South Iceland – best attractions

Exploring beautiful waterfalls, volcanic craters and doing my first glacier hike! (7 - 8 Dec 2016)
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The south coast of Iceland is also reputed to have many star attractions from waterfalls to the most amazing glaciers and we spent 2 days here exploring some of them with our guide Petur driving us around. Definitely not enough time for sure given the short daylight that we had, but we made the most of it by setting out early each day. Here’s my list of the must sees when you are in this part of Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

After having witnessed the most amazing and majestic Godafoss earlier in Akureyri, it’s hard to find anything that can beat that. However, I think in this area Seljalandsfoss is still worth seeing, as it’s perched falling off a cliff, and the fun part is walking up the rocky stairs to get to the waterfall, and getting wet in the whole process! I especially loved standing “behind” the waterfall in a sunken recess area, talk about a waterfall shower, this is the closest thing to it! One thing to note is if you really want to take amazing photos of the waterfall, a tripod stand is necessary. But it’s quite a task to bring a tripod stand, climb up the stairs and make sure the camera doesn’t get wet, so yes some tips to take note of if you wish to go the whole way.

The view of the waterfall, super crowded with tourists.

Approaching nearer and getting wet!

From behind the waterfall.

The greatest pity of my shots in South Iceland was the weather, so you will see the pictures look a bit dull due to the cloudy and rainy weather we faced these 2 days. But well we made most of it as we drove on and enjoyed the beautiful landscape along Pjoovegur.

Some temporary clear skies along Pjoovegur.

Gestastofa Þorvaldseyri Eyrarbúið ehf., Þorvaldseyri, 861 Hvolsvöllur

Petur took us for a quick stop at Gestastofa Þorvaldseyri where we could see the famous volcano Eyjafjallajökull known for its eruption back in 2010. The farm, Porvaldesyri located just at the foot of it has been run by generations of the same family since 1906, pretty impressive. A visitor centre here which opened in 2011 after the eruption explains about how it is to live for Man and animals around an active volcano, but we didn’t get to go there due to time constraints. Apparently, there’s some products that the farm produces that are sold here as well.

Quick stop at Gestastofa Þorvaldseyri.

Skogafoss Skogar, Iceland

Not too far down the road, I saw Skogafoss waterfall, located in the village of Skogar, along the Southern Ring Road. For me personally, this waterfall isn’t that impressive but I enjoyed the nature surrounding it more so, and am happy with some of the pictures I took. There’s a rest stop around here for a quick bite for lunch if you are hungry. Not terribly exciting food, but it fills your stomach.

In front of Skogafoss waterfall.

I think the waterfall looks better with me – what do you think? 

Enjoying nature surrounding Skogar.

Mýrdalsjökull Glacier 

From Skógar the Ring Road runs eastwards along the foot of Mýrdalsjökull glacier and this for sure, is the highlight for me of all the South Iceland attractions for sure. Petur our guide is also a trained glacier hike guide so he was the best person for this job. Upon arrival, the gals needed to be suited up with waterproof pants and special glacier chains. A good thing we refuelled earlier, as this hike up and down took us around 3 hours, including some stops here and there for pictures. This glacier is Iceland’s 4th largest glacier, as the icecap covers an active volcano called Kalta, it’s no surprise to see tons of volcanic lava ash surrounding the icy tips as we walk up. A key note is to wear good boots with good ankle grip even if you have the glacier hikes, as it can be pretty slippery.

Journey to Myrdalsjokull Glacier.

Gearing up!

Setting off on our hike.

Views of icecap glacier and lava ash.

More lovely views of icecap glacier and lava ash.

We crossed the first tricky hurdle and got to see this beautiful sun rays in the skies, it’s quite a view to behold with the lake beyond, icy tips and mountains surrounding us.

More lovely views of icecap glacier and lava ash.

Light through the glacier.

Petur explaining some of the science behind the glacier.

Getting closer, so tired!

Y admiring the view.

Amazing views.

After what seemed like a slippery uphill climb for the gals, good thing for me that AL was helping to carry me up, we finally reached the FINALE POINT, no it’s not the top of the glacier, but we reached at least the foot of the actual Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and had to take many shots here before descending.

Pretty amazing view!

Yeah I made it!

Vatnajökull Glacier Walk and Ice Cave adventure

This tour is a must as well for those of you visiting South Iceland, and we were super lucky to be able to catch this tour as initially due to the bad weather, it was almost cancelled, but Petur knowing how much we wanted to do it, managed to find a tour guide at the waiting area of this tour to do it for us, and we signed up in no time! We were introduced to Sweney (Instagram : @sveinbjorn78), our jolly guide for the morning hike and we were pretty stoked to hear he’s starred in Game of Thrones and also helps movie companies to source for filming locations in Iceland given it’s such a popular country now for Hollywood scenes. I would highly recommend a tour with Sweney, and oh his name means Brown Bear, hee hee, yes we must have been fated to meet.

