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A journey around Iceland: 3) South Iceland

south-iceland-2013-068 South Iceland Vik black sand beach

 (Black sand beach in Vik, Iceland)


Many think South Iceland offers the island’s most spectacular scenery.  It’s hard to argue with this except to say that we found all of Iceland to be filled with beautiful landscapes.   South Iceland is remarkable for pretty farms in its western portion, rugged mountains, beautiful waterfalls, and the close proximity of several large glaciers (and a memorable glacial lagoon) in its eastern portion, all of which are easily accessible.  Like the entire island, South Iceland offers a dramatic representation of the island’s volcanic history.


We drove the Ring Road in a counter clockwise fashion so the following commentary and associated photos are more-or-less based on what we saw and did in sequential fashion:



(Kerid Crater, Iceland) 


Kerid Crater:  A large easily approachable volcanic caldera located just north of Selfoss.  The colors inside the crater are vivid.  It was from a raft at the small lake in the bottom of the crater that Icelandic singer Bjork performed a concert some years ago.  You can walk around the rim of its crater and even carefully descend to the lake if you want.


south-iceland-2013-057 South Iceland Seljalandsfoss

(Seljalandsfoss, Iceland.  You can walk behind this waterfall) 


Seljalandsfoss: One of several waterfalls draining a high altitude plateau down the side of a cliff.  Seljalandsfoss allows one the experience of walking behind (and getting drenched by) the waterfall — only to discover that the back of falling water looks just like the front.



(Skogafoss, Iceland) 


SkÓgafoss:  Located in the pretty little town of Skogar this was my second favorite waterfall on the island, a classic fall dropping over 200 feet.  A staircase leads to the top of the falls (and provides access to hiking trails on the plateau behind the waterfall).  Skogar has a folk museum that's said to be the best in Iceland (e.g. has skate blades made of bone; a dog bowl made of a whale vertebrae), though we never had the chance to visit it.  Skogafoss is easily seen from the Ring Road.


EyjafjallajÖkull glacier:  During the spring of 2010 a volcanic eruption started beneath the icecap of the EyjafjallajÖkull glacier.  A cloud of ash was carried high into the atmosphere and disturbed air traffic for weeks, including a near shutdown of flights in Europe for several days. Due to melting ice, rivers in the area were flooded and caused significant road damage (which has mostly been repaired). The volcano is again quiescent (at least for now) and was shrouded by clouds during our visit, but we could see evidence of its eruption in the flood damage and ash and lava on the mountain.


south-iceland-2010-018 (some of the rock formations, including a small arch, Dyrholaey, Iceland)


Dyrholaey is a great place for bird watchers as its cliffs are home to thousands of birds.  It’s an island connected with the mainland through a small isthmus and is home to a large sea arch through which you can sail (rumor has it you can fly a small plane) through on a calm day.  When windy the surf is powerful and very dangerous.  Birdwatching tours are available.  Just east of Dyrholaey is Reynisfjara beach, a black sand beach with with spectacular basalt and lava rock formations and thousands of nesting seabirds.  It also has a sea cave than can only be entered at low tide (we were there at high tide and couldn't explore it).



(small town of Vik, Iceland) 


Vik is the southern most village in Iceland.  It is well known for its large black sand beach which is perfect for a long beach walk; we spent an hour here and only encountered two other visitors on this large stretch of sand.  The adjoining Reynisfjall sea cliffs are home to thousands of birds including many puffins.  Just off the shore are three unusual rocks which legend declares are trolls turned to stone.





 (several tongues of ice from the huge glacier in Skaftafell National Park, Iceland) 


East of Vik there are vast tracts of black sand and alluvial glacial plains.  Vegetation is sparse and the scene is extremely stark.  Skaftafell National Park is an exception to this, offering a small ecosystem that has a milder climate and diverse flora, as well as many great hiking opportunities.  It is the largest National Park in Europe and provides one of the easiest access to glaciers you’ll find anywhere as the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull, comprises part of the park.  Beneath the VatnajÖkull ice cap lies GrÍmsvÖtn, one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes.



(Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Iceland's famous "iceberg" lagoon) 


One of the highlights of a visit to South Iceland is a stop at Jokulsarlon Lagoon.  This lake is filled with icebergs calved from the Vatnajokull glacier.  There are thousand of icebergs (which can last for up to 5 years) in this lagoon, many eroded into unusual shapes by the elements.  It’s fun to watch them finally being washed out to sea.  A colony of seals has made its home in the lagoon so keep an eye out for them.  Boat tours of the lagoon are provided during the tourist season, although when we visited it was much too windy for a boat tour, with wind gusts probably up to 40 mph.


We spent more than two days in South Iceland.  It would have been easy to spend a week or more here, especially if we really wanted to get into some serious hiking or hut-to-hut backpacking in the Landmannalaugar region.  South Iceland offers glacier adventures, horse riding, and interesting islands, some of which you can visit (eg. Westman Islands). If you have limited amount of time to spend in Iceland and want to get out of the capitol region, I would recommend you journey into South Iceland.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.



 For an extended high resolution slide show of South Iceland, please go to this link.  The slide show is at the bottom of the post.  Click on the right sided icon of the slideshow's toolbar for full screen enlargements



south-iceland-2013-051 South Iceland Eyjafjallajökull


(Farm in South Iceland)


Images (23)
  • Kerid Crater, South Iceland
  • Whooping Swans taking flight, South Iceland: There were hundreds of these swans migrating
  • Small farm in South Iceland, near Eyjafjallajökull volcano
  • Farm in South Iceland: A beautiful and picturesque setting
  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall, South Iceland: One of those "walk behind the water" waterfalls
  • Skogafoss waterfall, South Iceland
  • Rainbow over a lagoon in South Iceland
  • Small stone arch at Dyrholaey, Iceland: The area is known for its birding cliffs and large arch (this is the small one)
  • Channel into Lagoon near Dyrholaey: Note the basalt pillar on the right
  • Basalt Columns at Reynisfjara beach: There's a large sea cave just behind these formations
  • Vik, South Iceland: Iceland's most southerly town
  • Black sand beach at Vik, South Iceland: The beach goes on for miles and, as you can see, you'll be all by yourself
  • Reynisdrangar rock formation, near Vik,  South Iceland: A distinct landmark used by mariners for centuries
  • Vatnajokull glacier viewed from west, South Iceland
  • Vatnajokull glacier and lava field, with black sand
  • Svinafelljokull Glacier, South Iceland
  • Vatnajokull glacier, South Iceland
  • Jokulsarlon Lagoon, South Iceland: Iceland's famous "iceberg lagoon"
  • Jokulsarlon Lagoon, South Iceland
  • Rainbow over South Iceland
  • Herd of Iceland horses, South Iceland
  • Icelandic horse, South Iceland: Love the hair!!!
  • Going for a horseback ride, South Iceland

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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Undeniably Iceland is the most stunning place on earth and you will truly be fascinated by the clear blue lakes, natural geysers, rolling meadows, volcanic craters and abundance of wildlife. I have been lucky to have vacation in this beautiful spot when we have visited this place by the help of KosherTravelers. This place is rich with culture and history, having lots of eye catching sightseeing to visit that has truly become the amazing trip of my lifetime.

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