Everybody has its own favorite spots in Iceland.
As the land of ice and fire is abundant in so many natural formations and types of landscapes – it is simply impossible to choose only one perfect place. This island just seems to be totally out of this planet.
Have you visited Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon during your stay in Iceland? That’s one of my most-liked places. When I saw it for the first time during my first trip to Iceland, I just stood there like a frozen iceberg. There is just so much beauty and so many things going on to perceive at the same moment. It can be truly overwhelming.
Blue giant icebergs taking various shapes, being separated from the glacier’s forehead and later moved by the streams of the glacial lagoon toward the Atlantic. Icebergs driven by the glacial currents immerse and emerge showing different sides of the ice to the visitors watching this astounding spectacle from the slope of the nearby hill – to finally end up in the ocean.
Jokulsarlon is located approx. 380km from Reykjavik and it takes approx. 5 hours to drive there (without sightseeing and stops for coffee included). Bare in mind that weather in Iceland is unpredictable, road conditions can get worse at anytime and the trip can take longer than you planned. Every trip in Iceland should start with checking the weather and road conditions.
A few days ago, we took a day trip to Jokulsarlon and I would like to go through that with you, so you can learn about the main tourist sights of the Icelandic South Coast.
Reykjavik – we left the city quite early in the morning to embark on some adventures in the Icelandic nature. As we were leaving Reykjavik and heading South the view of Mount Esja accompanied us till we took the road to VIK. As soon ad you drive out of the agglomeration of Reykjavik, you notice the rapid drop in density of the buildings. Finally! Open space and freedom!
Sightseeing in Iceland is quite effortless – most of the tourist attractions are visible from and situated along the popular Ring Road. You will never know when you will be taken-aback by a view of an amazing waterfall or a volcano. So we were driving and driving and suddenly we spotted the first waterfall – Seljalandsfoss, the waterfall you can walk under and make those epic Instagram photos! When our mouths stopped hanging open in shock and we managed to put ourselves together after finally seeing Seljalandsfoss, we took some photos, got wet while taking a walk along the path under the waterfall and drunk a Swiss mocha in the cafe nearby. Than, we were ready to continue the trip to the next awe-inspiring waterfall – the powerful Skogafoss.
We saw Skogafoss on so many photos before but still, it didn’t disappoint us. The wall of unstoppable water pressed in the slope of the hill looks like a moving tail and the closer you get the more powerful it seems. If you will be lucky enough to be there in a sunny day, you can spot a rainbow in front of Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Actually, the best time to visit the waterfalls is in the afternoon when the sun shines through the water tail.
Now let’s see why Iceland is really known as a land of ice and fire! Just a 12 minutes drive away from Skogafoss lies one the most popular glaciers among hikers in Iceland, Solheimajokull, also known for it’s dark color as it is still covered in black volcanic ash accumulated on the surface after the last eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. Here we had the option to go on a glacier hike with a local expert guide. If you want to do this, just make sure you have your sunglasses with you and to put some sun cream on your nose. It might seems weird or funny as Iceland is known for its winds and rains, however being on top of a glacier in a sunny day is a different story.
THE DEADLY BEAUTY OF REYNISFJARA BLACK BEACH
Before visiting the most popular town in the South Coast (we are sure you know about which town we are talking about) we made a stop on the deadly beautiful Reynisfjara volcanic beach. The beach is known for black sand, lava columns and the volcanic cave where many honeymooners go for not obvious romantic shots. There is a great view from Reynisfjara on the Reynisdrangar – the basalt sea stacks standing out of the sea near the town of Vik. Reynisfjara is often described as deadly as it is known for dangerous sneaky weaves, so while visiting, please pay attention to the signs and never turn your back to the ocean.
VIK – THE HOUSE OF A DORMANT VOLCANO
While heading to the town of Vik, a place visited by probably every tourist that comes to Iceland, we could admire the Icelandic landscape of the Mýrdalssandur glacial out-wash plain through the car windows. Our surroundings became more and more volcanic as we were getting closer to Vik.
Finally we made it to Vik, I always enjoy the moment when we drive on the hill and suddenly we see the familiar view of Icelandic houses scattered on the plain of Vik and its most recognizable landmark, the charming Vikurkirkja church towering over Vik. Sometimes in gloomy days, when the fog comes down to the valleys, it seems as though the church is floating on clouds. After a lunch break and refueling the car, we took a short walk to the beach of Vik and observe the powerful waves. For me, Iceland is not only the land of Ice and Fire, but also of overwhelming, everywhere-present water.
As every year more and more visitors come to Iceland, there are less and less hidden gems in Iceland.
This is the case of Fjadrargljufur Canyon. This canyon became famous when Justin Bieber filmed part of his music video here, also giving some examples of bad behavior. When you are here, please do not walk off the designated paths and do not bathe in cold rivers…the water in Iceland really is cold and it is not safe to bathe in it. Fjadrargljufur is located 45 min drive after Vik in the direction to Kirkjubaejarklaustur, where we made a stop for a bowl of local soup (vegetarian option was available, what a miracle to find a vegetarian soup served in the middle of nowhere in Iceland!!).
LAKI LAVA FIELDS
When you think of a lava field, what do you think of? Most people visiting Iceland are surprised that there is actually no ongoing eruption during their visit and that most of the lava fields are actually greenish, not black, hot and steamy. After passing Kirkjubaejarklaustur we drove for hours through lava fields.
That’s one of my favorite roads in Iceland. The lava fields in Iceland are usually covered in enormous fluffy bright green moss. Moss is very delicate, it takes hundreds of years to grow so when you are going through a lava field, make sure you don’t ruin it, stay on the paths and enjoy Icelandic nature without destroying it.
VATNAJOKULL NATIONAL PARK
Finally, we got closer to Vatnajokull National Park which covers 8 % of the country and is the largest glacier in Iceland ans Europe. It is a really overwhelming experience driving the spectacular Road n1 south of Vatnajokull National Park. While driving, you have a view of the nearby glacier tongues that come down from the mountains so close to the road that they seem to nearly touch it.
SVINAFELLSJOKULL & SVARTIFOSS
If you have time, there is a very nice hike to Svinafellsjokull or you can go for a hike in Skaftafell national park to Svartifoss – a unique waterfall surrounded by lava columns.
THE JEWEL IN ICELAND’S CROWN SURROUNDED BY BLACK SANDS
We were driving approx. 1h after we left Svinafellsjokull and finally the silhouette of the bridge next to the glacier lagoon started to arise in front of us. We have been here many times before but every time the glacier lagoon looks so different and breath-taking. There is an option of taking a boat trip so you can admire blue icebergs from the short distance. If you prefer you can have a picturesque walk along the coast and make photos of the ice. Do not forget to go on the other side of the bridge and spend some time on the Diamond Beach where some of the icebergs from the lagoon land. If you are lucky enough, you can spot seals who will be as curious of your presence there as you are curious to watch them.
After exploring Jokulsarlon, we drove back to Reykjavik. We got back in the city around 11 pm, just in time to get a couple of drinks before going to bed exhausted after such a long but beautiful day.
THE GATE TO THE EAST
If you have more time though, I would suggest making your Jokulsarlon adventure a little longer, making it a two day trip from Reykjavik. Once you get to get to Jokulsarlon, you can spend the night nearby, maybe in Hofn, where there is a camping site over viewing a lake and the Stokness peninsula. The next day, you can either explore the area before making your way back to the city or, if you have even more time, you can drive towards the East fjords, where not many people go. We’ll take you there next time!
Have safe travels in Iceland – full of adventures and great coffee!