Iceland, widely known as the land of fire and ice, is a country of extremes. Gorgeous, breathtaking, incredible extremes.
During our time on this stunning island, we joined Hörður on a winter tour of Iceland’s South Coast – an experience we enjoyed every moment of.
Whether you plan on joining a tour with Arctic Tours Iceland (previously known as VIP Tours) or intend to drive yourself, the following guide will help you plan out your itinerary. It is worth noting though that although some of these locations are easily accessible from the Ring Road in your own transport, others require a serious 4WD and the experience that only comes with years of driving in harsh Icelandic conditions – because of this, we certainly recommend joining Hörður to make the most of your day on the South Coast.
Don’t be put off visiting Iceland in the winter, just book yourself a tour and leave the driving to someone else!
Arriving bright and early as planned, Hörður collected us from the Radisson Blu with open arms and a warm smile. It’s always such a pleasure to put a face to the name when we’ve been talking with someone online and after discussing our exciting Iceland plans with him through the internet, it was a treat to finally be in Iceland and about to set off on our tour!
With short daylight hours in the depths of winter, the first part of our journey was cloaked in darkness. The upside to a low-hanging sun, as we were to find out though, are the seemingly endless sunrise skies – a major benefit to be had.
To get around outside of Reykjavík can take a fair bit of time, with many sights being spread out. Fortunately the roads are smooth and comfortable and the scenery breath-taking (when the sun rises makes an appearance, anyway)!
Riding in Style
Comfort is key when you’re covering a decent number of kilometers and Arctic Tours Iceland have you covered in this regard. The seats are roomy and comfortable, the suspension on the Land Cruiser is top-knotch and there’s an ever present supply of heating should you want it.
As an Instagram addict, I was delighted to find that Hörður also supplies his guests with complimentary wifi so you can be as connected as you want to whilst on the road.
Pro tip: Cellphone batteries aren’t made for the cold! My phone (that normally lasts almost a whole day on one charge) was dead after our first pitstop. Be sure to take your charging cable with you and Hörður will sort you out with a power source.
Key Sights Around Iceland’s South-East Coast
Next to Seljalandsfoss, you’ll find Gljúfrabúi, the lesser known of the two waterfalls. Though we didn’t venture inside (it was the start of our day and wet boots didn’t seem like the best of choices), you can climb over the small rocks into the cavern and up close with the waterfall.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot and somewhat an undiscovered gem compared to its more famous neighbour.
One of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls (though there are many!), water tumbles down Seljalandsfoss at a great rate of knots! Paths lead up both to the left and right of the waterfall allowing for plenty of prime viewing opportunities and, when the weather allows, you can actually head in behind the waterfall itself and take stunning photos looking out.
Reynisfjara – Black Sand Beach
Sometimes a destination really surprises you and Reynisfjara was exactly that for us.
We have black sand beaches in New Zealand, not too far from where we’re normally based in Auckland so I must admit, though we went with open minds, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the beach. After all, we’d seen it before.
We were so wrong!
The sand itself is inky-dark and on the day we visited, snow and hail sat in stark contrast to the sand to be swept away by the outgoing tide. Bordering the beach, incredible basalt columns puncture the sky, beckoning visitors to take a closer look.
If you sneak around the corner of the bay, you’ll find a cave amongst the rocks, but be careful. Whilst we were there, we saw a tourist get caught in a wave – she was incredibly close to being swept out to sea and I must admit, it really scared me to see someone come so close to what could have been a very tragic end. As with all waves, they come in sets which means there will be the occasional one that’s a bit bigger – because the beach here is so flat, a little difference in a wave results in a large difference in the height it reaches.
Enjoy yourselves, just don’t turn your back to the water.
From the gorgeous coast, we worked our way up to Dyrhólaey, the rocky outcrop we could see from our original beach vantage-point. The drive to the summit was steep and the road snowy so I wouldn’t consider making this trip by yourself in the winter – without doubt, it’s a job for Hörður’s Toyota!
From the summit, we braved the strongest hailstorm we’ve ever experienced, headed for the most spectacular views. Nathan succumbed to the weather (not that I blame him!) whilst I managed to snap a few photos before racing back the the 4WD. Even on a day with such dicey weather, the views from Dyrhólaey were spectacular!
After a quick bite for late-lunch at the neighbouring restaurant (which is well worth a stop – surprisingly they made some of the best food we ate in Iceland!) we raced up the stairs to the top of Skógafoss, a gigantic waterfall found on the way back to Reykjavik.
The views from the top were well worth the hike up, though we saw a number of visitors a little scared to step out on the platform. Strike up the courage to it is and you’ll be rewarded with a brand new perspective of Skógafoss and the valley below.
Seriously gorgeous, right?!
After racing around the South Coast for the day, we made our way back to Reykjavik in the last of the fading sunlight, more than happy with our decision to join Arctic Tours Iceland. We had a fantastic day chasing waterfalls and checking out the rugged, natural beauty of this island paradise with Hörður.
Sure, it’s not a traditionally beautiful island destination but I can whole-heartedly say it’s my new favourite place in the world.
Iceland is spectacular – whatever you do, don’t miss out!
Thank you to Hörður of Arctic Tours Iceland for so graciously showing us the highlights of Iceland’s Southern Coast. We had a fantastic day out and completely recommend both Arctic Tours and the Southern Coast in general. As always, all thoughts are 100% our own.