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South Iceland: The land of waterfalls and Glaciers

Mar 20, 2015 | Iceland, Road Trip | 0 comments

After our fantastic snow filled trip to the Northern part of Iceland, well it was an Aurora hunt trip, we are now down to explore the southern jewels of this enchanting place.

After our first trip, we have been attracted to this beauty again and again, its hard to describe what Iceland is like, if you come here expecting surreal landscapes and stunning panoramas, am sure there nothing can prepare you for what lies in store for you.

This part of the trip is aptly named the land of waterfalls and Glaciers, if you want to see one, then its right there in the next turn, no exaggeration, there are so many waterfalls all long the southern route that you can lose count of them and each one is unique in its own way.

Iceberg in Jokulsarlon

Iceberg in Jokulsarlon

If you want to experience the Earth in its liveliest form, then there is no other place like it, mud bubbling fumaroles, steaming mounds, water spouting hot springs and countless mountains and magnificent waterfalls at every turn, you will feel you have entered a complete new planet within a few minutes into your road trip.

And a teaser video from our trip, thanks to my dad for the video and editing.

A teaser video of Iceland

Winters are famous for the Northern lights if you are keen on it else the best time to see and enjoy the scenic beauty would be summer between April and September when you would have maximum day light, an added advantage to your road trip. It’s a pleasure to drive the long and winding Icelandic roads and with a view as far as your eyes can see, yes you can see as far into the horizon as there are no trees in Iceland, it’s a pretty much a martian landscape lookalike.

Landmannalaugar Lava Field

Landmannalaugar Lava Field

South Iceland GPS waypoints of Places to See:

South Iceland GPS log FULL

Car Hire: (http://www.iceland4x4carrental.com/)

There are lots of car hire agencies in Keflavik Airport, it’s better to prebook your car via Rentalcars.com or AutoEurope in advance to get the best deals and a good car. I mention again, a good car, I mean a 4×4 is preferred, you would definitely want to drive off track on gravel roads and cross some small rivers if your of the adventurous type like us, even if you’re not, just the sheer pleasure of driving around Icelandic roads would be more enjoyable more on a 4×4 compared to a small car.
GPS hire is also available with the car and is much handy if you hire one to make your way to the many scenic vistas abound.

Fuel stations accept credit cards and they are self-service pumps, you key in the maximum amount you wish to be charged and you start filling up and you will only be charged for the amount you fill, the max amount is just to verify your card.

With the 4x4 in a Martian like landscape

With the 4×4 in a Martian like landscape

Where to Stay:

Reykjavik is the capital and is not far from the attractions, so if you want to be in the city and still enjoy all the sightseeing, rent a hotel in Reykjavik and drive out to the attractions.

Also Read:
Iceland - The land of Ice and Fire

If you are like us prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle and love to be in the midst of an action packed farm, then there are numerous fully contained self catering cottages which would make your stay more memorable and enjoyable, you can mingle with the cows and sheeps on the farm and experience a live farm in action. One of the best things you can do to enjoy Iceland is to stay in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and just enjoy the nature and the silence of the surroundings.

On all our trips to Iceland, we have booked our cottages through Farm Holidays Iceland, they are a cool bunch of people and very prompt in setting up everything you need and book the right cottage for your needs.

Suni enjoying a cuppa in the lovely cottage

Suni enjoying a cuppa in the lovely cottage

Ours had a nice outdoor hot tub too, that’s the one in blue on the right, what a way to enjoy the evening with wine after a long days’ drive.

If I have convinced you enough to rent a cottage, then make sure you stock up on food and other items you would need for the of your stay in the cottage, you have major supermarkets Bonus and Haugkaup as you drive out of Keflavik, you wont find many once you are heading towards the villages.

What to Pack – Iceland

As the name suggests Iceland, even though it’s not as icy in summer as it sounds, you might be comfortable taking some warm clothing with you and some waterproof jackets and gloves, the ice glaciers of Jokulsarlon will be cold and is better enjoyed with proper warm clothing. Icelandic weather is unpredictable to the minute.

  • Power is Europe style 220V 50Hz, so if you are travelling from outside Europe, do bring in a travel adapter
  • Swimwear, don’t even think of going without one, there are hot springs and hot tubs and you can’t resist the temptation to dip.
  • Geo co-ordinates of interesting places and maps and any booking vouchers for tours.
  • A Torchlight
  • Good hiking boots or sturdy shoes.
    and don’t forget the camera and spare batteries.

The most exciting part begins: Pearls of South Iceland (Along the Golden Circle)

Few beautiful waterfalls in Iceland

Gullfoss (64.32527, -20.12500)

Gullfoss means “Golden Falls” and is one of Iceland’s most beautiful and most powerful waterfall, it features two distinct drops in succession at right angles spanning the entire Hvítá River and it flows free and wide that could be experienced around the year and the mood and appearance are vivid in each season.

Gullfoss carries a lot of sediments that the glacial ice has carved off the earth and this makes the water a bit brownish, on a sunny day the water plunging the multiple staircase step like formation and then tunneling down the 32 meter deep crevice looks a fabulous golden colour and hence the name.

Also Read:
Photography and Hiking the Sunny Island of Madeira

Standing at the edge of Gullfoss and wallow in the wonderful beauty of the water gushing is such an uplifting experience, we felt more energetic when leaving Gullfoss than when arriving. That’s the impact these unique nature sites such as Gullfoss and Geysir had on us.

