29 Jul Road Trip to the South Coast of Iceland
If there was one area I wish we had time to explore, it would be the south coast of Iceland. With its jaw dropping cliffs, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and beaches there are ample ways to turn what would be a half day drive into a multiple day road trip. Unfortunately, our schedule only allowed us one day to explore the sights along the southern portion of Route 1, but we managed to pack our day full of fun stops, and with the almost continuous sun at the end of May, we had endless daylight to explore.
Our road trip along the south coast took place during our drive back to Reykjavik. The previous evening, we stayed at Guesthouse Skálafell, which was a great hotel and we enjoyed our stay. It was an actual working farm…and it was in the middle of nowhere, about 45 minutes from any type of town in either direction. The owners were really friendly, the breakfast was good and it would be a good place to stay on a trip around the entire Ring Road if you had more time to enjoy the nature surrounding the hotel. Since we had driven straight through all the stops along the coast the previous day because of our glacier hike, we woke up early and eager to start exploring.
Jökulsárlón was our first stop of the day. The lagoon along the edge of Vatnajökull National Park is a beautiful sight. The giant icebergs floating on the icy lagoon create a hypnotic scene. If you would like to get a closer look at the lagoon in all it’s glory you can hop on one of the two types of boats that offer tours.
There is a large bridge that crosses over the outlet of the lagoon that flows into the ocean–this is where the icebergs float out to sea, sometimes skirting the edges of the black sand beach. The beach has many large pebbles, and I just loved the contrast between the sand, pebbles, icebergs and glaciers in the background–it created a stunning view. Also, I was able to see just how large a piece of ice was compared to me!
The adorable little town of Vík is about 2 hours from Reykjavik, which makes it an easy drive if you don’t feel like driving the entire south coast or a good stopping point to spend the night. There are many areas near Vík worth checking out and I wish we would have had more than a couple hours to spend here as I would have liked to go hiking, see the basalt columns and visit the museums. Resting high on the hill overlooking the town is a small church that affords great views. You won’t find too much in the actual town, but there is a little wool shop that is fun to browse, and there is even a tour of the factory that shows you how the wool is made.
Our favorite spot in Vík was the black sand beach. We took a walk along the beach east of Dryholaey, which is the cliff that juts out into the ocean and means door hole island as there is an arch in the end of the promontory. Here we gazed at the Reynisdrangar rock, which according to legends, was formed when trolls were caught in the sunlight and turned to stone while attempting to bring ships to shore. On the other side of Dryholaey are the basalt columns, which I really wanted to see but missed. From pictures, they almost look like the Giants Causeway–a.k.a., both beautiful and unique!
Moving along, as it is easily seen from Route 1, you can’t miss Skógafoss, one of the largest waterfalls in the country. Powering over a cliff that used to make up the south coast of the island, the water falls over 200 ft. straight down and spans around 84 ft. across. Due to the sheer amount of power coming from the waterfall, a large amount of mist is produced which often creates a single or double rainbow–when we were visiting, there was a double rainbow near the foot of the falls. Legend has it that a Viking once buried a treasure behind the falls. People claim that a ring from the treasure was found, and it is now displayed in a nearby church, but the rest of the treasure supposedly remains for anyone brave enough to face the pounding waterfall. There is also a path that runs along the right side of the falls–if you are feeling ambitious, you can climb up to the top for a better view of the area. We were feeling quite lazy after three straight days of snorkeling, canoeing and glacier hiking, so we took a pass on this one.
There is also another waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, nearby–although smaller, you can actually walk behind it providing a unique vantage point with spectacular views. Somehow we missed stopping here; it isn’t as obvious as Skógafoss is from the road and unfortunately we weren’t really on the lookout for it. Next time we visit Iceland, we want to stop here for sure.
Also, make a pit stop and say hi to the beautiful and friendly Icelandic horses. There are many horses in fields along the drive, and you can pull over and walk right up to the fences. More often than not, the horses will come right over to you! I just love their little tufts of hair on their manes and their sweet, boundless energy. These horses are pretty unique because they are pure bred Icelandic horses–they are hardy and live longer than most horses, rarely having diseases. If a horse is exported from the country it is never allowed to come back; other horses are not allowed into the country either, and to top that off, you can’t expose the horses to any pathogens from other horses–this is because Iceland has taken careful measures to keep the breed pure and free of diseases.
There are many other intriguing stops along the way, so try to plan enough time in your day–if you have the time, it’s even a good idea to stop and spend the night along the way so you can see even more!
Do you like road trips? Which road trips have you been on and which one was your favorite?