Southern Iceland road trip (day 2 of 2)
Our southern Iceland road trip seemed to get even better on day 2. If you haven’t read about day one, you can check it out here. After spending the night at Hotel Katla, and enjoying the included breakfast, it was time to hit the road again. Our second day of driving would begin just west of Vik with amazing sights to see on our way back to Reykjavik. The view from our window during breakfast looked out upon the Reynisdrangar. They are a spiky rock formation out in the ocean, just off eastern side of Vik’s famous Reynisfjara (black sand beach). After looking at if from afar, it was time to get a little more up close and personal with this famous black sand beach.
Our first stop that morning was a cliff on the west side of the black sand beach called Dyrholaey. Dyrholaey is one of the best places to see Puffins. The puffins are most easily seen in the morning or late evening. Unfortunately, we drove up to the cliff at 8:15am, only to find that the road doesn’t open until 9am. This is an effort to protect the puffins nesting area. After they opened the road, we made the short drive to a tiny parking lot on the cliffs edge. Sure enough, we saw puffins in the water below, and in their nests on the cliff only a few feet away. Make sure to take advantage of every path from the parking lot. We even walked down to the black sand beach. It was easy to imagine the area as a volcano thousands of years ago. The views were uncompromising from almost every angle. I’m not really into bird watching, but it was exhilarating to see Puffins so close. I had seen them in Alaska a few years before, but not this close.
Our next stop was actually one of the reasons we paid extra money to rent a 4wd. We headed to the site of Iceland’s famous plane crash. Quite remote, requiring a slow pace and strict adherence to a faint trail, we made it to the sight of the 1973 US DC3 plane crash. As for the plane crash, all crew members survived, but the fuselage was abandoned on the black sand beach providing an eerie but beautiful photography location. The plane was deemed to expensive to retrieve, so they left most of it. Renting a car in Iceland is horribly expensive. While people claim you can get to our next stop without 4WD, I wouldn’t want to try. We were also quite worried about a tire puncture due to the sharp lava rocks before you get to the beach for most of the route. We used this post from Expert Vagabond in order to find the crash site, and I’m sure that we wouldn’t have found it without his help.
It is a strange, magical experience that was even better because we were the only people there for the entirety of our visit. I’ve heard it can be crowded at times, which seems to ruin people’s experience. We were there by 10am, so I think early in the day might be the best time. The midnight sun causes people to stay up late and sleep in a little, so get up and get out there! We could hear the waves in the distance, but could only see a faint view of them. It almost felt like a movie set. But this is one of the reasons why I loved Iceland. These obscure natural wonders and lack of people. We spent almost an hour, climbing all over the plane, taking photos from every possible angle, and even a few videos. Even the photos of our lone rental car on the black sand beach looked like a TV commercial photo shoot. It was hard to leave the amazing scene and head back to the main road.
The Skogafoss waterfall at our next stop was one of the widest waterfalls that we saw on our travels through Iceland. Skogafoss was one of the few waterfalls that felt like a tiny town had sprouted up around it. I noticed a small hotel with a restaurant just outside the small parking lot for the waterfall too. People got wetter and wetter the closer they got to the waterfall. Skogafoss has a walking trail up the east side of the falls that leads to a viewing platform. If you are afraid of heights, it’s important to note that the platform is a grate, that you can see beneath. I could tell some people were a little freaked out by it. But the walking trail is reinforced with a steel staircase and one sided railing.
During our trip in Iceland, I wanted to visit a non-touristy bathing pool. Our next stop was the perfect chance. Fellow travelers probably remember the Eyafjallajokull volcano that erupted ash in 2010 and disrupted flights between Europe and the US for several weeks. Well, there is a bathing pool called Sejavallalaug at the base of it. The water trickles from volcanic hot springs above into a pool built along it’s edge. So one side is the rough volcano mountain side, and the other three sides are concrete walls. This warm pool is nothing short of magnificent. It was built in the 1920s in an effort to ensure that people knew how to swim. At that time, most Icelanders made their money from fishing but did not know how to swim.
Taking a road straight through the town of Seljavellir, until the rugged road dead ends (thankful for the 4wd again) and parking your car is only part of the trip. It then takes a 20 minute rocky hike towards the volcano and across a small glacier river to get there. We carried our swim suits and towels in a sack and changed in the rugged out building once we got there. There are no showers, attendants or services at the pool. One of the greatest aspects of this pool is the work it takes to get there. We were only joined by one other couple during our visit. I’d recommend bringing flip flops too. It would have been easier to change and walk around the pool to get in and out. Dragging hiking socks and shoes over sorta wet feet was a small hassle.
In addition, the glacier run off river/stream goes right past the pool. So you can dunk your feet or body in the icy river, and walk back to the volcanic water pool to get warm again. Sort of like a modified polar plunge. The surrounding mountains and view were spectacular. We stayed about an hour and a half, and if I came again, I’d plan for just a little but more time. It was a remote, free, small piece of paradise. I was reluctant to leave. This was becoming a habit at each stop on our road trip.
Our last stop was Seljalandsfoss waterfall. By this time a lot of the waterfalls were beginning to blend together in our minds. Seljalandsfoss sets itself apart because there is a walking path that goes behind it. I would recommend a long poncho or a rain jacket and rain pants. The spray off of the powerfull force of the waterfall is very strong in several places. Since the path is a complete circle, it doesn’t matter which way you go, but I will say the left side was a little more wet and treacherous. Hiking boots or good sneakers are a must. Can you spot the little dots that are the people behind the waterfall in the picture above? The waterfall is much larger than it seems.
As we pulled into Reykjavik that evening we felt like we’d had seen everything we wanted to on our 2 day road trip on the southern coast of Iceland. None of these sights had entrance fees, although we did pay for the zodiac boat experience. Which seemed like a great trade off since the rental car was really expensive. Hubby and I tried to pick out one favorite sight from each of the 2 days. We couldn’t do it. It was just one amazing thing after another. I know that if we come back to Iceland, I’m excited to take off from Reykjavik in another direction. I’m just sure there are more amazing things to see.
This post was not sponsored and all opinions are my own. The links are there just to make your own research easier. I have to give a HUGE shout out to an Icelandic blog called I heart Reykjavik. Audur lives in Reykjavik and writes all about the adventures she has taken in her own country. I relied heavily on her southern Iceland drive it yourself post. We added or deleted stops based on our own interests. She noted the plane crash, but couldn’t find the turn off, so I felt like a pro when we made it there! I love getting travel advice and inspiration from other blogs. They seem so much more useful and authentic than reading a where to eat, stay and play article in a magazine. Many thanks to Audur!! I’m sure I’ll check back in with her blog when I head to Iceland again. Winter trip to Iceland, anyone??