South-West Coast - Iceland
Iceland’s South-West Coast: A force of nature
Get swept off your feet by the forces of nature along Iceland’s south-west coast. An area of fast flowing waterfalls, slow sliding glaciers, ominous black sand beaches and velvet green mountain slopes.
Owing to its glacier topped mountain peaks, Iceland has an abundance of waterfalls each as breathtaking as the one before. Seljalandsfoss waterfall juts out from the cliffs above and dives into a shallow pool like a daring circus performer. An adventurous trail leads around and into the cave behind the waterfall for a 360° sensory experience. Peer out through the curtain of water that streams over the plain before meeting the Atlantic Ocean.
Nearby, the Gljúfrabúi waterfall is hidden inside a ravine that will challenge even the most courageous cascade chaser. Accessible only to those willing to traverse the stream via the strategically placed stepping stones, it’s a guaranteed way to get wet. The confined space amplifies the sounds of splashing water and the sense of adventure. Once inside, look up to find a waterfall that has cracked open the earth to reveal the sky above.
The overwhelming Skogafoss waterfall dwarfs over anyone who approaches it. This megalithic water source sends up a cloud of mist that throws out rainbows. In fact, legend states a viking once hid his gold here but none has managed to obtain it. Start your treasure hunt by climbing the 370 stairs to a vertigo inducing viewing platform. From here, follow the hiking trail that traces the river through a landscape formed by fire and carved by ice.
Offering a change of pace, the majestic Sólheimajökull glacier is surprisingly accessible from the country’s famous ring road. Here the full brunt of earth’s majestic forces puts life in perspective. As the glacier scrapes out the valley, its base has turned black from the ashy volcanic soil. The ice melt has formed a lake where it’s not uncommon to see an iceberg. Guides who operate treks here state changes in the atmosphere have affected the glaciers’ expansion and movement.
The deserted coast of black volcanic rock in this corner of the country offers up some surprises. From an unsuspecting car park, walk four miles (or take the dog sled in winter) to one of the most iconic and haunting photography locations. In 1973, a US airplane crash landed on the desolate black beach. All crew survived but the plane was abandoned. The weather beaten aircraft degrading on foreign soil resembles a scene out of a Hollywood movie.
The southernmost point of Iceland, Dyrhólaey, reaches out to the sea via a land arch known as the door hole. From this cliff point it is possible to see glacial peaks, green cliffs and black beaches. The wind swept coastal landscape is home to a number of bird species, including the much loved puffin. To the east are the beautiful black lava sea stacks of Reynisdrangar. These are said to be the masts of a ship that were being dragged to shore by trolls before daylight broke turning them to stone.
This rich stretch of coastline is all within two hours drive of the capital, Reykjavik. However, make sure to leave some recovery time as the forces of nature are bound to sweep you off your feet.