On a day trip to the South Shore of Iceland from Reykjavik, we encounter a unique blend of landscapes. This area is carved by glaciers and volcanic activity, boasting black sand beaches, waterfalls, and impressive rock formations. And it’s truly the raw beauty of these sights at every stop that makes the journey unforgettable.

Something interesting here is that there are hardly any trees. Our guide gave us the backstory: many years ago, settlers cut down the trees in Iceland to build shelters and for heating. And though there’s a reforestation program now, the return of the forests is naturally a slow process.

Landcaspe along the south shore of Iceland
green pastures in Iceland
Mountains and fencline in Iceland

The Magic of Falling Water

We kickstarted our adventure with sights that truly take your breath away – waterfalls. The majestic Seljalandsfoss, with its impressive drop of 60 meters, isn’t just something you watch from afar. Its waterfall uniquely spills into a grotto, and yes, you get to tread right behind this watery veil! But be warned, it’s quite the invigorating hike – the terrain is rocky, the misty spray makes it damp, and the surfaces can be a little slippery. So, tread with care!

Seljalandsfoss waterfall iceland
The path behind the waterfall in Iceland
Waterfall from the side

A short journey down the same road takes us to Skogafoss. This imposing force of nature tumbles down a 62-meter cliff with a thunderous roar, scattering rainbows across the resulting spray in a breathtaking display.

Skogafoss waterfall from the front
Skogafoss waterfall with people at the base

Reynisfjara: Where Black Sand Embraces Basalt Giants

At Reynisfjara, the canvas of the beach is painted with stark black sand, providing a striking contrast against the frothy white crowns of the waves. The monumental basalt sea structures, Reynisdrangar, majestically puncture the horizon, standing as guardian giants of the sea. Their rugged peaks are a living testament to the volcanic energies that have intricately sculpted this vast landscape.

Basalt sea stacks in Reynisdrangar Iceland
Cave at Reynisdrangar Iceland
Volcanic rock formation in Reynisdrangar Iceland

There were multitudes of puffins scattered across the cliffs, their black and white coloring a vibrant display against the rugged terrain. Along with the beautiful birds and impressive columns came an earnest warning from our guide: Beware of the treacherous water. In this region, deceptive waves are infamous, known to ensnare unaware tourists and drag them into the sea. That worked for us, we stayed away from the water!

Renisfjara Puffins sitting on a mountain side
Reymisdrangar Puffins sitting on a mountain side

The Spectral Beauty of Solheimajokull

Our journey continued towards Solheimajokull, a remarkable satellite glacier born from the powerful Mýrdalsjökull volcano. We took on a brief trek, each step accompanied by the crisp crunch of ice under our boots. Standing before the immense structure of ice, etched with crevices and interlaced by rivulets of meltwater, was nothing short of humbling, leaving us in awe.

While glacier climbing tours are available, our time constraints did not allow us this experience. OK, to be honest, we’re probably not in good enough shape to actually make that kind of climb. However, the river flowing from the glacier sparkled with broken fragments of ice scattered about the river bed.

Solheimajokull - Myrdalsjokull volcano glaciers
Solheimajokull, Myrdalsjokull volcano glacier Iceland
Myrdalsjokull volcano glacier from a distance

The Village of Vik

The charming coastal village of Vik, home to just 300 people, was a welcoming break on our trip. Cottages sat comfortably under the silhouette of Reynisdrangar, and a nearby black sand beach offered a peaceful location for a walk. Our guide mentioned a show on Netflix called Katla that was set in Vik. We watched it when we got home but found it quite bizarre. 

Church on hill in Vik Iceland
Sculpture in the town of Vik Iceland
Volcano rock formations in the sea near the town of Vik Iceland

Amidst Glaciers and Volcanoes - Memories Made

As day turned into night, we felt an undeniable bond with the roughened beauty of Iceland. The entire south shore had made an impact on us, its unique landscapes and formations etched in our collective memory. This wasn’t just a day trip; it was a journey through history and nature reminding us of nature’s power to transform landscapes.

And so, whether you’re an active hiker, a fan of nature, or just seeking an out-of-the-ordinary day out, a south shore tour from Reykjavik is undeniably worth it. It’s an opportunity to see nature’s power play out before your eyes, to stand in awe of glaciers and waterfalls, and to create memories that last far beyond your time there.