This post is about all places to go in the southern part of Iceland. Most of the highlights in south Iceland is along the coast adding a great deal of drama and a LOT of wind to the experience. So watch out for those slamming doors (insurance doesn’t cover this cost!) while getting out of the car and be very well prepared for acute weather changes- sunny to windy to stormy to sunny again. Having said that, south Iceland is glorious. We spent a total of 4 days in the region and still felt that we could spend a couple of days more. But we were aware that we would feel like that in every part of Iceland, so we did what we could in the given time. Out of the 4 days, we spent an entire day with Midgard Adventure doing a fun day of hiking. You can read and see more pictures from that day here
Since we covered a number of places in these four days, I am gonna divide this blog post in 4 parts/days. After we did Golden Circle and spending a good night’s sleep in Vik, on our first day in the region we set out to explore the south Icelandic gems. Most of these places are very close to each other and located along the national highway, route 1- the famous ring road, making it very easy to explore compared to the rest of Iceland.
In 1973 a U.S airplane crashed on the black sand coast along southern Iceland. All people on-board survived and the wreckage remains on site ever since. You might call this touristy because of the amount of pictures you have seen but to see a weather-beaten plane wreckage in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of black sand is indeed a crowd puller and intriguing. To get here, we had to walk around 4 kms one way from the parking lot. Considering the sandy path and the wind, this walk can be very difficult. So, once again, prepare yourself well!
Dyrhólaey is a very interesting peninsula along route 1 in the south coast. It offers view to the vast expanse of black sand beaches, rocky cliff formations and if you’re lucky then some puffins. Dyrhólaey has two parts, the higher and the lower. The higher part has panoramic views in all directions and the lower part with it’s black sand beaches and view to various rocky cliffs along with Reynisfjara in the background is equally astounding. To get on the top, we took a right turn on road number 218 while driving in route 1. The bumpy road itself is an adventure and once we reached the top, a stunning red capped lighthouse was waiting to greet us!
Reynisfjara beach is very close to the small town of Vik. The beach is very popular due to its unique black sand, add to that the impressive basalt columns and the dramatic sea stacks of Reynisdrangar and it becomes sensational. We walked a bit towards Reynisfjara, the cliffs in the sea and found some very interesting rock formations along the beach. If you wish to be here without a lot of people around then go really early in the morning. A word of caution would be to watch out for the ferocious waves which has claimed many lives. Be very careful, you will see this warning on the beach as well.
Church in Vik
Iceland has beautiful traditional churches. One of them is the lovely church in Vik sitting on top of a hill, overlooking Vik and offering a great view to the sea cliffs of Reynisdrangar.
After an exhilarating day 1 and continuing our night stay at Vik, on day 2 we geared up to explore the mighty Vatnajökull National Park.
Vatnajökull National Park
One of the largest national park in Europe offers a unique opportunity to experience massive glaciers, snowy mountain peaks, glacial lagoons with icebergs and numerous waterfalls. There are many hiking trails within the national park to enjoy these up close. Since we had not done a glacier hike before we decided to go for some glacier hike adventure. Little did we know, that this was gonna be a life changing experience. We booked our hike in advance with Glacier Guides. Of the various hikes available, we went for Glacier Explorer which is a half day hike from their base camp in Skaftafell. We were given a set a crampons, helmet and an axe at the base camp. With these equipments and our guide, we set off in a bus towards the base of the glacier, Virkisjökull. The landscape changed in our bus ride, from rugged green hills to white icy peaks. From where the bus dropped us, our guide took us through a ever changing winding path for about 20 minutes before we arrived at the tongue of the glacier. We could see more and more of ice in the foreground. Here we received safety instructions for our glacier hike. After gearing up, we set out to explore of we what we now call another world!
Hiking through the blue ice, seeing gorgeous ice formations and crossing through deep crevasses (of course with the help of our guide) was an otherworldly experience. Seeing this wonderland of frozen ice formations and brilliant blue colors, we couldn’t believe that we were on the same planet. We made our way up to the majestic ice fall, we even took a small lunch break at the bottom of this ice fall! The joy of being on ice was an amazing experience for the both of us, not to forget the breathtaking views!
If at all you decide to skip the glacier hike and still want to see the blue glacier ice up close then Svínafellsjökull is the perfect place to go to. Just a 5 minute walk from the car park, we walked along the path to see the massive glacier and crevasses.
We kept our day 3 a bit light on activity mostly because it was the day in between our glacier hike and the hiking day with Midgard Adventure.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a narrow yet imposing canyon with the Fjaðrá river flowing through it. With the beautiful clear water of the river winding its way through the green moss covered vertical sheer walls of the canyon, this place can be aptly called fairy-tale like. Fjaðrárgljúfur is only a small detour on road 206 from the ring road. Once we reached, there is a short hike till the top of the canyon. When you hike to the top, at one point, you can see the waterfall merging with the river stream and the view is spectacular. It is a treat to see the different shades of water here.
Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lagoon surrounded by Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. You will be greeted by a lake full of crystal clear chunks of ice when you arrive. As you continue downwards from the parking lot, the calmness of water punctuated by the sound of ice masses crashing and melting into the water will relax you a lot. If you’re lucky, you might also spot some seals relaxing on the ice bergs. We laze around here a bit longer than expected, seeing vivid blue color ice bergs drifting towards the sea. A surreal experience!
Across the road from Jökulsárlón and you land in yet another magical place- diamond beach. The floating icebergs from Jökulsárlón drifting towards the sea are a show stopper at the diamond beach. The shiny blocks of ice sitting on the black sand is an ironical combination
After this beautiful day, we drove to Skalafell and stayed at Guesthouse Skalafell which was a really nice place to relax for a night.
South of Iceland has a lot to offer. Since many of these places are close to the ring road, south Iceland is more popular than other regions in the country. The beauty of Iceland is that you can stop your car anywhere and it will be picturesque. We absolutely fell in love with the ice and the snow and the waterfalls. The list is endless. We hope there is enough inspiration in this blog for you to visit the region. Do let us know your favorite places from this region. You can read more about our visit to other parts of Iceland here.