South Central Iceland Attractions
Iceland's most-visited tourist attractions are in south central Iceland, a region renowned for its natural phenomena volcanic activity and historical sites.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir is a national park with a wealth of natural attractions and is the site of Iceland's first parliament, established in 1930. The name Thingvellir means "the plains of the parliament" and the site was originally chosen because of its topography, acoustics and its location near most of the country's population.Hiking trails lead through the park to points of historical interest as well as canyons, caves, streams and waterfalls.
In this geothermal area are spouting hot springs. The Great Geysir began erupting in the 1300's and the noun "geyser" stems from it. It now only erupts on specially engineered occasions.Every June 17, Icelandic Independence Day, tons of soap are poured in the Geysir causing an eruption.Nearby Strokkur erupts every 30 minutes in time for a photographic opportunity.
Vestmannaeyjar is cluster of 45 rocky outcrops and islands off Iceland's southern coast recently affected by volcanic activity.The island of Heimaey presents a newly formed landscape of lava after the 1973 volcanic eruption. The island of Surtsey emerged from the sea after a volcanic event in 1963.The area is named "Westman" for Irish slaves who unwittingly became the islands first inhabitants over a thousand years ago. The area is abundant with varied bird-life.
Vestmannaeyjar is a stopover and nesting site for birds, especially sea varieties. An average of 30 species nest in Vestmannaeyjar and some nest nowhere else in Iceland.Heimaey has several interesting locations for bird watching along the western coastline and southern tip of the island with this area being home to the world's largest colony of puffins, about 8 million.Passerines and waders nest in the grassy area between the airport and coastline on Heimaey.
Black, virtually plantless and somewhat sinister is 2.5sq km/1sq mi Surtsey, Vestmannaeyjar's youngest island. It first emerged from the ocean during a volcanic eruption which lasted from 1963 till 1967.Heimaey residents 18 km/11mi away watched its birth, which at one point created a column of ash and steam 6km/3.7mi high.Surtsey is off-limits to travelers although cruise-ships sail by at close range.