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Iceland Diaries | Exploring the south

10 days on the road circling the island. 4 days hiking in the highlands. A few months ago we made one of our dreams come true. Here’s a fragment of our trip to Iceland…

A good few months ago Paweł and I made one of our dreams come true – we did a road trip around Iceland. We’d been planning the journey and collecting equipment for over 6 months – that’s how excited we were about it.
Every evening there I took a moment to note down all I could remember from the whole day. So many incredible places and landscape that was changing so quickly made me feel like I just had to put all the memories onto paper. So here are some fragments of our life on this extraordinary island.

Day 1

We arrived in Iceland in the evening. We got off the plane and the weather was just as I had expected – cloudy and windy. After picking up our rental car the sun came out and we set off with excitement. It was after 11 pm and still so light outside. We both felt weak rather than tired because the daylight was keeping us awake. We were quite desperate to set our tent up anywhere to sleep.

Then a small miracle happened- a free camping sign appeared (you’ll find the location at the end of this post) and it was the most beautiful place we could have wished for our first night. The sky was turning pink but the sun never set that night nor any other night.

Day 2

The sun woke us up at 8 am. We had our first breakfast in a warm spot on a bench and slowly set off to explore…

First, we headed to Seljalandsfoss. As it was our first waterfall we were really impressed. We got soaking wet there, too. Our next stop was Skogafoss which, until now, is still one of my favourites.

We climbed up to the top and admired the view. The weather was just perfect. We wanted to cook ourselves a proper meal, but our gas container turned out to be the wrong one, so we just had sandwiches instead.
A few minutes by car and we parked to see the DC plane. To be honest with you, I wasn’t so keen on going there. I mean, nothing special, just an old plane wreck, right? Well, Paweł is crazy about aviation and it was his dream to see it in real life. So I did it for him and we went there together. It was a long (and I mean looong) and windy walk to the plane wreck. We talked a lot and filmed to kill time. That day the sun didn’t leave us and we managed to fit in so many things in such a short space of time.

Our final stop was the oldest swimming pool in Iceland – Seljavallalaug. The water was just the right temperature and the surroundings stunning. Though as you swam you felt the water being somehow thick and slimy at times. Getting out of the pool was the hardest part. Even though it was July, that doesn’t mean much in Iceland. The cold wind made it nearly impossible to leave the water.

We spent our second night on a crowded campsite in a town called Vik. This is certainly a night I don’t recall well. We were starving and got there only to see the kitchen was absolutely packed, with nowhere to sit down. We ate our pasta in the car. The bathrooms looked very uninviting and I ended up not washing at all because the water was simply too cold (too many people at a time were using it). On top of all that, we had a big argument which kept me awake for long.

All warmed up and happy in Seljavallalaug

Day 3

We woke up late – 9 or even 10 am. We did some food shopping and drove back to Reynisfjara beach. I think we were both feeling a bit weak after the night and because of the dull weather. Nevertheless, we spent a good hour or so there. Our moods shifted once we got to the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon – a hidden gem (the picture right at the top). It was definitely less touristy and the views were incredible.

That day there was a lot of driving through changing scenery. For some time we drove through a land of nothingness, just rocks all around. It got colder outside and the rain clouds were just resting on the mountains instead of floating above them.

We reached Skaftafell National Park; it was gloomy, but the lack of wind made it pleasant and calm. We decided to hike to Svartifoss (yet another waterfall) at about 7 pm. It was quite a tropical hike with plenty of streams on the way. We had made the best decision then by driving further to a gorgeous campsite. The kitchen was big, the showers free with hot water. The busier the campsite the more welcoming it feels. Just more alive. We set up our tent far away from everyone else, ate pasta with pesto and finally had an early evening for ourselves. Still light outside; it was such a strange feeling the first day and it still is now after a couple days of being here.

Day 4

Our first stops of the day were Fjallsarlon and Jokulsarlon – glacier lagoons. Fjallsarlon – not the most spectacular but Jokulsarlon was really beautiful. Especially when the sun came out and the icebergs were an intense blue colour.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon


After that, we drove to the far east…

That’s all for now, you’ll find the next part of the Iceland Diaries series in the next post where I write more about our trip around this beautiful island. Check out some more photos in the gallery below!
What are your thoughts on holidays like these? Would you visit Iceland in the summer even though it’s not the warmest place? Or do you prefer more tropical destinations? Maybe you’ve already been to Iceland? I’d love to know!
If you’re still thinking of going or planning your trip and have any questions, ask away in the comments. I’ll do my best to help you. Just to finish off, here are some tips you’ll find useful when exploring the south of Iceland.

Useful information

  • It’s really difficult to wild camp in the south (or anywhere in Iceland for that matter). Before arriving we had planned to sleep outside of campsites, but it turned out impossible for us; there are some wild camping regulations e.g you can’t camp close to farms, you must seek permission from the landowner and you cannot park your car off the road. In other words, we couldn’t be bothered to worry about all these rules and chose campsites every time
  • For your first night in Iceland, there’s no better place to stay than in this free campsite we’d found by accident, not far from Reykjavik
  • The average cost of sleeping in a campsite is 1500 ISK per person – that’s around 11 euros
  • You may find that hot showers are included in the price, but most of the time you have to pay for them additionally (500 – 700 ISK)
  • Hot water is a luxury, so be prepared for washing everything in ice-cold water.


More of the first few days

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