You know how people say the best things are usually unplanned? Actually wait, is that something people say? It feels like it is. Anyway, our Iceland adventure was pretty well planned out. We had a tour scheduled for almost every day, which is why I thought it'd be best to not do the South Coast tour on Day 3. Eight-plus hours on a bus sandwiched between two other tours seemed like a horrible idea -- especially with visions of Uncle Jamie still fresh in my mind.
Even though I'd pretty much made up my mind that we shouldn't do the South Coast tour, I still had a nagging feeling that we should see it. That nagging feeling came in the form of my super amazing creative director at Showtime who'd been to the south coast of Iceland 10 years ago and loved it. So, the day before we left for Iceland, we spontaneously booked the South Coast tour. After all, we still had two full days of exploring Reykjavik on the agenda (and that's really all you need).
It was my favorite part of the entire trip; a day filled with, glaciers, waterfalls, a black sand beach, seaside cliffs, volcanoes, and even mini horses!
Most South Coast tours that aren't specifically for glacier walks won't take you here. That's why Iceland Horizon was one of my favorite tour operators. With just 15 people on the bus, the guide was able to make quick decisions based on what we wanted to see. I'd seen glaciers in Alaska, so I thought I knew what to expect, but this was completely different. For one, hiking over volcanic rock in a snow/hail storm was an entirely new experience. Once we reached the glacier it literally took my breath away. In Glacier Bay, Alaska, the ice surrounds you as you float by. Here, I was able to walk right up to the ice and get a real sense of scale, texture, color, etc. The ice walkers looked sort of miserable, so I'm glad we were just casual observers.
Vik + Reynisfjara
Maybe my favorite part of my favorite day? If you haven't noticed, that church is in our header gif. So when I saw it in person I was probably more excited than I should have been. Vik is a small town with a cafe, a wool factory, and access to a black sand beach called Reynisfjara. The beach was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Our guide described it as a photographic inversion -- black sand and white waves. Waves that were gigantic and violent. I wanted to stay there all day, but the ocean had other ideas. As we walked along the basalt column cliffs (filled with puffins during the summer), our tour guide started running and shouting. He'd warned us about getting too close to the cliffs, but of course no one listened. The tide was so unpredictable that it jumped like 7 feet and almost trapped a teenager (not in our group) between the ocean and the cliffs. Luckily, our guide was on the lookout for such dangers and caught him just in time. This was the same tide that tried to eat my hat. Our trusty guide rescued that as well. Seriously -- Iceland Horizon is on their game.
Seljalandsfoss + Skógafoss
Waterfalls aren't unique to the south coast, but these two happen to be some of the most photographed in the country -- for good reason. You can usually walk behind Seljalandsfoss, but with ice covering the entire walkway, we decided not to take any chances. We were still able to walk beside it, which made for some cool pictures. Since most of our day was filled with clouds and snow storms, when the sun came out at Skógafoss causing a rainbow, I nearly cried. It was seriously magical. We even had time to climb to the top of the falls and gaze out onto the glacial runoff.
Iceland has something like 130 volcanoes, so seeing them is inevitable. Since this was my first time seeing a volcano up close, I expected to feel more in awe (especially for Eyjafjallajökull). I guess if they're not erupting, they're really just mountains. But still, they're enormous dangerous mountains, so...still cool.
This was another benefit of having a small tour group with a flexible guide. When we drove past a farm filled with Icelandic horses (aka -- the cutest, smallest horses ever), we pulled over to say hi. (We passed horses during our other larger tours and never pulled over.) We stopped for about 10 minutes to pet and befriend the tough little animals. I literally had to drag Mike back on the bus while everyone else waited for him.
Bottom line, if someone you've worked with for nearly three years tells you to do something on your trip -- do it. I can't believe I almost missed this amazing day because I thought I wouldn't want to sit on a bus for a few hours. Thanks a lot, Uncle Jamie.