Published September 9, 2019
The South Coast of Iceland is one of the countries most travelled roads—and for good reason. Including everything from spectacular waterfalls to sparkling glaciers, it’s a must-see for any tourist in Iceland.
On a sunny summer day, I tackled that fated road with Troll Exhibitions in an intimate, comfortable van tour. Taking us to the best sites of Highway 1, the tour also included an afternoon glacier hike on Sólheimajökull. It was, without hyperbole, a day to remember.
An Icelandic oasis
Our first stop on Iceland’s South Coast was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, best known as the waterfall you can walk around. Getting out of the car, I was immediately dwarfed by the size of the giant. You, of course, expect a waterfall to be grand but you can’t possibly imagine the scale until you stand in front of it. Positively dumbstruck, I was immediately shocked by the force of the water falling down, which smacked the river like a boxer—both frightening and awe-inspiring.
Watching my steps carefully on the slippery rocks, I took my time meandering behind the waterfall, occasionally being sprayed by an errant blade of water. The sun sparkled down and I felt almost meditative. It was an inspiring beginning of the day, and one that sparked my excitement for what was to come.
While Seljalandsfoss was superb, no doubt, it was actually a smaller waterfall to the left of it that truly took my breath away. Down a winding path and through a rift in a rocky cliff lies Gljúfrabúi, a much smaller waterfall, which is only accessible by balancing precariously on a path of small stones in a river. I gladly accepted helping hands from other guests as I clutched to the side of the cliff desperately praying not to fall into the freezing river, but once I crossed the threshold I immediately felt like I had left Iceland and entered a tropical oasis.
At Gljúfrabúi, mist and fog surround a sharp jet of ice cold water that you can get up close and personal to. Right in front of waterfall is a massive rock that you can stand on for some truly epic photos. I climbed up, stood in front of the waterfall, and allowed the fog and mist to soak into my soul. This, I thought, is peak Iceland.
A sparkling journey
Next on the itinerary was a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull glacier. Now, I had already done a glacier hike with Troll Expeditions (which you can read about here) so I knew that I’d be getting some serious adrenaline here. After suiting up quickly with our warm jackets and crampons, we headed up the glacier, clutching our ice axes close and trying to get our bearings on the crunchy snow.
The cliffs of the glacier sparkled in shades ranging from emerald blue to stark white as we climbed up. Such beauty surrounded us that it was a constant battle between watching our steps for safety and taking in the stunning vistas that awaited us every which way. The colourful layers of a glacier are records of history and at all moments, I felt like I was walking into the past. These glaciers have been here longer than I’ve been alive, and hopefully will last long after me.
Truthfully, I’ve done numerous glacier hikes in the past, but on that day, I was awarded with something I’ve never experienced in my life—a glacier soaked in a knee length layer of fog. Trudging up through the mist felt like entering a fantasy novel and I was hooked. Did we really have to leave? Couldn’t we stay there for eternity?
A spooky masterpiece
There were two more stops on the trip, each just as stunning as the last. The first was the famous Reynisfjara black sand beach. At first glance, the beach might seem just as many others in the world—save for the black sand—but when you walk towards the water, you are greeted with fantastical columns of granite outlining the waves. It’s almost impossible to believe they are natural, but trust us, they are.
Next to the columns are two glittering caves of sharp black columns that look like crystals. If the glacier hike felt like a fantasy novel, these caves were no doubt where the evil queen lived. I stood outside of them, trying to muster up the courage to walk inside. Each cave is a spooky, gothic masterpiece, but one with unimaginable beauty.
Afterwards was our last destination, the Skógafoss waterfall, which gave us another opportunity to stretch our legs as we delicately climbed an eyeful of stairs to the top of the waterfall. Looking down, each of us immediately felt a delightful sense of vertigo. For those afraid of heights, I’d skip climbing the glorious falls, but for those that are looking to be dwarfed by nature, this is the place to do it.
We arrived back to Reykjavík exhausted but exhilarated. It had been an unforgettable day, one where we had gone from glaciers to the sea. Arriving back home, I was sure of one thing: It you’re going to journey down the South Coast of Iceland, do it like a troll.