Trip to South Iceland
Iceland tops destination lists for most nature explorers due to its scenic landscape, gushing waterfalls, glaciers and volcanic hotpots. If you are planning to visit Iceland then you must have plenty of time to explore the many scenic sites. If not, you can split your visit into regions. South Iceland would be an amazing starting point. South Iceland is endowed with spectacular flora and fauna and diverse attraction sites. The diversity in sceneries and amazing out-in-nature can be experienced all year round. The winter adventure promises quite the experience while summer serves its own share of enjoyment. Ranging from the glacier activities, the rich culture of the natives to the unique Icelandic horses, a visit to South Iceland is a lifetime adventure.
Where to Stay
A good traveler always plans the trip beforehand. Knowing the seasons, places to stay and the travel itinerary will save you a whole lot of trouble. The South Coast Iceland is not far from the capital, Reykjavik. You can stay in Reykjavik while touring the south or the towns near the Reykjavik like the Hafnarfjordur. There are plenty of bed and breakfasts, restaurants and even cabins big enough for a family vacation. Staying outside the capital is less costly since there are cheaper restaurants. While this is convenient, self-drive tours offer a full travel package which includes a rental car and booked accommodation before arrival. Iceland enjoys the four seasons; the South Iceland is notorious for heavy winds so pack heavy and check out for your hat!
Places to Visit
Most travel recommendations prefer starting from Reykjavik, while a few others argue that it would be more convenient to start from port Hafnarfjordur, about 10km from the capital. Whichever route you settle on, the South Coast route is filled with hot pools, geysers, ravines, waterfalls, icebergs, volcanoes, lava fields and auroras. It is basically a drive between Reykjavik to Vik with the occasional stops at the stunning detours.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is the most popular destination in Iceland. There are 9 scenic detours along the 300 kilometer route, but the three main stops are Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. This is a good place to start as it is the nearest to Reykjavik, less than a 2-hour drive. It is possible to plan a whole trip around the Golden Circle because of its many attractions.
The Pingvellir is quite the scene toned with stunning geology and with a lot of history written all over it. Among other titles, it enjoys the exquisite honor of being the UNESCO World Heritage site and rounds up as one of the first three parks to be established in Iceland. It holds a fascinating accolade of history on the island- it is the location of Iceland’s first parliament. It is also where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates split forming deep fissures in the ground called Silfra, filled with icy glacier. Apart from enjoying the photographic landscape, other activities can be carried out such as snorkeling and scuba diving at the Silfra.
The Geysir Geothermal Area is the second detour and a hot bed for volcanic activities. Just fifty minutes from the Pingvellir, it is located within the Haukadalur Valley. The way is punctuated with steaming vents and chimneys. There are two famous geysers, the Geysir and Strokkur. The Haukadalur Valley experiences intense volcanic activities earth churning up hot boiling water with the smell of rotten egg with steam rising from vents. Geysers are unique natural phenomenon which make the South Coast an incredible route.
Ten minutes down from Geysir, the third and final detour of the Golden Circuit is the Gullfoss Waterfall, a two-tier fall along the mighty Hvita River. Located in a dipping ancient valley, the two falls drop from a total height of 100ft. During summer, an every of 140 cubic meters of water pours down every second. The most spectacular of the Golden Circle, the Golden Falls is known for its magnificent cinematic view due to the frequent rainbow, thick mist and the cascading landscape.
Further down the Golden Circle, the final stop is the Kerið Crater Lake. The beautiful oval crater lake surrounded with fiery red rocks with black and green running through them was formed about 6500 years ago. Before, it was a perfectly cone-shaped volcano which collapsed into an empty magma chamber. The crater lake is unpopular but worth a visit.
If you have enough time, you can enjoy the Golden Circle to the fullest by stopping at some of the top detours. Between the Pingvellir and Geysir, Fontana Geothermal Baths lies in the picturesque village on the very edge of a wide lake. Its features are three steam rooms, on top of natural hot springs and a vintage wooden Finnish sauna with the most fantastic natural view of the surroundings. If you are travelling with kids, there are shallow pools for their enjoyment. On a self-drive tour, you can enjoy a full Golden Circle tour taking the 9 detours as well as strolling around the villages and towns for a taste of rich Icelandic culture.
Vik is a seaside village in the southernmost of Iceland. With only around 300 inhabitants, it is the largest settlement in the area. It is along the Ring Road, 180 kilometers from Reykjavik. Heaped with stunning valleys, epic black beaches, jugged cliffs and mountains, Vik has a picturesque landscape. Its neighbor, Mýrdalsjökull glacier has a ticking volcano beneath, Kartla one of the most active yet intense volcano in Iceland. One of Vik’s famous landmark is the white church with the red roof called Víkurkirkja built between 1932 and 1934. The jagged cliffs around are ideal for puffin and seal watching especially during summer time. There are plenty of activities from horse riding, paragliding to hiking.
Vik is a vibrant town with established local commercial and service center for the travel industry. There are tons of lovely cafes, vibrant restaurants and various accommodation options such as hotels, cabins and cottages.
Skaftafell National Park
Found in the southeastern of Iceland, Skaftafell Park is on the root of the largest glacier the Vatnajokull. The park is 330 km east of Reykjavik along Highway 1. There are hardly any roads in the park rather a lot of trails and paths for different hikes. Skaftafell park serves a diverse and fascinating terrain heaped with glaciers, ice caves, peaks, valleys, lakes and waterfalls. It was crowned part of the Vatnajokull National Park in 2008. Apart from the strikingly one-of-a-kind flora, Iceland’s largest volcano Öraefajökul with a tapering peak of 2118 meters above sea level, is in Skaftafell. At the end of one of the hiking trails is the magnificent black waterfall, the Svartifoss not only popular for its height but also the elegant black basalt columns gracing the spectacular cascade. The famous outlet glaciers, the Skaftafellsjökull, Falljökull, and Svínafellsjökull make the park an ideal hikers’ paradise. Not to forget the mind-blowing Blue Ice Caves at the very heart of Skaftafell.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
At the edge of Skaftafell Park, the Jökulsárlón Lagoon forms part of the bigger Vatnajökull National Park. The lagoon is one of Iceland’s most spectacular and beloved destination for tourists, photographers and adventurers. Jokulsarlon is a beautiful mess of frozen landscape melted into ice and liquid. A stunning river with black-sand banks formed, drawing broken icebergs into the North Atlantic and any shrewd shapes. The perfect blend of shattered blue Icebergs with a white backdrop of distant glacier against the black sand of the beach is heaven. The iced heaven is rich in aquatic life such as fish, seals and sea birds. If you can afford an amphibious boat ride of the lagoon, then you are in for the time of your life.