Published June 27, 2017
It is early on a Sunday, too early, the previous night one of my oldest friends held his lavish birthday party, but now I’m travelling to the south coast. The place where you can catch some of the most beautiful spots in Iceland.
What makes the around the south coast particularly great is the proximity to Reykjavík. The day trip with Arctic Adventures is perfect for someone who only has a limited amount of time in Iceland, but wants to see as much nature as possible.
Our first stop, after a coffee and sandwich break in the tiny town Hvolfsvöllur, is the Skógafoss waterfall. It flows off green cliffs and is one of Iceland’s biggest—with a width of 15 metres and a drop of 60 metres. But what also makes it amazing is the fact that you can get right up to it and feel the drops roll over your face.
Sadly, the weather wasn’t the best that particular Sunday, but I’ve been to the waterfall during the baking summer and watching the sunlight gleam of the stream, as the mock rain flattens your hair is a wonderful sensation. Plus, it was a location in Marvel’s mythological biopic “Thor: The Dark World”—a wonderful schlock movie about a Norse god falling in love with Natalie Portman.
The black beach
The second stop on the trip was Reynisfjara, Iceland’s most famous black pebble beach. The dim colours create a soul-stirring atmosphere that captures the eye and the spirit. The beach is flanked by large cliffs filled with seabirds, and even a few sheep that have somehow managed to make their way up.
Out in the ocean are the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks, which according to legend were formed when two trolls attempted to drag a boat into the ocean, but were swiftly turned into stone when daylight broke and the sun petrified their skin. Personally, I think this is more a case of ancient Icelanders trolling each other and us, but whatever floats your boat (no pun intended).
Beware though, several people have been killed at Reynisfjara due to the unpredictability of the waves there, which often come with a strong undertow, so the beach is not just beautiful, it is also great for adrenalin junkies.
Next up, was conquering the glacier Sólheimajökull. It is an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull with a surface area of 42 square kilometres. It is a unique place and black volcanic sand dots the landscape. The view from the top is also stunning, with the distance up the glacier seeming endless, and the ravine below snaking itself around the bend towards the ocean.The hike is not the most difficult glacier walk you can experience in Iceland, but you need crampons, good hiking boots and warm clothes, but as our guide explained the ice axes are mainly for leaning on, and to look cool on Instagram (oh, boy does it look cool). But for those more advanced and adventurous you can choose to go ice climbing, which means exercise and heights.
On top of the glacier are several glacial streams that run down its side. Our guide taught us a neat trick, to smack your ice axe across the small stream, lean onto it and lap up the cool water. It is smart to bring a water bottle along to fill up, because the sweet, cold nectar is like nothing else.
Sadly, the glacier has been receding heavily in recent years—around 100 metres a year—and I remember that when I visited the glacier as a young boy, it reached all the way to the parking lot. Today, you have to walk for around 20 minutes to get to it, so it is also a true testament to the destructive effects of global warming.
The cave behind the waterfall
The last stop on my trip around the south was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall—one of the most popular destinations in the country. It is located right of Route 1, and is impossible to miss as you drive past. What makes the waterfall so unique is the cave behind it. The walk around the cave takes you behind and around, while water beats your face. In good weather rainbows dance around it, making it seem magical. It was unfortunate that this was not one of those days, but it truly is a sight to behold.
Several smaller waterfalls and caves are located close by, so the variety makes it possible to spend hours marvelling at the sights and the feel of the water.
The perfect day trip
Waking up hungover on a Sunday morning after a long Reykjavík night, to take a trip to say the Westfjords is not the most sensible thing you can do, but taking a cozy trip to the see the waterfalls, black beaches and glaciers of the south coast is a perfect way to return to the land of the living. And to experience Iceland during a trip to Iceland that is too short.