Since travelling to Iceland I’ve become increasingly aware that I’m not the only person who has developed a bad case of the Iceland bug. It seems that everyone I talk to has either been and loved it, or desperately wants to visit this mystical, beautiful, unpredictable country.
There’s just something about Iceland that grabs hold of our need to travel and refuses to let go.
I must return. I need to return. There’s just so much more I want to see, explore and experience. I learnt so much in the short time I spent there recently that I just need to see more!
I’m not quite sure exactly what it is about this slightly odd country that makes it so special, but I think it’s a combination of different things; the mystical landscapes, the friendly happy people, the unusual but luring weather, the clean air or just the fact that it feels like a better place to be.
Usually by now I’m planning a trip to a new country, whether it’s a press trip or a personal holiday, but this is the first time I’ve felt such a pull to go back to one I’ve just visited so soon. I want to explore the north, see more of the nightlife in Reykjavik, climb mountains and volcanoes, swim the Silfra fissure… the list goes on. One thing’s for sure, I need longer than 4 days next time.
It’s also probably worth mentioning that even though we’re the type of travellers that will usually just hire a car, chuck our stuff in and go find things to do independently, mainly for the freedom but also because it’s cheaper, it just wouldn’t have been the same without a knowledgeable Icelandic guide, and I’m glad we chose to use the smaller Icelandic travel companies on this trip.
Read about our amazing whale watching afternoon here where you can find details of who to book with too.
Visiting waterfalls was something Coby and I were keen to do and on our second day in Iceland we were picked up at 8.30am by our lovely guide Lucia, a bearded Iceland expert from NiceTravel. With a 90 minute drive until we’d arrive at the first spot we got to watch and enjoy the constant changing landscape. It’s almost as if Iceland has more than one eco-system the weather changes that sporadically. And because Iceland is dotted with mountains and glaciers it’s home to over 100 waterfalls of staggering beauty and immense power. Each totally unique in their own way.
Driving past wild horses, around rogue sheep, admiring steep snow-topped mountains whilst sipping on our flask of tea to keep us warm, we were both feeling relaxed and ready for a full day of adventures.
Luckily for us April isn’t too busy and we found that each time we stopped there was a minimal amount of tourists, some none at all, which was a real treat. We visited around seven waterfalls in the end, some small, some huge… all mesmerising. Here are my favourite ones.
The busiest waterfall was actually at our first stop.
Without a doubt, one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland and it’s usually the first stop on all South coast tours. Easily accessible from the main ring-road it’s about a 90 minutes drive away from Reykjavik.
Coby and I had our own personal favourites from this day and we’d argue about which one was the best. But there was one thing we agreed on, and that’s that there are the special kind of waterfall; the waterfalls you can walk behind.
Fed by melting water from the famous ice-topped Eyjafjallajokull volcano, Seljalandsfoss cascades over steep cliffs into a pretty meadow but is best known for the walking path that runs behind the powerful curtain of water.
Spell-binding. Simple as that.
Coby and I got wet, splashed around and took everything in around us knowing that seeing a waterfall like this is a truly one-off experience. Once dried off and we’d eaten an £8 doughnut (gulp) we jumped back in the mini-van and headed to our next waterfall.
A 60-meter high waterfall feeding the Skógá river full of natural beauty.
From the car park, you can easily walk closer to the waterfall, it is even possible to hike to the top if you’re happy to climb just over 500 steps. If you reach the top, the climb is well worth it, you can admire the beautiful waterfall from above. We managed to get up there in around 15 minutes, Coby was up in about 5! He left me behind….
Each waterfall is beautiful in its own way and some are obviously more impressive than others. One thing they do have in common is that there are no words to describe quite what is feels like standing so close to something so powerful. It’s overwhelming – and you will be drenched in the drizzle, so make sure to protect your camera/phone and have waterproofs.
Is very unique, plunges from ancient sea cliffs down into a shallow pool at the bottom and I particularly loved this waterfall because of how it was hidden away. As you’re approaching you can hear it, but you can’t see it just until you walk over the valley leading to it.
