How do you jam-pack as much Iceland sightseeing as possible into one day? It’s easy peasy on a summer day. Just follow these simple directions: start early and keep driving. That’s what we did.
Thanks to the advice from our new friends at the Blue Lagoon, we had a list of must see locations. And since our visit to this green land of ice was shorter than we would have liked, we decided to do most of them in one day. To be exact, we did 6 out of 10 spots on our hit list in a 15-hour road-trip.
They were each outstanding in their own right with differences that made them exceptional. Follow us on our Iceland marathon road-trip.
1. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
We started off the day with this beaut. Part of the Seljalandsá River, the Seljalandsfoss waterfall can be seen from the main ring road that takes you past all the geological attractions on this list and, to be honest, probably the ones not on this list too. She claims her own magnificence with a special pathway BEHIND the falling water. Yep, you can walk behind this massive waterfall and totally blow your mind with a brand new and incredibly beautiful perspective. A word to the wise: bring a rain coat or something, because it’s very misty behind Seljalandsfoss. Think sideways rain. Most people have this on their list – it’s one of the most photographed features in Iceland. It’s also one of the waterfalls in the music video for Justin Beiber’s I’ll Show You. (Yes, we listen to him occasionally)
2. Solheimer Plane Wreck
Picture this: It’s 1972. A Unites States Navy DC plane is cruising along and past Iceland – or so they thought. The plane runs out of fuel and their only option is to make an emergency landing – on the beach on Iceland's coast. Despite a bumpy and sandy landing, no one was killed. It turns out, the captain didn’t switch to the right fuel tank so they did have fuel, but he just didn’t know it. Who gave him his licence?? At least he didn’t know he was crash-landing a plane full of fuel. The wreckage still rests on the shores of the Sólheimasandur beach. The bizarre sight of the wrecked plane coupled with the striking black sand make for some epic photos.
To access the wreckage, we parked in a lot off the side of the road and walked about two miles across flat, desolate land. The path isn't really marked and the plane and surrounding area are not monitored. Graffiti and wear and tear are definitely aplenty on the relic.
3. Vík Beach
Down the road is another black sand beach (seems like 2017 was the year of black sand beaches for us). We had come across this beach in our pre-Iceland research and, not realizing that black sand was like everywhere, we put this down on our list to get our black sand fix. Needless to say, this wasn’t magnificent because it was blacker than other black sand beaches. It was the desolation that was electrifying. We pulled up to the beach and no one was there. It was a strange but comforting experience. As you look out to the rolling tide, the puffins nestle and fly in the towering cliff to your right. Walk along the coast to the right and you’ll find yourself in some cool caves perfectly sheltered for a quick nap or picnic or… whatever!
4. Svínafellsjökull Glacier
Sólrún, an employee at the Blue Lagoon, gave us a little tip: Any word with “-jökul” in it means something glacier-related. She mentioned a glacier tongue that most people only notice once they’ve passed it. To us, that meant beauty and solitude. At the sign for Svínafellsjökull, you’ll find a very bumpy road that leads to the parking lot. Before you begin your hike along the glacier you’ll notice a plaque dedicated to explorers who went missing on the glacier. The warning words “watch your step, use your head” come to mind. The trek is short but magnificent. Take a break and just watch. Glaciers might look like they’re eerily still ice cubes but they are in fact moving. We were privileged to be there at the perfect time to see a break and submersion of a small part. A bitter-sweet sight.
5 and 5 ½. Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Further down the ring road on the left-hand side is the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, a huge glacial lake sourced from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. The lake is filled with boulder sized blocks of ice, which have broken off the glacier and are now floating out to sea. Some pieces are so huge, they get stuck on their way out, but eventually get hit by another piece that usually sends them moving again. The right-hand side of the road gives access to the ocean and a sliver of beach (with black sand of course). It’s a wonder to behold because dotted along the coast and even far up on the shore, you can see glistening diamond-like ice chunks that postponed their ocean travels to sit along the shore first. It’s really breath-taking.
6. Skógafoss Waterfall
We ended the day just as we began in, with a charged and sustained splash. Down the street from Seljalandsfoss is its larger neighbor Skógafoss. We hadn’t planned on stopping on our way back west but because we didn’t realize how late it was, the seemingly deserted waterfall beckoned for us to pull over and take a gander. True, it was a waterfall just like Seljalandsfoss, but instead of walking behind Skógafoss, we got to see it from above - where the rushing water finally succumbed to the sudden pull of gravity. Of course, you have to climb a gazillion stairs, but really who’s complaining when the view is as spectacular and once-in-a-lifetime-ey as this.
To finish off the night, we rode off into the sunset, eagerly awaiting whatever the horizon would bring tomorrow.
– Tips –
Lookout symbol– Before any point of interest, you will see a sign that gives you a heads up. It’s basically alerting you that something beautiful is on the horizon, so watch out. >>
Playlist– Although you’re going to be getting out of the car often to see amazing things, there’s still a lot of driving time. So to keep the energy levels up and to add an extra layer of awesome to the trip, make a playlist. We used Spotify and made it an offline playlist since we didn’t have a mobile hotspot with us. Some of my favorites at the time were Malibu (Miley Cyrus) and I’ll Show You (Justin Beiber). This music video might explain Bieber’s appearance on our playlist… not so much Miley’s…
Food– like with any road trip, you need to get supplies. We packed an assortment of salty and sweet from our Bónus grocery store haul and picked up some chips while we gassed up at a gas station. Other than that one gas station, I didn’t really see many food options and besides that, we didn’t have pockets deep enough to eat out that often in Iceland.
Foss/Jökul– Whenever you see a sign that includes the letters “foss”, it’s probably a waterfall. Same goes for “jökul” and glacier related things. So if you haven’t got a list of exactly what you want to see, stop at the signs where you see those root words. You can’t possibly go wrong. >>