Waterfalls and Black Sand beaches
Day 2, Sunday
The day started off cold and windy with some cloud cover. Not to be deterred! It’s nearly impossible to get perfect weather throughout your stay in Iceland. On the plus side though, weather in Iceland changes so rapidly that you might just end up experiencing it all in just one day! Also, I had a great time even when it was cloudy and raining. The views are just that beautiful. I had a hard time understanding all of this till I got there! Try not to expect perfect weather 100% of you stay and try not to get too disappointed with what you end up with. It’ll all eventually work out!
Southern Iceland is the region of Waterfalls and Black Sand beaches. This part of the country is much less touristy than the Golden Circle or Reykjavik but true isolation is in the Eastern part of the country (more on that later).
First stop Seljalandsfoss (sell-ya-lands-foss), the pretty waterfall. The specialty of this waterfall is that you can walk behind the falls and do a 360 around it. I am glad I over-prepared on the waterproof gear or I would have gotten soaked from all the spray. And driving around in Iceland’s weather in wet clothes is not the brightest idea. Might be a good idea to protect your camera as well, something I missed. The area behind the water fall is muddy and slippery and there is nothing to hold on to for support other than the surrounding rocks. Appropriate shoes are important for this expedition (and for the South and South-East of Iceland generally), which takes around 15 minutes including picture taking time. But, it’s not often you get to see waterfalls from the other perspective, at least not for me. If you have no intention of walking behind the falls, then this stop can be skipped altogether as the upcoming falls have an upper hand on grandeur.
Next stop Seljavallalaug (I can’t pronounce this, I give up), the hidden hot spring off of Ring Road 1. You will need to take the detour route 242 on the ring road and drive on for a few minutes to get to the parking lot. A 20 min walk from the parking lot, this spring is an at the foothill of a mountain, a very surreal location for a pool! Here’s a more detailed post on how to get there, whether this pool the right choice for you and what your other options are.
At this point the weather got a lot windier and colder with a constant light shower. Again, the waterproof clothes saved me!
Third stop, Skogafoss. I know what you’re thinking ‘yet another waterfall’. Here’s the thing, each waterfall has a different quality about it. Gullfoss is two-tiered, Sejalandsfoss can be viewed from behind the falls, and Skogafoss is massive and can be viewed from the top. The parking is at the base of the falls and there is a staircase built on the side that takes you all the way to the top. As always, Iceland tries to minimally modify natural wonders and so the staircase is pretty basic with areas of chain railing. It’s honestly not a bad climb. But when the wind is having at it, the staircase is shaking enough to notice and there’s nothing solid to hold on to, it can get a little freaky. Just exercise caution and do what you’re comfortable with!
In an ideal itinerary, the next stop would have been the iconic plane crash site. I left it as an optional stop on mine and I’m glad I hadn’t set my heart on it, because there simply wasn’t enough time for the excursion. The site is a 4 km hike from the parking lot, that’s 8 km round trip, and is not visible from a distance either as it is over a ledge you climb down in the end. Unfortunately, I had to skip this part as I was running short on time. Retrospectively, I should have skipped Seljavallalaug and done this part instead, but the weather did get worse at this point so not sure how that would have worked out. I guess I’ll never know, and I’m okay with that!
I was thinking of stopping at this town called Vik for lunch. It is easy to forget how small even ‘well-known’ towns like Vik are, in Iceland. I barely saw any people around and they don’t exactly have a row of restaurants. Yay to protein bars and packaged food!
My last stop for the day was at Reynisfjara, the Black Sand Beach near Vik, that has the basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar. The names and location look like something out of Game of Thrones! The drive down to the beach was wonderful. It was also the only 45 minutes the raining stopped for, so I might be a little biased here! Pretty sure I drove past a couple villages that looked adorable.
I spent the night in a town called Hof, which was close to the activities I had planned for Day 3. Hof was probably the most expensive place I stayed in during my trip. I guess being really close to the Vatnajökull glacier makes it pricy. I spent $192 for the night with breakfast provided at the Hof 1 Hotel. I booked almost 2-2.5 months in advance and half the places were already full and the prices hiked. So if you’re planning on staying in the area, make sure you plan in advance!
Please feel free to ask a question or leave a comment below! If you missed it, here’s my post on Navigating Iceland’s Golden Circle.
Next up, Glaciers and Lagoons