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Selfoss is a charming town located in the South of Iceland, on the banks of the Ölfusá River. It's the largest residential town in South Iceland, with a population of around 8,000 people. Selfoss offers a variety of attractions and activities that make it a worthwhile stop on any Icelandic itinerary.

Let us guide you on a quick exploration of Selfoss, where we'll talk about its history, sights, and activities in the surrounding area!

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Where Is Selfoss Located?

Selfoss is a vibrant town in the southern region of Iceland, approximately 57 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Reykjavík, the nation's capital. As of 2023, it is home to over 8,000 residents, making it the largest residential area in South Iceland. Selfoss is a part of the Árborg municipality, which covers the southern lowlands and extends to the highlands in the north.

How to Get to Selfoss?

A road leading to Selfoss

Selfoss is easily accessible from Reykjavík, providing a scenic journey through contrasting landscapes that prepare visitors for the natural beauty awaiting in Selfoss.

By Car: One of the most common and flexible ways to reach Selfoss is by car. The drive from Reykjavík to Selfoss is about 57 kilometers (35 miles) and usually takes around 50 minutes under favorable road conditions. The journey traverses a variety of landscapes, including the geothermal-rich Hellisheiði plateau and the charming town of Hveragerði, before you arrive in the lively town of Selfoss. The route is straightforward, primarily along Route 1 (also called the Ring Road).

By Bus: Public transportation is another option for reaching Selfoss. Bus number 51, operated by Strætó, runs multiple times a day from Reykjavík's central bus station (Mjódd) to Selfoss. It's a budget-friendly choice and provides a relaxed way to enjoy the Icelandic landscape though it requires some planning to adhere to the bus timetable.

Guided Tours: Several guided tours include a stop in Selfoss as part of a broader exploration of the South Coast or the Golden Circle. These tours often come with transportation, guidance, and sometimes meals, making them convenient for a more structured travel itinerary.

Regardless of your chosen mode of transport, always check road conditions, particularly during winter as they can significantly influence travel times and safety.

General Information About Selfoss

Selfoss Church, Iceland

While Selfoss is the largest town in South Iceland, it maintains an intimate atmosphere of charm and excitement.

  • Selfoss forms part of the municipality of Árborg and sits on the southern portion of the Ring Road.
  • The town is easily accessible via Route 1 (Ring Road), about a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík.
  • Selfoss has several sports clubs, including a football club, a basketball club, and a horse riding club.
  • The Ölfusá River, the largest river by volume in Iceland, runs through the town and provides a picturesque setting for hikes.
  • Selfoss serves as an excellent base for exploring the South Coast of Iceland, thanks to its central location and proximity to several natural attractions.

In summary, Selfoss is a vibrant and welcoming town that is a gateway to some of Iceland's most breathtaking natural wonders. Whether you're drawn by its community spirit, rich history, or proximity to stunning landscapes, Selfoss will have something to offer.

What Is Selfoss Known For?

Aerial view over Olfusa river

Olfusa river

Selfoss is famous for its bustling atmosphere, geothermal activity, and gastronomic delights. The presence of the Ölfusá River provides opportunities for fishing and adds to the overall charm of the town. Its central location makes Selfoss a gateway to several of Iceland's renowned natural attractions, making it a popular base for exploring the South Coast.

History of Selfoss

Selfoss was settled by Þórir Ásason sometime after 1000; however, the Icelandic sagas mention that Ingólfur Arnarson was here during the winter of 873–74 under the mountain Ingólfsfjall, which is west of the Ölfusá. The town grew around the road between Reykjavík and the ferry crossing at Eyrarbakki, the main route to Iceland's central and eastern parts until the 20th century.

The bridge over the Ölfusá River, built in 1891, marked a crucial turning point for the development of Selfoss, as it linked the town to the national Ring Road. This connection spurred growth and development, leading to increased commerce and the establishment of various service institutions.

