A 12 Hour Epic Journey through South Iceland: Waterfalls, Beaches and Glaciers.

Iceland hasn’t previously been the most obvious travel destination (Iceland? land of ice you say? It’s pretty cold and grim, no?), however in recent years, and this year in particular, it’s popularity has exploded; ‘tourism is now the largest revenue-generating sector in Iceland’ (Reykjavik Grapevine). This is probably something to do with people discovering that Iceland isn’t actually as cold as you’d first think (in fact both times I have visited it’s only been a few degrees cooler than our UK weather) and grim it certainly isn’t.
Most visitors will base themselves in Reykjavik, and incredible as the world’s most northerly capital city is with it’s colourful mismatched architecture and friendly cafes, venturing out of town is where you’ll discover what Iceland is all about. 

On our first trip to Iceland we’d completed the fantastic Golden Circle, indulged in a good handful of Reykjavik’s geothermal pools and dazzled ourselves with a weeks’ worth of Northern Light sightings. This time around we’d set our hearts on experiencing the Glacier Lagoon in South Iceland, but – slight issue – we had, like most, based ourselves in Reykjavik for the week.

So can you do it? Can you go to Jokulsarlon and back to Reykjavik in one day?

After a slap up breakfast of Skyr, we left our hotel (Fosshotel Baron) at around 8am. This was a bit later than we’d originally planned; we had a few rental car issues – one flat tyre certainly wasn’t going to get us far. We had to wait for the main garage to open for them to swop our car to one with four working wheels.

Now on the road, we made our first stop after just less than two hours. As we reached Seljalandsfoss, a beautiful waterfall on the left of the ring road, the sun was beginning to rise over the mountains. In the summer you can walk behind these falls, in the winter it’s far too snowy. 


We then took a second stop on the route to see the great Skogafoss a few minutes later (again very easy to find on the left hand side of Route 1 as you drive to the East, although a little bit further back from the road).

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The next major planned stop was the small town of Vik for the black beaches. White sand is so overrated – this black sand was amazing. It was this really heavy jet black colour contrasting with the white snow. You’ll also see some fantastic basalt rock formations out to sea and the gorgeous red-roofed Vik-kirkja (Vik Church) perched on the top of the hill.

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This was the last main town we were going to visit before driving the final few hours to Jokulsarlon, so it was a quick hot dog, bathroom break, top up of the the gas and back in the car. 

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The stretch of road after Vik is admittedly relatively plain and flat without much to see as you drive along, but after an hour or so it starts getting much more mountainous again… and then you start coming across these flecks of blue bursting between each peak.

The Glacier!

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The road then meanders back towards the coast and takes you between a large hill and the ocean, which is where you can peer to your left and catch glimpses of the Glacier Lagoon peeping out between the gaps. We then parked up in the roped off areas and hiked up the bank for a spectacular view of the lagoon.

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We were the only ones there at the time; it was so silent, all you could hear was the ice moaning and cracking. Incredible.

Jokulsarlon is also a pretty special place for me, as I was proposed to on the bank of lagoon (Of course I said yes!)

The entire journey took around 12 hours, including stopping at the two waterfalls, the black beach and the Glacier lagoon, plus any other random photo stops along the way. It probably took us a little longer than most; in the last two hours of the journey, upon encountering some particularly bad weather, our window wipers didn’t feel up the job any longer and failed to engage. Urgh. Just our luck.

Whenever the heavens opened, or a car passed us on the other side of the road, the spray would splatter up our window, completely obliterating our vision. We had no choice but to pull up, manually wipe the windscreen and soldier on. Every. Two. Minutes. 

It was knackering. It was like an endurance test; when you realise that you’re on the return journey, having already driven for 7 hours, and you’re still got another 4 or 5 left to go (!!).

But, I got to see the Glacier Lagoon, and it was amazing. 

13 thoughts on “A 12 Hour Epic Journey through South Iceland: Waterfalls, Beaches and Glaciers.

      1. haha ! 🙂 We were lucky to find a spot where there was no one. It was at the end of the day, and light was really gorgeous. And we were at the other end of it (not close to the main office and toilet). Oh gosh, we were planning to get married in Iceland as well in 2017. Did you use a wedding planner ? Can you give me some info ?

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      2. You know I never even saw a main office? And we were the only on’es there too! I think because we were the only one’s mad enough to drive in that terrible weather we were having – i’m so surprised we managed to get there and back without slipping off the side of a hill or something!

        I’m actually not using a wedding planner – we are trying to do it all ourselves. I contacted the Icelandic embassy in the UK, and they put me in touch with the correct person to deal with the paperwork. I also wanted to get in touch with the local pastor, which I managed to get contact details for through emailing a local hotel who were very useful! Ours is going to be very low-key so that’s pretty much all the organising we need to do!
        We haven’t decided on if we are having a photographer yet, because our budget is small, and we are going to go for a group meal in Reykjavik at a city center restaurant somewhere. The wedding planners were too expensive for us, so doing it alone was potentially saved us about £4000…

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      3. I inquired with a wedding planner at got given a price of £6,000 minimum. But we only have a couple of grand, and have (or should) manage to do a week in Iceland with a wedding, group meal, accommodation for us only, and our own flights, food, car hire, petrol and a few excursions for just over 2k. The actual church hire itself was very affordable, so it’s just normal ‘holiday’ expenses from there.
        It might be worth asking them, although I’m not sure they would be willing to offer up advice for free – might be wrong though!
        Are you looking to get married in Reykjavik or elsewhere? There are different offices for each area, I have the contacts for the Reykjavik offices and the south Iceland office in Selfoss.

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      4. We have to pay for the family so for us it’s going to be very expensive (maybe too expensive actually :-(…). We will be 7.

        We are planning to stay in a good hotel — probably in reykjavik because our parents requires comfort (they are older), then go to vik to get married and then go to see the glacial lagoon the day after the wedding. I will still contact them then do your option if it’s really too expensive

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      5. Ah! Yes you might be a little more! We are just staying in an airbnb, to save on costs. If you are planning on getting married in Vik, i can put you in touch with the pastor that works in the area – I think he covers all of the churches in Vik, including the large on on the hill (the one we’ve chosen!). I can email you this over if you need any more help. Him and Anna at the Selfoss office (where you can do your paperwork have been VERY helpful in knowing what to do with legal side and getting all the paperwork in check. Let me know 🙂
        So exciting!

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