Treasures of Southern Iceland

SOUTHERN ICELAND: A place to be thrilled and feel the amplified nature in the vast empty space in Iceland is the southern part of this country. There are countless things to experience and discover in this part. The whole region is a treasure chest filled with long shorelines, magnificent waterfalls, lava fields, volcanoes and craters, black beaches, glaciers, wildlife, and lots more.

IMG_9170.jpg

Driving by Southern Iceland’s stunning landscape

This was our third and final excursion on our last day in Iceland. I bought it online in Viator for $80 per adult and lunch isn’t included. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 in Reykjavik by Bustravel Iceland a little after 8am and were dropped off at the same place around 6pm. It was a big tour bus with comfortable seats and a restroom. Our guide was very knowledgeable, helpful, and a funny gentleman. He was also quite a good photographer and a story-teller. One thing I’ve seen here is that you don’t need to tip the driver or the guide in Iceland…they don’t expect it and haven’t seen anyone tipping them during any of our excursions. 

IMG_9183 (2).jpg

Magical mountains of Southern Iceland

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July of 2019) when we flew to Iceland and my little sister flew into Reykjavik from the East Coast. We were in Iceland for 5 nights. Please check out my other posts/pages for all the trips/excursions we took in Iceland. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like me. 

IMG_9188.jpg

Southern Iceland

EATING and SHOPPING: On the day of this trip, we had lunch in the Village of Vik at Icewear cafe…Iceland’s famous sweater and winter clothing store. This big cafe offers lots of options. I had Icelandic fish and chips with a side salad. By the way it’s different than the English style fish and chips. 

IMG_9407 (3).jpg

Icelandic fish and chips in Vik, Iceland

Beside the cafe was one of the biggest Icewear stores with more selections than any other Icewear stores we’ve checked. 

PLACES I’VE VISITED: Enjoy the miles after miles of lava fields covered with soft green moss while you are in Southern Iceland…it almost looks like a fairytale land. Whole drive was very pretty with scenic landscape and stunning shorelines.  

IMG_9197.jpg

Driving by Skogafoss Waterfalls

  1. SKOGAFOSS: Our first stop after leaving Reykjavik is Skogafoss. South Iceland is known for its tall waterfalls and Skogafoss is one of them dropping straight down from 60m cliff. This is one powerful waterfall and you can get really wet if you try to get too close to it. Take a few minutes to walk over the trail that leads to the top of the falls. We didn’t take that walk, rather stayed near the falls where you can see it’s sheer mighty force. We spent about 20 minutes here enjoying the falls and the small river that flows from it. 
_MG_9211_2_3.jpg

Skogafoss Waterfalls in Southern Iceland

  1. SOLHEIMAJOKULL GLACIER: From the falls, our second stop was Solheimajokull, a 14 km long outlet glacier with a majestic lagoon. Ice-breaks from the glacier keeps the lagoon stocked with icebergs creating a stunning site to visit. 
_MG_9324 (3).jpg

Solheimajokull Glacier in Southern Iceland

Be ready to walk and hike to get close to the glacier. The hike was about half an hour or so, from the bus all the way to the glacier. My 9 years old could do it with a breeze. They were thrilled to be able to touch the glacier ice and walk over them. 

_MG_9369_70_71_tonemapped (3).jpg

Solheimajokull Glacier in Southern Iceland

There are other tours/package you can take to actually go glacier hiking, which I saw some groups were doing with proper gears and guide. 

_MG_9375_6_7 (2).jpg

Solheimajokull Glacier in Southern Iceland

  1. VILLAGE of VIK: From all the walking and hiking on the previous glacier, we were ready for lunch at this small but beautiful coastal town of Vik. There isn’t much to do in the town itself…or at least we didn’t have time to do anything here, other than just having a meal. This place gets lots of annual rains. The famous Icelandic winter clothing brand was born in Vik.

4. REYNISFJARA BEACH: Reynisfjara a gorgeous black volcanic beach, just a few minutes drive from the center of Vik. This is famed for its striking scenery. On one side the beach, west of Mount Reynisfjall, hexagonal grey columnar basalt formations can be seen surrounding a sea cave. On the other side is the rough sea with crashing waves. And in between are the standing bold rocks to add to the beauty of this whole seascape. 

_MG_9446.jpg

The sea cave with basalat columns in Reynisfjara Beach in Southern Iceland

The powerful waves on this beach is known to be very dangerous. Be careful and never turn your back to the ocean. 

