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Friday, October 6, 2017

9 Days Iceland Summer Road Trip Itinerary: Day 3 & 4 - South Iceland

South Iceland brings the most scenic attractions to almost every itinerary in Iceland. Wake up early, prepare yourself as you drive along Route 1 for a myriad of amazing sights - waterfalls, beautiful towns and beaches. 

Our first stop: Seljalandsfoss 
Airbnb (Selfoss) > Seljalandsfoss (55 mins)

Or better known as the waterfall that you can walk behind or the "I'll Show You" by Justin Bieber's waterfall. Whatever it is known as, you can't deny the breathtaking views of Seljalandsfoss, even from the Ring Road. In September 2017, the waterfall was temporarily closed due to falling rocks. After all, it is Mother Nature and she's pretty temperamental, so take caution especially if you're walking behind the waterfall!
Here's some tip for those who want to walk behind the waterfall:

1. Wear a waterproof jacket. Well, to be honest, we still got pretty drenched, but I'm sure that without the coat, we will look as if we bath in it. 

2. Use flash if you are taking photos, if not it will just be your silhouette against the waterfall.
Lady M's favourite waterfall: Skogafoss
Seljalandsfoss > Skogafoss (25 mins)

From Seljalandsfoss, journey along the Ring Road to Skogafoss, where double rainbows are frequently sighted at this 60-meter waterfall. According to an Icelandic folklore, there is a chest of gold under the waterfall - well, if you're planning to search for it, be as waterproof as possible.
There is a set of staircases which brings you above the waterfall. On a good day, you will see tourists camping on the vast fields, having fish and chips while gazing at the scenery, and even couples taking bridal photography here. Well, we really wanted to take our wedding photos there, but we only garnered enough guts on the 5th day.
The Black Sand Beach: Reynisfjara
Skogafoss > Reynisfjara (30 mins)

Once voted by National Geographic as one of the top 10 most beautiful non-tropical beaches, Reynisfjara is the most beautiful example of black sand beaches. Unlike normal sand which is found on most beaches, the "sand" here are actually lava remains. 
Besides the black sand, tourists come here for the exotic basalt formation. It's amazing how nature is crafted through time and the hand of God. These basalt columns are really high, so if you on for an insta-worthy photo, you might want to risk your life to climb 50 meters up the steps to take a photo. I'm not so adventurous so this is like, uh, 5 meters.
As beautiful as it is, be warned of "sneaker waves" which have caused deaths by swallowing unfortunate people into the freezing seas if one gets too near the shore. The winds there are pretty strong and may rake up sand too, we got mini-sandstorms hit our faces a few times, and we wouldn't really call it exfoliation. Before leaving the black sand beach, we stopped by the cafe to have a bowl of turnip soup before heading off to the next attraction.

Vík í Mýrdal (I'll just call it Vik)
Reynisfjara > Vik (10 mins)

Iceland's southernmost town, Vik, is literally just beside the black sand beach. To be honest, there isn't much to do here in Vik - there are a few restaurants, hotels, and a beautiful church that has a stunning view of the Vik. Perhaps that's the beauty of it.
* I recommend you to book your accommodation early and choose Vik as your resting point for the night. There are very limited hotels and Airbnbs in this area, we started booking 3-4 months ahead, but the only option was a hefty SGD$400, so we made a detour of about 50 mins back to our Airbnb near Hvolsvöllur.

Was it worth it? Hell yeah, it is.

We stayed in a ulu (deserted) farmhouse where the fields are so vast and wide, and where horses and lambs roam the lands. The warmness from the host, Jorunn and her friendly pets (she has a really cute puppy and cat), lifted the quietness and coldness of the area. During our stay (which includes free breakfast - yay), we had nice talks with Jorunn who shared her experiences on volcano eruptions and more attractions to explore the next day.
And not to forget the beautiful sunset at the farmhouse.

While driving to the next attraction, we stopped by a field of uniquely piled-up rocks. If you did not see this itinerary from Day 1, these man-made sculptures are known as steinvarða (or cairns in English). They are used as landmarks before the internet age.
Lady M was not really interested at the start, because 1. the sun was really strong, and 2. the rocks in all honesty look like piles of stool. 
Vik > Fjaðrárgljúfur (50 mins)

Okay, I don't even know how to remotely pronounce this. This place was recommended by our previous day's host. Since it's a short detour off the Ring Road, we decided to add it in and it was darn worth it. This place offers more insta-worthy shots with its 100-meter deep and 2,000-meter long canyon. There are two paths to explore, the upper and lower canyons. The upper canyons provide breathtaking views of the canyons especially if you stand outside the bounded areas (at your own risks). It's gonna be an eight-storey fall, just sayin'.
Three things here. 1. Posting for a picture, 2. Trying not to fall, 3. Trying not to shit my pants.

The lower canyons have a small stream running through it where you can cross to explore further. Because of time constraints, we did not venture much at the lower canyons. In total, we spend about 2 hours here.
On the way to the glacier lagoon, we decided to stop just in front of the ice moutains to take a nap and have a meal break before continuing. Would you imagine waking up to a scene like this?
Fjaðrárgljúfur Fjallsárlón (1 hour 40 mins)

Before the better-known Jökulsárlón, we turned off the main path to see a slightly hidden glacier, and we hiked a short 500 meters from the carpark. Fjallsárlón is way less crowded, but this beauty did not disappoint. We went during summer time, so I assume that during the winter, there will be bigger and more icebergs. And of course, this place is colder than the average temperature, so bring your mittens!
Fjallsárlón Jökulsárlón (10 mins)

Just a mere 6-kilometer from the previous glacier lies the more famous Jokulsarlon, or also known as the diamond beach. This glacier is Iceland's deepest and probably the most spectacular lake with blue (and black - probably from the dirt) icebergs floating near a beach of black sand. Seagulls and seals are commonly spotted here, besides the huge load of tourists from all over the world.
Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón? I found a lot of debates online on which is the "better" glacier lagoon. As expected, most of them sided with Jökulsárlón. To be honest, we didn't even know Fjallsárlón exists before our Airbnb host recommended it to us. Well, I could tell you the answer is that they have their own beauties. Fjallsárlón is like a secret gem, tranquil and hidden, and you have to hike to see it. For Jökulsárlón, it's grand, it's blue and bustling with life (both humans and animals). 

Do I recommend both? Yeah defeinitely, since they are just like, uh 10 minutes away from each other.
If you have time, I recommend that you give Höfn a visit. Although we did not explore this fishing town in full because the night is near, a number of people we met have highly recommended this place as a pit stop for the night, or simply enjoy the fresh catches of the day.

We ended our day in another farmhouse just before Djúpivogur. Although there were some difficulties finding the place, the hospitality of the hosts make up for it. This is by far our favourite Airbnb in Iceland, we had small talks with the cute couple, enjoyed the great scenery, and they serve really great breakfast (and it's free!).

Stay tuned for Day 5!