Embarking on a journey to the enchanting South Coast of Iceland promises a delightful experience filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, captivating waterfalls, breathtaking glaciers, and fascinating volcanic formations. From the vibrant capital city of Reykjavik, prepare to be captivated by the raw beauty and natural wonders that await you on this fun-filled trip. Let’s dive into the remarkable attractions and activities that make the South Coast of Iceland an irresistible destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.
Waterfalls of the South Coast
South Iceland is renowned for its magnificent waterfalls, each one a testament to the raw power and mesmerizing beauty of nature. Embarking on a journey through this region, you’ll encounter a series of breathtaking waterfalls that will leave you awe-inspired. Let’s delve into the experience of visiting the waterfalls of South Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss: The first stop on your waterfall adventure is Seljalandsfoss, a majestic cascade that offers a unique and immersive experience. As you approach the waterfall, you’ll hear the thundering sound of water plunging from a height of around 60 meters (200 feet). What sets Seljalandsfoss apart is the opportunity to walk behind the curtain of water, creating an enchanting atmosphere as droplets shimmer and sunlight filters through. Be prepared to get a little wet, but the experience is truly worth it. As you venture behind the falls, take a moment to admire the panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
Skógafoss: Continuing your journey, you’ll encounter Skógafoss, one of Iceland’s most iconic and powerful waterfalls. Standing at an impressive height of 60 meters (200 feet) and spanning a width of 25 meters (82 feet), Skógafoss is a sight to behold. As you approach, you’ll feel the mist on your face and hear the thunderous roar of the cascading water. Climbing the stairs adjacent to the falls rewards you with a breathtaking view from above, offering a perspective that showcases the sheer force of the waterfall and the picturesque landscapes that surround it.
Gljúfrabúi: Hidden within a narrow canyon near Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi waterfall presents a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. To reach the falls, you’ll need to wade through a shallow river and walk along the rugged terrain, adding an element of adventure to the experience. As you enter the narrow gorge, you’ll be greeted by the sight of Gljúfrabúi, partially concealed behind rock formations. The misty atmosphere and the sound of water echoing through the canyon create an ethereal ambiance, making it a truly captivating and intimate encounter with nature.
The Black Sand Beaches of South Iceland
Vík, a charming village located near Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, offers its own set of attractions and activities that make it a worthwhile stop on your Icelandic adventure. Here are some things you can do nearby!
Explore Víkurfjara Beach, a picturesque stretch of black sand located just east of Vík. This beach offers a different perspective than Reynisfjara, with its own unique rock formations and stunning views of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. Take a leisurely stroll along the shore, breathe in the fresh ocean air, and appreciate the tranquility of this beautiful coastal area.
Visit Dyrhólaey, a dramatic promontory located just west of Vík. This iconic landmark offers stunning views of the black sand beaches, the ocean, and the towering rock arch that gives the area its name. From the top of Dyrhólaey, you can also spot nesting seabirds, including puffins during the summer months. Keep in mind that certain areas might be restricted during the nesting season to protect the wildlife, so please follow any guidelines or signs.
Visiting the black sand beach at Reynisfjara is an awe-inspiring and unique experience. Located on the South Coast of Iceland, it’s known for its dramatic landscape and striking black sand. Here’s a description of what it’s like to visit Reynisfjara:
As you approach the beach, you’ll notice the vastness of the surrounding landscape. The beach is nestled between steep cliffs, and the contrast between the dark sand, the roaring waves of the North Atlantic Ocean, and the towering basalt columns creates a mesmerizing scene.
The black sand itself is a result of volcanic activity in the area. The fine grains of basalt have been weathered and eroded over time, giving the beach its distinct ebony color. Walking barefoot on the sand, you’ll feel its unique texture, cool and slightly coarse.
One of the first things that captures your attention is the powerful sound of the waves crashing against the shore. The North Atlantic Ocean is known for its forceful and relentless surf, and at Reynisfjara, you’ll witness its full might. The waves come rolling in with a thunderous roar, creating a captivating spectacle. Be careful though, because the large waves can be unpredictable!
Tired of sitting in the car? Here’s a leg stretcher: a 4km walk up to Sólheimasandur; where, in 1973, a US Navy DC plane crashed on the black beach after running out of fuel. All on board survived, yet the wreck was abandoned and can still be seen.
A while back you were still able to drive up to the wreck, but recently it was closed off and can now only be reached on foot. (remember; off-road driving is illegal, subject to heavy fines, and just a real douchebag move). This means two things: 1) it’ll take about an hour to reach the plane wreck, resulting in 2) it being a lot less touristy than the two previously described waterfalls. Which makes the scene a lot more mystical, secret and secluded.
