Although some DIY experiences don’t always turn out the way you had pictured it, let us be the first to tell you that a DIY Iceland South Coast tour leaps and bounds more worth it than you may think. The accessibility and freedom that driving the Ring Road on your own (we mean, not with a guided tour) provides you is some of the most thrilling parts of the journey and really enriches your travel experience. Below you will find a summary of our tour along the southern coast of Iceland and some of the things we encountered that may be beneficial to you for the next time you are planning this type of adventure.
Leaving from Reykjavík, we embarked on the beginning of our south coast tour by jumping on the Ring Road headed towards Vík. We would have many stops along the way before reaching our destination. The drive started early in the morning, the sun not yet risen, and we were full of excitement and wonder in preparation of discovering what this country had to offer! Our itinerary began with a trip to a ferry harbour in hopes of visiting Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westman Islands. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before we hit our first road block. Due to the exceptionally rough waters caused by the strong winds, the ferry wasn’t running that day. The first leg wasn’t spoiled completely though since it was the first opportunity we had to see a black sand beach. The sand in Iceland is completely black due the volcanic ash that has settled after eruptions occur.
The second stop on our south coast tour led us to the magnificent waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. Disclaimer: this was by far one of our greatest experiences of the entire trip. Largely due to the fact that it is the first awe-inspiring landmark you come across heading to the south coast, Seljalandsfoss represented everything we had pictured before coming to Iceland. Its tall, roaring falls, the mist blasting you for all directions (because you can even walk behind the falls!), and the complimenting lush, green mountain backdrop really left an impression on us.
Some things to keep in mind when visiting the waterfall:
- Take the opportunity to walk around the entire falls – It is the only waterfall we encountered that let you experience it from every angle, and it is totally worth it. Just be cautious on the slippery rocks and take things slow.
- Make sure you are covered head to toe in waterproof rain gear – If it isn’t raining during your visit, the falls themselves will certainly make you wet (and there’s a smaller waterfall off to its right that you can visit inside a little cavern alcove that will definitely get your clothes wet).
- Respect the environment and preserve its natural beauty – There aren’t many barriers to most natural wonders in Iceland and it would be a shame for others after you to not experience its awesomeness the same way we did.
The next stop on this DIY tour lead us a sight a little bit more off the beaten path. An old Douglas Super DC-3 airplane wreckage, just a few kilometres off the Ring Road. It used to be a United States Navy cargo plane but now only its outer shell and wings remain crash landed on Solheimasandur beach, leaving behind a very unique tourist attraction that we definitely recommend you check out along your self-guided tour. FYI the whole crew survived so there is nothing haunting about the site but just a few very cool picture opportunities!
Dyrhólaey was next up on the itinerary and featured some of the strongest winds we encountered on the trip. This was probably one of the better opportunities to get acquainted with the black sand beaches and washed over rocks of the coast of Iceland.
Lastly, was our drive through the town (village?) of Skógar wherein lies the gigantic waterfall of Skógafoss and a little folk museum detailing more of the area. Skógafoss was certainly one of the more picturesque waterfalls along the southern coast of the island. With a drop of approximately 200 ft, it stands as one of the bigger ones you will get a chance to see if you drive the tour on your own. A word of caution however, as with most sites in Iceland, there aren’t many barriers holding you back from witnessing the beauty of the waterfall. Tread carefully along the many mountain steps and ledges trying to get that perfect picture! Also, if you fancy yourself a treasure hunter, apparently a legend dictates the first Viking settler in the area buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall…
The best part of driving the south coast of Iceland is the ability to set things at your own pace. Whether you are visiting for only a week like we did, or a month, it gives you the chance to stop and really appreciate the things you value you most.
Beach lover? Take an extra hour getting that black sand stuck between your toes.
Waterfall hunter? Drive the mountain side for as long as you want discovering every nook and cranny of falling water. Since Seljalandsfoss was such an incredible experience for us, we spent much more time exploring that area than we did some of the other wonders of the coast.
The luxury of the rental car really gave us a new perspective on travelling where we weren’t subject to rigid departure times and restrictions set by tour companies. Don’t get us wrong, in the right situations tour companies can offer you a much better experience for that particular setting, we just felt that a DIY south coast Iceland tour is definitely the best way to experience that part of the country.
Have you driven the southern coast of Iceland?
Any hidden hangouts you’ve discovered?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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