South Coast Iceland selfie couple in shadow

The South Coast of Iceland – Glaciers, Waterfalls and Black Sand Beaches

Posted on Posted in Activities/Experiences, Iceland, Photography, Travel

The fog was all I could see from the mini bus as we left Reykjavik headed toward the South Coast of Iceland.  It was so thick I was reminded of my Wild Wicklow tour in Dublin last year where I was in awe of the driver navigating the road that we could barely see. It was Sunday in Iceland and I was joining the GeoIceland tour of the South Coast.  In researching the South Coast options, the GeoIceland small group tour (under 20 people), good reviews and the cost (about $100) seemed perfect for me.

Our first stop, about an hour outside of Reykjavik along Highway 1, was a convenience store with restrooms that seemed to be “the stop” for all tour groups.  Tip:  Use the restroom first before the big buses get here and then buy your snacks (you will need snacks for the day).

South Coast of Iceland Ring Road with GeoIceland
No traffic on the South Coast of Iceland tour with GeoIceland

The Black Sand Beach of Iceland

Given the weather, heavy fog and light rain, our guide, Baldvin, decided to drive to the Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara, near Vik as our first stop passing the waterfalls (where the other groups were).  Along the way, we dropped off a couple at the Sólheimajökull Glacier entrance as they were doing a glacier walk (we would be back to visit later).

The ride to the beach along the two lane road was uneventful, where the fog had lifted you could see the hills/mountains, the vast landscapes and some animals. As it was winter, the puffins were not in residence (there is a stop in summer when they are). Arriving at the beach, it was windy,cold, rainy and still foggy and yet, just lovely. The black sand, the thick fog, the roaring ocean, all made for a mysterious, moody visit.

Black sand beach South Coast of Iceland Reynisfjara near Vik
First view of the black sand beach Reynisfjara near Vik

 

Black Sand Beach South Coast of Iceland GeoIceland tour
Everyone trying to get their shot on the black sand beach of Iceland

We all scattered to walk the beach, explore the small caves, marvel at the rock formations and sea stacks and try to keep our cameras dry while we photographed it all.

Black Sand Beach Cave - South Coast of Iceland tour GeoIceland
Small cave along the black sand beach
Sea Stacks Fog Black Sand Beach South Coast of Iceland Reynisfjara
The Sea Stacks in the foggy distance on the black sand beach of Reynisfjara
Black Sand Beach Vik South Coast of Iceland Reynisfjara
The black sand beach of Iceland – moody and mysterious

The Lighthouse at the End of the World of Iceland

At our next stop, Baldvin told us that the nearest land ahead was Antarctica so we were pretty much at the end of the world (or the end of Iceland).   Was this true?  It sounded nice so no one really questioned it. We had a short walk uphill to the lighthouse and then an uneven hike downhill (remember the further down you go, the more uphill you need to do).

South Coast of Iceland tour lighthouse Iceland GeoIceland
South Coast tour – the Lighthouse at the end of the world?
South Coast of Iceland cliffs coastline
The South Coast of Iceland – nearest land ahead is Antarctica

A few walked ahead to the edge of the cliffs where they were closer to the birds along the inlet that flew by, others explored different parts of the edges, me?  I took their photos!  For a brief time, we saw the sun and then it was gone!  It was there just enough to appreciate after the days of rain, clouds and fog.

South Coast of Iceland birds
The birds nesting and flying around along the South Coast of Iceland
South Coast of Iceland selfie couple in shadow
This couple was taking a South Coast Iceland selfie as the sun set with the bird flying in the background

Lunchtime – South Coast of Iceland

Our lunch stop was part convenience store (again, get a snack) and part short order grill (the larger restaurant in back was for summer tour groups) with seating.  As the website mentioned, there would be no fancy food today despite the prices.  On the menu was lamb stew, toasted sandwiches and burgers/fries.  I was able to get a ham sandwich with a side of fries.  No cash needed as they accept credit cards here.  I talked with the guy from Australia about his one year RTW journey which was ending after Iceland with a quick stop in Bali (of course) before home to the Gold Coast.

The Glacier Tongue Sólheimajökull

I had to laugh that we were stopping to see the glacier tongue, it just sounds funny.  At the end of the day it’s still a glacier and no matter what part of it you see, I think you will be impressed.  There was a small 15 minute walk to see the glacier, it was relatively easy to do.  Then there is uneven hilly terrain if you choose to go further.

