Day 3: The epicness that is Southern Iceland: 2 spectacular and unique waterfalls, an old hot pool in the mountains, rugged cliffs, basalt columns, and black sand. This drive is a MUST when visiting Iceland.
First stop: Seljalandsfoss.
Best known as the waterfall you can walk behind.
This foss is about as epic as everyone has said, but consequently also as busy… as everyone has said. There’s a large parking area right off the ring road however this parking lot DOES COST. 700 isk (so just under $7) but there is a small café shop and free toilets.
If you plan on walking behind (which I highly recommend) then you’ll want to wear your rain jacket and really any other rain gear you have if you aren’t wearing it already. Once you are behind the waterfall it actually isn’t too wet, but just walking around the sides as it turns out will soak you.
And from the side is the shot you want!
Ladies and gentlemen! I give you the 8th wonder of the world… the backside of water!!!
*Disney jungle cruise joke.. it’s ok if you don’t get it.
The epitome of Iceland waterfall posing shots
Seljalandsfoss may not be the tallest but it sure is unique! It stands at 60 m (197 ft) tall and the origin of the water flow for the river that feeds this foss is the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. (which is famous for it’s most recent eruption in 2010)
A couple experimental long exposure shots
After you circle the main event, Seljalandsfoss, there’s a pleasant walking trail down to view the 3-4 other small falls. I did a quick jaunt down there to see them but after the main fall, they weren’t quite as incredible.
The walk to the end of the path is maybe 15 minutes easy walking each way and if you don’t do it for the other small falls, walk a little ways this way to see how this waterfall fits in with the majestic mountain it is running off of.
As you continue your drive along the southern coast of Iceland you’ll pass SO many dramatic cliffs and more amazing waterfalls. One of my favorites was this small fall that was falling “up” as it was being blown so strongly by the wind, that it wasn’t allow to fall.
*and yes I did take many of these random photos from the window of a moving car…
Next time I go to Iceland, I’m going to just explore all the amazing little known places like this spot. Someone tell me there’s a hike around there!
More moving car window photos
last one! Sheep! But seriously even though we spent anywhere from 3-6 hours/ day in the car I hardly minded as the views were almost always incredible!
We next stopped at the equally famous:
Best known for rainbows and for well… being able to walk right up to the base of it just about
Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 15 metres (49 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft).
And here we have said rainbow… along with dozens of tourists
The parking area for this waterfall is easy and amazingly FREE and there is a small cafe in the parking area.
Here is where I tell you THOSE STAIRS ARE WORTH IT. Climb them, just take your time. Were they easy? Not really especially in full rain/ winterish gear but so worth it. It’s a lot of stairs, just pace yourself.
The reward yourself for climbing the stairs with a fairly easy walk/ hike up further to see some amazing cascades!
This was about at the top and if we didn’t have so much to do, I could’ve gone on forever! It just kept getting more and more beautiful. I definitely recommend hiking around and exploring the hills above Skógafoss.
Braden and I at our turn around spot
Some of these views were unreal.
Standing looking out over the very top of the waterfall
Goofy long exposure shot
Another view of the first set of falls above Skógafoss. We hiked to the 2nd set of falls that are nestled back in the back part of the canyon in this photo
Islands in the river
Next stop is just 10 minutes drive WEST of Skógafoss: the
Seljavallalaug swimming pool.
The first thing to know about this pool is that you do have to HIKE in a bit to it. It’s 20-30 minutes depending on how fast you are, you could potentially go faster… Considering the time it takes me to fully oggle and photograph places… I was at least 20 minutes. haha Also even though it was showing up JUST FINE on Google maps before our trip…. it wouldn’t pull up while we were there. So here’s some driving instructions:
1. Basic instructions are that you turn of the ring road onto road 242 about 10 km before Skogafoss.
BUT if you need better directions than that also try:
2. Search for Guesthouse Edinborg and if it will find THAT, then go to it, and continue on down the dirt road it is off of, Seljavellir, to the end where you will park and then proceed to hike
2. If it wont find that guesthouse either, it WILL pull up the Eyjafjallajökull Erupts exhibit (what we used). The left turn will be appox. 1.8 km past this exhibition on your left. At the pull off there will be a blue map sign with Seljavallalaug somewhat marked off. Basically you will continue straight onto a dirt road, drive to the end of that, park, and stretch your legs on a beautiful walk.
The trail is pretty clear to follow as it heads back into the mountains. Note you will face a few shallow stream crossings. Waterproof shoes aren’t necessarily needed, but general hiking boots with a good sole would be recommended if not. This isn’t a walk to do in flip flops..
Incredible rock formations will greet you as you walk to the swimming pool. I’m 98.5% trolls live up there
As you come around the corner you will start seeing some piping and the top of the white house. The house is technically a changing room but honestly… looked sketchy in there so you may just want to wear your bathing suit under your clothes to be ready to go when you get there.
That is… if you plan to swim. I was undecided on the matter so I wore my bathing suit just in case… The water was warmish and when we got there, there actually was a couple swimming around. I put my feet and legs in to test it and temperature wise… I think it would actually be nice but note*
The pool is very algae…y It seemed to coat just about everything so I don’t know how much standing, sitting, or relaxing it would be.
To Swim or not to swim… that is the question
Regardless if you plan to swim or not, the area surrounding this incredible pool is stunning and worth a trek out to see.
The pool is unmanned, and minorly maintained but is free to use.
SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK
Short interesting historical tidbit:
Seljavallalaug pool is a protected outdoor pool as it is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland; built in 1923.
