Icelandic South Coast
Icelandic South Coast
This drive is the reason to travel to Iceland. After driving 1200 miles in and around Iceland, this is my absolute favorite part.
I will say, this is an incredibly dangerous drive in the middle of winter. I happened to be in Iceland during two especially intense storms. The first was the worst that they had had in a decade. Unfortunately, this is when I was driving back from Skaftafell to Reykjavik, and the second was the worst in a quarter century-- just my luck!
I would not advise traveling in December as the northern lights are just as visible, or even more, in September, and the weather is substantially better.
Reykjavik to Skaftafell
Seljalandsfoss is the most power waterfall to see and is visually stunning.
You can walk behind the waterfall, but you will get wet. The photos from behind when you have good weather are going to be your best but if you travel during winter like I did you'll run into a few issues. The steps to get behind the waterfall will be frozen over, and the weather can be a bit finicky.
Caution when you are walking up the steps. I watched two people fall and slide down the entire setup steps, and it did not look enjoyable. They are fun to photograph though!
Fun item to notice in the winter is that because of the winds of Iceland the spray of the waterfall goes everywhere which leads to the freezing of individual pieces of grass which can make up for some interesting photography.
It is a rather easy walk from the parking lot, but you have to navigate through town to get to the real lot. Stick left on the road, and you'll find it.
I loved this waterfall because I had never seen what I can only describe as a moonbow. I am not sure I will even be able to catch something like this again.
The way I saw it was at the beginning of December, the moon was just about full, and it was around five in the morning. This combination leads to a cascading waterfall with stars above casting off a moonbow.
Black Sand Beach of Reynisfjara.
It is a 20-minute drive off of the main road on Highway 215, called Reynishverfisvegur, and it ends in a round-about.
The beach will say it's closed, but you can go down further, but I am warning you-- if you see black sand, it means the water has been there. It also means that there is a good chance that it will be back. I almost learned that lesson the hard way half asleep at four in the morning. I was taking photos with my tripod out and gear on the beach when I saw this tremendous wave. I had a thought in the back of my head that said, wow that's huge! Hm, that water is making the trek up the beach! Oh no, it's going to hit me.... RUN
Photographing the beach gives you the opportunity to work and get some great contrast shots. You also have the chance to catch the light of the lighthouse, Dyrhólaey, in the background.
Keep an eye out while driving as well! You never know what will pop up!
Other Iceland Posts:
- Each waterfall is different, and I would make the plan to go to each as the are not challenging to get to off of the road.
- It is notably easy to miss these waterfalls if you are driving at night. The sun didn't rise until 10 am when I was there in December, which made finding these places a little challenging.
- If you are going to go down to the beach and photograph, make sure you are staying alert. If that wave had gotten me, it would have ruined all of my gear and could have taken me into the ocean. Hypothermia is not fun!
- There are a couple of other places to visit that I recommend but didn't have the chance to see: DC-3 Airplane Wreckage in Sólheimasandur, Gjulfrafoss, Nauthusagil
- You need rain gear if you're going behind the waterfalls
- Each of these waterfalls have the possibly to offer you a fantastic view of them and the northern lights-- if the timing is right. If you have no moon and little coverage, your chances should be pretty high! If you are stuck with a large moon, try and catch the moonbow!
- If your goal is to photograph the northern lights, you need to plan your trip around the moon. I was fortunate to see them as much as I did because I was unfortunately there during a full moon which limited my viewing until about 11 pm each night.
Global Climate change is dear to my heart. I have been to the glaciers in Alaska, Peru, Tibet, Alaska, and Iceland. I have seen with my own eyes that this is incredibly real and incredibly scary because if we do not do anything to protect the planet we were given, we all die.
The nonprofit highlight is EIS or Extreme Ice Survey. If you have Netflix the documentary is worth watching. I'll let the trailer show you the rest.