A travel story by Rita Kulesovaite from Once Upon My Travel.
Iceland is wildly rugged and incredibly beautiful. Its ever-changing landscape includes some of the country’s biggest volcanoes, glaciers, and most iconic waterfalls. It was simply out of this world and blew my mind!
I did a solo 4-day road trip around the Golden Circle and the South coast. In this post, I will share my itinerary, along with some photography and tips for exploring Iceland.
After landing, I headed straight to pick up a rental car from Lagoon Car Rental. I’ve chosen a Kia Sorento for added 4×4 safety in winter conditions with the option to go off the beaten path if needed. Overall, I was super happy with my rental choice, service was brilliant and car amazing! Tip: get the car WIFI device. That little thing had service everywhere meaning I could stay connected to maps and social media along the way.
If you visit in the winter season, you have fewer hours of sunlight (4-5 hours), so ideally you’d want 3-4 days.
Here’s the most practical itinerary for three days in South Iceland. Day one and two sights are located between Reykjavik and Vik and the sights on day three are all located between Vik and Jökulsárlón.
The Golden Circle
Rule of thumb in the winter season here in Iceland is an early rise and shine. Even tho, early isn’t defined by time but more by sunrise which would be before 11 am. Because days are so short this time of the year, my best advice would be to leave two hours before the sun comes up.
First stop of the Golden Circle was Kerið crater. Kerið is approximately three thousand years old, making it roughly half the age of most volcanic calderas found in Iceland.
The reason why the lake is so vividly colored is that of the minerals from the rocks, seeping into and dyeing the water the aquamarine color for which it is renowned.
However, the crater was all covered in snow, and I wasn’t able to see all the beautiful colors. Also only when I got out of the car, I realized how cold it is outside and how thankful I am for my skiing jacket I borrowed last minute from my sister!
After Kerið I made my way towards Gullfoss, quickly stopping at the Geysir. My first day around Iceland was wild and stormy, and the visibility wasn’t that great at all but standing next to a 100C spitting Geysir was pretty incredible. It erupted every 10min, and everyone was standing still with their eyes fixed on it, cameras in hand, ready to capture the magic.
Gullfoss is only a short 10km drive from Geysir but with icy road conditions can take a considerable amount of time.
As you get closer to the area of a waterfall, you can see the steam coming from far away, and as you make your way down the path to the waterfall, you can hear the phenomenal sound of the gushing water cascading down in vast volumes to the depths of the river Hvita below. The paths around the falls were icy, and the wind was just violent. Gullfoss waterfall is just breath-taking, and it’s pretty special too! Think of any waterfall you have been to. Chances have you viewed it from the bottom. Gullfoss waterfall is unique because you view the falls from above and it appears that the Iceland waterfall is going underground. It is a very interesting perspective making Gullfoss one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls.
Seljalandfoss and Skogalfoss waterfalls
Once again I was on the road early to make it to Seljalandfoss for first light. Since yesterday was all cloudy and moody, I had hoped for a spectacular sunrise today and wasn’t disappointed. The more south I drove, snow started disappearing, and brown colors were popping up. Early arrival to Seljalandfoss gave me an opportunity to enjoy the falls by myself for a few short minutes! It was sunny and icy at the same time, big change in the weather since yesterday!
Seljalandsfoss is 60 meters high with a footpath behind it at the bottom of the cliff. But what many visitors don’t know is that there’s another two and equally stunning waterfall very close by, follow the path.
Just 20 minutes from Seljalandsfoss, you’ll find Skogafoss. The main road locates both of these waterfalls, and they’re only a few minutes walk from the parking lot.
Skogafoss is yet another spectacular waterfall in southern Iceland. It is 25m wide and powerful, but what makes it even more special is position facing the sunrise, letting visitors enjoy an often view of rainbows. It’s just overwhelming to stand next to Skogafoss!
DC-3 Plane wreck
The last sight on day 1 is Sólheimasandur plane wreck. This US navy plane crash-landed in Sólheimasandur in the 1970s and had been abandoned since. The 40-year-old weather-beaten aircraft has become one of Iceland’s most dramatic photography spots due to its remote location on a desolate black sand beach. It looks like a scene out of some post-apocalyptic movie! It is located 4km from the parking lot and takes about 45min to walk to the plane wreck but is well worth the feeling you’ll get once you see the skeleton of DC-3.
Reynisfjara Black sand beach
Reynisfjara Beach is one of the world’s most interesting beaches due to its unique sand and basalt column formations. The sand here is jet black and very fine from countless years of ocean waves breaking down lava that had flowed into the water.
Be careful when going anywhere near the water. Waves and currents are particularly strong here, and fatal accidents have occurred where unsuspecting people have been swept into the ocean. Never turn your back to the ocean!
About 10-15 minutes drive from Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach you’ll find Dyrholaey Lighthouse. The views from here are Oh. My. Gosh. I spent a good hour by myself soaking in all the beauty.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond beach
I had never seen an iceberg before, not to mention a whole beach filled with diamond shaped ice blocks. So yes, it blown away. Even it was an overcast, waters of the lagoon were still, and you could see iceberg reflections, which created a moody & mystical atmosphere.
Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in both Iceland and Europe. Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lagoon stemming down from the glacier, estimated to be around 25 km2 and constantly getting larger as the ice breaks off the glacier every year.
Just on the other side of the road is a black sand beach. The beach is also known as the Diamond Beach since the icebergs wash up on the shore and sparkle.
There’s a path going from Glacier lagoon under the bridge and down to Diamond beach. It was a high tide when I was visiting and hard to come close to ice blocks, but I managed to sit on one for few seconds and get my bum wet.
Those three days in Iceland were phenomenal! It was the first time I’ve traveled solo, but this trip imprinted only best memories and confidence.
No wonder it’s called ‘Land of ice and fire’; the changing weather is incredible, and the scenery is mind-blowing. If you only have a few days to spend in Iceland, do head South. I can promise, it won’t leave you disappointed!