Exploring the South Coast of Iceland

After several days based in Reykjavik, I booked a day trip to explore some more of the fantastic landscape that Iceland has on offer. I opt for a tour of the South Coast of Iceland which boasts a wide variety of scenery from beaches to volcanoes and glaciers.

Unlike my tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle earlier in the week, which was a super deluxe 50 person coach, my transport for my South Coast of Iceland was a rickety old mini bus and there were only 5 of us on the tour. While a Golden Circle tour is a must do attraction on many people’s Iceland itinerary travelling a little further to explore the Iceland’s southern coast is still relatively quiet in comparison.

From my base in Reykjavik it’s a long drive to the south coast, in fact it is two hours from the capital before our first stop but it’s a famous one…or should that be infamous?  Iceland is full of volcanic regions and one spot which a lot of travellers may be familiar with is Eyjafjallajökull. The volcano along with a small farm nearby became one of the biggest travel stories of 2011 when the volcano erupted and spewed ash into the skies, grounding all European flights for days on end!

Our first stop on the way to the South Coast of Iceland - Eyjafjallajökull
Eyjafjallajökull Volcano

Next on the agenda was another of those famous Icelandic waterfalls. Probably the second most photographed waterfalls in Iceland after Gullfoss, Skógafoss is quite different. A much smaller water feature but still spectacular in any season.

From here we drive on further and eventually reach the black beaches regions of Iceland’s southern coast. We stop at Dyrhólaey with views over the beach and of the Reynisdrangar rock columns. These structure are the ultimate must see’s along the South Coast of Iceland. Very photogenic seascapes and lots of weird volcanic rock forms to play about on – what more could you want.

Dyrholaey with the Reynisdrangar rocks along th eSouth Coast of Iceland
Dyrholaey with the Reynisdrangar rocks in the background

A short drive on, we stop for lunch in the town of Vik which is famous for its impending doom. When the volcano Katla behind it erupts the glacier currently covering it will melt so fast it will cause an instant flash flood and wash out the town. But if they detect it a siren will go off and everyone has 20 minutes to get from wherever they are to the safety of the church on the hill. Apparently there are practices on regular occasions as it is not a case of if the volcano erupts but when. What a fun place to live.

Black beaches of Vik and the Reynisdrangar rocks along the South Coast of Iceland
Black beaches of Vik and the Reynisdrangar rocks

After an extended lunch break, we head out to the section of the tour I’ve been looking forward to most – the glacier. We’re visiting Sölheimajökull which is an offshoot or “glacier tongue” of the Mýrdalsjökull Ice Cap. (if you can pronounce either I’ll buy you a cake). It’s not a long drive from Vik but a very bumpy, off-road one and then a very windy walk to get to the edge of the glacier but once I’m on it, its actually not cold at all. It is however, pretty grubby as its covered in a layer of volcanic ash.

Sölheimajökull glacier on the South Coast of Iceland
Standing on a glacier that’s covered in volcanic ash. Only in Iceland eh?

Our last stop on the way home is another waterfall. This time,  Seljalandsfoss where you can even wander behind the water though, as I found out, this means getting quite wet. Even so this is a great experience and one I would highly recommend.

How to Explore the South Coast of Iceland

While I opted for a tour option for my trip to the South Coast of Iceland, car rental is also a popular option and most Icelandic roads are surfaced and well maintained. During warmer seasons renting a vehicle to explore is certainly worth a go if you have the option, however Icelandic winters can be very harsh and so those who are not familiar with driving with chains in icy conditions should perhaps leave it to the professionals.

Is Iceland’s south coast on your bucketlist?