When we started to head down the east coast of Iceland, we knew that our eight-day road trip was coming to an end. Our plan was to do the most popular regions at the end of our trip to avoid weekend crowds and maybe save the best for last. While the last few days of our adventure did not trump previous regions or experiences, we had a blast hiking across glaciers, playing on black sand beaches, and marveling at waterfalls.
Our trip down the east coast began with us waking up at the Haukafell Campground next to a 'tongue' of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. It excited us to see more of the glacier at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where large chunks of ice have broken off and washed ashore. These fragments give the appearance of, "diamonds on the beach." The contrast between the ice and black sand made The Diamond Beach the most unique beach we visited.
We got to see much more of the glacier on the Glacier Hike Tour that we booked through Troll Expeditions and Guide to Iceland. We spent 90 minutes learning about the glacier’s makeup while hiking around the top of 800 year old ice.
After the tour, we stayed inside Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park to see Svartifoss. This was one of my favorite waterfalls because of the hexagonal columns that frame the flowing water. We cooked a late night dinner in the parking lot before making it to our campsite for the night.
The Eastern region may have been one of the smaller areas we explored, but it was definitely one of the most eventful and unique. It may be the only area in the world where you can hike on top of a glacier then, less than five miles away, hike through lush vegetation to a gushing waterfall.
There was no doubt in our minds, as we were driving south, that the Eastern region's popularity is well deserved. Little did we know, we were on our way to another region of Iceland deserving of similar popularity and renown.
We stayed at the Vik Campsite our first night in the Southern region so that we could get to Reynisfjara Beach as early in the morning as possible. Our plan worked, because we had the giant basalt columns and black sand beach to ourselves for a little while that morning.
Next to this marvelous beach is Dryhólaey Cliff. We checked it out quickly before hiking out to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. The wreckage was subject to our investigation for a long while, before we hiked back to continue our day in Vik.
Two quick stops off the Ring Road would conclude our time in the Vik area. Grandurinn Cave was a fun side stop, while the closed Eyjafjallajökull Volcano shop gave us a quick history of the local volcanic eruption in 2010. We continued southeast to hit some of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls.
We saw the 'Walter Mitty Waterfall', Skógafoss, before visiting Seljalandsfoss and it’s hidden neighbor Gljúfrabúi. The rainbows over Gullfoss were a perfect icing on the proverbial waterfall cake. We ended an already jam-packed day with a different kind of water feature.
On the Golden Circle lies, Strokkur, a geyser that shoots water 30 meters in the air roughly every 10 minutes. It erupts more frequently and higher than Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. It was very fun to sit and watch the geyser boil up and shoot steaming water right over our heads.
The next day we had an early morning reservation for a tour of Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel. We stepped back in time almost 5,000 years as we followed our tour guide into the tunnel. We spent roughly an hour inside the tunnel learning about the formation and current state of the tunnel. It was a very unique, intriguing experience.
After our tour, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and a warm cup of coffee from Kaffi Kraus. The good meal helped prepare us for our hike to Reykjadalur and the hot river. The hike was gorgeous, and we recommend that you set aside a few hours to really enjoy this spot. We hiked the hour-long route but didn't stay long once we'd arrived. We had a reservation at The Blue Lagoon and could not imagine missing it.
Even though our trip was coming to an end, we had big smiles on our faces as we left the the Southern region. We had planned our trip perfectly and saved an area jam-packed with gorgeous attractions and guided activities for last. We returned to the Capital region of Iceland with innumerable memories of natural splendor and joyous friendship.