South Coast of Iceland is one of the best highlights of our trip. Prior to travel, I have heard pretty much every friend, travel forums mention great things about the south coast that intrigued me more to not miss this part of Iceland. I was simply blown out of the world when I got to experience with my own eyes. The coastline is so beautiful surrounded by amazing landscapes, waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, beaches, active geysers that is so fresh and colorful. Many times I had a feeling if I was standing on a different planet, on one side you see a flat surface with burnt volcano stones scattered all over and on the other side you see awe-inspiring cliff sides and 5000 year old glaciers with floating ice-bergs hitting the beach. There is so much of incredible scenic adventures hidden on the south coast of Iceland that is surely not to be missed when you visit Iceland. South Coast of Iceland cannot be seen in one-day and I would strongly suggest to do the 2-day tour with a local travel guide. There are lots of local tourist companies who offer 2 or 3 day tour packages that include accommodations.
So what are the must see places during your south coast visit?.
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Skogafoss Waterfall
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Jokulsarlon – Glacier Lagoon
- Diamond Beach
- Vatnajokul National Park
- Blue Ice Caves
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Sólheimasandur Plane wreck site
Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall situated on the South Coast of Iceland with a drop of 200 feet and this will be your first stop due to the close proximity to the ring road. Since I live in the Pacific north-west, I get to experience beautiful waterfalls across Washington and Oregon and got reminded of the north-west when seeing Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. There is also a horizontal surface that runs behind the waterfall and it’s possible to walk behind the curtain of the waterfall and visualize it from a different angle with the sun shining through the cascading water. I visited during winter and did not have much time to go behind and photograph the other side of the waterfall.
Just 20 minutes from Seljalandsfoss, you’ll find Skogafoss. Oh, I forgot to mention that both of these waterfalls are located just by the road and they’re only a minute walk from the parking lot (parking is free). Skogafoss is pretty spectacular. And not just because it’s 25 meters wide with a drop of 60 meters, although that is rather cool in itself. No, this waterfall is unique because of its magnitude and sheer power. It’s simply overwhelming to stand next to it, and you can get super close although not without getting soaked (speaking from bitter experience).
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
The Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland is like a miniature version of the island. In this island, there are black sand beaches, bird cliffs, stunning landscapes and volcanic craters. This is the lava beach in Iceland that was essentially formed from the volcanic eruption ashes. Of course the black sand color is the highlight surrounded by the huge basalt columns, high tower cliffs and cave formations. This beach is a treat to the photographers to capture some amazing shots of not only the beach but surrounding scenic wonders. There is a natural pyramid shaped basalt columns that looks like a giant staircase touching the sky located right next to the seashore. It’s amazing to see the shape of the rocks, lined symmetry columns creating beautiful hexagonal forms that were all formed during the volcanic eruption producing these natural wonders. The beach is only 2.5 hours from Reykjavik city and is very close to Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. When you do a south coast tour, your day-1 will primarily cover the waterfalls and black sand beach attractions.
The tide is really dangerous in Black sand beach and you will be advised to be extremely careful to not get closer to the beach. There have been instances where people have been carried away by the waves. The wind is so strong enough to push you from a cliff, so watch out when you stand very close to cliffs. Safety is important, so please be careful when taking photographs. Keep an eye on the big waves at all times!.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
This is truly one of the natural wonders of Iceland where you get to experience huge ancient icebergs breaking off from the Vatnojokull glacier. The lagoon provides you a feeling of such incredible tranquility as the 3000-year old ice silently drifts into the lake and gradually melts down. I heard from our guide that the lagoon is becoming larger every year and is less than 100 years old even though the glacier lagoon has been around for an ice age. Jökulsárlón is an enormous lagoon filled with huge chunks of ice that have broken free from an outlet glacier of the famous Vatnajökull one of the largest icecap in Europe. You can even take a boat tour on the lagoon and sail among the massive icebergs. There were icebergs everywhere! In the water, on the shore and along the shoreline.
Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon is Iceland’s deepest and most spectacular glacial lake, an absolute treat for all photographers and explorers. You will see icebergs, some as large as compartment blocks colliding one another in the lagoon, beautifully sculpted ice forms as far as you can see. On our way back to the glacier lagoon from Blue Ice Caves, we saw huge transition of the icebergs floating towards the lake from the diamond beach during sunset. Watching them it is easy to feel mesmerized, they are a such a visual sight!
Diamond beach is right next to the Glacier lagoon – The icebergs floating in the lagoon range in color from deep blue to bright white, and brilliant turquoise shades, they melt and float their way down to the ocean, through the lagoon and the short river that connects the glacier lagoon with the open sea at the beautiful black beach, the name of this beach is the famous Diamond Beach. It is very evident why this beach got this name, the moment you step into the beach there are bright shining ice blocks scattered everywhere. Like bright diamonds in different shapes and sizes, bulk chunks of ice glitter the beach, giant waves crashing against them and moving the smaller ones around, forcefully repelled by the bigger ones. It is a spectacular sight to watch the icebergs in this beach!.
Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland is the biggest glacier in Europe and is the origination of multiple rivers and lakes. Like every glacier in Iceland Vatnajokull has an active volcano underneath the ice. If you get a chance to visit Perlan museum in Reykjavik city, you get to see the display and learn about the volcano eruption causing destructive floods and the history of Iceland. Our guides were telling us that Iceland gets approximately 300 to 400 earthquakes a week. Vatnajokull is the starting point for majority of glacier attractions in Iceland.
- Glacier Walk Tours
- Blue Ice Cave Tours – For more details on Blue Ice Cave tours, read my blog to know more.
- Super Jeep and Snowmobile tours
Hofn – Options for Accomodation
If you are visiting South Iceland, Hofn is a small village that is close to Vatnajokull Glacier. Its around 1.5 hour drive from the Glacier lagoon and perfect place to plan your night stay. The town itself is quite small and the scenic route from Hofn to the Glacier is really beautiful. We did not get an opportunity to see the Northern lights due to weather conditions but looks like that you can step outside the hotel and watch the northern lights if the weather is good.
Hotel Ranga is another popular accommodation that is visited by tourists to see the Northern lights. If you are doing a self-guided tour to South Coast Iceland, Hotel Ranga is an option for your accommodation needs.