Monday, December 29, 2014

Iceland pt. 3/Driving the South Coast

As I may have mentioned a few million times before, J and I took a much needed vacation to Iceland a couple months ago. We broke the week-long trip into three different parts (read about touring the Golden Circle and hanging out in Reykjavik) and dedicated the penultimate day to driving the South Coast. I think we did a pretty good job of curating a very full yet completely doable one-day drive that included oh so many beautiful sights - find our itinerary below, and feel free to replicate it (or alter to your own needs and schedule) if you find yourself in Iceland any time soon!

Reykjavik to South Coast and Back (plus four waterfalls!) - A One Day Itinerary

*Total time: 10 hours
*Cost level: Budget - the car rental and gas are your biggest expenses. There are no road tolls or waterfall/park entrance fees, and all waterfalls have free parking lots. Pack snacks or a lunch ahead of time.
*What to bring: maps and GPS; water, snacks, sandwiches; hiking boots (or shoes you won't mind getting wet and muddy), water-proof jacket/rain coat; rain gear for your camera and other electronics

9am - Fuel up with a cozy breakfast at the Kex Hostel. $15 gets you a bottomless cup of coffee and as much bread, jam, meat, and cheese as you can eat.

10am - Hit the road in your rental car. We had rented the car the day before and kept it for the remainder of the week, so we were ready to head out once we'd paid for breakfast. If you haven't already, make a quick stop at a grocery store for some road trip provisions - things like bread, cheese, granola bars, and water bottles will be your best bet because convenience stores and restaurants are few and far between once you get out of Reykjavik. The is also the time to make sure you have a full tank of gas.  Head south on Route 1 and watch as the landscape transforms itself before your eyes.

1130am - Follow the signs for Seljalandsfoss. By this point you've been in the car for well over an hour, so it's time to stretch your legs - park the car and head towards the roaring water of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. While at first it may seem just like every other waterfall you've seen in Iceland, the cool thing about Seljalandsfoss is that there's a path that allows you to walk behind the waterfall (do it). But be warned - you will get pretty wet. We took the path and loved the view, but for the umpteenth time that week, I was glad J had insisted I bring a water-repellant North Face jacket. My jeans were soaked but the top half of my body was warm and dry.

1145am - Walk beyond Seljalandsfoss (away from the road) and discover two secret waterfalls about 500-1000 yards away! Ok, they may not actually be secret, but they are kind of hidden and unmarked, and you will certainly feel like you're an ancient Viking explorer discovering the natural beauties on your very own.

1230pm - Get back in the car and continue south on Route 1. Feeling a little peckish? Grab a granola bar or slice yourself some bread and cheese because you've still got a ways to go.

1pm - Park the car at Skogafoss waterfall and make sure you're wearing your hiking boots. Start this excursion by wandering around the base of the waterfall and making fun of every frat-boy-thrill-seeker with a GoPro who attempt to get as close as possible without getting completely drenched.

115pm - See that reaaallyy tall staircase that looks as if it's coming out of the side of a mountain? Start climbing. Pace yourself though, because there are nearly 400 stairs - but the view from the top is incredible and oh so worth it. Catch your breath at the top and take it the splendor of Skogafoss crashing to the earth below you.

130pm - At the other end of the waterfall viewing deck is a muddy patch beneath a rickety fence and and even ricketier ladder - climb up that ladder and over that fence and find yourself in the lush land that houses the roaring waterfall beneath you. Now start walking up - there's a hint of a path that you can follow. Stop and listen to the rush of water. Delight in finding many more mini waterfalls. Make friends with a passing sheep. Watch the mist and clouds roll over the mountain tops. Find a good rock and have a seat. Contemplate all that is before you. Take some pictures, then put your camera away and see the world through your own eyes, not your camera's lens. Breath in some of the cleanest air you will probably ever breathe (no seriously - the air in Iceland consistently ranks as being some of the cleanest in the world)

230pm - Begin to make your way back down the mountain. Go back over that rickety ladder and down the 400 stairs, take one last look at the waterfall (especially now that you've seen it from the top), and get back into your car.

3pm - Continue driving south on Route 1.

330pm - Take a brief stop at the town of Vik. It's the southernmost city in Iceland and with a population of around 300 people, it's a charming little seaside village - and it has a gas station, so make sure to fill up the car for your trip back to Reykjavik.

345pm - If the weather is good, continue south on Route 1 for 15-20 minutes or so. You'll get some beautiful views of the black sand beaches and some really cool Icelandic terrain.

430pm - Turn around and head back to Reykjavik. It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive back to your hotel or flat, so grab another granola bar, turn on the radio, and enjoy the scenery.

7pm - Celebrate your day on Iceland's South Coast with dinner and a drink - we went for the full Icelandic experience and got whale steaks at Islenski Barrin, and loved every minute (and bite!)

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