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 of course Eyjafjallajokull, 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 Things to do in Iceland in the summer. My subsequent trips in the winter of 2018 and summer of 2020 gave me a completely distinct perspective of Iceland’s pristine beauty. This post summarises the best attractions to explore Iceland’s Southern coast.
There are plenty of day tours from Reyjkavik to the Southern coast and it only takes about three to three and a half hours to get there. You can also self-drive as most of the attractions can be easily found with the help of google maps and a carefully researched itinerary. It is best to plan for a full day to make the best of your trip.
The best time to visit Iceland’s South coast is in the summer because you have 24-hour daylight so you are not as rushed to see the attractions. Visiting in the winter also has its charm, including the opportunity to see the famous Northern Lights, but the flip side is that you only have a few hours of daylight to spare. You might want to time your trip to get to the South by daybreak around 10:00 a.m. Iceland is iconic for its out-of-this-world landscapes and its travel photography opportunities are not to be missed, hence planning your day to optimise the best light is vital. It is worth noting that Icelandic winters can be bright but also windy and stormy as only an Icelandic winter could be.
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.