Selfoss Town: A Comprehensive Guide to Iceland’s Useful Gem

  • by Yanshu
  • South Iceland
  • 10 Jun 2023

Discover the charming town of Selfoss, located in South Iceland's serene landscapes. A gateway to many popular attractions, Selfoss invites you to experience its warm community, vibrant culinary scene, and proximity to iconic attractions like the Golden Circle. It's a perfect blend of tranquility and adventure, waiting just for you.

Selfoss Town: A Comprehensive Guide to Iceland’s Useful Gem


The town of Selfoss, located in South Iceland, has an interesting history that dates back to the Viking Age. In the winter of 873-74, Ingólfur Arnarson, the first permanent settler of Iceland, spent some time in the area beneath the Ingólfsfjall mountain, which is now considered part of the Golden Circle route. However, the area was not permanently settled until after 1000 AD, according to the Book of Settlements of Iceland.

A major development occurred in Selfoss in 1891 when the first suspension bridge was built over the river Ölfusá. This event marked the beginning of the town’s growth as a successful service center, connecting the agricultural south to the capital city. Selfoss became a part of Árborg municipality in 1998, along with the nearby towns of Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri, as well as the rural community of Hella.

Driving to Selfoss is a scenic ride via the Ring Road of Iceland.

Today, Selfoss is a thriving town with a population of more than 6,500 residents. A mix of commerce, farming, horticulture, and small industries contributes to the town’s economy. Visitors to Selfoss can take in the beautiful sights and explore its historical buildings, including the Bobby Fischer Center, a museum dedicated to the life and achievements of the famous American chess champion Bobby Fischer, who lived in Selfoss for a period before his death in 2008.

In recent times, Selfoss has faced its share of challenges, with significant earthquakes shaking the region. In 2008, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake occurred near the area, causing considerable damage to buildings and infrastructure. Despite these setbacks, the Municipality of Árborg has continued to invest in the development and preservation of Selfoss, ensuring its growth and prosperity for generations to come.

A birdpanoramic view of the town of Selfoss in South Iceland.

Geographical Features

One of the most prominent geographical features of Selfoss is the Ölfusá river. This river is known for its large volume and plays a significant role in the town’s development. It is an important part of the town’s landscape and serves as a central point for the community. We find that the town of Selfoss was established near the banks of the Ölfusá river, making it an integral part of the town’s history.

Another important aspect of Selfoss’ geography is its location along the Ring Road. The Ring Road, also known as Icelandic Route 1, runs through the town, connecting it to Hveragerði and Hella. This road is a major transportation route in the country, and its presence in Selfoss makes the town easily accessible to both locals and tourists alike.

I should also mention Ingólfsfjall, a nearby mountain that serves as a backdrop to the town. This stunning geographical feature adds to the beauty of Selfoss and offers opportunities for hiking and outdoor recreation.

Diving by the Ingolfsfjall mountain in South Iceland.

The town is situated in southern Iceland, which is known for its diverse natural beauty. From majestic waterfalls to expansive glaciers, the region offers a stunning array of attractions for visitors to explore. Being located near the coast, Selfoss also enjoys the benefits of its proximity to the sea, which enhances the overall appeal of the town.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Selfoss is part of Ring Road Nr 1 and Sandvík area. This strategic position contributes to the town’s role as a center for commerce and small industries, making it an important hub in southern Iceland.

Town Centre

In recent years, Selfoss has evolved as a thriving urban center with the development of the Selfoss Centre. This innovative district serves as a tribute to Icelandic history while embracing a modern twist. The town center has become an ideal destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a variety of amenities where they can shop, dine, and socialize.

Our town center boasts over 10 restaurants, allowing visitors to indulge in delicious Icelandic cuisine. The Old Dairy Food Hall features an impressive 8 restaurants, a craft beer tap room, a wine bar, and even an exhibition on the history of skyr, Iceland’s unique superfood. Food enthusiasts will certainly appreciate the diverse culinary options that cater to different tastes and preferences.

Apart from dining options, the Selfoss Town Centre is home to numerous artisan shops showcasing the local craftsmanship. As the largest town in South Iceland and the main center of trade and industry, Selfoss has grown to become an influential player in the region’s commerce. Positioned just 57 km away from the capital city, this town serves as a hub for various businesses and industries. Additionally, its convenient location offers easy access to the stunning landscapes and attractions that South Iceland has to offer.

The new Selfoss Town Centre provides an inviting atmosphere that attracts tourists and locals with its rich history, diverse dining options, and artisan shops. As we continue to grow and flourish, Selfoss solidifies its position as an important town in both commerce and culture, bridging the gap between traditional Icelandic roots and modern developments.

Cultural Highlights

In Selfoss town, you can find a diverse range of cultural activities and events to enjoy, which truly highlight the uniqueness of the area. One of the most prominent events in Selfoss is the annual festival Sumar á Selfossi. This summer festival brings both locals and visitors together to celebrate the season with a variety of concerts, art exhibitions, and sports activities.

During the festival, you can experience an array of musical performances by both well-known Icelandic artists and local talents. The ambiance in the town is lively, with music filling the streets, and people enjoying the entertainment and delicious food provided by local vendors.

In addition to the Sumar á Selfossi festival, you will appreciate the rich and diverse culture of South Iceland in the nearby town of Vik. as well. The small coastal town offers a breathtaking landscape, where you can explore its picturesque black sand beaches, rugged cliffs, and lush green hills.

Within the Selfoss town itself, you can find various fascinating galleries and museums, showcasing captivating art pieces and historical artifacts. Many of these cultural institutions are located within walking distance from the town center, making it easy for us to explore and get a true sense of Icelandic artistry and history.

The culmination of the Sumar á Selfossi festival is an impressive fireworks display, lighting up the night sky and reflecting on the waters of the Olfusá River. This magnificent spectacle is a perfect way for us to conclude our cultural journey in Selfoss and create lasting memories of our time in this charming town.

Tourism and Attractions

In Selfoss, you will find a charming town that serves as a perfect base for exploring some of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, such as the Golden Circle route and the South Coast. The town offers a variety of activities and attractions making it an ideal destination for any traveler.

Food and Dining

In Selfoss, there are many great options for food and dining, catering to various tastes and budgets. While visiting the town, I highly recommend trying its local specialties, Icelandic cuisines, and international dishes, ensuring a delightful culinary experience during your trip.

Transport and Infrastructure

Being a crucial hub in the South Region, Selfoss is well-connected by the Ring Road and offers excellent transport infrastructure. There are multiple options for traveling to and from the town, including bus services, private vehicles, and even organized tours. If you wish to explore nearby attractions like the Golden Circle, Hveragerði, or Reykjavík, Selfoss has convenient transportation links to make your journey smooth and hassle-free.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is close to Selfoss by car, South Iceland.

Local Services

In Selfoss, the locals take pride in providing various local services to ensure a comfortable stay for our visitors. From shopping centers, hotels, guesthouses to health services and recreational facilities, all the amenities and services needed by tourists are provided during their stay. There is also a thriving cultural and arts scene, numerous walking trails, and engaging events such as the annual Sumar á Selfossi festival, all of which contribute to a memorable experience.

About the author
A journalist and photographer, Yanshu is driven by a deep passion for Iceland. She's on a mission to share her love for authentic travel experiences and exciting adventures with fellow explorers. Armed with her camera, she sets off on hikes, delving into Iceland's intricacies while mastering the art of Icelandic language whenever possible.

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