panoramic views of the surrounding Icelandic landscape and Skóga river.

The view from the observation deck atop Skógafoss waterfall.

View of the Skóga river along the hiking path after reaching the top of the stairs.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach & Basalt Columns

Farther along Route 1 near the fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal lies Reynisfjara, a world-famous black sand beach known for it's rocky sea stacks and basalt columns that are scattered along the shoreline of the beach.

In keeping with old Icelandic folklore and tales, and during my research I came across quite a few stories regarding the basalt columns. One tale that I read claims the basalt columns were once trolls whom attempted to draw ships ashore from the Atlantic Ocean. As this tale tells, the trolls were transformed to solid stone after venturing out too late into the night, as dawn broke onto the horizon.

Another folk tale that I read claims the basalt columns are actually trolls frozen by an angry husband seeking revenge for his wife who was kidnapped and killed by the trolls.

Regardless of which tale rings true, the basalt columns are a beautiful piece of Icelandic nature and culture.

Reynisfjara and the basalt columns were also used as a shooting location for the acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones, and fans of the series flock to Reynisfjara during all months of the year to visit the now famous columns.

Dyrhólaey Peninsula

Also near the village of Vík í Mýrdal, and not far from Reynisfjara, is a peninsula jutting out into the ocean known as Dyrhólaey and is the southernmost point in mainland Iceland.

Dyrhólaey is a prominent location during the summer to view Atlantic Puffins who nest in the crevices and caves along the cliffs, taking shelter from the wind.

The location offers stunning aerial views of the surrounding black sand beaches and features a gigantic black arch of lava, from which Dyrhólaey gets its name, meaning the "hill island with he door hole".

Dyrhólaey gets its name, meaning the "hill island with he door hole".

Eldhraun Lava Fields

One of the most interesting and historical locations in all of Iceland's southern region are the ancient Eldhraun lava fields. The landscape of this region was one of the most unique landscapes I have ever seen, with vibrant green moss covering conical volcanic mounds for as far as the eye could see.

When observing these lava fields, it suddenly became clear to me that there must be a rich history as to how this vast, desolate landscape was shaped.

As it turns out, Eldhraun is a portion of the largest lava flow from a single volcanic eruption in Earth's history, the colossal eruption of Lakagígar of the 1700's.

The volcano erupted violently for over an entire eight-month period between June 1783 and February 1784, releasing around 42 billion tons of basalt lava, along with clouds of deadly hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide, destroying numerous villages in the lava's path.

The eruption ultimately contaminated the soil and caused the deaths of approximately half of Iceland's livestock population and crops, resulting in a famine that swept the country, killing up to a 25% of human life that inhabited the island.

Eldhraun is a portion of the largest lava flow from a single volcanic eruption in Earth's history, the colossal eruption of Lakagígar of the 1700's.

The lava fields stretch for miles along Route 1.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach

Located in Vatnajökull National Park, this glacier lake is situated at the base of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. The lake has grown at an alarming rate in recent years due to the melting of the glacier and continues to inch closer and closer towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The lake is filled with floating glaciers that eventually make their way out into the Atlantic Ocean and wash ashore a beach known as Diamond Beach. The black sand beach offers gorgeous views of the stark contrast between the ice and black, fine sand.

Multiple boat tours are offered in Jökulsárlón Lagoon, allowing visitors an opportunity for an up-close-and-personal experience with the tremendous glaciers.

Icebergs wash ashore Diamond Beach.

Stokksnes Peninsula & Vestrahorn Mountain

The last stop along my journey is Vestrahorn Mountain, located on Stokksnes Peninsula, about an hour's drive from Jökulsárlón.

This area has rapidly become a popular location for photographers and less of a tourist destination compared to other locations along Route 1, giving photographers the opportunity to have a moment of isolation to fully capture the beauty of Stokksnes.

Stokksnes is particularly beautiful, with towering mountains hovering above a black sand beach and often features a moody, mysterious landscape with clouds sweeping past the mountain peaks.

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