SOUTH ICELAND ROAD TRIP- FREE (OR INEXPENSIVE) THINGS TO DO
Iceland is well known for being a very expensive country to visit. Food, fuel, accommodation - it starts adding up quickly. With so many natural attractions on offer you can enjoy the best Iceland has to offer and still keep within your budget.
As you drive along Route 1, you'll see this waterfall in the distance before you arrive. Tall and skinny, this waterfall is unique in that you can walk up behind the waterfall and out the other side.
Park up, put on your waterproof gear and go explore. I can not recommend good quality, warm, waterproof clothing enough for this trip. You are going to enjoy your time so much more if you are prepared for the weather. And at Seljalandsfoss, you are going to get wet.
We arrived early-morning as we were on a tight schedule that day and Seljalandsfoss was close to our accommodation. I've seen photos from here at Sunset though and it looks amazing, so if you are a keen photographer, maybe consider this. Also, if you have a drone, this is the place to get that baby up in the air.
Now, technically Seljalandsfoss isn't free as you will need to pay a parking fee of 700 ISK. But it's still inexpensive and worth the stop if waterfalls are your thing.
I know, I know, another waterfall. But Skogafoss is enormous and unique in that you can walk up above the waterfall. Skogafoss also leads on to the amazing Waterfall Way Hike which is about 16km in length.
Again, waterproof gear people. When you arrive, you walk through the gravel next to a little stream of water, up to the main waterfall. You can feel the cold air and water mist spraying at you from the face of waterfall. The closer you walk, you can really feel and hear how powerful this waterfall is and it's a really cool experience.
Walk up the 370 steps to the top of the waterfall. Not only are the views over the waterfall amazing, but you can look back towards the coast and see up the beach and up coastline.
At the time of visit (Oct '19), parking was free. We didn't walk far along Waterfall Way as we pressed for time and the weather had turned, but plan to on when we visit in April 2021.
Kerid Crater was actually listed as a maybe on our itinerary, but we were so glad we made time to visit. Located 70km from Reykjavik (about an hour drive), this was one the highlights of that area for us.
We arrived late in the afternoon and this was our first stop after our flight landed earlier that day and we'd picked up our rental car. The time of day actually worked out perfectly as the carpark was nearly empty and there was only a handful of other people there.
You can walk around the top of crater the full way around and also follow the stairs down to the edge of the water. The best views are from the top - you can really see the water colour pop against that bright red dirt - so if your legs are getting tired, skip the walk to the bottom and admire from different angles up top.
There is a small entrance fee of 400 ISK, but it's worth it.
Icebergs that break off the Vatnajokull Glacier into Jokulsarlon lagoon are pulled out to sea with the tide and make their way onto the black sand beach of Breiðamerkursandu - otherwise known as Diamond Beach.
We had heard that if the day had been warmer, then the washed up icebergs may melt during the day, so we planned on staying the night nearby just in case we didn't see the icebergs that afternoon, we could wake up early and try again.
Luckily, there was still an abundance of ice 'diamonds' that shone in the sunset light.
We stayed at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon (which was a bit of a splurge) but absolutely stunning.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Truly a spectacular sight, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is not to be missed. After visiting diamond beach, we ventured across the other side of the highway to see the Glacier Lagoon.
The icebergs are created by chunks of ice breaking off Vatnajokull Glacier. Vatnajokull is the largest glacier in Europe and covers 8% of Iceland. The dark stripes you see in the ice are layers of ash which have fallen on the glacier when past volcanos have erupted.
We spotted a few seals swimming around amongst the floating icebergs, which was quite special as this was our first time seeing seals in the wild.
Late in the afternoon with the sun setting, this place is magical. We stayed until the sun had set and wished we had allocated more time to explore different views around the lagoon.
With an abundance of natural hot springs, this is a must do in Iceland. We visited Reykjadalur hot springs near Hveragerdi and this was an absolute highlight of our entire trip.
Reykjadalur means “steam valley” in Icelandic, and this place definitely lives up to its name. Plumes of steam rise up from the bubbling earth on either side of the path.
The hike in takes about an hour and is mostly heading uphill. Within a few minutes I had shed quiet a few layers of clothing as my body temperate rose from walking. During the walk you'll pass waterfalls, look back over the ocean and feel as though you have stepped onto another planet.
At the end, you'll be rewarded with a long soak in a hot stream surrounded by mountains. There is a wooden path the follows a long part of the stream. Find an empty spot, strip off those extra layers and step into the warm waters of the rock bottomed spring.
Tip: wear your swimsuit under your clothes to make it easier when you arrive.
We could have easily stayed here longer, but with the setting sun, needed to allow time for the walk about out before dark. I would suggest allowing plenty of time here and bringing a few snacks and a cold beer!
Also, if you aren't up for the hike, there are many other springs along the coast that are more easily accessible.
Honestly, the scenery in Iceland is spectacular, just look out the car window and you will find amazing things to do and see everywhere all around you.