Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying tour company, Aurora Hunters, on a 2-day guided adventure down Iceland’s picturesque South Coast, one of the country’s major sightseeing routes. Read on for my review of this 2 Day Guided Tour | South Coast to Jokulsarlon in a Small Group.
Breathtaking; awe-inspiring; jaw-dropping; all of these words could be used to describe the natural attractions that await visitors along Iceland’s southern bank. Second only to the Golden Circle, the South Coast has truly earned its place as one of this island’s most beautiful journeys.
Boasting black sand beaches and deserts, mighty glaciers and rumbling waterfalls, as well as the “Crown Jewel of Iceland”, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, experiencing the South Coast is a must for all those looking to maximise their time in this ancient country.
My day began on time with the swift arrival of an Aurora Hunters guide to my Reykjavík accommodation. Our guide for the day jumped from the vehicle to help me store my photograph bag, offering his hand in a friendly introduction. An Icelandic accent, but fluent English, immediately instilled in me a level of confidence.
Thankfully, this tour promised only small group sizes, so I was satisfied to find only a few other customers sitting in the back of the bus, most of whom wore tired eyes matched with eager smiles.
Soon enough, we were being whisked off towards our first stop, Seljalandsfoss waterfall. En route, we passed meadow upon meadow, coastline upon coastline, rarely passing another traveller on the road. Astounded by the scenery’s beauty, I pressed my nose to the window of the minibus, my gaze falling on distant mountainscapes, volcanoes and glaciers.
This truly is the land of ice and fire.
At Seljalandsfoss waterfall, we took our time appreciating this magnificent feature through photographs and happy chatter and followed a path into the shallow cavern that rests behind the tumbling water. A little further en route, we made our second stop at Skógafoss, a much wider waterfall blessed with two observation points; one at the base, the other high at the lip.
Having recently watched the first episode of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, I was immediately taken by the striking similarities between the waterfall in real life, and as it was shown through the magic of CGI on the show.
Fortunately, I was overwhelmed by the notion that Skógafoss was far more striking as I saw it now, crowned on either side by moss-laden cliffsides, a thick plume of mist rising from the shallow pool at its base.
Once we felt satisfied with our time at the falls, we continued toward the coastal fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal, famous as the home of the black sand beach Reynisfjara. Before exploring this stunning stretch of shoreline further, however, we had a couple of appointments left to check-off. The first of which was, of course, lunch.
Luckily, Vík í Mýrdal has a charming, canteen-style cafe that serves up some delicious hot food. I helped down my serving—an admirable, if not basic beef burger—with a piping hot cup of coffee, perfect for a cold spring day in Iceland.
Following lunch, we left the comforts of the village behind and headed straight to Sólheimajökull glacier. As an outlet glacier of the gargantuan, Mýrdalsjökull, this frozen giant loomed over us, dominating the landscape with its sweeping glacial tongues and cavernous ice cliffs.
At the base of the glacier, we adorned crampons and helmets, then set out amidst the gleaming white crevasses that snaked their way across the landscape.
We had an opportunity to return to Reynisfjara beach. Standing on the jet-black volcanic sands, watching with dark eyes as the sun drifted behind Reynisdranagar rock stacks, dipping just beyond the horizon, a feeling of gratefulness swept over the group. As they say, under the Midnight Sun, there’s no such thing as a stranger.
In the evening, we retired to local accommodation. Comfortable and cosy, I slept soundly, dreaming sleepy visions of the day’s past adventures.
The next morning, the group was hustled from the solace of their duvets back into the minivan; the second day of our adventure was upon us, and it promised delights as we had never experienced, nature so majestic and heavenly that it defied belief itself.
First, we travelled across the famed Sólheimasandur black sand desert, a vast area of flat black rock that was the consequence of centuries-old glacial floods in the area.
As we traversed this empty and featureless space, the astonishing rise of Vatnajökull park appeared on the horizon, reminding of that our first stop was Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, one of the most beloved visitor site sites in Iceland.
Stepping up to the lagoon, its beauty immediately strikes one; enormous icebergs float peacefully on a still, mirror-like water surface, groaning and rolling slowly as they bump into one another on their smooth journey toward the Atlantic Ocean. All the while, resident seals played amongst the ice, only adding to the character of this frozen paradise.
Only five minutes’ stroll away, we stumbled across the Diamond Beach, a strip of coast where icebergs wash up against the black sand shoreline, creating amazing seasonal contrasts. The photographers amongst us were quick to pick up on this, snapping the waves in timelapse as they poured over the icebergs, creating unreal visuals.
We made a couple of other stops on the journey, though given that these sites are routinely billed as “hidden gems”, the guide swore to me secrecy. I think I’m within my right to say, however, that the beauty and unique character of these sites were just as staggering as the tour’s major attractions.
All in all, this 2-day guided adventure is a sure-win for visitors looking to maximise their sightseeing time in the land of ice and fire. Not only will you witness some of the country’s most beautiful natural sites, but will also learn in-depth about its fascinating geography, culture and history. This is one tour in Iceland not to be missed.