Much like many other tourists in Iceland, the South Coast was my favorite part of the trip. I cannot stress this enough: If you only have a day or two in Iceland skip the Blue Lagoon and venture into Reykjavik & the south coast.
Picking up right where I left off with my last blog post, after our half of an hour spent at the glacier we were now on our way to Vik for a quick lunch. Before visiting the small village of Vik it seemed to me like this was a fairy tale location set on the edge of one of Icelands’s famous black sand beaches. This initial image turned out to be correct. Vik is quaint and tucked in between the cliffs of the South Coast making for a postcard-like vista. We had just enough time in Vik to grab a lunch consisting of fish & chips and then venture down to the black sand beach. There are two restaurants, a massive gift shop, and small hotel located in Vik, but it didn’t seem like too many people wasted their time indoors on a day like the one we had.
Our next stop on the South Iceland tour was Reynisfjara Beach.This part of our tour seemed to be the most crowded but even so the area was large enough to allow for distance from the other tourists.
Getting up close to the basalt columns that made up a large cave on the beach was quite the experience and some of our group even named the columns the “natural throne” referencing, of course, the ability to sit on the columns and the tie in of Game of Thrones to this location
Reynisfjara was another instance of witnessing what seemed to be an incomprehensible size of the cliffs. The beach was much larger than I expected, seeming to go on for forever. This spot was a great place to view puffins since they nest on the tops of the cliffs.
I did explore the area around the cliffs and even ventured into the tall-yet-not-so-deep cave but ended up enjoying my time sitting in the middle of the beach the most. Tourists flock to the basalt columns and cave as if they were in the middle of a photo shoot. If you want to get away from the crowds, take a short walk to the middle of the beach and find a place to sit.
One thing to be aware of at Reynisfjara are the waves, or “sneaker waves,” as they are called. The water here can be unpredictable and can sneak up on you. We didn’t seem to have this problem, probably because the weather was perfect when we were there, but most days Reynisfjara can be dangerous.
And so we’re moving right along on our tour of South Iceland and headed to Seljalandsfoss, aka the waterfall you can walk behind. Seljalandsfoss turned out to be my favorite part of Iceland and for good reason. Had we not had the sunny, beautiful weather that we were blessed with then this spot probably wouldn’t have been as memorable for me.
Seljalandsfoss is famous for the trail that wraps around the waterfall and allows you to stand behind the water, but there is so much more to this location than just that. Approaching the waterfall I was eager to experience it for myself and put my hiking boots and rain jacket to the ultimate test.
For me to try to put into words how excited and giddy I was at this waterfall is near impossible but here goes nothing. Walking up to Seljalandsfoss you are right next to the glacial river that comes from the waterfall. The water here is just like Skogafoss: clear and freezing. The waterfall itself seems to be more of a mist when compared to Skogafoss. The green-sided cliffs surrounding the waterfall makes the blue water pop, especially when the sun is out.
Before starting the trail that leads behind Seljalandsfoss there is a small lookout point that makes for a great photo op.This spot gives you a full 360 view of the trail.
I think you may be able to tell from my photo that I was already enjoying myself immensely. As I was standing on this lookout spot I noticed that there seemed to be worn trails from the back of the waterfall down into the pool of water and I wondered why no one else had decided to venture down that far. It seems like tourists are always looking to go off the beaten path and yet here was the prime opportunity to stand in the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland and everyone was passing it by… With that, I started my trek around the waterfall, making sure to stop at the very back and take a few photos. The paths to the water were right in front of me, seeming to provide that “no fear” moment that I have every now and then on my trips. Without needing any more invitation than my own curiosity I ventured down to the waters edge, alone in my joy and wonder. This moment right here was the best. part. of. my. trip. Standing in the water of Seljalandsfoss, getting soaked from the thunderous waterfall above and loving every minute of it. I was giddy with excitement and it was the best feeling in the world.
My short diversion to the edge of Seljalandsfoss didn’t seem to inspire any other tourists to take the path less traveled, but I was more than happy to experience it on my own. Moment of truth: my hiking boots and rain jacket passed the ultimate Icelandic test of Seljalandsfoss. After climbing back out of the waterfall my friend even remarked on how different I seemed- I guess you’ll only ever get to see my truly immersed-in-nature-happiness if you come with me to Iceland or British Columbia.
Now it was time to complete our trek around the waterfall with the last part requiring some upper body strength to pull yourself back up onto the path. Overall it was a very easy hike around the waterfall with no real struggle. When you are at Seljalandsfoss make sure to explore the areas around the waterfall as well and not just the one hiking path. I had a little bit of time that allowed for some exploring of the other smaller waterfalls coming off the cliff and at one point was able to see five different waterfalls at once. This part of Iceland is a perfect example of hidden treasures (both literally and figuratively) with natural wonders around every corner. I didn’t have enough time to seek it out, but apparently there is a hidden waterfall that comes down into a small cave that is a short walk from Seljalandsfoss. I think this spot on the south coast is a great example for why it might be best to rent a car instead of joining a tour. I wish we had had more time at this location. I would have just enjoyed swimming around in Seljalandsfoss for a while, to be honest. Alas, our tour group was departing and it was time to head back to Reykjavik.
The drive back to the city was, of course, just as beautiful as our journey to the south coast. Every now and then the green landscape makes way for a farm or small village. Waterfalls are plentiful in this part of the country: one after another as a result of glacial run off from the glacier topped Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Three days spent in Iceland: The Blue Lagoon, dozens of waterfalls, multiple volcanos and glaciers, a geyser, and straddling tectonic plates. I’d say we managed to plan an epic Iceland itinerary for our time in the land of fire and ice. One thing I did want to hit upon before officially ending my Iceland blogs is the price tag. If one person mentions traveling to Iceland there is always another person not far behind that will bring up the cost of a trip here. In total, for the hotel, flights, tours, Blue Lagoon, food, and souvenirs I spent around $1,600. The flight and hotel was about $1,000, which I didn’t think was bad at all. The Blue Lagoon was the one thing in Iceland that I thought was expensive at $100 for one person. The two Gray Line tours, which were 8+ hours each, only cost $150 in total. That was DEFINITELY worth it. Everyone warned us that the food is what costs an arm and a leg in Iceland but we didn’t really encounter any insanely-priced meals. The items at the grocery stores were comparable to what we would spend back in Pennsylvania, as were the quick service meals and sit down dinners. So is Iceland out of your budget? No, probably not. We didn’t splurge on a 5-star hotel or something insane like a helicopter tour but we also didn’t cut back on meals or set a limit for ourselves as far as spending.
Lastly, let’s do a quick conclusion of my trip:
Best of Iceland- Standing in the middle of Seljalandsfoss. Worst of Iceland- The Blue Lagoon. Best food- The fish & chips from Reykjavik Fish. Worst food- The filet mignon from Lava Restaurant at The Blue Lagoon. Souvenir to take home- Icelandic licorice and an Icelandic sweater (if you’re willing to drop $150 for the latter).
So that’s it for my grand tour of Iceland! This was the top-of-the-bucket-list trip for years and I am so glad I finally got to see this beautiful country. What place is now at the top of the bucket list for me? Alberta, CA. 🙂
Next trip: Walt Disney World in September 2019 for Galaxy’s Edge!