Iceland’s South Coast, Part One

Our second morning in Iceland began with a continental breakfast at our hotel before our group of seven piled into two rental cars to begin our south coast road trip.  One of the great things about traveling with Percussive Tours, was that we were able to customize our trip as much or as little as we wanted.  For this day, we broke off from the larger group as they were doing the Golden Circle, a tour that we had already done the previous day.  The forecast for Reykjavík’s weather was more optimistic than the previous day, so we hoped for clear skies.

As we drove away from the city, it became more and more apparent that we would not get the nice weather we had wanted.  Rain pelted the windshield as we drove past incredible mountainous terrain dotted by Icelandic horses and shaggy sheep.  We had planned to make our way to Vík, stopping at our destinations along the way, starting with Seljalandsfoss.  By the time we arrived at the famous waterfall the weather showed no signs of improvement so we made an impromptu decision to head straight to Vík, and work our way backwards from there.

We finally arrived in the little town around lunch and had a quick meal at Víkurskáli, which is right next to the black sand beach.  It was very foggy, but every now and then we could catch a glimpse of the rock formations on the beach as the mist lifted and settled periodically.  Once we were all full, we set out for the beach.  We had to hike a short trail to get there, all the while dodging puddles.  At the beach, we found a long breakwater, beautiful rock formations, and stunningly black sand dotted with smooth stones.  the contrast between the dark sand and the white, misty sky and frothy water was striking.  It felt as if all of the color had been drained from the world, and we were left walking in a black and white photograph.  The sea was wild, and the sand gritty under our feet.

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Our next stop was Reynisdrangar, which is a beach with tall basalt columns just north of Vík.  It was nearing high tide when we arrived, and the waves were coming up very close to the basalt columns, but I knew from prior research that just around a corner there was a cave in the cliff side.  We waited for an opportunity between waves and ran around the columns into the cave, where we watched the powerful tide for a bit before running out of the other side of the cave.  Here we saw even more jagged cliffs, and to our surprise and delight, Puffins circled overhead.  We stayed here marveling at the cliffs and the birds until the tide threatened to cut us off from the other side of the beach where we were parked.

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After returning to our cars, we set course for Dyrhólaey, a large arch extending into the sea.  We drove up a very steep hill to get to an overlook area where we saw…absolutely nothing.  The rock formation was completely enveloped in the thick fog.  The drive up the mountain was worth it though, because there were puffins hunkered out on the cliff just feet away from us.  I am a serious nerd when it comes to birds, so I went into a gleeful frenzy, taking pictures and watching the adorable little puffins stretching their wings.  This completely overshadowed the disappointment of not seeing Dyrhólaey.  Puffins can only be found in Iceland in the summer months, and I was told that they were all gone two weeks after we were there, so I am thrilled to have been able to see them.

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Now our day trip was halfway over, and we plugged Sólheimajökull into our GPS.  I’ll be writing about this glacial tongue and the south coast waterfalls in my next post!

Prints from this post are available for purchase in my Etsy store!

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