Touring the South Coast of Iceland for two Days
My Experience in the South of Iceland
Note: I’m trying to get a plugin working that allows readers to see these images in fullscreen, but wordpress is making this difficult.
My total travel time in Iceland is one month. That includes two separate volunteer work camps and two completely unsupervised road trips. One to the north end of the country and one along the southern coast. The south of Iceland is much easier to get to than the north. It has a huge amount of stunning sights available just by following the main road.
My furthest destination, and the main reason i’m making this trip, is to see the icebergs at Jökulsárlón. This is a large lagoon formed by meltwater from the glacier located in Vatnajökull National Park. According to Google the distance from Reykjavik toJökulsárlón is only 4 hours drive. However it took me closer to 13.5 hours because I had to keep stopping to take more photos. Definitely one of the most photogenic drives i’ve ever taken, and that includes New Zealand. (Sorry New Zealand, it’s true…).
I left Reykjavik at 9:00am and finally arrived at the lagoon at 10:30pm. It may sound like a late arrival time but it’s actually a great time to make images of the lagoon. In August here is still plenty of sunlight available but bring a tripod just in case.
Another really cool thing about shooting in Iceland in summertime is that the blue hour lasts way longer than an hour. Here is one featuring myself and the full effect of the blue hour. This shot has only a minor contrast adjustment.
My recommendations for Jökulsárlón
It goes without saying that one of the reasons to go to Jökulsárlón is for the photos. So after your camera, the next most important piece of gear is a tripod. The larger icebergs are mostly stationary so doing longer exposures is possible. If you don’t have a tripod then improvise. There are lots of stable rocks and its possible to set your camera on one to keep it steady.
A Neutral Density filter is not essential but I highly recommend bringing one. An ND filter makes it possible to do even longer exposures and get the soft, smooth look to the water and the clouds. Also bring a lens cloth. There is often mist in the air and if this builds up on the lens it will lead to nasty droplets showing up in the final image.
Besides camera gear, bring warm clothes. I tend to be comfortable in cooler weather so i wore shorts, but I met travellers on the beach who were much colder and huddled under blankets.
The icebergs flow out into the ocean and collect along the Diamond Beach. While visiting the Diamond Beach I accomplished a dream i’ve had for a while. I drank some whiskey cooled with ice from an iceberg. I don’t carry a whisky tumbler with me when I travel, but I do have a bowl for cereal. So I improvised and used that instead. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this, but I do have a photo of me eating some of the ice.
Other sights along the route to Jökulsárlón
One of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland is Seljalandsfoss. The coolest thing is the path that goes behind the falls. There is even a rock you can stand on where the water falls directly on to you. This makes for great photo opportunities, and a chance to get clean. The light was really flat due to overcast clouds but even in these conditions the falls are an amazing subject to shoot.
The falls are free to visit, but there is a parking machine that dispenses tickets for 700 ISK or about $7 USD. I decided to avoid the parking fee and left the car in a lot about a 10 minute walk away. However, talking to others who visited I found out they did not pay. They said there didn’t seem to be anyone checking the cars for unpaid visitors. So I guess take your chances?
Another Waterfall. I didn’t actually visit this waterfall so I can’t comment on prices or parking situation. However I took the following shot just by pulling over to the side of the main road.
The horses are not located in a particular touristy area. They are on farms and the side of the roads all over the place. I fed these two a lot of the nice green grass that was growing on my side of the fence. They were appreciative enough to pose for me.
The Vikings who settled Iceland brought ponies with them. Through selectively breeding and natural selection they have become very sturdy animals. Icelandic law prohibits the import of any new horses, and any that leave are no longer allowed back into the country. The horses are generally smaller and very sturdy. They are very important in Norse mythology and were considered symbols of fertility. Some horses still get used for herding sheep today.
US Navy DC 3 Wreckage
This plane is available to explore for absolutely no money at all. It only takes is a 45 minute walk across a landscape that looks like the moon. That was a total surprise for me. All I saw was a bunch of cars on the side of the road in a parking lot. I thought this attraction might be either a black sand beach, or maybe some icebergs. However I there is no way I was going to ask anyone. Call me proud, but there i’m not going to turn away from an attraction after already committing 25 minutes walking towards it. Maybe i’m just stubborn. I started to ask myself if even icebergs were worth the super long walk over rough ground.
Then on the horizon I saw the plane. I like planes. Even ones that crashed. Actually this one didn’t crash. The pilot didn’t set the controls correctly and the engines starved of fuel. So the pilot landed, but due to the rough area the plane was not capable of taking off again. So it was abandoned and scavenged. I heard the tail section is now attached to a house nearby. I have no idea who took the wings and avionics. Its just a shell of what it used to be. Many people think the plane crashed in WWII but it actually landed in 1973.
The walk there and back is a 1.5 hour round trip. Add to that a half hour of exploring and taking photos and this is a 2 hour hike along with a popular attraction. I don’t recommend attempting to see this in winter or in windy weather. The wind storms pick up the black sand and, during storms, are known to remove the paint from one side of a rental car.
There are so many places to take photos of the surrounding nature. BUT, don’t stop your car in the middle of the road. The main highway is only a two lane road. There are bridge crossings where the road narrows down to one lane. Be respectful of others and pull well off the road. When you do you will be rewarded with stunning views of nature.
There are many other sites that tourists typically visit on the south coast. Dyrhólaey is a big natural stone arch. Sólheimajökull is a glacier, and Reynisdrangar is a black sand beach. I didn’t visit any of these locations. I simply ran out of time, and prioritized the locations I saw instead. There is just too much to see everything in two days, and to also give each location the time it deserves to explore properly.
Very Old Farmhouses
Conclusion goes here…
For more reading on my journey in Iceland check out my post from last week. Right now i’m on Westman Island volunteering at the Icelands largest music festival. Check back next week to get my opinion of this fantastic event.
Iceland is soon coming to an end. But I have so much more to write about. Do you like this new style of blog i’m writing? Please leave a comment below!