_MG_9443_4_5 (2).jpg

Reynisfjara Beach in Southern Iceland

The sea cave, Halsanefshellier, is where the striking columnar basalt formations can be seen. These columns are formed when magma cools slowly and cracks into columns, usually hexagonal, as the surface area decreases. These columns stand perpendicular in hexagon shapes. By the way, if you are into Bollywood films, the famous song “Gerua” by Shahrukh Khan and Kajol was partly done here. 

_MG_9452_3_4.jpg

Reynisfjara Beach in Southern Iceland

  1. SELJALANDSFOSS: Our final spot of the excursion and in Iceland was this impressive . This is the famous waterfall in South Iceland which drops not only off a 60m high cliff, but also where visitors can walk behind the falls for a thrilling experience.
_MG_9514_5_6 (2)

Seljalandsfoss Falls in Southern Iceland

It is one of the most photogenic falls that you’ll see in most of Iceland’s travel guides. Yes, you can get slightly wet from the mist but with caution, children can do this easily. This is one of the biggest attractions in this side of the island and shouldn’t be missed. 

_MG_9541 (2).jpg

Seljalandsfoss Falls in Southern Iceland

 

Golden Circle, Kerid Volcano, Blue Lagoon in Iceland

GOLDEN CIRCLE, KERID VOLCANO, BLUE LAGOON: This is probably the most well-known and most popular excursion from Reykjavik that almost everyone does. Each site of this tour was better than the others and Blue Lagoon is the cherry on top. 

Scenic drive during the Golden Circle tour in Iceland

Scenic drive during the Golden Circle tour in Iceland

This was our first guided tour in Iceland, on our 2nd day here. It was $134 per adult which doesn’t include any meals. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 near our hotel in Reykjavik by Nice Travel Iceland, a little after 9am and were dropped off at the same place around 8pm. It was a minivan and our guide/driver was a knowledgeable but couldn’t keep our attention for long. The sites and the drive were fantastic, but we couldn’t understand half of the things our guide said in a very monotonous voice.

Moss covered lava fields in Iceland

Moss covered lava fields in Iceland

Meals are not included in this trip. But the good part is that you don’t need to tip the drive or the guide…haven’t seen anyone tipping them during any of our trips. We did get a lunch break but lots of things were packed in the itinerary, therefore, everything was done in a bit hurry. 

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland and met my little sister from the East Coast in Reykjavik. Four of us were in Iceland for a total of 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like I was.

EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch when we stopped at Geysir at a very well-organized restaurant. The complex has a wide range of Icelandic designed clothing and accessories. Although a bit expensive, this is a great souvenir shop. Icelandic lamb is something very flavorful and different from other places. My lunch of lamb, salad, potato, and rice was about $30 per plate. 

My Icelandic lamb for lunch in Golden Circle tour

My Icelandic lamb for lunch in Golden Circle tour

PLACES I’VE VISITED: The tour was for 11 hours in total. Many people rent car and do it on their own leisurely. 

Here is rough itinerary of this tour:

From Reykjavik to Thingvellier National Park – Þingvellir – 35 minutes drive

From Þingvellir NP to Geysir/hot spring – 40 minutes drive

Lunch break at Geysir – for about an hour (including visiting the geysers)

From Geysir to Gulfoss and stay 40 minutes – 10 minutes drive

From Gulfoss to Kerid Volcan – 40 minutes drive

From Kerid Volcano to Blue Lagoon and stay here for ~2 hours – 1:15 hours drive

And here are all the places we’ve visited during this excursion:

  1. THINGVELLIER/Þingvellir NATIONAL PARK: Our first stop was at Thingvellier NP, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Iceland’s most important historical sites. This is the most popular national park in Iceland. Not only this is a stunning place to explore with miles of lava fields and beautiful landscape, but this is also the original site of the longest running parliament in the world, which was founded in 930 AD. Many crucial events in Iceland’s history took place here, like the adoption of Christianity around 1000 AD and the foundation of the modern Icelandic Republic in 1944. 
Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier NP also lies on the junction of two tectonic plates, on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The junction of the plates is more clearly visible here than anywhere else in the world. The two plates are constantly diverging, causing fissures and gullies throughout the zone. It’s where the North-American and the European continental tectonic plates are drifting and being torn apart at a rate of few millimeters to 2 centimeters each year. The most exciting thing is that you can actually walk on the continental drift.

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Since 1930, Thingvellier has been a National Park and in 2004 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The natural environment of Thingvellier NP is unique in the world. 

