Where We Be
Peering down at the bobbing glaciers in Jokulsarlon Lagoon, you begin to
realize just how many wild landscapes Iceland fits into a relatively small space
South Coast, Iceland
We think some of the most dramatic scenery in
Iceland can be found along its southern coast.
To the southwest it's all woolly sheep and
waterfalls and green mountains, but as you
head away from Reykjavik and towards the
southeast, the land turns wilder. Before long
you're passing braided rivers, forbidding
glaciers, and iceberg-dotted lakes. We joked
that if New Zealand and Alaska were to have a
baby, it would be southern Iceland.

We saw seven "big" sites and plenty of smaller
ones that had us falling in love with Iceland (at
least in summer) by the end of it. This is some
gorgeous country! We started with two dramatic
waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. At
Dyrholaey Promontory we enjoyed panoramic
views and saw puffins flapping furiously as they
took off. Just around the corner at Reynisfjara
we explored a black sand beach and a cliff with
stones cut like the Giant's Causeway in Ireland.
Further southeast we visited Skaftafell National
Park and hiked up close to a glacier. Another
hour's drive brought us to Jokulsarlon Lagoon,
jam-packed with icebergs. Across the road at
Diamond Beach, we saw mini-icebergs stranded
on a black sand beach sparkling in the sun. We
arrived at our hotel after 9 pm tired but happy.
The Ring Road is easy to drive in summer and offers superb scenery
Beautifully situated farms like this one dot the landscape
We found ourselves pulling over frequently for photos
Can you see the buildings tucked up under the rocks? Sod roofs are a common sight in Iceland.
Skogafoss Waterfall drains the same enormous glacier as the first falls --
Eyjafjallajokull (or E15 for short -- Icelandic names are a mouthful!)
Skogafoss is broader and more powerful than
Seljalandsfoss (but you can't walk behind it)
Dyrholaey Promontory offers great views of black
sand beaches and picturesque offshore rocks
There's good scenery in the other direction too. You
have a good chance of spying puffins at Dyrholaey.
Not far from Dyrholaey is Reynisfjara Beach with
its black sand and fascinating rock formations
If you've been to the Giant's Causeway in Ireland, then Reynisfjara will definitely feel familiar
Kids (and kids at heart) love to climb the basalt columns of volcanic rock
We loved this cave at Reynisfjara where you can see "underneath" the basalt columns
The cool thing about Seljalandsfoss is that you can walk behind
the falls on a narrow path -- as long as you don't mind getting wet!
The water from Seljalandsfoss waterfall comes from the glacier known as Eyjafjallajokull. Under
the glacier is the volcano that erupted in 2010, causing all those flight cancellations in Europe.
Our Day 2 Ring Road itinerary took us from Heidi Cabin (near Gulfoss Falls) to an exploration of Iceland's south.
This was a long but fun day filled with impressive sights. We started sightseeing at 10 am and ended at 9 pm.
The funky interior of the cave looks like a modern work of art
Strolling along the black sand beach at Reynisfjara, we could see
the same offshore rocks we spied from Dyrholaey Promontory
On the way back to the Ring Road from Reynisfjara,
you'll pass this quaint church known as Reyniskirkja
This unusual sight is Skaftareldahraun. It's a lava field covered in greenish moss.
The lava flow that created it in 1783 is one of the two largest lin Earth's recorded history!
After Reynisfjara the day-trippers from Reykjavik mostly disappear and the Ring Road
cuts through wilder terrain. Here the road is partially flooded from glacial meltwater.
But even in the southeast the forbidding scenery
is punctuated with beautiful green interludes
Then it's back to Alaska-like scenery again. This glacial tongue descends from
Vatnajokull -- Iceland's (and Europe's) largest glacier by far, being bigger than Delaware.
Skeidararsandur is the largest glacial drainage delta in the world, covering some 500 miles. To cross it, you drive over a long
one-lane bridge with pullouts. What you're seeing above is the wreckage from a previous bridge that washed out in 1996.
At Skaftafell National Park you can hike an easy trail that lets you get up close
to yet another glacial tongue descending from the mighty Vatnajokull Glacier.
We had a family of Barnacle Geese for company at the unofficial Jokulsarlon overlook
One of our final sights of the day, iceberg-filled Jokulsarlon Lagoon,
was also one of the most impressive, and that's saying a lot
Across the road from Jokulsarlon is Diamond Beach. There's no official sign
but you'll see lots of cars pulled over and it's definitely worth a stop.
Where else can you see mini icebergs stranded on a black sand beach?
The smaller ones really do look like diamonds sparkling against black velvet.
The often weirdly shaped icebergs wash up here from Jokulsarlon Lagoon
We witnessed several photo sessions with couples dressed to the nines here
This photo of Jokulsarlon Lagoon was taken straight into the setting sun
around 8 pm. Luckily it stays light out until 10 pm (or later) in summer.
All these icebergs crowded together in Jokulsarlon Lagoon are leftovers from Vatnajokull.
We watched entranced as two seals swam up to one of the bobbing icebergs.
You can climb a small hill for an even better view of Jokulsarlon Lagoon
This is the main parking lot for Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Near the bridge you can see icebergs
floating out to sea. Some of the icebergs get stranded on Diamond Beach just beyond the bridge.
The soft lighting at 9 pm as the sun shone crosswise over
the landscape made for a beautiful finish to our day
We drove one more hour to our hotel, stopping occasionally
for photos of horses and sheep in the slanting sunlight
From Dyrholaey you also get a good view of E15.
The glacier is enormous -- this is only a small part of it.
Then there was the joy of finally arriving at Jokull Hotel ($190 per night) near Hofn and getting settled into our room.
We had a late dinner of mushroom soup in a cup with homemade bread dunked into it -- simple but oh-so-good!
[Not my photo]