What are the places that you just have to see when travelling in south Iceland?
Iceland has a lot to offer. On almost every turn from the Ring Road, you can find something beautiful. Wherever I travel, I prefer to find places out of the beaten path, not flooded with tourists.
(I found them also in Iceland – I’ll share them in the next post. They are also listed here, where you can check our full route in the island).
However, there are also those few truly breathtaking and iconic places, that, even though they are popular with people, you can’t miss when you are in Iceland. And with a little effort you can still manage to see them without anyone around
#1 Hot pools
That’s one of the best things about Iceland – natural hot pools. Cold or warm outside – doesn’t matter, because when you dip in the hot waters of the geothermal pools life just instantly becomes better.
One of the famous commercial and very well promoted ones is a Blue Lagoon. However, there are so many natural hot pools in Iceland, that you can choose by yourself which one you prefer to visit. The smaller and more hidden pools are less popular, but equally (or even more) amazing, so you can enjoy your time there alone.
I wrote about them here, so check them out and visit at least one!
To see a glacier up close in Iceland is a must!
In the south of Iceland one of the biggest national parks covering glacier is Vatnajökull National Park. One of three national parks in Iceland is extending to the huge area, including Vatnajökull glacier, which is the biggest ice cap in Iceland and second largest in Europe, together with Skaftafell park, that we visited.
Skaftafell is famous from its Alpine-like landscape with influence from glaciers, volcanoes and rivers. Trips to the glacier are very popular and there are many other activities that will keep you busy. You can also hike to the Svartifoss (Black Falls), made from black basalt columns. It was an inspiration for an architect who build famous Hallgrímskirkja – church in Reykjavik.
#3 Jökulsárlón – Glacier lagoon & Diamond beach
Do you recognise those blue pieces of ice floating in the water?
Maybe if you’ve seen Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or Batman Begins it will bring your memories, as those movies were shot in the Icelandic glacier lagoon.
Jökulsárlón was developed into a glacial lake when the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started melting and breaking. Now, you can see the icebergs of different sizes and shapes drifting away from the glacier and dying in the sea. The glacier lagoon grows and changes, so if you visit it again after some time (or even the next day, what we did) it will be entirely different.
I’ve never seen something like this before – milky white and bright blue colours of ice look truly spectacular. Many of the ice parts lie on the black sand beach nearby, called Diamond beach, where you can touch them and taste a 1000 years old ice (it’s not that tasty;)).
#4 Reynisfjara black beach
Black beach, called like this because of the pitch black volcanic sand and basaltic columns towering above it (called Gardar), that also form a shallow cave nearby was voted one of the best beaches in the world. In the sea, directly in front of it, there are dramatic looking sea stacks called Reynisdrangar. The sea looks very aggressive and the waves are high and strong – white foam created by them contrasts with dark volcanic sand making it a perfect landscape view for photographers.
The waves at Reynisfjara beach can also be dangerous. They are called “sneaker waves” – they can sweep in quickly and their force is so strong, that a person would struggle to come back on the shore. They already caused several accidents with people drowning in the sea, so be careful!
The Reynisfjara beach is very touristy and you will see couches and numerous cars in the busy car
park, but it’s a special place and definitely worth to see. You can always walk away on the beach to be by yourself with those breathtaking views or sit on the nearby pebbles and cook your lunch, as we did 😉
#5 Geysir geothermal area
Filled with mud pots and bubbling hot springs, geothermal areas in Iceland are very interesting sights to visit. One of the most known places is the home for Geysir geyser, which gave the name to all of the other periodically spouting hot springs. It’s located in Haukadalur valley on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill. Geysir doesn’t erupt as often as before, but his younger brother Strokkur located around 50 meters away, blows a high stream of water every 6–10 minutes, so you can be sure that you see it. Its usual height is 15–20 m, although it can sometimes erupt up to 40 m. Around, you can see other bigger or smaller geysers and smell the sulfur in the air.
If you fancy a new cooking experience, you can try to cook some eggs in the geyser 😉
Together with Þingvellir and the Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal area is a part of the Golden Circle – one of most famous tourist routes on the island.
Iceland is a land of many stunning waterfalls. In the south of the country I would recommend you to see at least one of those two:
-Gullfoss [eng. Golden falls]
It’s an iconic waterfall in southwest Iceland, located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. With its height of 32 meters and significant width it creates an outstanding impression of masses of water falling down to the rocky river bottom. You can view it from above or go down to see it closer.
There were some plans to use it for generating electricty, but now it is luckily protected.
Together with Þingvellir and the Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss is another part of Golden Circle route.
Stunning waterfall situated on the Skógá River. It falls from the cliffs remaining from the former coastline, which now is at a distance of about 5 kilometres away. It’s one of the biggest waterfalls in the island, with width of 25 m and drop of 60 m.
You can walk close to it and watch the water falling down in front on you. Just be aware that you can get quite wet as the waterfall produces a lot of spray. However, thanks to that, in the sunny days you can see the rainbow reflected in the water drops.
Third site on the famous Golden Circle route has historical, cultural, and geological significance. Located in a rift valley between the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian plate, is an unusual place to visit. You can even try snorkelling or diving in in the lake of the Silfra canyon, where the continental drift between the plates is wide enough to swim and enjoy great visibility.
Þingvellir is also the place where the national parliament of Iceland was established in 930 AD. Since 2004 it’s a UNESCO World heritage site and important place for Icelandic history and culture.
If you are not sure if it’s worth stopping by in Reykjavik, think again.
Usually, I’m not a city girl and Iceland is all about nature. But I think it’s definitely worth to visit country’s capital, even for one day. You can discover real Icelandic way of life, look at Icelanders enjoying their days and explore a bit of a island’s culture. Most of the people, who you’ll meet in popular places in Iceland will be foreigners, so better to get to know some of the locals in the beautiful Reykjavik. The city is a home for 130 thousands of people and with the country population of over 300 thousands, it’s a main hub.
It’s a pretty town, that has a lot to offer with some cosy restaurants, bars and lively music scene (you just need to watch out for your money as, man, Iceland is pricey!). More about Reykjavik, where to stay and where to eat in the next posts.
I hope that list will help you with planning your travels in the south Iceland.
Here you can check our full route with maps and in the next posts I will write something more about less known, but stunning places in Iceland.
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Have you seen any of those places? Would you add anything else to the list? Let me know in the comments.
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