It’s a beautiful 30 meters tall waterfall that hides behind a gorge that only a few know about. It’s actually just on the east side of the Skógafoss and is often missed by travellers as there are no signs pointing out its location. We had the waterfall completely to ourselves it was that secluded.
And if you’re brave enough (I know you are) you can even walk behind this waterfall too. It was very gravelly, you need to get your hands a little dirty, but we were fine and just had to climb a little.
I’ve struggled to find out much about this waterfall and actually wondered if I’d even got the name right.
Maybe it’s another random one, I’m not sure, but it was smaller than the others, hidden away and it came in handy for filling our bottles with fresh water ready for the big challenge of the day.
Hiking Solheimajokull glacier was something I didn’t quite think about when booking this tour. To me hiking means walking, not climbing! And when Lucia started to grab helmets, ropes and ice-picks out the back of the van I figured he must be looking for something else. It was when he threw a pair of spikes at me, yelled “you first” I looked at Coby with slight concern. Coby and an ice-pick… yep, OK.. I’m not going behind, or in front of him! Lethal.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about, it was amazing fun and for the next 3 hours or so we climbed, and laughed our way up the glacier.
It’s true what they say though, they are pretty dangerous and one point I wondered if I was bad Mum for letting Coby do something so risky but then realised it was perfectly fine, and stepping outside your comfort zone is necessary sometimes.
He was mesmerised with ‘rainbow hunting’ too. Lucia showed him that if you dug enough with your axe you could find a piece that had a rainbow trapped in it… and it’s true, you can! So pretty and it really puts the Icelandic changing environments into context.
The glacier itself is actually part of a bigger glacier and we were climbing what was described as the ‘tongue’ part. Glaciers are constantly moving and naturally reforming but they are also shrinking and listening to the geographic predictions was really interesting and if you’re naturally inquisitive, then you’ll love this part of the day.
The glacier itself was gravelly, steep, ashy and rocky at the beginning which is a result of lava from Katla’s last eruption in 1918. I was out of breath and a little taken aback by how fast we were going but as we hiked higher it became a little easier. And whiter… bluer, and clearer… and of course, more beautiful.
We avoided dangerous crevasses and so called “moulins” or sinkholes. Glacial sinkholes form when summer melt-water finds a crevasse or other weak spot in the ice and begins to pour down through the ice which can go all the way down to the bottom of the glacier. That was pretty scary. Imagine falling down one of those.
We peered into natural ice caves and continued on up until we reached the top and patted each other on the back, had a quick rest then made our way all the way back down again.
Is something I just couldn’t picture in my mind but that’s where we were going next and where our last stop of the day would be. Coby was exhausted by this point and he naturally sat down and slept on the mini-bus the whole way.
Reynisfjara beach is famous for many filming locations, The Game of Thrones included, (Eastwatch, where the Men of the Night’s Watch are stationed) and is drastically different to anywhere I’ve ever seen. The sea crashes wildly and the wind was so strong on the day we visited it felt dangerous. Luckily there was a little cafe at the top so a hot chocolate and a slice of cake quickly calmed me down 😉
It’s probably the most famous beach in all of Iceland, and what makes it so unique is the black sand, smooth pebbles, unique rock formations and moody atmosphere.
Standing on the beach, in front of the Hálsanefshellir sea cave you will wonder about the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. They’re just these bizarre looking rock pillars which are said to be petrified trolls that were caught outside at sunrise and frozen in time, but some strongly believe that they’re actually basalt columns that were once part of the extensive shoreline cliffs that remained standing while other parts were battered down by the ocean, which makes much more sense to me! Whichever story you choose to believe, they’re a sight to behold and this strange but equally as interesting a place was the perfect place to end our adventurous day.
At some point, whilst battling my way back to the mini-van with the rain making it even more difficult, I remember thinking that I just need to see more of Iceland. If we managed to cover off this amount of exploring in one day, just imagine what you could cover in two weeks!
Click here to find the specific tour I’d booked for us.
Have you been to Iceland? Do you have the Iceland bug? Is there something you’ve done that you think I should add to my list for next time? Let me know.