Sweney – our guide and part time Game of Thrones actor.

The glacier tour is conducted in a special car fit for driving over the bumpy terrain to get to Breiðamerkurjökull which is an outlet glacier of the larger glacier of Vatnajökull. After about a 20 minutes drive, we finally reached what looked like a scene from a sci fi movie. After admiring the views and being quite amused by the interesting hills of ash, we were brought to a little cave where underneath the ash was actually a glacier cave, we wouldn’t even have been able to guess that. And we followed him all way in, relying on his torch light and nothing much. He explained to us how this was formed over the years and it’s really beautiful, especially to see the light and crystallization in the walls.

We are just at the icecap of the glacier Vatnajökull which may sound so small but in fact, the landscape is diverse, predominantly due to the interplay of volcanic activity and glaciers. It’s one of the few places to see the combined elements of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity all in one area!

Surrounded by volcanic ask at Breiðamerkurjökull

Going into the cave.

Admiring the view of the cave from inside.

We figured why the scenery looked rather sci fi, Sweney told us that Interstellar was filmed not too far away in Svinafellsjokull, also part of the Vatnajokull National Park! I would have also loved to visit this glacier, but due to lack of time, we focused on the side of Breiðamerkurjökull. We were shown how the glacier ice at our feet has water running through them despite it looking so icy as glaciers in Iceland tend to be more temperate so the ice only freezes on the top and bottom.

Admiring more of the sci-fi like landscape.

Admiring more of the sci-fi like landscape.

We got to do a short glacier hike up, before descending into one of the caves, how exciting! We were given safety hats to wear before climbing down as the headroom in the cave can be quite low. It’s pretty interesting and remember to take lots of pictures, as the light from the top coming in, plus the narrow shape of the cave makes for really interesting shots.

Descending carefully into the glacier caves.

Enjoying the blue cave.

The light above from below the cave. 

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

After finishing the wonderful glacier tour, we were dropped off back at the meeting point, and proceeded nearby to see the floating glaciers on the lake, part of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. It’s pretty exciting to see glaciers in so many forms in one day, first I was standing on one, and now I see bits and pieces of the glacier floating away on the lagoon. Interestingly, I learnt from Petur that Jökulsárlón has been a popular location for some Hollywood films like: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins! Wow, time to revisit those movies and spot the scene. The view here is pretty serene, with the melted icebergs having a beautiful blue hue.

Enjoying the view of the melted glaciers.

Jokulsarlon Beach (Diamond Beach)

After enjoying views of the glacier lagoon, you have to visit the Diamond Beach, which is formed from volcanic rock. We went to the part of the beach where many of the glacier rocks we saw earlier have been washed up to the beach, and it looks like an amazing art installation, with the ice ranging from hues of white, pale blue to intense blue all awashed on the beach. We had great fun taking some amazing photos here especially with us standing with the “ice rocks”. If you look hard enough, you may find some of the icy rocks may look familiar in shape to you, taking the form of an animal or a friendly monster! If not for the rainy weather, I would love loved to stay here even longer.

Y standing amidst the icy rocks on the diamond beach.

STAY IN SOUTH ICELAND

Foss Hotel Glacier Lagoon Hnapavellir, 785 Öræfi, Iceland, Tel: +354 514 8300

Good pit stop for the night after doing the glacier walk at Mýrdalsjökull. It’s also very close to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which we did the next morning. It’s a pretty new mfoodern hotel, and I booked the deluxe room to sleep in, which was very pretty spacious for a night’s stay. The dinner here is decent, but breakfast is pretty bad I and gets overcrowded with all the tourists that’s staying here for the night. They also provide Northern Lights wake up call, and we were pretty lucky to get a call except it was a 5am, and us gals just decided to sleep in for the night since we already saw it in Tromso.

My room at Foss Hotel and a satisfying dinner at their restaurant.

Hotel Ranga Suðurlandsvegur, 851 Hella, Iceland, Tel: +354 487 5700

We stayed here on our second night in South Iceland, and it’s touted as a 4 star resort with a lodge style concept. The interiors are very woody, maybe too much for my liking, and I definitely preferred Hotel Foss interiors to Hotel Ranga, but in this area, Hotel Ranga is probably the best hotel in terms of comfort and other offerings. It’s super dark when it comes to night time over here, and the plus point is they have their own observatory but we were too tired to go visit it, and similarly they also offer Northern lights wake up call.

Getting ready for bedtime.

Giant polar bear greets us at entrance.

Dinner and wine at Hotel Ranga’s restaurant.

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