We started our walk from the visitor’s center, looking over the vast valley where the river flows. The walk from there to the original parliament site and further is magnificent with breathtaking landscape. 

_Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

The one hour that we stayed here was really not enough to explore some of the gorgeous views that this national park can offer. 

2. GEYSIR: This is another popular and touristy geo-thermal hot spot with steamy water coming out of the earth. It’s amazing how close you can get to these boiling water and smell the sulfur. You can touch the flowing water which is not hot as much. 

Steamy "Geysir" in Iceland

If you walk along a few more steps, the big geyser, Strokkur, shoots up every couple minutes. And it’s a thrill to watch such a show created by nature. 

This is also a good place for meals or snacks. Across from the geysers, are the restaurants where you can find a variety of food options and souvenirs. We had about an hour to visit the geysers and for lunch. 

A bigger geyser that shoots every couple minutes in Iceland

A bigger geyser that shoots every couple minutes in Iceland

3. GULLFOSS: Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Falls, was our next on the itinerary. This is considered to be the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. Rain and glacier water on the White River plunge down a double cascade to create one monstrous and the largest volume falls during summer in Europe.

Gullfoss or The Golden Falls in Iceland

Gullfoss or The Golden Falls in Iceland

Tourists started to visit Gullfoss around 1875. Prior to that time the waterfall was hard to reach because of rough terrain and impassable rivers. A local female, name Sigridur in Brattholt and her sisters often guided visitors to Gullfoss, building the first trail that led down to the waterfall. 

There are few theories how the name Gullfoss was given. One is that it was named Gullfoss because of the golden evening hue which often colors its glacier water. Another story is that the name was inspired by the rainbow which often appears when sunshine hits the water spray thrown up by the waterfall. And another story goes that once upon a time, a farmer named Gygur lived at Gygjarholl. He had plenty of gold and could not bear the thought of someone else possessing it after his lifetime. To prevent this, he placed the gold in a coffer and threw it into the waterfall. And since then, it has been named Gullfoss. 

Gullfoss in Iceland

Gullfoss in Iceland

 

We could feel the mist from the falls from the parking lot while walking towards it. It was about 10 minutes walk on the trail rim right by the falls. Anyone would be awestruck by its sheer size, beauty, and enormity of this falls. 

After the Gullfoss, our driver stopped at a small area where we could pet some Icelandic horses. I bought some horse food for my daughter to feed them. Icelandic horses look very much like Mongolian horses…extremely elegant yet cute looking. Seems like, other tour guide buses were also stopping here to pet these few horses and feed them.

4. KERID CRATER LAKE: This is a small volcanic crater lake on the route back toward Reykjavik from Gullfoss that is about 6500 years old.. You can walk up to the rim and can take an easy hike down into the belly of the crater and circle the lake. This is a very easy crater to visit, even with children. 

Kerid Volcano Crater Lake in Iceland

Kerid Volcano Crater Lake in Iceland

While most of the sights in Iceland are free to enter, Kerid Volcano requires 400 ISK charge which was covered in our excursion fee. 

5. BLUE LAGOON: Our last stop of the day was the highlight of Golden Circle excursion and the most anticipated site, Blue Lagoon. Everybody gets hyped about this and for a very valid reason. This is the most famous and iconic hotspot to visit in Iceland. It’s a man-made lagoon/pool and a geo-thermal health spa center near the airport. Sliding into the warm milky blue water is an experience that I’ll never forget. The water coats your skin in silica. While you are there, slather on a mineral mask for a rejuvenating spa experience (it comes with the entry fee).  

Milky blue water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Milky blue water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland

The Blue Lagoon’s geothermal seawater is born 2000 meters within the earth where ocean water and freshwater converge in a volcanic frontier of searing heat and immense pressure. The water temperature stays around 40 degree Celsius all year round, even in the winter weather. And the vast lava plain surrounding the Blue Lagoon dates from the year 1226. The beneficial powers of the Blue Lagoon were first discovered by a man seeking comfort from psoriasis. 

Pre-booking is almost a must if you are planning to go to Blue Lagoon on a specific date and time. Time slots get sold out days or even weeks before sometimes during busy seasons. It is an expensive yet one of a kind experience to have. We got the cheapest package for about $94 per adult (kids are free) which included face mask, a drink, a locker, and a towel. 

We had only 2 hours here, which is definitely not enough…I could spend a couple more hours in that warm water. Also, if you are planning to buy souvenirs from the Blue Lagoon store, be ready to spend more than expected. 

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,780 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 644,573 hits
%d bloggers like this: