I visited Iceland in January and was a blown away by this beautiful place! My favourite experience by far was visiting the south coast, I went on an organised trip but it is also easy to hire a car. Although I chose not to do this as with limited daylight hours in the winter months (when I was there sunrise was at 11am and sunset 4pm) and having heard how bad the weather can get I thought I would leave the driving up to the experts! If you do choose to hire a car a 4×4 is a must, there is also a great app: 112 Iceland. Punch in your location and it can be used to help track your whereabouts in case of an emergency. It can also be used to make emergency calls, a very nifty app.
I booked my tour through Sterna Travel; we had an excellent tour guide who was really informative. He had so much knowledge of Iceland as well as telling us about local myths and giving us snippets of what it was like to grow up in this incredible country. I never really thought that group tours were my thing but I actually really enjoyed this one, there was plenty of time at each location to go off and do your own thing and it also included a few other stops I wasn’t expecting.
If you are planning your own south coast adventure here are a few must-sees:
This very hard to pronounce word is the name of the volcano that erupted in 2010 cancelling over 1000,000 flights worldwide. There is a farm right at the base of this incredible giant and a lay by to stop in for photo opportunities. I was so excited to see Eyjafjallajökull, this was one of the unexpected stops on the trip that I mentioned. It felt quite surreal to be so close to the volcano that caused so much trouble all over the world. I had been on a nightstop at work in Orlando at the time. What should have been just a 24 hour stopover turned into a six-day trip, it felt quite strange at the time not knowing how long I would be stuck there for. There was apparently up to 30cm of ash on the ground and it was so dark during the eruption you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face! It was hard to imagine all this on the beautiful morning that we were there.
Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, it has a 200ft drop and legend has it that there is buried treasure in the cave behind, unfortunately it was too cold that day for me to find out! With temperatures of around -7°c taking a glove off to take photos meant an instantly frozen hand, although this waterfall was too beautiful to miss a photo opportunity. The icicles formed around it were incredible too.
A trip to the south coast would not be complete without stopping at a black sand beach. Volcanic activity has created striking basalt stacks, known as Reynisdrangar. The stacks along with the black sand give this beach its uniqueness and make it a striking place for photos. Cape Dyrhólaey, a short drive from the beach is definitely worth the steep drive up to the view-point. From the top of the peninsula there are incredible panoramic views, ocean in front and a huge arch cut out in the rocks, looking back towards Reynisfjara and the basalt stacks, glacier and mountains behind and then more beach in the opposite direction. In the summer puffins nest in the cliff face too.
I flew over glaciers in a helicopter in New Zealand which was breathtaking, so being able to walk right up to one in Iceland was incredible. We stopped at Sólheimajökull, an outlet of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. I would loved to have gone on a glacier hike but being six months pregnant at the time I unfortunately wasn’t able to do this. To just walk around the base of it was amazing, it is constantly moving and you could hear strange cracks and creaks from this. The colours and edges of the ice were like nothing else I have seen before.
The pretty town of Vik is the most southerly village in Iceland, it is tiny and very picturesque so worth a stop if you get the chance. There is accommodation in Vik, if you are looking to stay somewhere other than Reykjavík then this is a great area to be based, right on the coast by the black sand beaches, and all the beautiful southern waterfalls.
If I had rented a car I would have loved to have gone looking for the famous ruins of a crashed DC 3 aircraft on a beach near Vik. I have read mixed opinions as to whether the plane is easy to find but there is plenty of information online of its whereabouts. TripAdvisor has a list of things to do and see on the south coast, the plane being one of them and there is lots of information on there of how to find the aircraft.
This well-known waterfall is a beauty, in warmer months you can walk right behind it, but being so cold the day I was there the staircase that leads behind the falls was totally encased in ice making it too dangerous to attempt. There are also two viewpoints, one climbs up high above the waterfall. I would love to visit it again in the summer; I’d imagine the landscape looks completely different.
For more on my adventures in Iceland head to: What to do with four days in Iceland and Northern Lights photography tips.