Selfoss bridge

Selfoss bridge

The town's growth accelerated in the early 20th century with the establishment of the Mjólkurbú Flóamanna dairy farm and the Kaupfélag Árnesinga general store, which provided employment opportunities for the local population.

On 29 May 2008, an earthquake of magnitude 6.1 on the Richter scale hit South Iceland. It was followed by many aftershocks, with several of magnitude 4–5. The earthquake's epicenter was near Selfoss but felt across the entire country, including Reykjavík and Akureyri. Many buildings in Selfoss were damaged, such as the church, which was nearly destroyed.

In recent years, efforts have been made to enhance the town center. A new civic square has been created, surrounded by restaurants and shops. The square is used for concerts and events, contributing to an improved sense of community in Selfoss.

Today, Selfoss thrives as a bustling town with a growing population. The city is the largest in South Iceland (not including the Reykjanes Peninsula). It retains a welcoming, close-knit community spirit while offering a convenient base for exploring the country's southern region.

Interesting Facts About Selfoss

Tiny elf houses in Iceland

Tiny elf houses

  • Despite its name, which translates to 'waterfall' in Icelandic, Selfoss is not home to any waterfalls, which many tourists often need to be aware of. The town is situated on the flat banks of the River Ölfusá. However, many visitors arrive expecting to see a waterfall. It's important to note that the Selfoss waterfall is located in northern Iceland, not in the town of Selfoss.

  • The town hosts a famous annual summer festival known as "Sumar í Selfoss", featuring music, sports, games, and various entertainment for all ages.

  • The Bobby Fischer Center, dedicated to the memory of the chess grandmaster who lived in Selfoss for some years, offers visitors an insight into Fischer's life and impact on the chess world.

What to Do in Selfoss

Selfoss offers various activities, from leisurely riverside strolls to Icelandic food experiences. The town also has a modern geothermal swimming pool, perfect for relaxation. For history and chess enthusiasts, the Bobby Fischer Center offers a unique insight into the life of the legendary chess master.

Every August, the town comes alive with the 'Sumar á Selfossi' festival, a summer celebration that attracts both locals and tourists. The festival is a cultural extravaganza featuring music performances, communal parties, and a grand evening bonfire accompanied by fireworks.

Eyrarbakki village, Iceland

Eyrarbakki village, Iceland

  1. The Golden Circle: Just a short drive from Selfoss, the Golden Circle is one of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland. It includes the Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysir geothermal area, and the Þingvellir National Park, where you can see the tectonic plates drifting apart.

  2. Selfoss Swimming Pool: Like many towns in Iceland, Selfoss has a geothermally heated swimming pool. It's a great place to relax, with an outdoor pool, a kids' pool with water slides, hot tubs, a sauna, and a gym.

  3. The South Coast: Selfoss is a gateway to the South Coast of Iceland, known for its stunning landscapes, including waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, and black sand beaches.

  4. Eyrarbakki Village: This former fishing village is known for its old buildings. It's like stepping into a museum, with preserved houses dating back to the 18th century.

  5. Reykjadalur Steam Valley: This geothermal area has many hot springs and mud pools. There's a river with hot water perfect for bathing, and the hike to the first hot pool is pretty straightforward.

  6. Northern Lights Hunt: If you're visiting Selfoss during the winter, you might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. There are tours available that increase your chances of witnessing this natural phenomenon.

  7. Day trips: Selfoss's central location makes it an excellent base for trips to other attractions such as Geysir, Gullfoss, Thingvellir National Park, and several famous waterfalls and beaches.

From Selfoss, it's easy to venture further into the South Coast or explore the Golden Circle. Iconic volcanoes such as Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull can be visible from Selfoss on clear days.

Selfoss transforms into a winter wonderland during the winter months although reaching the town can be challenging due to weather conditions. If you're visiting in December, don't miss the Jólatorg or Christmas Square, a festive bazaar offering delicious food, hot cocoa, and handmade Christmas decorations.

