Upcountry Árnessýsla

Travel Guide Europe Iceland South Iceland Upcountry Árnessýsla



Upcountry Árnessýsla, or Uppsveitir Árnessýslu in Icelandic, is a rural area in South Iceland, home to many of the country's most famous attractions.

Upcountry Árnessýsla is one of the few places where arable land in Iceland reaches up to 50 km inland. As a result, it's one of the most important agricultural areas in Iceland. There are no major towns, however. The total population numbers a few thousand but only a few hundred live in the villages scattered around the area.

The entire area lies in a geologically active belt with many interesting sights such as volcanoes, and geysers. As a result of this and the proximity to Reykjavík it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland.



Sights and Activities

Some of the most famous sights in Iceland are dotted around Upcountry Árnessýsla.

Geysir. The hot spring that is the namesake for all geysers in the world, is also one of the most popular stops in Iceland. First stories of the Geysir area can be found in documents from the year 1294 when earthquakes were frequent in the southern part of Iceland and caused the area to evolve to its current form. In the year 1630 the geysers in the area had so much power that the earth trembled when they spouted. As with many of the natural features in Iceland, many will be amazed at how close you can get to the geysers. Access is very unrestricted, you are not held behind guard rails and no officials warn you off. It is exhilarating to be able to be so close, and refreshing to be treated as an adult. Here's hoping trial lawyers never discover Iceland. As well as Geysir itself, which seldom erupts, there is the five-minutely Strokkur, other geysers, and various strikingly coloured hot pools. There is free parking, a gift shop and a good cafe.
Gullfoss (Golden Falls). A magnificent 32m high double waterfall on the White River (Hvítá). The flow of the river from the regular rains and the glacial runoff, particularly in summer, makes it the largest volume falls in Europe. If you walk down the long flights of stairs you can get really close to the waterfall to take great photos or videos. Be careful not to drop in the water, though; the rock platform can be slippery and the "fence" is made up of two thin wires! Numerous tours take you along a Golden Circle that includes Gullfoss. Free parking, gift shop, and café.
Kerið. A small volcanic crater on Route 35, about 12 km north of the ring road. (Kerið lies conveniently on the route back toward Reykjavik from Gullfoss.) There is a small car park, and visitors can walk up to the rim in a matter of seconds, do a circuit of the rim in fifteen minutes, or easily walk down into the bowl on an obvious path. In winter it may be possible to walk out part-way onto the frozen ice of the crater lake. An easy volcano to get up close and personal with!



Events and Festivals


Icelanders celebrate the old month of Thorri with a festival known as Thorrablot. This is a winter feast which celebrates the hardship which the ancestors has to endure. The feast can be held at any time during the month of Thorri starting the first Friday after January 13th. Traditional food is eaten which mainly consists of putrefied shark, jellied rams head, testicles and eyeballs along with many other delicacies. Much of the food is preserved from the previous year.

First day of summer

On a Thursday that comes up after April 18th, Icelanders mark the first day of summer with a national holiday and the greeting 'Gleðilegt Sumar' (Happy Summer). It is believed that if there is a frost and the weather is wintry on this day, then the summer will be very good.


This is Iceland's shop keeper's holiday is always the first weekend of August. It is a national holiday and music festivals are held all over Iceland. The biggest is on the Vestmannaeyjar Islands. The festival here is over the whole weekend and is the Icelandic equivalent of Glastonbury.

Independence Day

Known locally as National Day, this is a major festival for all Icelanders, held on 17 June to mark the country’s emergence as an independent republic. Street parties and entertainers, parades, fireworks, sideshows, traditional music, and dance draw residents onto the streets and into the bars and restaurants until the sun rises the next morning.

Seafarers Day

June sees the Sjomannadagur Festival in Reykjavik, as well as in many other smaller towns if the weather allows. Vintage ships line the Old Harbour for the annual event, with local fishermen competing in rowing, swimming, and other events. Parades, music, fun things to do, and seafood are the orders of the day.


The longest day of the year is a mystical time, celebrated in June with Jonsmessa, the Midsummer Night festival which dates back to Icelandic Viking times. On this night, seals are believed to take human form, cows gain the power of speech, and elves seduce travellers at crossroads with gifts and other favours. Rolling naked on the dew-covered grassy mountain slopes is considered a healthy pursuit and bonfires compete with the glow of the midnight sun.



Getting There

By Car

The area is about a hour and a half from the capital and you can get there by car or bus. From Reykjavik there are several tour operators offering guided "Golden Circle" bus tours that include Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir. Such a tour will cost you around 10,000 kr per person as of August 2014 and is a fairly convenient way to get in, around and out if you don't have a car.

By Bus

Route 6 bus leaves Reykjavik at 10:00 and reaches Gullfoss at about 15:00. The bus stops at three locations in Thingvellir for a 15 - 30 minutes before continuing to Laugarvatn at noon. The bus stops at Geysir for about one hour and 20 minutes. When you want to return to Reykjavik, take the 6a bus. This bus leaves the Gullfoss at 16:00. The 6a also waits in Thingvellir for 15-20 minutes.
Route 610/610a runs from the middle of June until the middle of September daily. The bus leaves Reykjavik at 08:00, travels to Hveragerði, Selfoss and Laugarvatn and then arrives at Gullfoss at 11:10. The bus leaves Gullfoss at 15:50 and arrives at Reykjavik at 18:30PM. This route does not go to Thingvellir nor does it linger at the stops like the 6/6a bus.


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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:59 on Nov 1, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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