Top Tip: Enjoy delicious and amazing hot Soups in the Gulfoss Cafe.

Geysir (64.3101, -20.3013)

Pictures speak more than words and if its a video with words, well whats more to ask, enjoy a small video about Geysir below.

Enjoy a small video about Geysir

Kerio (64.04119, -20.88506)

This 55m deep extinct volcanic crater was formed 3000 years ago in an explosion and is now filled by a deep lake.
The caldera, like the other volcanic rock in the area, is composed of a red (and not black) volcanic rock. The caldera itself is about 55 m (180 ft) deep, 170 m (560 ft) wide, and 270 m (890 ft) across. Kerið’s caldera is one of the three most recognizable volcanic craters because at about 3,000 years old, it is only half the age of most of the surrounding volcanic features. The other two are Seyðishólar and Kerhóll.

Volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland

Volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland

Most of the crater is very steep with little vegetation and one side of the crater has a more gentle slope blanketed with a deep moss that can be descended more easily, but take at most care as the slopes are very slippery, we saw a woman who unfortunately skid down the slope and broke her ankle.

The lake itself is fairly shallow (7–14 metres, depending on rainfall and other factors), but due to minerals from the soil, is an opaque and strikingly vivid aquamarine.

Seljalandsfoss (63.6159, -19.9899)

Waterfalls and Iceland, each one is as unique as the moss that grow in the volcanic rocks around there, each waterfall is breathtaking that just words not enough to describe.
Seljalandsfoss is particularly unique because you can walk behind the waterfalls for a completely different and a beautiful view as the water cascades down in a smooth fabric of mist and spray. This is one such waterfall that you should not miss when in Iceland.

You can walk behind this waterfall.... a spectacular view

You can walk behind this waterfall…. a spectacular view

The hike up to and behind the waterfalls itself is fairly easy but care has to be taken as the rocks will slippery.

TIP: Make sure you have a good wind and water proof jacket as the spray from the waterfall will completely drench you, so if you are carrying camera gear, do have some plastic bags wrapped up around, the spray is almost like standing in a shower

Skogafoss (63.53222, -19.5110)

Another grand waterfall that’s worth a mention, it’s a couple of kilometers away from Seljalandsfoss and its popularity is also down to its ease of access, just off Highway 1 and can even be seen from Highway 1.
A classically-shaped rectangular waterfall that drops 60m and 25m wide, the high volume of water roaring and thundering down creates a fine mist and with the sun high in the sky projects a lovely rainbow, a photographer’s dream.

A thundering wall of water

A thundering wall of water

Getting so close to the base of such a huge waterfall makes us feel so humble in front of mother nature

Also Read:
Packing and Preparing for the Inca Trail

Jokulsarlon (64.0483, -16.1793)

Jokulsarlon is a large glacial lagoon with icebergs floating around, it’s incredibly beautiful with its blue floating ice, black sand and the ice on the shores seem like crystals against the black sand.
A visit to the black sand beach on the other side of the ring road across the bridge is worth its visit and gives great photo opportunities.
The black sand beach is formed from a volcanic rock and is usually filled with crystal clear icebergs that are washed up from the sea, which is actually very beautiful especially when you plan to go here at dawn, sunrise or sunset.

Ice bergs from the glacier

Ice bergs from the glacier

Take the Boat Tour (http://icelagoon.com/) that takes among the ice glaciers and we even spotted two seals happily swimming around.
There are 2 tours operated here, the bigger amphibian vehicle and the smaller inflatable boats, if you prefer a closer encounter with the icebergs and seals, this is the preferred one.

Dyrholaey (63.40276, -19.1304)

Dyrhólaey a 120m high promontory means “the door hole island”, it got its name from the massive stone arch that the sea eroded from the headland, on a clear day this arch is visible from as far as Skógar and you can get beautiful views of the arch from the top of Skógafoss.

Dyrhólaey is supposed to have been created during an interglacial period late in the Ice Age by a submarine volcanic eruption. The cliffs are a beautiful assembly of basalt columns; forming arches, stairs, towers – whatever you can imagine – and they rise over a long expanse of black sand to the north and south.

Black sand beach in Vik and the Dyrholaey rock formations

Black sand beach in Vik and the Dyrholaey rock formations

A short walk uphill from the parking lot on top of the hill is an old lighthouse. I definitely recommend walking up here although it must be one of the windiest spots we had to endure. We really had to fight our way up and down hill as the wind was so strong. Once we got up there we took shelter, staying close to the lighthouse walls. The very first lighthouse was built in 1910 and the one you see today was built in 1927. There are also a sheepcote and a barn not far from the lighthouse. These were for the first lighthouse keeper. There is a toilet too which would come in handy after a cold and windy walk.

Vik(63.41629, -19.01504)

A small fishing village in the south of the island, very vibrant, its famous for the basalt columns and the black sand beach, very famous for its churches and the Icewear shop where you can witness wool garments being made in its factory floor.

Fireworks Special

Illuminated icebergs bathed in colour from the magnificent firework show

Illuminated icebergs bathed in colour from the magnificent firework show

If you happen to be in Iceland in the last week of August, make sure you plan to visit the jokulsarlon fireworks show, more details here – Fireworks show at Jokulsarlon


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