We began the morning reluctant to leave the ION city adventure hotel. To recap, we are reviewing day two of our trip to Iceland after touring the Golden Circle day one. The plan was to tour the South Coast. Our first scheduled visit was Kerid Crater. On our drive to Selfoss the previous evening, it was too dark to stop. This meant backtracking slightly prior to heading South. Leaving the hotel, we had beautiful views that we were not able to enjoy the evening before in the total darkness. It was amazing to see what we missed! The pictures are so gorgeous they almost don’t look real.
For our first stop, we took about a five minute detour. Leave the ION city adventure hotel via the same route and turn left back onto 35. After briefly backtracking, you will see the parking lot on your right for the crater.
1. Kerid Crater: This crater is just north of Selfoss. There is a parking lot directly on the main road and the crowd will lead the way for you. If this is your last stop on the Golden Circle, the parking lot will be on your left as you drive south. There is a small admission price to visit the Crater. This is the only site that we paid to visit, and they take credit card or Icelandic Krona. We did not walk all the way around the crater. This was a great view considering it was very cold and windy, so we opted to get our photos and leave. The water has beautiful blue and green hues against the red rock.
Head out of the parking lot to the left to Selfoss and continue along highway 35 until you reach a dead end. Make a left onto highway 1 and this will take you on your tour of the South Coast.
2. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: This was our first “real” stop on the South Coast tour. There are a couple of things to consider that I read ahead of time. In the morning, there is more of a shadow on the waterfall, so for better photos consider visiting later in the day. We went ahead and stopped and it was between 11-noon. As an alternative, you can drive to the end of the South Coast at the beginning of the day and stop at sights on your way back. You can see some of my photos below and this waterfall is gorgeous. We walked behind the waterfall and some of the best photos were from the side and behind the falls. Bring along a waterproof jacket to avoid getting soaked. I was definitely damp, but it was absolutely 100% worth it! There are free restrooms here and a small cafe to buy sandwiches and drinks. You do have to pay for parking and place the ticket you receive in your dash before walking up to the waterfall.
3. Lunch stop: We decided to go ahead and stop for lunch following Seljalandsfoss. Restaurant Gamla we read about both in Rick Steve’s book and during our internet search that morning prior to leaving the hotel. You will see signs for it as you approach. It is on the right hand side of the road as you continue down the south coast. We had a great experience here and were glad that this was our lunch stop. Our meal started with the bread basket with two homemade jams. Excellent! We split the burger with grilled onions and the Volcano soup. I thought the burger was very tasty. The beef and vegetables come from the farm behind the restaurant. All of the beef is grass fed. The soup was similar to a beef stew but definitely nothing special.
4. Skogar: Our first stop after lunch was another waterfall. On the drive, you will see a snow capped glacier on your left hand side. We arrived to Skógar at the perfect time to see a rainbow! This stop has a lunch cafe as well. As you are driving into the parking lot, you will see it on your right hand side. There are also free restrooms here as well. You cannot walk behind this waterfall, but there are stairs and you can make the climb to the top for a different vantage point. We, of course, had to make the climb. This is a definite workout, and we did pass a number of people that stopped to rest on the way up.
5. Sólheimajökull: Make a short drive to your next stop, a glacier. There is a large parking area at the beginning of a wide trail that will take you down to the glacier. I was happy to make this glacier stop because I knew we would not have enough time to make it to Jokulsarlon (another glacier), which is along the Ring Road, but a much further drive. You will see the trail, which I have included a photo of. Walk this trail approximately 10 minutes for views of the glacier. While we were there, teams were going out in gear to hike the glacier. Due to time restrictions, we were not able to try this. It is still a worthwhile and unique stop.
6. Dyrhólaey: This is a rocky plateau with great views of the water and rock formations. We did not go to the lighthouse, which is also at this stop. Again, there are restrooms available here. You can overlook the ocean and watch the waves come crashing in. I did read several warnings ahead of time about staying far away from the water on the black beach. The current is very strong, and you should stay much further back than you feel is a safe distance. This is mainly important for the black sand beach at the next stop.
7. Reynisfjara: This was our last stop of the day and the black sand beach. There are restrooms and a larger indoor cafe. We walked out to the black sand beach for some photos and to enjoy the views of the basalt columns. All of the stops are relatively crowded, but we had a little more difficult time with parking here. After this stop, we opted not to continue on to the town of Vik. In Rick Steve’s book, we read that there is not much to offer here other than a possible meal and good resting point. Due to the late hour, we got in the car to make our way back for our second night at the ION hotel in downtown Reykjavik.
The drive back at the end of the day was definitely tiring considering how much we packed into the day. We estimated our arrival time back to Reykjavik about halfway through the trip to be around 9pm. Below I have some beautiful photos from our drive leaving the black sand beach. It is wise to always have your passengers camera ready while driving. There are so many gorgeous sights to capture.
If you would like to continue along the South Coast and extend your trip, consider staying in the area of Vik or further along the coast to make the trip easier. On our way back, it was dark for over half of the drive. As we were getting closer to Reykjavik, a little after 8pm, we were fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights. Prior to arriving, I read that winter months starting as early as the end of September was the best chance to see them. We finally found a place to pull over on our drive and watch the magic. It was truly amazing and beautiful. They move and migrate across the sky constantly changing. Iceland was incredible in and of itself but getting the opportunity to see Northern Lights on such a short trip was rather lucky. These photos from my iPhone are enhanced to better bring out the green color. I tried to take a video on my cell phone, and I could see absolutely nothing. Check out the following website for the aurora forecast: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/. You would want the sky to be clear and be outside of the city in order to maximize your chances of a viewing.