After an amazing first couple of days in Iceland, I was ready for more. So, obviously, I booked the most ambitious tour that I could find. You know, one of those trips that makes you need a vacation from your vacation. But I was confident that a 15 hour long bus tour of the south coast of Iceland was going to be THE BEST. I was half right and half wrong. The Iceland bit was amazing. The tour bit…not so much.
I booked through a big company, as that was the only way to make such a long excursion affordable. Needless to say it was a very different experience than I the one I’d had on my previous tour (see Iceland – Part 1). When you’re on a huge motor coach and there are three dozen people, it’s really hard to make connections, and way too easy to just keep to yourself. When you have a language barrier with most of the people on the bus, those things are even more likely to happen. Two thirds of the riders with me spoke German and I ended up having a bit of a lonely day. The great thing about it though was getting to remember how small and big the world is at the same time. The less great thing was that the tour guide gave the tour in two languages, and more often than not forgot to say the information in the language that I speak, and I kept having to remind him to relay everything in both tongues. That and some other interactions with the guide made for a less enjoyable time for me that day, but boy did I see some amazing sites, so let’s get to those.
First stop was Skógafoss waterfall. This fall is a single wide drop from the Skógá River. It’s almost 200 feet tall and roaring. You walk along the banks of the river as it flows to the coast through the black sands typical of the south coast of Iceland. I made my way up to the waterfall that sent mist my way, a little soggier with every step I took closer. Across the banks there were sheep grazing in the grass. This summer, Iceland has had more rain than usual and everything was the most green shade of green I had ever seen. Maybe it was from the contrast with the black sand, but really I think it was all just that verdant!
Next stop was the seaside village of Vík í Mýrdal. There wasn’t much time to explore, just enough time for a busload of people to take a pit stop. That left me time to take a little stroll down to the beach. It was an overcast morning, and the black sands and grey skies made the shoreline look like it was in a melancholy mood. I took the break to just be quiet and listen to the water as the sun tried its best to break through the clouds.
After leaving the village, the coach made its way to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the highlight of the tour. It’s not every day you get to take a boat tour around a lake dotted with blue and white icebergs while the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and mountains serve as your backdrop. The sun had even chased the clouds away and we were treated to a bright blue arctic sky.
The amphibion boat tour around the lagoon was amazing! I learned that all the icebergs we were looking at were made of ice that was thousands of years old, having slowly made their way down the mountain as part of the glacier. When icebergs turn over in the water they are a brilliant clear blue until the outside air frosts the iceberg and turns the exterior to white. We even got to sample ice from a piece of one of the icebergs – a little taste of Iceland!
This stop also let me take a the short walk from the lagoon down to Diamond Beach. As the icebergs melt and break apart in the lagoon, they follow the stream out to the ocean. The ice washes up to shore in big chunks that look like clear diamonds contrasting against the black sands of the beach. It’s a fun area to photograph and the ice is mesmerizing. So mesmerizing in fact, that you can easily forget that you’re at the edge an active ocean. I was very grateful for waterproof boots.
The drive back to Reykjakiv made for another break in Vík at cocktail hour. I got myself a split of bubbly and took it for a solo stroll on the beach.
We also took a break from the drive for the group to walk in one of Iceland’s many lava fields. The entire island was sculpted by fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers. The lava flow from eruptions hardens into rock creating miles upon miles of lava fields. This landscape grows only mosses and lichen and looks dramatically desolate and sad and beautiful.
Our last stop on the tour was so exciting and fun. Pulling up to Seljalandsfoss made me very wary as it was full of tourists, but once I got closer it was like I walked through a dozen rainbows in the mist of this waterfall. Seljalandsfoss falls 200 feet over a wide cliff with several other small waterfalls to keep it company. The trail that goes up to the waterfall leads you into the spray and takes you on a walk through an overhanging shelter behind the falls. It was amazing to be able to see the low evening sun from behind the falls and listen to the crash of the water as it hit the pool below.
As challenging as the actual tour was due to the many complaints (unspoken here) I had about the guide, there is certainly no denying the beauty of the south coast of Iceland. It made for an exhaustingly long day, but never in my life did I think I’d get to see icebergs up close, or walk behind a waterfall as the sun set, or look out at the Atlantic ocean from a black sand beach. All in all, it was a very magical day.
Click through the gallery below for more photos and stay tuned for Part III!