.The Southern Coast of Iceland

BEEP BEEP 6:00 A.M. WAKE UP!

Oof. A bit rough for us after a late night of northern lights watching but we quickly dressed and packed up some PB&J lunches before our day tour of the South Coast. Lot’s of driving were ahead of us and we could thankfully catch up on sleep with some cozy bus seats (and Spencer’s shoulder) before the first stop.

Harnessing Geothermal Energy

The Days Itinerary:

  • Sólheimajökull Glacier
  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
  • Vík Village
  • Skogafoss Waterfall
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Our day began with an hour or so drive to Sólheimajökull glacier, an outlet glacier of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers the volcano Katla. Katla is a very active volcano and usually goes off every 20-90 years. Right now, we’re waiting for it to go off – it’s been over 100 years! Our 20 people tour stopped there to drop of glacier hikers (who would rejoin the tour later) and to let the “south coast tour” group do some wandering near the glacial lagoon. Spencer and I were very pleased to learn that 15 people were hiking, so just like that the tour became a nearly private tour with a great ratio of 5:1.

It was a small walk to the glacial lagoon. No calving happened but there were plenty of icebergs and fortunately, the sky was cloudy enough to clearly see the blue of the aged ice. We could also see how much receding has occurred and were astonished to learn that ice about the size of one olympic swimming pool recedes each year. What a comparison to the temperate Argentinian glacier I saw in December! There were no tourists on the trail and after our viewpoint was reached we headed back to the (nearly empty) van before driving to our next stop.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. As our tour guide pointed out….every beach in Iceland is a black sand beach thanks to volcanic rock, but this one is the one tourists go to nice because of the views of rocky outcrops in the ocean and the nearby basalt cliffs. Icelandic folklore dubs these outcrops as trolls turned to stone and they’re home to thousands of different seabirds (none that we could see from such a distance).

The beach is also known for its sneaker waves… a phenomenon where an unpredictable wave is larger than others and can catch people who linger too closely, off guard… dragging them into the ocean. Not a pretty thing, and unfortunately it has caused deaths all over the world. This beach was covered in warning signs but people were blatantly ignoring them – however nobody was getting too deep on our watch, mainly instagrammers who would get too close and we’d have a giggle as they screamed and ran from the waves. They’d laugh too and I later encountered a woman in the bathroom who was drying ALL of her clothes and muttering to herself about how stupid she was for getting so close.

We ate some snacks on the beach, sat on rocks and tried to guess who would be the next wave-target before heading back to the car for a short drive to the southernmost village of Iceland: Vík.

The quaint little village has a famous white and red church that overlooks the town and with an hour of free roaming we skipped the nearby black sand beach and headed the other way, into town. Vík is peaceful and quiet and would be a great spot for a relaxing evening away from any crowds (tourism permitting). We climbed up to the church and got an alright view, but the highlight was the little bit of wandering and the ability to stretch our legs after the long periods of driving in the van.

Mini hike done and the most southern destination of our tour reached, it was time to begin heading back to Reykjavík. To keep us entertained, our tour guide told us stories, taught us some words in Icelandic and we learned first hand about terrible Icelandic humor. Jokes go on for so long and if they don’t, somehow the Icelander can spend about 5 minutes explaining the joke (just to make sure everyone understands) which is hilarious in and of itself. I’m pretty sure Spencer and I were the only ones cracking up but the jokes had potential to sometimes even leave us in tears.

The first waterfall we saw was the incredible Skogafoss waterfall and my favorite one of the trip. Waterfalls tumble down the cliffs of the entire South coast, but a couple are very large, easily accessible, and impressive – this being one of the most. This also means that they’re touristy so a couple pictures at the base and we quickly climbed up a set of stairs to the right to get a view of the waterfall from the top. The viewing platform was a bit packed but the trail extending away from the waterfall and along it’s river had nobody on it so we scurried that way. It was one of the times on the trip that I felt the most connected to Iceland and the most connected with nature. A walk beside a rushing waterfall where you can only hear your footsteps, the wind, and the water bouncing around stones is a magical feeling. I’m very thankful for that moment.

Our final stop on the way back was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, or as our tour guide liked to point out, the Justin Bieber waterfall. He filmed a music video there, running behind the waterfall (not cool), skateboarding on remains of an airplane, and smashing the sacred peat that covers the ground.. This led to its own series of jokes and puns – needless to say, we liked our guide. In fact, throughout our Icelandic trip we liked every Icelandic interaction. People are kind and caring, warm and inviting and they want to make life as easy and possible, no fusses necessary.

We got back to the hotel for an easy evening in with some (surprise, surprise!) grocery store pasta. Sulphur-smelling geothermal showers down, we fell asleep easily and rested up for our final day in Iceland.

The Westman Islands at a distance, covered in mist

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