Yesterday, I had an amazing Game of Thrones Tour of Iceland. Today, my adventure continued with an exploration of the South Coast of Iceland, from the capital city of Reykjavik in the West to Jökulsárlón in the East.
Reykjavik is an amazing city – full of art and music. But, if you really want to experience Iceland, get out of Reykjavik. The scenery of Iceland is stunning, and the remoteness unbelievable. If you have time, go for an Iceland ring road itinerary for two weeks. I had more limited time and finances (Iceland is expensive!) so I did the South Coast Day trip – it’s enough to see the highlights of the South Coast of Iceland.
Iceland is such a sparsely populated country, with a total population of just 330,000, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. 60% of these inhabitants live in Reykjavik, and 99% live on the coast. Much of the baron landscape in the centre is uninhabitable, and many parts of the coastline are open to the elements, but it’s all available to be explored.
Exploring the South Coast of Iceland
From Reykjavik, we drove East along the Route 1 ring road that follows the coast. It was to be a long journey covering 800 miles, but our tour guide Regna made it exciting with stories of changelings and trolls, and the outstanding views made the journey more than worth it.
Our first stop was at Seljalandsfoss (Foss meaning waterfall). The river Seljalandsa drops 60m over the cliff face, and you can actually hike behind this waterfall! Be careful of your footing, as it can be a bit slippy. Also, waterproof trousers are recommended. When you walk behind Seljalandsfoss from the right hand side, continue up the rocky path and stairs the other side and they will bring you back down!
Our journey continued East in search of more volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers, and it did not disappoint.
We passed the famous volcano Eyjafjallajökull, more commonly known as E15, because the name is almost unpronounceable! The volcano is located in a geothermal area and is completely covered by an ice cap. It last erupted in 2010.
Even more striking than Seljalandsfoss is Skogarfoss, another 60m high waterfall in an extremely picturesque setting. Unfortunately, you can’t hike behind this one! If you have an abundance of time, you can hike to the top, but if you are on a tour, buses can easily stop at the bottom for you to take in the view. It is extremely accessible from the Route 1 Ring Road.
From Skogarfoss, we continued East to Vik, the small village with approximately 300 inhabitants. The village of Vik is famous for it’s black sand beaches. Vik is recognisable by the 3 stumps in the ocean, which, of course (as it’s Iceland) are trolls frozen over time! I love the tales of folklore here!
The scenery along the ring road on the way from Vik to Jökulsárlón will astound you. And get this – the further East you go, the better it gets. You pass through lava fields, and take roads over and around black sand beaches.
We stopped off to investigate some man-made stone mounds, that were put there by settlers in the 9th and 10th Centuries to ward off evil and act as a guide to location.
There are so many beautiful waterfalls and mountainous postcard views that they are almost uncountable.
About 50 km away from Jökulsárlón, the landscape begins to change as you approach the Vatnajökull National Park. We finally reached the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon at around half three (after leaving Reykjavik at 8am), but believe me, it was worth the journey.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon was so phenomenal, it deserves a whole blog of its own. Jökulsárlón has topped my list of best ever travel destinations for scenery and the outdoors.
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Practicalities of Travelling the South Coast of Iceland
- Warm gear is essential – waterproofs, hiking boots, thermal base layers and fleeces please!
- You can drive the route easily, but hiring a car can be expensive in Iceland.
- The trip I took with Gray Line Iceland has prices from £113 and you get to see much more with a local guide.
- The Gray Line Iceland bus has WIFI on board and a USB charging port so that you can charge your phone and social share your experiences instantly.
- The Gray Line Iceland tour coach start at the main Gray Line bus station, which is almost 5 km out of the city (not walkable). However, Gray Line Iceland offer a hotel pick up service 45 minutes before tour departure time. Alternatively you can arrange a pick up from the Reykjavik city centre Gray Line Iceland Office also 45 minutes before.
- Take a fully charged camera and a spare memory card – you will see so many beautiful scenes and will be gutted if you don’t have enough battery or room on your camera card.
- There are plenty of petrol stations where you can stop off on the way. Most gas stations have restaurants/cafes and toilets in Iceland, and are used to travellers stopping off to refuel themselves as well as their vehicle.
- The trip from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón can be done in a day (I did it and it took 14 hours!) but I recommend taking your time. Gray Line Iceland offer a two day tour as well as a one day tour, or you can drive yourself and stop off at a hostel along the way. Make sure that you pre-book accommodation especially in high season (May-September) when there are a lot of hikers.
- Remember to practice eco-tourism – take all rubbish with you and use the marked footpaths.
*Many thanks to my sponsor Gray Line Iceland who gave me a 50% discount on this tour. What you see is what you get with my blog!
What to Pack for Iceland
Iceland can get cold in winter, and so you definitely want to be thinking about investing in a thermal base layer and thermal socks. A good wind and waterproof mountain jacket and walking boots are essential purchases for Iceland in the winter.
Also remember to pack your hat, scarf and gloves. Regarding specialist equipment such as crampons and diving gear for Silfra, most tour operators supply these included in the price of your tour or for an extra supplement.
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is so important as it will help you with emergencies and unexpected costs on your trip. Make sure that you declare any pre-existing health conditions so that you are covered for those. Check your cover for accidents and medical care and also lost baggage or getting things stolen. Remember to report as soon as something goes wrong on your trip because some travel insurance companies require you to report something that you want to claim for within 24 hours. Read the fine print carefully when you sign up. I always recommend World Nomads. You can get a free quote here: