A journey from Reykjavík to South Iceland is one of the most beautiful road trips in the world, offering one magical landscape after another, wondrous waterfalls and the famous black sand beaches along the Atlantic coastline, all easily reached on a day trip all year round.
There are several highlights to focus on, starting with Seljalandsfoss, where it’s possible to walk around a waterfall, followed by another majestic cascade at Skógafoss, where rainbows dance in the sun and the stirring rock formations and endless volcanic beaches of Reynisfjara.
After leaving Reykjavík, the countryside soon turns wilder as the famous Route 1 takes you over the Hellisheiði mountain pass and then sweeping down towards the coastal plain.
Nearby, it’s possible to visit the Lava Tunnel at Raufarhólshellir, which offers a chance to go ice-caving in a lava tube that’s more than five thousand years old.
Hveragerði and its Geothermal Park is also en route, while Reykjadalur, the famous hot spring river, is just a short hike inland.
The red rock Kerið explosion crater, the religious center of Skálholt, and the eco-village at Sólheimar are also just a few miles off the Ring Road here.
A turn onto Route 30 will take you to the Secret Lagoon at Flúðir, although this popular spot can be reached from Route 35 too.
Another potential stop is the fantastic volcano exhibition at the Lava Centre in Hvollsvöllur.
As Route 1 continues through towards the slopes of Eyjafjallajökull, Seljalandsfoss begins to appear in the far distance, before the turn taking you towards the coast for the ferry to Vestmannaeyjar.
Seljalandsfoss is easily accessed off to the left of the Ring Road, as it plunges 60 meters off Eyjafjallajökull in front of a hollowed-out cliff face, which allows you to walk all the way around it.Just a couple of minutes away is the “hidden waterfall” of Gljúfrabúi, which cascades into a pool that’s found behind a rock face.
Driving another ten minutes along Route 1 around Eyjafjallajökull brings you to Skógafoss, a stupendous 60-meter waterfall that’s visible from the road, with a free car park located close by.
Further along the Ring Road lies the Sólheimajökull glacier, which is accessible on a very bumpy 4km gravel road.
8km on from Skógafoss, you’ll see a large car park on the coastal side of the road – this is the start for an hour’s walk to the famous DC3 plane wreck at Sólheimasandur.
Dyrhólaey’s impressive rock arch headland offers stunning panoramas of the black sand beach at Reynisfjara, and Vík.
The famous “black sand beach” itself is found just a few kilometers down a sealed road from Route 1, with a free car park and a cafe.
It’s wise to exercise caution here – both when opening the car door and when walking along the beach – as the weather can be as wild as the terrain.
The famous basalt columns are found about halfway along the beach, with the looming “Reynisdrangar” a little further along. The beach can be tricky to walk along, and it’s essential to keep an eye on the waves as they can catch the unwary out.
A further fifteen minutes drive around the headland brings the refueling options at the gorgeous little village of Vík into range – it’s well worth filling up here, no matter which direction is being taken next.