Our sightseeing tour of Iceland had gotten off to a great start with our trip around the Golden Circle. On our second full day, we joined another tour with Arctic Adventures to see more of the south coast.
Again, we had amazing views during the drive as we headed southeast out of Reykjavik.
Iceland’s climate and terrain is not amenable to much crop growth, so the bulk of its agricultural land is used for raising livestock — particularly sheep, which we saw aplenty throughout the day.
A stop at Skógafoss Waterfall
We started off with a visit to another impressive Icelandic waterfall — Skógafoss, situated on the Skógá River at the cliff marking the former coastline. Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, measuring 82 feet wide and dropping 200 feet. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. On sunny days, you can frequently see a single or double rainbow over the waterfall, which seems apropos of the treasure legend.
The top of the waterfall is accessible via a climb up 430 steps, which was our workout for the week.
Stepping on a glacier
Next up was the coolest thing we did in Iceland, a walk on Sólheimajökull. This unpronounceable destination is an outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth largest glacier.
Our tour did not officially include a glacier hike, but our guide offered us the opportunity to do a short walk onto the glacier up until we reached the threshold requiring crampons and other gear.
We also enjoyed the walk back along the shore to see some other incredible views.
Walking on a black sand beach
For lunch, we stopped at a cafe by Reynisfjara Beach. We ordered the lamb chops which took a while to arrive and were concerned that we wouldn’t have time to explore the beach, but they did eventually come out and we managed to spend a decent chunk of time strolling around.
The highlights of this black sand beach are the roaring Atlantic Ocean waves and the Reynisdrangar basalt stacks — which legend says originated when two trolls unsuccessfully dragged a three-masted ship to land during the night and broke into needles of rock upon exposure to daylight. The cliffs on the west side of the beach are home to numerous seabirds, including puffins that nestle into the shallow soils during nesting season. We missed puffin season so didn’t get a chance to see any during our visit.
Reynisfjara is located in Vik, a small seaside village and the southernmost settlement in Iceland. The village has only about 300 permanent inhabitants, and our guide told us that it is not a desirable place to live given the active risk from being in close proximity to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which itself is on top of the Katla volcano. An eruption of Katla, which is expected to occur in the near future, could easily trigger enough glacier ice to melt and cause a flash flood that would obliterate the entire village.
One last waterfall: Seljalandsfoss
On the way back to Reykjavik, we ended our tour with one last waterfall, my favourite of the three we had seen. Seljalandsfoss is part of the Seljalands River originating from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, with a drop of 197 feet.
It is unique in that it is possible to walk around behind the waterfall. It was a bit treacherous climbing back down on the slippery rocks and we got soaked, but it was worth it to see from this vantage point.
Evening at Sky Lagoon
We returned to Reykjavik in the evening. After a short break at the hotel, we hired a taxi to take us to Sky Lagoon where we had reservations. This geothermal spa located just a 15 minute drive from downtown Reykjavik recently opened in 2021 and I actually discovered it from an episode of The Bachelor, haha. It overlooks Kársnes Harbour, featuring a seven-step spa ritual where you cycle through a series of dry sauna, steam room, cool mist, body scrub, and cold plunge.
We purchased the Pure Pass which included The Ritual, and spent a couple hours here lounging in the warm lagoon and enjoying a drink from the swim up bar. It started to drizzle so it was very atmospheric with the night sky and misty air, although not conducive to photography so I didn’t bother bringing my camera.
This was our final night of a whirlwind trip to Iceland. What an amazing journey! Every sight we saw was more breathtaking than the last, and it was basically impossible to take a bad photo anywhere.
One last blog post coming up: our visit to the Blue Lagoon before heading home.