South Iceland: Nature’s Disneyland

The last leg of our journey around Iceland that would take us back around to Reykjavik is the most popular part of the country. The majority of the sights are reachable within a day and quite often, viewable from the road. For some that’s the ideal way to explore nature and snap their selfies.

It was still an incredible experience and the sights are just as breathtaking as anywhere else on the island but when you have to queue to see a piece of the natural world, there’s something not quite right. Every epic spot had an expansive carpark and all of those carparks were full. It wasn’t even the height of Summer! The campsites were full to the brim with people having to wait to get a spot to cook their food or use the facilities.

We started at a spot I was super keen to see, Hvalnes. It’s a stunning rocky outcrop right next to the sea that has an amazing form and colours and is just a damn beautiful hunk of rock. It will always have a special place in my heart as it’s where I left my hiking boots under the car AGAIN as we drove off. Cue another ten minutes before I realised my brain had once again failed to set a reminder. Doh!

From there we continued along Route 1, edging the coastline and taking in the ever changing scenery on our way to the next “major” sight. We passed Vestrahorn, famed for its stunning reflections and grassy black sand dunes but didn’t quite feel like paying the fee so I just got a quick snap from the carpark.

Oh Hvalnes you epic epic place you!
Not exactly the kind of beach to make sandcastles on and have a cheeky sunbathe.
My shoes. In situ. As I left them……again.
From a distant the Icelandic mountains and rocky cliffs seem barren and lifeless but almost every single chunk of rock is circled by gulls and other birds.
The Children of Lir have multiplied….
Vestrahorn from the car park. You have to pay a fee to see it up close and personal. It’s on private land so that’s fine I guess but plenty of other sights to be seen around Iceland for free.
A wee little fortress from the side of the road.

Our next location was quite special indeed, Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon. Nothing quite prepares you for the sight of massive blocks of ice gently floating out to see after calving of a glacier that is so humongous it beggars belief. I remember learning about glaciers in school and thinking they sounded pretty cool but being from Ireland, they’re long since melted. To see one up close….ish was an amazing experience. On this same island, icebergs float out to see just down the road from where lava erupts out of the earth.

There’s two parts to Jokulsarlon if you’re paying a visit. The lagoon itself on the glacier side of the bridge is where the main carpark is and is of course a must visit. There’s also an amazing fish and chips truck there if you’re peckish!

The second aspect of Jokulsarlon is the beach where the icebergs get broken up and pounded into the very sea they’ve joined. It’s a fascinating process and the sight of huge blocks of crystal clear and white ice in stark contrast to the black sand beach they wash up on is one of my favourite memories from the trip.

Pride Rock: Frozen Edition.
Don’t you just want to dive in and go for a dip? Nope me neither.
Pretty sure these people flew specifically from their country of origin for this shoot. There was a LOT of this going on in the South. Humans are weird and some of them have far too much money on their hands haha.
The calving face of the Jokulsarlon Glacier. The sheer scale of it is quite unimaginable. This was taken with the equivalent of a 600mm lens and still looks so distant.
The tour boats were dwarfed by the giant icebergs floating past them in the lagoon.
Black sand and white ice. A stunning combination.
Getting your feet wet is highly likely down on the beach. Always take extreme caution on Iceland’s beaches, they are formidable and can be deadly if you take risks.

I could have stayed at Jokulsarlon for at least another ooooh…..month or so, playing with the icebergs on the beach and watching them float on by in the lagoon. Alas we were on a schedule and had to make it to the next campsite so we hit the road again and witnessed plenty more scenery that involved a lot of ooohing and aahing and picking our jaws up off the floor. I’ve said it many times in these posts about Iceland but this place is just insanely, incredibly scenic and atmospheric and almost every corner you turn reveals another epic sight.

I’ll stop waffling on now and just use the captions on the photos to tell the rest of the story of the trip.

Driving towards another huuuuuuge glacier. Just unbelievable scenery.
No points for spotting the source of that waterfall.
The Lord of the Rings called, they want their scenery back.
This is a volcano. A freaking volcano. I love volcanoes. This made me very happy 🙂
Lómagnúpur  in all its chunky magnificence.
Remember what I said earlier about the dangers of Iceland’s beaches? Well a tourist made the not so smart decision to try and stand on that rock on the right a few years back. He was taken by the sea and drowned. BE SMART.
Looks like the Giant’s Causeway took a detour on the way to Scotland.
Ah, a lovely stroll in the wilds of Iceland, just myself and……oh. The looooong walk to the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur is a busy one……
…..but still totally worth it for the spectacle of plane wreckage in the middle of a black barren scene.
There are signs telling people not to climb onto the plane. What do you think people do? They should really pour a pile of grease over it…..or have someone handing out fines…..or have it protected by Polar Bears or something.
Getting a photo of Skogafoss without a bazillion people in it? Maybe if you arrive in the middle of the night but even then I reckon it would be super busy.
Seljalandsfoss was also super busy but still really cool as you can walk right around and behind the back of the falls….and get gently soaked in the process of course haha.
All smiles on the road, despite me repeatedly leaving my hiking boots behind.
Gullfoss was quite magnificent and there was plenty of places to get a good view with a bit of elbow room to spare.
Geysir about to blow its top. It seemed like a man-made water feature like the fountains in Las Vegas but nope, completely natural and therefore far far FAR more impressive.
Looks inviting right?
The colours were incredible and the smell not too terrible haha.
Another idyllic scene sweeping past as we drove on by.
Kerið was rather beautiful and is the remains of a 3,000 year old cone shaped volcano that collapsed in on itself after depleting all its magma. You can take a leisurely stroll right around the top or the bottom.
The grumpy bunch. These horses were rather naughty and bitey and of course, terrible at standing still haha.
Þingvellir is a historic site and national park in Iceland, east of Reykjavík. It’s known for the Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries.
Öxarárfoss in Þingvellir was a beautiful little waterfall cascading over the edge of the cliff face and had a really nice decked area where you could sit down and just enjoy the view.

Just the other morning in Tasmania, I had the whole Southwest National Park to myself, not one car passed me on the drive in and I didn’t pass one until I was back in civilisation and the sun was high in the sky. In the four years I’ve been in Tasmania that has become something of a rarity however and visiting this part of Iceland concerned me greatly about where Tasmania is headed.

What makes Tasmania so special is that you can have a little slice of it all to yourself. You most certainly still can but it is taking more and more effort these days to get away from people and be truly by yourself in nature. Walks that were quiet when I first arrived are now quite bustling. It’s nowhere near the crazy level of Iceland but Iceland was like Tassie is now just a few short years ago. Of course there’s no solution really. Tourist dollars are needed and we can’t stop people coming just to keep the crowds away, that’s just not feasible.

So I guess we should just enjoy it now as much as we can, like so many beautiful places on this planet that are slowly losing their magic and uniqueness that made them so popular in the first place.

6 thoughts on “South Iceland: Nature’s Disneyland

  1. Splendid reporting, James. The enthusiasm, open-mindedness and artistry is infectious. The photographs complete the narrative. It evoke in me a hunger to follow in your footsteps but…… You’re unique.

    Maurice and the Malahide tribe

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