When the pool was first built, courses in the pool were initiated as part of a compulsory education in 1927. The pool is 25 metres long and 10 metres wide and was the largest pool in Iceland until 1936.
Again we hit up Skogafoss before this (although we had to back track 10 min to visit here, I’d definitely say it was worth it.)
So there we were…. finished with some of the big stuff fairly early in the day and ready to trek out to a plane crash. We headed to the parking lot at the start of what sounded like a 1.5 hourish walk to find probably THE BIGGEST AND MOST FULL PARKING LOT. While I had expected this activity to be popular, I figured some would be put off by the extensive walk. NOT SO. So with the impending rain clouds rolling in to the area and the ZERO CHANCE to actually get cool photos with the plane, we headed on towards Vik, with black sand on our minds.
Next destination: Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey is an amazing volcanic peninsula that stands out along the Southern coast of Iceland. Not only are the views of the surrounding black sand beaches incredible, but there’s a lighthouse and a giant sea arch to add to the drama! This place is NOT to be missed.
The name Dyrhólaey covers the entire peninsula but came from this arch which literally means: “The Hill island with the door hole.” There are 2 stops once you turn off the ring road, the first is to head up the switch backs to the lighthouse… That’s where you’ll be able to see this beauty and if you happen to visit in the summer time, you’ll be rewarded with the sigh of many a puffins!
The wind was SO intense up on the hill that it was hard to even enjoy the view that long… though we certainly tried. Here the boys took off and left us to go explore.
The view looking inland at the volcanic region of Iceland. The views on a clear day will let you gaze clear down the coast to Selfoss, to the west the black basalt region of Vik, and inland… a giant GLACIER.
The 2nd stop is the end of the line for this road and where facilities if you need them can be found. It’s a very cool small building that is typically 200 isk for toilet use but was FREE the day we were there! At this stopping point you’ll get an even greater view of the black sand…
And this crazy beauty. Which I didn’t even know about beforehand! I legit had never seen a photo of this or known it was on Dyrhólaey. WHY DOES NO ONE TALK ABOUT THIS AMAZING THING?! Granted I know I’m a tiny bit obsessed with basalt… as you’ll soon find out but the twisted basalt that makes us this BLACK arch with the waves intermittenly splashing up through it is just the coolest thing ever. Definitely check this spot out. End rant.
We had basically completed all of our mission by 2ish and had a few hours to spare before we could check in to our guesthouse so into Vik we went. We drove up to the cute little church for this view looking back south west. The Dyrhólaey peninsula is just on the other side of those cliffs.
The small church of Vik up on the hilltop
More blue skies YES! We toured around town for a bit, picked up some more groceries, and then headed over to check in to Giljur Guesthouse which was just outside Vik but in an awesome spot! We cleaned up and relaxed for a bit before rememembering… oh ya we do have 1 more COOL stop for the day. So over to Reynisfjara beach we went to see…
Reynisdrangar is the name actually given to the basalt columns but the incredible beach around is beautiful as well. So beautiful, that this beach was named one of the top 10 non-exotic beaches in the world!
Unfortunately the sun was setting and the rain was on and off again coming down so we didn’t explore long. We even attempted to take shelter under that incredible cave though with Iceland’s famous side ways rain coming at us… it didn’t help much.
*Note: The water and waves at Reynisfjara beach are VERY dangerous. There are several signs posted around the beach about SNEAKER waves. Where the waves lure you into a false sense of security, and then pounce! There have been people who were VERY far up on the beach but unaware of their surroundings and fell victim to Mother Nature here. Always read the safety information plagues and be aware of your surroundings. In this case, keep you eye on the water line and don’t stray close to the water’s edge.
There are some facilities at the beach including a cafe which we had read some poor reviews about. So back into Vik we headed for dinner at one of the very few restaurants. From our research, Suður-Vík was the best option for good reviews as well as cost. When we got there we realized what everyone had been telling us… MAKE A RESERVATION. People have few places to go to eat, so make a reservation or prepare to wait. We waited appox: 30 minutes (not bad) and the food was amazing! I’m sure it didn’t help it was like 8:30 at night but Braden and I split their bread sticks and pizza for an affordable and delicious dinner!
Then it was back to Giljur Guesthouse to get some sleep because the 3rd day was only going to get busier.
The next few photos were taken around our guesthouse! There was a small turf shed and back in that canyon raged a decent sized waterfall which you could see from the road!
No I’m not walking like a zombie on purpose, I was just getting pushed over by the wind!
Sort of obsessed with both basalt columns and turf homes after this stay!
As far as reviews go, the guesthouse was another great stay! We had smaller comfortable rooms and shared 2 bathrooms with a few rooms. Again there was a nice shared living space and kitchen that was open to any of the guests. This place would be our most expensive stop of the night so prepare yourself, Vik isn’t cheap… but it’s definitely a good stopping point in your drive from Selfoss and on up to the Eastern Fjords. Link to where we stayed: Giljur Guesthouse
Total drive time day 3: Roughly 170 km at 2.5 hours
Day 3 Costs:
Breakfast and lunch were again taken care of by previous groceries
Seljalandsfoss parking: $6.50
All the other stops were free!
Groceries from Vik Kronan:$20.50
Dinner at Sudur Vik: $34
Giljur Guesthouse: $177
Rental Car breakdown for 1 day/2 people: $66
Gas breakdown average/ day for 2 people: $18/ day
Day 3 total: $322 for 2 people