If you are planning to travel to Iceland, chances are that you will pass through its southern coast, famous for breathtaking waterfalls, glaciers, iconic black beaches and the fiery volcano that erupted in 2010, disrupting air travel across Europe. I first visited Iceland in the summer of 2017 and wrote about some of its blockbuster attractions on my first ever blog post. You can read it here. My second trip in the winter of 2018 gave me a completely distinct perspective of Iceland’s pristine beauty. One of the highlights was a day trip re-exploring the south coast to relive some of the remarkable moments as well as discover new adventures.
We set out early on a gorgeous winter day, armed with google maps and a carefully researched itinerary. It was bracing and bright as only an Icelandic winter could be. With only a few hours of daylight to spare, time was of the essence as the idea was to get to the first site at daybreak around 10:30 a.m.
We drove by the picturesque Seljalandfoss. A quick Icelandic lesson here, foss means waterfall. The most spectacular view of the waterfall was from the back side, where a small enclave allows you to appreciate its splendor from below. It is good to have a rain coat as its generally wet and slippery.
Nestled on the most wonderful stretch of the coastline is the coveted Reynisfjara beach, a startling beauty located off the ring road less than 200 km from Reykjavik. It earned its place on National Geographic’s list of the 21 best beaches in the world, not for its icy cold sea that makes it impossible to swim in, but for its unique black volcanic sand that is a sharp contrast to its alluring blue sea.
Reynisfjara beach is also home to an impressive labyrinth of pristinely arranged basalt columns. Caution should be taken here as the rocks are quite slippery.
The adventurous part of the trip turned out to be our attempts to find the abandoned US Navy DC -3 plane that crash landed on Solheimasandur beach in 1973. Accessing the wreckage makes for an interesting trek of about 4 km from the main road, punctuated by the remoteness of the landscape and the clear fresh air. Note that there is no signage on the main road. You just have to look out for cars parked in the vicinity.
We got lost trying to find it and ended walking for more than an hour. While we could see the elusive plane from a distance, we still couldn’t find the path leading to the plane, forcing us to roll up our pants and cross the river that surrounds it. As inconvenient as muddling through an ice-cold river might sound, it made for a more intriguing experience imbuing a primal instinctive pleasure. Bringing an extra pair of shoes is recommended.
We finally arrived at the plane crash just before sunset joining a tribe of other thrill-seeking enthusiasts and patiently waited our turn to climb up the precariously fragile roof of the plane. The pinch-me-perfect view from the top was both serene and beguiling in equal measure.
During the trek we got a full taste of the bipolar nature of the Icelandic weather which oscillated between clear skies, a mild drizzle, followed by a brief episode of merciless hailstones then calm again.
Our trip culminated in Skogafoss, which forms the perfect backdrop for an Instagram post by all definition. Its heart-stopping beauty contradicts your proverbial ‘seen one waterfall seen them all’ narrative as it embodies a unique beauty.