Fog Glacier Iceland Lake - South Coast of Iceland Tour with GeoIceland
Thick fog covers a good part of the glacier but we still had good views
Glacier Iceland Rocks - South Coast of Iceland Tour with GeoIceland
Feeling small next to the massive rock at the Solheimajokull Glacier in Iceland

The lake had small pieces of glacier floating in it and with the overcast skies, the glacier looked dirty, not the crisp white and blue I’ve seen elsewhere in Alaska and New Zealand. Having snowmobiled on a glacier on the Golden Circle, this was a different view, albeit much smaller side of a glacier. Still pretty though despite the heavy fog covering most of our view.

Glacier Lake Iceland - South Coast of Iceland Tour with GeoIceland
Pieces of the glacier in the lake – some blue still shines through
Solo Traveler Iceland Glacier - South Coast of Iceland tour
Walking back from the glacier, a bit of perspective of the solo traveler

The South Coast of Iceland Waterfalls – Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss

Having skipped the waterfalls in the morning due to the rain and fog, it was a good decision to go later when the rains had stopped but we were now chasing what was left of the light.  With sunset at 4:30 p.m. or so, we would definitely lose the light but did our best anyway.  The first waterfall, Skógafoss we viewed from the Skógá river bank and then had the opportunity to climb the stairs to either another vantage point halfway up (which was muddy and tricky as one couple had experienced) or really get an aerobic workout climbing to the very top.

Skogafoss Iceland South Coast of Iceland tour
Skogafoss Waterfall – upper viewing platform upper right corner
Skogafoss waterfall Iceland South Coast of Iceland
This is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland – see the people in the bottom left for perspective

It’s one of largest in the country with a 200 ft drop and has a lore about buried treasure.  It’s worth the steep climb up (just take breaks along the way as needed).  For an added thrill, you can climb the step-ladder over the wire fence to walk along the top and see yet another view (I skipped this one as the muddy field seemed slippery for me as I’m clumsy anyway).

Skogafoss Waterfall Iceland - South Coast of Iceland tour
After the steep climb to the viewing platform, this view of Skogafoss is your reward

We arrived in the dark at the second waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.  While this could have been an issue, they light this waterfall up so you can still enjoy the view at night.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall Iceland South Coast of Iceland
The Seljalandsfoss waterfall is illuminated

For those wanting a challenging view of a waterfall, you can trek behind it.  There are stairs to a point and then you are on your own with the rocks – it was wet (obviously from the powerful waterfall) and dark (we all seemed to have flashlights (torches) to guide us).  The roaring noise of the water’s rush was the first thing I noticed standing behind the waterfall, getting soaked from the spray was the other.  In the dark, photos were not an option, I tried video but only the sound was recorded. The group was good to stay together to ensure everyone was ok.

The Last Snack Stand – South Coast of Iceland Tour

Wanting a bottle of water for the long ride back to Reykjavik, I was unsure if the snack stand would take my credit card as I had no cash for the weekend.  Relieved when I saw the credit card machine, I bought two bottles of water.  They had a good variety of sandwiches and snacks (the theme of the day).  There are three outdoor restrooms (slightly upgraded porta potties) here, given that the ride is over an hour back, do utilize this option.

Tour bus blue light Iceland
The blue lights of the minibus help with the sunlight deprivation

Final Thoughts – South Coast of Iceland Tour with GeoIceland

The South Coast of Iceland was quite beautiful and the added allure of the rain and fog made it even moreso.  With the small group, we were able to make changes to the itinerary that worked in our favor (we rarely encountered crowds or other tour groups) and were given enough time at each stop without issue if someone was five minutes late.  It was a long day (returning at 7:30 p.m.) and the mix of people on the tour made for interesting conversations which is always an added bonus when traveling.  Iceland really does nature well, in the rain and fog anyway, I can’t wait to see it in the summer sun!

South Coast of Iceland glacier tour with GeoIceland
Glacier, curious traveler and the reflective water in Iceland

 

 

2 thoughts on “The South Coast of Iceland – Glaciers, Waterfalls and Black Sand Beaches

  1. Most of these places are on my list of things to see! Do you think the locations and road is okay for me to drive myself and do a self tour?

    1. Yes you could do it as a self drive, however, the roads are dreadfully long, straight and flat so it’s a long day of driving. You may want to consider a day tour to let someone else do the driving or break up your visit over two days depending on how much time you want to spend in each location. We didn’t hike on the glacier as some chose to do – this would be almost 1/2 day tour on it’s own vs. the walking we did at the end to see the glacier pieces

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*