Nature’s Finest: Glaciers, Beaches and Waterfalls

The main draw to Iceland for me was the captivating natural scenery that I knew could be found across the island, its diverse landscape holding many geological wonders; a vast and inviting playground for those who cherish the great outdoors. With so much on offer the only problem came from trying to narrow down an itinerary that could fit within two days.

Having taken considerable time to explore the varied tour options, dates and times, I managed to fix a fairly extensive list of places into two tours, the first of which included a journey of discovery along the south-east coast, visiting glaciers, beaches and waterfalls. It was a popular option on a comfortable coach and we traversed great interchanging landscapes, leaving behind the city sprawl for the snow-covered tundra and winding highway that led us over sparse lava fields, through the rugged mountains to a short stop near Selfoss.

From here we learnt more about the great disruption caused by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Erupting back in 2012, the vastly spread ash clouds that plumbed from its crater brought European airspace to a standstill for weeks. Still a vivid image in my memory.

Our first stop was in a vast glacial valley, where the ground underfoot was soft and black from the volcanic earth that saturated the ground beneath the surrounding mountains. The wind was wild as we stepped off the coach and I found myself blown sideways as I gripped tight on my hat. Walking full-face into the wind was worth it though to behold my first sight of a glacier. Solheimajokull glacier held a sky blue glaze embedded with an iridescent white, a stark contrast against the blackened sands that lined the shores of the frosted lake.

We departed from the exposed plains and journeyed eastward towards Vik, where we encountered Reynisfjara; the black sand beach. Typically found in volcanic regions, it was a sight I had witnessed only once before in Bali, Indonesia. Though the wind had eased a little, there were great 6-8m waves that curled on approach like unrelenting trojans in a battle against sea and shore. We huddled at safe distance by the heightened basalt columns that were similar in feature to those of the Giant’s Causeway at home. Sea stacks and hollow caves could also be found beneath the crying gulls on the cliff overhead and though the weather was rough I found the eerie scene quite enchanting.

We travelled only a short distance on to Vik where we stopped for a hearty lunch by the cloudy bay, before rolling on to the striking Skogafoss waterfall. The wind had whipped up again, but neither that nor the constant downpour could deter me from climbing the steep metal staircase. It led to the river above the falls, offering a stunning birds-eye view gazing down as I stood suspended over the cliff edge. I captured a few quick snaps and hurried back down to meet the thick ice ledge that sprawled out below the powerful falls. It was a most breath-taking sight to behold up close, but time didn’t stop.

Out last visit was to Seljalandfoss waterfall which had far less presence than the previous, but stood tall and beautiful against its backdrop all the same, hidden back from the road in a vastly open landscape. Here I finally fell to the elements, falling to my knees hard on the ice. Though it hurt at first I came away without injury. All in all it was a wonderful day of exploration, it was only a shame we did not have longer to enjoy each stop, but there is little you can do about that when each landmark is a distance away.

Though it took the next 24 hours for our clothes to dry out, it was totally worth embracing the unrelenting Icelandic weather. Nothing could dampen my spirits given these highlights, not a complete soaking or a fall on the ice. Though we spent the remainder of the evening unwinding and drying, the following day would hold further adventures and I for one couldn’t wait.

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