The Natural Wonders of South Iceland

Simply put, Iceland is the Earth in its most raw and primal state.Visitors flock to Iceland to take in its natural splendors and no where is better suited to take them in than South Iceland. Easily accessible as a day trip from Reykjavik or as part of a trip around Iceland’s famed Ring Road; South Iceland packs in a bounty of natural sights, each one more spectacular than the last. Fire and ice, earth and wind; in Iceland the elements have combined to create one of the most varied and breathtaking landscapes on Earth. Here’s a look at just a few of the wonders you can take in during a visit to South Iceland.

 

The stunning view from Seljalandfoss, one of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls. www.casualtravelist.com

Thingvellir National Park

Often the first stop on a tour of the Golden Circle, Thingvellir is the where you can view the where North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Resulting in a large abyss-like fissure, this is the only place in the world that you can view tectonic plates above ground.  This is also an area of cultural significance in Iceland as the site of the Althing, or the world’s first parliament. From  the year 930 to 1798, chieftains would come from across the island to discuss politics and shape the future of Iceland.

The otherworldly landscape of Thingvellir National Park, a popular stop on Iceland's Golden Circle. www.casualtravelist.com

 Geysers

The next stop on the popular Golden Circle route is Haukadalur, home to the Geysir and Strokkur geysers. Though it rarely erupts now, Geysir is regarded as the first gushing hot spring to be recorded in print and is the namesake for all the world’s geysers. Strokkur, on the other hand, puts on a reliable and brilliant display. It’s worth it to brave the strong sulfuric smell to watch the hot spring burst into a stream nearly 100 feet high; you’re almost guaranteed an incredible show as Strokkur erupts regularly every 10 minutes.

Geysers are just one of the unique natural splendors you can find in Iceland. www.casualtravelist.com

Waterfalls

In a country filled with gorgeous waterfalls South Iceland is home to three of the prettiest in the country. Gullfoss, located near the Golden Circle attractions of Geysir and Thingvellir, is widely regarded as Europe’s most powerful waterfall. The Hvítá River drops 105 feet in a breathtaking double cascade making Gullfoss one of Iceland’s most visited sites. Heading south you can stop by Seljalandsfoss; a narrow, glacier fed fall that drops over 200 feet. Walk behind the falls for a striking view of the coastal planes through the cascade’s curtain, just be sure to wear water resistant clothing as you will get soaked.. On the South Coast lies Skogafoss, one Iceland’s most dramatic waterfalls. At 80 feet wide, the Skogar River flows over former seacliffs dropping 200 feet to the valley below. Climb the trail alongside Skogafoss for panoramic views of the coast or access to trails leading into Iceland’s rugged highlands.

The cascades at Gullfoss in Iceland are one of the most popular stops on the Golden Circle. www.casualtravelist.com

Hike to the top of the impressive Skogafoss waterfall for dramatic views of Iceland's South Coast. www.casualtravelist.com

 

 

Glaciers

South Iceland is home to several massive glaciers that are easily accessible for viewing but I recommend getting up close to fully experience the ever-changing icy expanse. These massive ice sheets have carved out dramatic sweeping landscapes along Iceland’s South Coast but witnessing how far they have receded in recent years shows just how powerful and fragile the glacial ecosystem can be. No matter how you choose to experience Iceland’s glaciers; whether it’s hiking, ice climbing or exploring the crystalline blue ice caves- it’s best to go with a guide for safety as the glaciers themselves are constantly changing.

The Solheimajokull glacier carves out a dramatic landscape along Iceland's South Coast. www.casualtravelist.com

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to explore glaciers. www.casualtravelist.com

 

Black Sand Beaches

At Iceland’s southernmost tip lies the stunning black sand beaches of Vik. Named one of the ten most beautiful beaches by Island magazine, the contrast between the black basalt sand and the crashing whitecaps of the North Atlantic provides one of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Iceland. Offshore a trio of basalt rock formations called Reynisdrangar rise from the sea; local folklore tells a tale that these columns were three trolls who were trying to bring their boats ashore and were turned to stone with the light of dawn. The cliffs nearby are popular with a variety of seabirds and most notably are breeding grounds for colonies of puffins.

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Glacier Lagoons

In the remote southeastern area of Iceland the vast Vantajokull glacier cap feeds into two striking glacier lagoons. Jokulsarlon is the larger of the two and a popular tourist attraction; while not as well known Fjallsarlon is smaller but no less stunning. Both glacier lagoons continue to grow in size due to glacial melt, in 1956 Jokusarlon measured 4.5 square kilometers; today it measures over 25 square kilometers. Amphibious and zodiac boat tours are available to explore these otherworldly lagoons.

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As you can see Iceland is a country filled with unique natural beauty. Is Iceland on your bucket list?

 

 

 

I was asked to share my Iceland experience by Guide to Iceland, but as always all opinions and views are my own.

52 Comments on “The Natural Wonders of South Iceland

  1. Great pictures Brianna! Iceland is such a beautiful country with many incredible things to see. It looks like you had a wonderful experience. I’ve never been but it’s very high on my bucket list to go. I really want to go see the Northern Lights, and they say that Iceland is the best places to see them.
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    • While I was there in the summer with nearly 24 hours of daylight, I’d love to return in the winter to see the Northern Lights as well!

  2. I hope to travel to Iceland soon – I only hear fantastic things about this country! And I want to see the Northern Lights, and Iceland seems like a good place to try. I will definietly do some things you mentioned in your post, too 😉

  3. Fabulous post! I agree that Iceland is one of the most majestic countries in the world – we spent a full two weeks there but that wasn’t nearlly enough for exploring, and I still actually have many of the places you mentioned left on my bucketlist. Pretty good excuse in my mind for a return visit! – We did a lot of the NOrth, though sadly on the days we drove through the South it was pouring with rain. We’ll be back though!

    • I’ll definitely be back to explore the west and north, it is just a spectacular country!

    • Iceland is definitely an expensive country but you can definitely experience it on a budget.

    • There are a couple places you can view glaciers and icebergs, it really is gorgeous.

    • Iceland is great for kids, check out my friend Tamara’s blog We3Travel for her experience traveling in Iceland with her daughter.

  4. Iceland has not been on my bucket list, but after looking at these pictures, it might need to be added. Those natural wonders are truly amazing. I remember seeing Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and couldn’t believe the force of the spray. Quite awesome!
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    • We just hand crampons for traction on the ice. We didn’t do any ice climbing but it is available.

  5. Amazing photos! How did you get a picture of that waterfall from behind? We were there in 2014 and didn’t get as close to those things you saw! We just had a day in each of three cities in the south, west and north. Envious!

    • Thank you! I would love to have the opportunity to be there for a few months like you did.

    • I want to explore the Westfjords and the North coast next time.

  6. Your photos are amazing! Iceland is for sure on my bucket list, just hope I get to see it soon

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