Every part of Iceland has something magical to look upon in wonder and awe or to capture for all those little hearts you'll get on Instagram.
- The East has stunning fjords and mountains as steep as city skyrises.
- The West has long golden beaches, imposing canyons and stunning staircase waterfalls.
- The North is a genuine winter paradise in the colder months and is home to Iceland's most visited forest Kjarnaskógur.
But, really, there is no other place as beautiful and wondrous as the Icelandic South Coast.
I had always been a bit of a townie, preferring the culture and crowds of big cities over the seclusion of the countryside. A few years ago a job replacement had me moving to the other side of the country to a small town called Reydarfjordur in the Eastfjords.
The distance from the south west corner to the Eastfjords is somewhere around 700 kilometres(435 miles) and takes about 7 to 8 hours.
I was absolutely dreading the fact that I had to sit in a car for this long due to the fact that patience is perhaps not one of my best virtues and I had no smartphone then to help me pass the time. We roughly estimated that it would take us 7 hours to drive from Keflavík to Reydarfjordur, but by the time we reached our destination it turned out we had been closer to 10 hours on the road.
7 hours is the average time if you only make the bare necessity stops. We, however, grossly underestimated the sheer vastness of beauty that the south coast had to offer. We made stops at almost every single attraction that caught our eye, including running around in the middle of a thick ash fog that still lingered in the air since the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.
Now, lets get to why you are here. I would like to list up 5 places you should visit in the South where each stop can be a memorable one.
This little valley town is the gateway to the south coast, home to Iceland's largest collection of geothermally-powered greenhouses. The highway runs right past the town and for most of the cars it will be a fleeting blur in the corner of their eye, but for you it should be the first stop you make and here's why.
Not only is Hveragerði a beautiful town surrounded by landscape torn straight out of a Lord of the Rings novel, but it's also your best bet to find a natural hot pool to go skinny dipping in (or just dipping if you're the shy type). Just be careful not to go diving head first into one of the newly formed hot springs that are spewing out mud. The mud may look tempting with rainbow colors and its charming warmth but the water can reach up to a whopping 100° Celsius (212°Fahrenheit). I had 100° hot water touch upon my skin once and I can safely say that was an experience I'd rather not repeat.
When you think of Iceland you rarely connect it with an oasis, but nonetheless Skaftafell National Park is exactly that, a wonderful, lush oasis that'll have you hiking through a plethora of green trees, mountain landscapes and glaciers with gravel trails and wooden bridges leading you onwards through a landscape most people only witness through photographs.
You will need a qualified guide to take you through some trails, like ice climbing or glacier hiking.
In Skaftafell you will find a Visitors Centre. There you can find information about Skaftafell and it works a meeting point for tour guides / operators, as well as many other travelers. I recommend stopping by and check out their wonderful information about history and geology, as well as maps of hiking trails and accommodation.
We recommend checking Skaftafell.is to check for safety alerts as some trails are closed due to hazardous conditions.
Nestled inside Skaftafell National Park you will find a little, yet stunning national treasure. It is roughly 20 metres (66 feet) and not quite as powerful as other waterfalls. This is though one of the most famous waterfalls and a spectacle worthy of a picture or two.
Svartifoss isn't only known for its falling water but also for it's unique hexagonal basalt columns that surround the area. These columns have a dark shade to them which gives the waterfall it's name Svartifoss (e. Black Falls).
They are also the inspiration for the design of the National Theater in Reykjavik, running over pipe-like basalt columns that resemble the pipes of a gigantic organ.
Check out this awesome video of hiking towards Svartifoss in 4k:
A spectacle torn straight out of a fairytale, Seljalandsfoss is a 60 metre (200 feet) narrow waterfall that drops into a beautiful meadow with a walking path that runs behind its curtains, allowing visitors to view the power of nature from a truly rare perspective.
The waterfall is close to the famous Ring Road so it is widely considered as one of the most famous waterfalls (along with Skaftafell) and one can say that photographers would not want to pass this one up along their travels in Iceland.
While it is as blue as a lagoon can get, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is something otherworldly compared to the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon.
Jökulsárlón is a frostborn wonderland of age-old glaciers floating around, keeping it cool, in freezing waters that only badass seals and birds dare to swim in. So, keep your bathing suit tucked away in your bag, for you wont be needing them here.
There are, of course, plenty of other amazing places and things to see on the south coast, but these are just the few things I got to see on my journey eastward. You will, without a doubt, see a lot more on your own journey there if you just take the time and look around.