Uncharted Backpacker

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

South Iceland

The road is long and as the hours drift by, my mind tries to comprehend the amazing journey i am on. Black sand beaches, colourful quaint villages, epic mountains dotted with volcanoes, lagoons filled with icebergs, and hills with dive bombing puffins. These are all things you will see along Iceland’s Southern road. Iceland’s Southern route is a traveller’s dream ticking off all the must see in this small but diverse region. At many of the pit stops I quickly pull my camera out as usual, but when I see such natural beauty I find myself lost in it and unable to focus on taking the photo. To sum it up into one word Southern Iceland is “Breathtaking” and as a travel photographer a dream come true!

Eyjafjallajokull, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss

Driving Iceland’s Southern Route, you are constantly hit with stunning scenery and sights. The first of these sights is Seljalandsfoss. This iconic sight is famous, as the waterfall trail leads you into a cave behind the falls itself. From here you can feel the power of Seljalandsfoss pummelling down from above. Nearby are other small waterfalls and if you have a drone you can see how dramatic the mossy cliffs are from above. The river system that the waterfalls create is also spectacular, but can only truly be appreciated by a plane trip or with a drone.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

The trail behind Seljalandsfoss

Nearby is Eyfjallajokull, the difficult to pronounce glacier covered volcano. Erupting recently in 2010, Eyfjallajokull is well worth a stop to take in how massive it really is. The area was devastated by the eruption covering many of the farms in meters of ash. This can all be seen at the Volcano research centre across the streets from the farms.

Continuing up the road you will see the massive Skogafoss waterfall which is 15m high and drops 60m! There is a trail that ascends up the nearby cliffs providing great views of Skogafoss, but to truly feel how enormous the waterfall is I recommend walking along the pebbled river bed to the foot of the falls (wear waterproof clothing or expect to get wet!).

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

At the foot of massive Skogafoss

Hiking to the Wrecked DC-3 Plane

One of the Souths classic hikes is the 7km round trip walk to the wrecked DC-3 plane. The walk begins from the parking lot on the side of the highway, here it is an old road that crosses a desolate black landscape. The walk itself is not so exciting, but the rolling hills of black rocks and glacier filled mountains in the distance make it a very dramatic region in Iceland.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Hiking to the Wrecked DC-3 Plane

After an hour or so of walking you will get to the wrecked DC-3 Plane. It’s a unique sight and to appreciate it you must look at the whole picture. The landscape and wrecked plane make a very apocalyptic sight and as a photographer it made for some great photo opportunities.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Standing on the Wrecked DC-3 Plane

Snowmobiling on the Katla Volcano

Iceland’s South Road has so many amazing sights, but why this region is one of my favourites is also its incredible experiences to be had! The Myrdalsjokull Glacier that covers Katla Volcano can be seen from below, but a company called Arcanum is now pioneering Snowmobile Tours to the summit of the glacier.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Snowmobiling on the Katla Volcano

Arriving to base camp we were whisked to the foot of the glacier on a massive six-wheel ice truck. The road cannot be undertaken without a serious 4×4 as it crosses parts of the glacier, lava fields and extremely steep paths.

From the foot we boarded our snowmobiles and ripped across the ancient glacier. The mountain views were stunning and the sense of adventure was exhilarating! Nearing the summit, the views only got better. Here we stopped and our guides explained the history and science of the ice below our feet.

Vik, Dyrholaey and Reynisfjara

The pit stop for many along this route is the small settlement of Vik. If you arrive early enough I highly recommend heading to the black sand pebble beach of Reynisfjara and the cliffs of Dyrholaey for sunset. As for Vik, there isn’t a whole lot to do, but the surrounding area is beautiful with plenty of opportunity for beach time and hiking. If your looking for authentic and delicious Icelandic food, head over to Hotel Kria!

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Reynisfjara black sand beach

Reynisfjara is closer to Vik and can also be visited in the morning. Arriving here you will instantly see the contrast of the black pebble beach and the blue ocean. Further up the beach you will see massive black rocks protruding from the ocean depths. For photographers Reynisfjara is perfect on a moody day.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Dyrholaey Cliffs

Dyrholaey is further west along the road and further from Vik than Reynisfjara, but is incredible during sunset. The dirt track that leads to the top of the cliffs can be done with a car as well even though the pot holes at the beginning look intimidating. Once at the summit walk along the cliff edge and spot dive bombing puffins or just soak it one of Iceland’s most incredible sights.

Fjadrargljufur Canyon and Skaftafell

The next day I continued along Iceland’s Southern Route. This day is a much longer drive to get to the East, but the scenery is just as incredible.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Fjadrargljufur Canyon

A little over an hour from Vik is the Fjadrargljufur Canyon. It’s not much of a hike, but the walking path through the canyon takes you to multiple view points and platforms that overlook the vibrantly green valley that snakes through the hills.

Another hour further up the road from here is the outstanding Skaftafell National Park. Skaftafell is the first area of the Vatnajokull Ice Cap that most stop and visit. The two main sights in the park are the Svartifoss Waterfall which is an easy 1.8km hike to the otherworldly black basalt column falls and Skaftafellsjokull which takes you to the foot of the glacier where Batman Begins was filmed. Although I never saw Bruce Banner it did end up being one of the most stunning glacier views in all of Iceland!

Jokulsarlon Lagoon and Diamond Beach

The Vatnajokull Ice Cap is why many travellers come to Southern Iceland. Jokulsarlon Lagoon is the most famous stop in the Vatnajokull National Park and for good reason! Arriving to Jokulsarlon in the late afternoon was spectacular. The soft yellow light made multiple colours throughout the lagoon while giant blue and white icebergs drifted about.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Icebergs on Diamond Beach

Its great to walk the outer edge of the lagoon, but many don’t expect how big it actually is. If you want to really appreciate the incredible Iceberg formations and get to the foot of Vatnajokull Glacier, then I highly recommend taking a Zodiac Boat Tour.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Seal at Jokulsarlon Lagoon

I took the Zodiac Tour with Glacier Lagoon Zodiac Tours. We were able to get up close to some huge Ice and even see seals lounging on some of the bergs. We also got within a few hundred meters of the ice cap to see ice calving.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Sunset

Across the road from Jokulsarlon Lagoon is the black sand Diamond Beach. Often overlooked by travelers, Diamond Beach was one of my favourite spots for Photography.

Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

Diamond Beach

The massive Icebergs from Jokulsarlon exit the lagoon and become marooned on the black sand creating stunning contrasts. We stuck around the beach for a few hours exploring the ice formations that washed up and spotting seals that swam in between the bergs drifting in. Often, we were the only ones on the beach!

Iceland Unlimited Self-Drive Tour

Coming to Iceland we were looking for a different kind of trip. Iceland sees many tourists so finding a unique path here can be difficult. Iceland Unlimited extensive knowledge of each region really gave as a different approach to tourism in Iceland.  Their self-drive tour is great for those who want to spend more time exploring and less time worrying about navigating the island.

See some of their amazing tours HERE!  Fire and Ice – Travel Iceland’s South Coast

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Stephen Gollan

Stephen Gollan

Uncharted Backpacker is a glimpse at the past eleven years of globetrotting I have done. Now at over ninety countries I share my travel knowledge for you so you too can travel the world and see what wonders it has to offer.

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