With only limited time to see Iceland, I had to make my one full day trip count. The most popular tour from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle, but I opted for the Southern Coast, famous for its waterfalls, glaciers, and black sand beaches.
My Southern Coast tour was arranged through Kexland . There’s a handful of tour companies that offer almost identical tours, so there doesn’t seem to be a big difference who you go with. The tour companies stagger when each bus stops at each of the attractions so that it’s never too busy. My bus came by the hostel at 7:30am, which is still the middle of the night by Icelandic standards. The aim is to arrive at the first stop when the sun is rising to maximize sunlight hours.
Our first stop was Skogafoss Waterfall, one of the most iconic Icelandic waterfalls. As you drive along the coast you would think the views are on the coast side, but all the waterfalls are inland, and there are so many of them! You can see Skogafoss from the main road, and it’s pretty spectacular. We were given 45 minutes to explore the area – you can climb up beside the waterfall or wander around the surrounding area. The sun was just coming up when we arrived and the colours were amazing. The waterfall is crazy up close. There is so much water thundering down and if you stand close enough you get completely sprayed with water. It feels almost majestic. Definitely worth the stop.
Vik & Black Sand Beaches
Our next stop was Vik, a small town at the southern-most point of Iceland and the eastern-most point of our tour. Vik is sold as a quant little village, but in all honestly it’s not much more than a church and a roadside restaurant. The main attraction here is the black sand beaches, a symptom of being a volcanic island. It was freezing out on the beaches but the black sand was pretty spectacular. The waves were also really intense and it was amazing to watch them crash against the black sand. The colours make it almost look fake. It’s amazing.
Reynisfjara is a quick drive from Vik and boasts the same black sand. The main attraction, though, is the giant stone columns that come up out of the sand and into the mountain. The columns are octagonal, a bit like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and I imagine formed in a similar geological process. Reynisfjara is also the inspiration for Hallgrímskirkja, the famous church in Reykjavik, and you can totally see why. When the tide is far enough out you can turn your back to the ocean and make out the shape of the church in the cliffs.
Our next stop was Solheimajokull Glacier, a breakaway glacier that under the right weather conditions is accessible from the road by a short hike. I’ve seen my fair share of glaciers but this one was really spectacular. In hind sight I wish I had planned a proper glacier hike – the tour didn’t leave us time to actually explore the glacier with a guide, which would have been amazing. Even seeing just the edge of the glacier was great though. I definitely want to go back and do it properly.
Our last stop was Seljalandsfoss, the famous waterfall that (under the right weather conditions) you can walk behind. The water flow was a little to strong when I visited, so we had to enjoy the falls from the front. It was still pretty impressive this way, although with the sun starting the set my photos definitely suffered! I’m going to have to come back to this one, I definitely want to try walking behind it.
The tour was a long day but it was fantastic. It felt a bit like a taster tour – I’m going to need to come back on my own and see it all again, but it was great for a quick trip. The South Coast is amazing.