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