When the weather in Iceland is good, you just have to get out of the city. If you have plenty of time, a trip around Iceland is a great idea, but even if you only have one day there’s no need for despair.
I recently had a day to spare so we headed out to the south coast of Iceland. If you feel like following in our tracks, here are just a few of the amazing sights you can see in Iceland and still be back in Reykjavík by nightfall.
I still recommend penning in the better part of the day for the trip because the south coast is a never-ending well of beauty. Try not to get too lost in wanderlust on the road as you could drive for hours on end and never get bored. Trust me.
What are the main attractions on the South coast?
We rented a car, packed our equipment, and started our route along the far stretching Icelandic roads. Surrounded by the green scenery, white-topped mountains and sheep. A lot of sheep. Our first stop on the way was Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Beautiful during the summer as well as the winter, Seljalandsfoss has to be one of the most well-known waterfalls in Iceland. It’s approximately a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Reykjavik and quite an impressive stop. The best part? You can walk behind it, giving this waterfall an entirely new perspective and vastness (prepare to get a bit wet though and wear good shoes as it might be a bit slippery).
We hadn’t got nearly enough of waterfalls yet, so next up, we headed to another waterfall nearby. Feeling fit? A 60-meter-high staircase will lead you to the top of the cliff at Skógafoss, giving you nearly an aerial view of the waterfall and its surrounding landscape. Seeing the people beneath you swarm around so tiny and fragile combined with the grandness of the waterfall will make you feel immense yet so slight. An extremely odd experience.
If heights aren’t really your thing, no worries, the waterfall is stunning from solely ground level too (plus it’ll leave some energy for the rest of the amazing sights yet to come). Don’t be surprised to see people laying in the water stream to get that one perfect shot of this waterfall. No worries, the beauty of the waterfall makes it so photogenic that it doesn’t really matter where you stand, you’ll be impressed from all sides and angles.
Be sure to bring your swimsuit! No, not to dive off the waterfall. Once you get to the top of the cliff, you can walk a bit further where you will encounter Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pool of Iceland. It isn’t really open for business (cleaning is limited to once a year) but you can dive in if you’re feeling adventurous.
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.
Let’s give Iceland a bit of credit for its name, won’t we? Sólheimajökull is a glacier, reachable by a short walk from the parking lot and is located very close to the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur. This icy rock is surrounded by green mountains, chilly water, and black sand. A pleasure for the eye. When we were there, clouds were hanging low making the scene very mysterious and straight out of a movie.
This glacier is an extension of the bigger Mýrdalsjökull glacier and is also referred to as the shrinking glacier as it has decreased with nearly a kilometre in size in the past 100 years.
Warning: don’t go on the glacier without crampons on, unless you like yourself a quick slide down into the freezing water. And no, that’s not nearly as pleasant as it sounds. ? In fact, don’t go onto the glacier at all, except with an experienced guide. Those things can apparently swallow you whole if you’re not careful.
The Reynisfjara beach is located near the town of Vík. With its black sand peeking through its cover of perfectly shaped, smooth pebbles and the variety of immense rocks, it is quite the sight. To add to the joy, the area is much loved by seabirds, perfect for birdwatchers.
BE CAREFUL: The waves down by the beach are strong and very unpredictable. They demand extra caution when strolling through the black sand. The shore is plenteous in humongous basalt rocks coming in different shapes and formations, so there’s still plenty to see and enjoy without going for a swim.
Our last stop, before heading back to Reykjavík was at Dyrhólaey. Door-hole-isle? Well, not that far off actually. It is literally a hole in a mountain, nearly making it a passage (or door if you will). Dyrhólaey is located on the most southern tip of Iceland, an area which used to be an island. Due to climate changes, the land slowly rose, connecting the island to the mainland of Iceland. The hole in created over the years by waves eroding the mountain. When the sea is calm, boats are able to sail through.
Our trip to the south coast of Iceland felt like a series of amazing sights, each more stunning than the next. You don’t have to take my word for it, take a look at the video of our trip instead!