You can walk into and onto the plane, look through the windows down to the beach and stand in the cockpit ‘door’ (more so a hole). Quite an interesting experience and especially when realizing this is an actual plane wreck – not a prop used for a sci-fi film.
Glaciers of the South Coast
To reach Sólheimajökull Glacier, you’ll typically start from the nearby town of Vik or from Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. Many tour operators offer guided excursions to the glacier, providing transport in specialized vehicles designed to navigate the rugged terrain. These vehicles, often modified 4×4 jeeps or super-jeeps, are equipped to handle the challenging conditions, including rough gravel roads and glacial river crossings.
Arriving at Sólheimajökull Glacier, you’ll be greeted by an awe-inspiring sight—a massive expanse of ice, glistening under the Icelandic sun. Before setting foot on the glacier, your experienced guide will provide essential safety instructions and equip you with the necessary gear, including crampons, ice axes, and helmets.
Glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull is a remarkable experience that allows you to explore the glacier’s crevasses, ice formations, and unique features. As you step onto the glacier’s icy surface, you’ll feel a sense of adventure and wonder. Your guide will lead the way, guiding you through the labyrinth of icy landscapes and sharing insights about the glacier’s formation and characteristics.
During the hike, you’ll traverse ice ridges, navigate through crevasses, and witness the mesmerizing blue hues that emanate from the ancient ice. The rugged beauty of the glacier, combined with the pristine silence of the surroundings, creates an unforgettable and almost otherworldly atmosphere. As you explore, take in the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the expansive glacial terrain stretching out before you.
For those seeking an extra thrill, ice climbing on Sólheimajökull Glacier provides an exhilarating challenge. Under the guidance of experienced instructors, you’ll learn the techniques and safety measures necessary for ascending the vertical ice walls. As you dig your crampons into the ice and grip your ice axes, the adrenaline rush builds with every step and swing.
Ice climbing offers a unique perspective, allowing you to see the glacier from a vertical vantage point and appreciate its icy formations up close. The sense of accomplishment when reaching the top of an ice wall and the stunning views from the summit make this an unforgettable experience for adventure enthusiasts.
Jökulsárlón: A Glacial Lagoon
Jökulsárlón and the “Diamond Beach” are a bit further, but well worth the drive! While most of the sights so far can be done in a comfortable day trip, travellers venturing out to Jökulsárlón likely want to make plans to stay the night. Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and the nearby Diamond Beach, located on Iceland’s South Coast, offer a mesmerizing experience that showcases the raw power and beauty of nature.
As you approach Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, your eyes will widen in amazement at the sight of this natural masterpiece. The lagoon is formed by the melting ice from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, part of the vast Vatnajökull ice cap. The result is a tranquil lake filled with massive icebergs, each one a unique work of art shaped by nature.
Take a moment to absorb the serene atmosphere as you watch the icebergs gracefully float on the crystal-clear water. The lagoon’s shades of blue, turquoise, and white create a stunning visual symphony, offering endless opportunities for breathtaking photographs. Keep an eye out for seals, as they often make appearances, adding an element of wildlife to the scene.
Consider taking a boat tour to get closer to the icebergs. Cruising amidst these floating giants, you’ll be able to appreciate their immense size and the intricate details carved by nature. The boat tour allows you to witness the lagoon’s ever-changing landscape, as new icebergs calve from the glacier and drift toward the sea.
Adjacent to Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon lies the famous Diamond Beach, an otherworldly stretch of black volcanic sand adorned with glistening ice diamonds. The beach gets its name from the icebergs that wash ashore, creating a captivating scene reminiscent of scattered diamonds against the black canvas of the sand.
Stroll along the shoreline and marvel at the contrasting beauty of the translucent ice against the dark sand. The interplay of light and color creates a magical ambiance, particularly during sunrise or sunset when the ice sparkles with golden hues. The sound of crashing waves and the crisp Arctic air add to the enchantment of this unique place.
Take your time to explore the beach, observing the icebergs from up close and appreciating their varied shapes and sizes. It’s a photographer’s paradise, offering countless opportunities for capturing stunning and ethereal images.
A visit to Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and the Diamond Beach is a captivating journey into the heart of Iceland’s natural wonders. From the mesmerizing lagoon filled with majestic icebergs to the sparkling diamonds strewn along the volcanic shoreline, these destinations leave visitors in awe of the immense beauty and power of nature. Immerse yourself in this ethereal landscape, and create memories that will last a lifetime.