Best Time to Visit Selfoss

Selfoss is a year-round destination, with each season offering unique experiences. The summer (June to August) boasts long daylight hours and milder weather, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploration. The winter months (November to February) provide opportunities for Northern Lights viewing, one of Iceland's most sought-after experiences.

Where to Eat in Selfoss

In South Iceland, Selfoss offers a range of dining options to suit many tastes. From traditional Icelandic fare to international dishes, there's something for everyone. Here are a few top-rated eateries in Selfoss that promise a memorable dining experience:

  • Tryggvaskáli: This restaurant is known for its Icelandic and Scandinavian cuisine. It offers vegetarian-friendly meals with vegan and gluten-free options.

  • Kaffi Krús: This is a popular spot for pizza and burgers. It also offers various other dishes and vegetarian and vegan options.

  • Menam: If you're in the mood for Thai food, this is the place to go. They offer a variety of dishes and are known for their friendly service.

  • Ísbúð Huppu: No matter what time of year, it's always a good time for ice cream in Iceland. Huppa is a famous ice cream shop in Selfoss, offering a variety of flavors.

  • Pylsuvagninn Selfossi: This hot dog stand is a must-visit in Selfoss. The traditional Icelandic hot dogs are made from lamb, pork, and beef and are served with various toppings.

Where to Stay in Selfoss

Selfoss offers a variety of accommodation options, from comfortable guesthouses to high-end hotels. Many of these places provide captivating views of the surrounding landscapes and are within easy reach of the town's attractions.

  • 360 Boutique Hotel: Travelers highly recommend this hotel for its excellent service and stunning views. It offers a unique 360-degree panorama of the surrounding landscapes.

  • Hotel Selfoss: Situated by the river Ölfusá, Hotel Selfoss offers a comfortable stay with a touch of luxury. It has a spa, wellness center, restaurant, and bar.

  • Hotel Grimsborgir: Located just about a 20-minute drive from Selfoss, this hotel is known for its high-quality service and beautiful location. It offers spacious rooms and apartments, some with private hot tubs.

  • Hotel South Coast: This hotel is perfect for those who want to explore the south coast of Iceland. It offers comfortable rooms and a restaurant serving local cuisine.

  • Hotel Hjardarbol: This is a family-run hotel located in a peaceful area. It's an excellent base for exploring the Golden Circle and the South Coast.

  • Heima Holiday Homes: If you prefer a home away from home, Heima Holiday Homes offers beautiful houses for rent in Selfoss.

  • Borealis Hotel: This hotel is a budget-friendly option that doesn't compromise comfort. It's a short drive from Selfoss and offers a peaceful, rural setting.

  • Bella Apartments & Rooms: These apartments and rooms offer a comfortable stay with the convenience of self-catering facilities.

Attractions Nearby

Selfoss is known for its beautiful landscapes, including the nearby Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. The town has a swimming pool, sports facilities, a cinema, a library, and museums. It's also home to the Bobby Fischer Center, dedicated to the famous chess player who lived in Selfoss.

  • Ölfusá River: This is one of Iceland's largest and most beautiful rivers, offering stunning views and photo opportunities.

  • Ingólfsfjall Mountain: Named after the first settler of Iceland, Ingólfr Arnarson, this 551-meter-high (1,808 ft) mountain is excellent for hiking and enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

  • Selfoss Church: This modern church is a local landmark worth visiting.

  • Bobby Fischer Center: A small museum dedicated to the chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer who lived in Selfoss for some time.


Selfoss is more than just the largest town in South Iceland – it's a charming hub of history, culture, and breathtaking natural beauty. Its ideal location, just a stone's throw away from some of Iceland's most iconic sights like the Golden Circle and South Coast, makes it a perfect base for explorers seeking to dive deep into the heart of this island. 

With every season offering its charm and a warm welcome from the local community, it's no wonder that Selfoss continues to enchant those who choose to embark on an Icelandic adventure.

So, whether you're a seasoned explorer or a first-time visitor to Iceland, do not hesitate to include the vibrant town of Selfoss in your itinerary!

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