The southern coast of Iceland is the side of the island that directly faces the North Atlantic ocean, because of this fact it is the south coast that tends to get the most extreme weather conditions. This constant bettering from nature has left behind a dramatic landscape that many travelers say is an essential experience for anybody coming to Iceland.
While "the south coast of Iceland" covers a large geographical area, when we talk about tours to the south coast or visiting the south coast there are a few typical locations that are being referenced. Usually these trips will take you down to the small fishing town of Vik, which is the southernmost village on the island and has a total population between 300 and 400 people. Along this route you will have a chance to see black sand beaches, volcanoes, glaciers as well as famous waterfalls Seljalandsfoss & Skogafoss. Tours to this area will generally give you opportunities to see all of these different natural wonders and in many cases a few additional surprises along the way such as a stop off at a local farm.
Seljalandsfoss is one of Icelands most popular and most photographed waterfalls. The reason why this 60 meter tall waterfall has become a "must see" on the lists of almost every visitor to Iceland is because it has a small path that you call follow which will take you behind the cascade of water and offer you a stunning view from a perspective rarely seen with waterfalls.
As is the case with many natural areas in Iceland, especially ones frequented by tourist groups, Seljalandsfoss has been a part of some controversy with conflicts arising between those wanting to develop these areas more and those who want to maintain the nature and keep things as pure as they can.
In the May of 2017 a proposal was put forward for building a visitors center close to the waterfall that would provide information and other such services for people visiting the waterfall. In its initial proposal the building was set out to be made to be 8 meters high and covering an area of 2000 square foot. The local landowners were very vocal in their opposition of these plans citing that such a construct would not only potentially ruin the view of the waterfall but disrupt the natural space in the area.
The proposal has yet to be either fully accepted or fully rejected with there still being a chance that the project goes forward though many believe that if the center is to be built then it should be built further away from the waterfall.
Skogafoss is a highly popular destination to visit while on the south coast of Iceland. It is a part of the Skogar river and drops down a cliff that at one time would have been the coastline of Iceland. The coast line has receded a fair amount but the old sea cliffs remain creating a border line between the coastal lowlands and the hikers paradise of the highlands.
Skogafoss holds the title of being one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls. Its 15 meter wide river drops a distance of around 60 meters and the force of this drop kicks up such a large quantity of water spray that a single or even double rainbow can often be glimpsed dancing across the cascade on a sunny day. On the eastern side of the waterfall you will be able to find a hiking trail that goes all the way up to the top of the waterfall where an observation platform offers a spectacular view of the waterfall from above. The hiking path actually continues from here leading up to the Fimmvörðuháls pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers and going down into Þórsmörk before becoming the Laugavegur trail to Landmannalaugar.
Vík is a small fishing town on the southern coast of Iceland that holds the title of being the southern-most village in the country. It sits on the famous ring road around 180 Km away from the city of Reykjavik and has a population count of roughly 300 people living there.
While it may be easy to see Vík as just the turning point where most south coas tours turn around to go back to Reykjavik many are surprised by the sheer amount of activities available in this area. To name a few there is hiking, ice climbing, glacier hiking, ziplining, horse riding and hang gliding as well as tonnes of art & culture. Vík is a fantastic place for adventurers of all types to slow down and take a break allowing them time to recharge their batteries before the next leg of their adventure begins.
Also, Vík is well known as a place where you are able to obtain some very special handmade gifts, perfect as a reminder of your time here in Iceland or as presents for those back home.
The black sand beaches of Reynisfjara, named by National Geographic as one of the worlds top ten most beautiful (non tropical) beaches, stand as perhaps one of the single most visited areas of Iceland by the people who come to visit the country. The whole beach is covered in a dark volcanic sand and stones both of which being by-products of the intense nature of the island but it creates a gorgeous scenery that at times can seem like it belongs on an alien planet.
The black sands are not the only attraction of the area however and are certainly not the only thing the volcanic activity of the south coast created. Along the beach you will also find spectacular cliffs made from columns of basalt, their hexagonal shape caused by a process known as columnar Jointing whereby the formation is created by cracks that form during the cooling process of the rocks. Two more basalt cliffs also exist in this area but to find these yo uwill need to cast your gaze out towards the sea where the two large formations stand. These are called the Reynisdrangar and if legends are to be believed then these are the bodies of two trolls that turned to stone in the sunlight while trying to salvage a ship from the water.