Iceland has quickly become one of my favorite countries to visit. There are many reasons for this almost-instant love affair, but the sense of adventure I get is near the top. One of the best regions of Iceland to capture this adventurous sprit is along the country��s South Coast, home to some of Iceland’s most iconic spots. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Even before my first trip to Iceland, this was an experience at the top of my Iceland to-do list and I was excited that on my last trip I finally was able to experience it. Global warming is the reason we have to thank for the emergence of this lagoon fed by glacial waters and chock-a-block with calved icebergs in all sizes, shapes and colors. 75 years ago it didn’t exist, but today it’s one of the top attractions in the country. There are a few different options to experience the lagoon, from just admiring it from the shore, to taking a duck-boat ride to the option I selected, a Zodiac boat tour. The Zodiac is, I think, the best option, if you really want to make the most out of your once in a lifetime experience on the lagoon. For more than an hour, our captain took us up to the foot of the glacier itself as sheets of ice crashed noisily into the water below, and dodging in between icebergs throughout the lagoon. It was fun, it was exciting and it was one of my favorite experiences on the trip.
Iceland has no shortage of waterfalls, of that there can be no doubt. Almost everywhere you drive around the country you’ll find them in all sizes and shapes, each one with its own legends and mythologies surrounding it. But some are something special, something different and several of these must-visit waterfalls are found along the Ring Road. Seljalandsfoss is popular in large part because you can see it from the road, making a stop a foregone conclusion. But that’s not the only reason, as I learned while investigating the natural wonder. The waterfall itself drops about 60 meters, but the most interesting aspect of Seljalandsfoss is the fact that visitors can walk behind it, offering a different perspective and plenty of chances to spot a rainbow. Further up Route 1 is another popular waterfall, Skógafoss. This is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country, at a width of 82 feet and a drop of 200 feet. The spray from the waterfall is incredible, but it’s thanks to it that rainbows are also easy to see here. Next to Skógafoss is a hiking trail up to the top of the waterfall, offering amazing views down below.
I’m thankful I made the decision to spend a day visiting the Westman Islands, because it counts amongst my all-time favorite experiences in Iceland. Easy to reach from the south coast, the ferry ride is a short 30-minutes, but it feels like a world away. The Westman Islands are small and the only inhabited island, Haimaey, is just 7 square miles in size. 4,000 people call this rock home, but as I discovered on a tour around the island, it’s one of the most beautiful places not only in Iceland, but arguably the world. A combination of the gorgeous landscapes and the hospitality of the people who call it home, I fell in love thanks to the total experience and I know it’s an island I will return to many times in the future.
The drive itself
It sounds trite, but the best part of the road trip along the south coast of Iceland is the drive itself. There is a very good reason why so many movies and TV shows film in Iceland, it feels like it was plucked straight from the pages of a fantasy novel. The south coast of Iceland best encapsulates this otherworldly beauty, from the soaring verdant green cliffs dotted with sheep to the weird moss-covered boulders that cover hundreds of square miles and even to the volcanic deserts, devoid of life but not personality. The drive through these incredibly varying and stunningly gorgeous landscapes is the real joy in exploring the south coast of Iceland, the stops and experiences mere blips on the map in comparison.
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