This post is part of a series of stories from my 2018 trip to Iceland.
Click here for all posts.

Admittedly, I was worried it may not live up to the hype, but Iceland is truly as magical and otherworldly and genuinely beautiful as they say. It’s as if someone took a National Park and a fairytale — and combined them to make a country. As we traveled we met couples and families and groups of friends happy to exchange stories and tips. Many of them were staying for a week or longer and now that we’re back I know I could’ve easily spent days and weeks longer and still felt like I’d only scratched the surface. For a small island country, Iceland packs a punch.

I hinted at it before, but our primary objective in Iceland was to see puffins in the wild. Jenni (unsuccessfully) searched for them in Norway a few years ago and it became a challenge — and she swore she wasn’t leaving Iceland until she finally saw a puffin. So our route around the island worked around the puffin quest — which led us south. The puffin hunt is a story all its own, but today is all about the south coast.

Iceland is split into several regions and the south coast is a special kinda beautiful.


As we drove south from Reykjavik, Iceland really started to show off. The further we got from the city, the deeper we got into the country and things like Seljalandsfoss started to appear out the window. “Foss” translates to “falls” so it’s seemingly everywhere. Everywhere you look in Iceland there’s a sign for Somethingfoss.

Seljalandsfoss is one of the iconic waterfalls on Route 1, along the south coast. We got out to explore and were overwhelmed by bugs — so we chickened out of going behind the falls. I wish we had braved it, though we’d be guaranteed to be absolutely drenched and with no sun to speak of — it could’ve been a long soggy day. So this one, we admired from a safe distance.

Seljalandsfoss is nearly 200 feet high and fed by a volcanic glacier. (Yes, in Iceland there’s such a thing as a volcanic glacier. #LandOfFireAndIce)

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano

You may know this volcano and not realize it. It erupted in 2010, causing massive flooding, electrical storms, the evacuation of 800 people, and — perhaps most famously — air travel disruption well into northern Europe. It had been dormant for 180 years before that episode and it’s been dormant since, but it continues to have several earthquakes daily and volcanologists keep a close eye on it.

To us, it was a beautiful, ice-capped volcano peeking out of the clouds on the side of Route 1.

Skógar Museum

Like any country, Iceland is quite proud of its history. The Skógar Museum was a small but beautifully curated campus of buildings and indoor exhibits celebrating Icelandic culture and technology back to the earliest days. And it was the first real sighting of what would become a favorite for me — turf houses! Built for practicality and insulation I happen to think they’re downright adorable.

The blue ceiling of this little church was striking. The weather may be grey, but the Icelanders love bright, cheerful color.

Early snowmobile

Inside a traditional turf house — no space is wasted. They were often built in groups with several families sharing a common kitchen and dining space in one of the houses.


Just across a large meadow from the Skógar Museum is one of the most iconic waterfalls in all of Iceland. Skógafoss. Evidently there’s a scene from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that takes place here and various other films and photographs leverage its beauty as a backdrop.

The mist was unbelievable and this time – we couldn’t resist. We put on jackets and went for a closer look.

One of my favorite photos of our trip. I set up my GoPro and walked away. I love this moment of us dancing in the waterfall. We are getting absolutely soaked and loving every beautiful second.

Up the hill, to the right of the waterfall is a staircase that seems to rise into the clouds. Jenni stayed at the bottom, but I started the climb.

A goat I saw while climbing the stairs. The grass is always greener?

Nearly 500 steps later, I was rewarded with this scene above the falls. Worth every step.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach at Vik

Just when you think Iceland is nothing but waterfalls and mossy green landscapes, you drive far enough south that you reach the black sand beaches at Vik. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is like nothing I’d ever seen. As far as the eye can see in either direction is a black pebble beach contrasting against the bright blue sky, and then you turn back toward the shore and you’re met with a wall of basalt sea stacks like random, jagged stairs covering the cliffs.  Climbing them is too hard to resist.

The waves here are dangerous and the beach is covered with warning signs. We were told the waves are unpredictable and strong because there are no significant land masses between this beach and Antarctica at the South Pole. That’s a lot of wild ocean.

Cave beneath the basalt columns.

The Joy in the Journey

The highlights are gorgeous, of course, but the scenery and roadside beauty of Route 1 itself is worth the trip. We took our time and pulled over any chance we could to enjoy wildflowers, animals, hidden gems — and even an unexplained display of tangled bras along a fence.

From breathtaking waterfalls to my first Icelandic hotdog — Iceland’s South Coast was incredible.

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
– Benjamin Disraeli

This post is part of a series of stories from my 2018 trip to Iceland.
Click here for all posts.

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One thought on “Iceland’s South Coast: A Special Kinda Beautiful

  1. Incredible! You have such an eye for capturing the moment and the scenery in a new but fully understandable way. Thanks for sharing so many pictures to go with the story.

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