Iceland, oh what a country! I have to admit I fell head over heals in love with this beautiful land. During my visit I spent 10 days driving the infamous ring road around this island nation and, while the entire country captured my heart, none had the impact on me that the south did. Within easy driving distance from Reykjavík, the south is filled with caves, out worldly scenes of moss covered lava fields, black sand beaches, unnatural land formations and of course, waterfalls. I spent a few days exploring the south and even changed my itinerary to allow for an extra day of exploration in this ancient landscape. Here is a list of what were my top attractions in the south of Iceland.
1. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
They call it the land of Fire and Ice, so it only seemed appropriate that I get up close and personal with Iceland’s pure glacial ice. I found this stunning glacial-blue lagoon located right on Ring Road just east of Skaftafell, and spent an hour wandering along the shore next to this natural, 18 sq km, 250 m deep lagoon. Jokulsarlon collects pieces of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, a section of the giant Vatnajokull Glacier, as the ice bergs break apart on their way out to the Atlantic Ocean. Although I ran out of time for this, if you want to get even more up close and personal with these beautiful ice sculptures, head out into the lagoon on a boat tour. Keep your eyes peeled for the camera shy seals who swim among the floating ice!
2. Vatnajokull National Park
Named after the Vatnajokull Glacier, which is Europe’s largest glacier, this incredible park has some fantastic activities to do while being surrounded by stunning natural scenery. One activity that a lot of people try when visiting is taking a walking tour onto the glacier itself. I decided to take it one step further and give ice climbing a try! The views from being on the glacier were astounding and it really allowed me to interact with the environment rather than just view it. There are lots of hiking trails throughout the park that show off Iceland’s stunning natural geography. One of the hikes takes you to the famous Svartifoss, a beautiful cascading waterfall surrounded by some of the best examples of natural basalt columns in Iceland.
3. Foss a Siou & Dverghamrar
These two sites, though separate, are located right across the road from each other. Dverghamrar, meaning “dwarf rocks/cliffs” are rocky outcrops of basalt columns that are fun to walk and climb around. Icelandic legend states that this area is home to Iceland’s “hidden people”. Foss a Siou can be seen from Dverghamrar, and is a beautiful narrow waterfall that cascades down a cliff of interesting smooth rock formations.
If I had to pick just one thing, my favorite thing in all of Iceland, this one would be it. There was something magical about this ancient canyon. With the beautiful, crystal clear, and glacial blue water of the Fjarora River, lush green grass and the surrounding ancient landscape, it made me feel like I’d stepped back in time. The rugged beauty of this place was amazing, with precarious cliffs and smooth rock formations carved out by 200 million years of flowing water. Towards to upper end of the 2 km long canyon I discovered multiple waterfalls flowing down from the top along smooth rock watersides to join the river below. This is a wonderful place to get out of the car and stretch your legs while be surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
5. Area Surrounding Vik
I think this was one of my favorite little towns in all of Iceland. The scenery around this small settlement was breath-taking, with vibrant green fields filled with grazing sheep and giant cliffs dropping off into the ocean. There are a lot of interesting natural wonders to see in this area and I was glad to have the extra time to explore. Its here that I found Reynisfjara, the famous black sand beach that’s lined with the geologically impressive basalt columns and long lost viking caves. Just off the shore from Reynisfjara, and visible from the beach in Vik itself, I found the impressive Reynisdrangur sea stacks. These long pointy rock spires stick out of the ocean just off the shore like bony fingers reaching for the skies. Heading about 10 km west of Vik, and visible from Reynisfjara, I explored the large rocky plateau of Dyrholaey. This is one of Iceland’s famous landmarks, with a giant stone archway jetting out into the ocean.
This incredible waterfall is one of Iceland’s finest and largest. What I loved about visiting this one, was that I could walk right up to the bottom of this giant! The closer I got, the wetter I got from the immense about of spray coming off the falls. Hiking up the large stair case to the top of the look-out platform for views from above was worth it too. The remarkable scenery of the plateau from which the falls originate and watching as the water plummets down 200 feet was incredible. If you don’t want to get soaked, be sure to bring your rain jacket!
One of Iceland’s most famous and most photographed waterfalls, this one did not disappoint! Located right off ring road, not far from Reykjavik this 200 foot waterfall tumbles down over an overhanging cliff into a pool below, allowing visitors to walk right behind the falls. It was a fun way to explore and interact with the site rather than just looking at it from afar. But be warned, if you decided to take the easy path behind the falls, wear waterproof clothing because you WILL be soaked by the spray and water running down form the cave top above!
This incredible 1 km long lava tube made me feel like an intrepid explorer, journeying to the center of the earth! Located not far from Reykjavik in the middle of a lava field, this lava tube was formed thousands of years ago by a volcanic eruption. It displays some interesting rock formations and in the winter, ice sculptures as well. I went exploring here without a guide, but many tour companies offer trips here if you’re more comfortable traveling with an expert. A headlamp and sturdy hikers were all I needed to scramble over the large boulders and uneven ground within the cave. Near the entrance there are large sections of the tube that have collapsed, allowing sunlight in to light the way which makes the going much easier. But as I ventured further down, the cave began to descend and all light is lost, save for my headlamp.
There are so many adventures to go on all over Iceland, but the south is a region I found particularly enchanting. Some of the sites may not take very long to wander around while others I found required a few days to fully appreciate and explore. No matter what your time frame is, this region is easy to access as most sites are right on or just off of Ring Road, so you don’t require a 4 wheel drive to get to them. With so many things to see and do in the south, its the perfect place to go exploring, especially if your short on time.
VIDEO! Want to see more of Iceland? Have a look at this GoPro video we shot of our whirlwind tour around Iceland!