What is the first natural attraction you associate with Iceland? Beaches are probably not the first attraction on the tip of your tongues but surprisingly along the South Coast there is a stretch of gorgeous coastline albeit with black, volcanic sand. Situated in the heart of the North Atlantic Ocean and with constant volcanic activity, it is no surprise that beaches in Iceland are made up this way.
However, beaches are just one of the many attractions that make Iceland’s South Coast such an appealing destination, hence the reason why we had no hesitation in taking the day trip on offer by Time Tours Iceland to explore this part of the country.
A Day Trip to Iceland’s South Coast
Despite having a hectic previous day exploring the Golden Circle and later pursuing the Northern Lights, we were raring to go the next morning as we waited patiently for the tour to begin. We were a little surprised to be picked up in a SUV rather than the usual Time Tours shuttle bus but we later found out that we would be joining another group of South Coast explorers as two members of our party had cancelled at the last minute!
The day started with a lengthy drive from Reykjavik until we finally reached the south coast of Iceland and we made a short stop to see the sun rising in the distance above the Atlantic Ocean. Needless to say this was around 11:00AM but by now I am sure you are aware of the lack of daylight during the winter months across Iceland.
Our adventure continued along Route 1 (Iceland’s ring road that wraps around the country) passing by a number of notable landmarks that we would later explore on our way back. We took a quick stop to allow a couple of folks to leave the bus as they were participating in a glacial walk and then moved on to the coastal town of Vik where we stopped for lunch. The scenery approaching Vik was breathtaking, especially as the sun was beating down and the sky was a perfect blue.
Vik is situated at the bottom of a valley and dropping down from the mountain ring road really is a special feeling as you peer out of the windows of the shuttle bus and take in the stunning Icelandic landscape. I could just imagine living here and being able to appreciate this beauty on a daily basis.
However, enough of the daydreaming and back to reality as we pulled into a roadside restaurant which would be our base for the next hour as we had lunch and decided how much of Vik we wanted to explore.
Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
The most impressive sight along this stretch of coastline is Reynisdrangar which are basalt sea stacks situated under the Reynisfjall mountain. After leaving Vik, we made the short drive to the Reynishverfi beach which is home not only to the sea stacks, but also the volcanic black beach that I referred to earlier.
As we all piled out of the bus and made our way to the beach, it was noticeably colder due to the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean. Forget the cold though, we wanted to cherish our short time here and capture some amazing memories both in our minds and photos.
A couple of caves spotted along this stretch of coast provided a brief moment of respite from the frigid conditions, but even more impressive was the basalt columns on the side of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
I guess now is as good a time as any to introduce our tour guide, Albert, as he told us that visiting a glacier was next on our agenda. As we headed back along Route 1 to the point where we had dropped off our counterparts earlier in the day, we veered off the beaten path and started climbing or should I say ‘off-roading’. As the conditions of the road deteriorated, we noticed someone that had veered too far from the road and was digging themselves out. No fear, we continued on despite the path of the road becoming less and less apparent.
It will come as no surprise when I tell you where this story is heading…yes, you guessed it we got stuck!! When you see all of the other tour buses and vehicles passing by with extremely large winter tires, it becomes obvious that our attempt to clamber through the snow packed roads in our shuttle bus leans on the side of stupidity rather than smart thinking. But we are not the guides and it was all part of the adventure.
The first time we got stuck we were able to get away but instead of turning around and making our way back to the main road, Albert decided to make another attempt. It was one of those situations that you had to be there to believe it but try to picture a mini-bus taking a running start trying to push through a wall of snow and repeatedly doing this until finally breaking through only to get stuck on the other side. When I say stuck, I mean literally stuck in the middle of nowhere and our vehicles wheels were just spinning.
Various vehicles passed by with many trying to help and despite several attempts to pull us out using rope that simply snapped, we noticed the weather beginning to deteriorate. Stuck in the heart of Iceland’s arctic tundra with a snow storm rapidly approaching was not the place to be. Fortunately another tour bus offered to give us a ride to a nearby town while Albert and other onlookers waited for a tractor to come and plough the road.
So when I say glacial off-roading, we didn’t really get to fully experience a glacier but we had enough of an adventure to make this a memorable trip off the beaten path!
South Coast Waterfalls
After returning to the realms of normality following our off-road adventure, we experienced two amazing waterfalls that are prominent on the Icelandic landscape in this part of the country. Skogafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and definitely worth experiencing. The view from below is impressive though during winter it was really difficult to get close to the falls due to the frozen ground which made walking near impossible.
One of our final stops saw us pay a visit to Seljalandsfoss. Iceland certainly has a plethora of distinctive waterfalls that are awesome attractions. Not only did we capture some great shots of this waterfall that was illuminated by surrounding lights, but as we peered into the night sky we caught another glimpse of the Northern Lights – a definite bonus but another memory we cherished!
Do you remember all of the chaos caused by the volcanic eruption that took place in Iceland in 2010? Well, taking the South Coast Iceland tour you have the opportunity to pass right by the glacier and location of the now dormant volcano Eyjafjallajokull.
Here is the first test – attempting to pronounce this volcano! Ok, fair enough we gave up as well but it’s pretty cool to be in the same neighborhood of a volcano that erupted just a few years ago.
What an epic journey we encountered exploring Iceland’s South Coast. It started and ended calmly though plenty of adventure in between made this a memorable trip that will long live with both of us. Thanks to our tour guide and in particular to Time Tours Iceland for organizing this tour.
For 12.900ISK which equates to $98 you can experience all of this adventure! I would highly recommend checking this out if you want to see volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls and beaches all in one amazing day trip.
If you would like to see more of our pictures from our trip on the South Coast Iceland, click here!
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Time Tours Iceland for providing us with complimentary tickets for the South Coast Iceland tour. The content of this post are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.