Inside: My south ring road experience and tips for your spring trip to Iceland.
I’m finally getting around to blogging our Iceland trip and we had the time of our lives. The scenery there was otherworldly, the food was unique, and the activities were an absolute blast (that is totally a geyser pun, which we saw on our Golden Circle Tour).
I wanted to share some of my favorite moments and experiences with you in the hope that it helps you plan your own trip to Iceland soon. Todays topic: The south ring road.
The south ring road is also known as route 1 and it circles the entire island. We were able to go during March, so the weather was enjoyable and it was the perfect time for us to see the southern part of the route. You can follow it from the south coast, through the east fjords, and through the north and down to west Iceland when you go in the summer.
When there is snow and ice to be found I’d suggest you follow our trail and venture as far as Vik, which was the perfect stopping point for our family adventures.
If you are choosing to drive yourself, have no fear: the roads are very well maintained so you shouldn’t have any problems. Though if I had one tip off the bat for you, it would be to bring a paper map, as your reception may be spotty on the way.
After a few days of exploring other parts of Iceland, my family and I were eager to start out on the south part of the ring road. So we got in our rented 4X4 and hit the road. This was such a fun day overall, and I know that you are going to enjoy yourself when you adventure on the south ring road!
Staying On A Horse Farm
First we stopped at a horse farm in hopes of being able to ride some horses, which you can do if the weather is good enough.
Sadly, at that moment the weather was not the right condition for it so we weren’t able to. But that’s okay because later on the weather took a turn for a better and we were able to get three horses! This worked out even better time wise for us, and it was such a fun experience. I would say a lot of your Icelandic vacation may go array but in the best ways. So go into it with an open mind and you will always enjoy yourself.
I go more into our experience with riding the horses we did end up riding below.
Even without the house riding, I cannot begin to tell you how much we LOVED staying on this horse farm right outside of Selfoss. There are various small house options on the property, the one we chose above had an amazing hot tub and cute loft for the kids to sleep in.
A few things I loved about it:
- Beautiful area of the country to walk and explore.
- Crazy nice property managers who let me kid come in and meet, feed the horses and gave them a fun lesson on farm life with the animals.
- Fun Viking restaurant right down the road where we enjoyed trying the famous “black death” and had a wonderful dinner.
- Because we are in the country seeing the Northern Lights was WAY more possible and we could sit in the hot tub to view them! Perfection 🙂
Waterfall Spotting On the Road
We stopped to see some of the biggest waterfalls on the south side of the road the next day and none of them disappointed. The drive alone is just so beautiful, it could be the activity by itself.
Here are the ones we stopped at along the way:
- STOP 1. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
As you approach, you will be able to see the waterfall from the road it’s so pretty even just driving by it. There is also a sign and the waterfalls shows up in your GPS so this one is quite easy to find!
- STOP 1.2 Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
To find Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, face Seljalandsfoss and walk about 1/4 of a mile to your left. You don’t even have to move your car! There you will spot a small sign marking that you have arrived.
In order to see the hidden waterfall, you are actually going to have to walk through a gorge until you get to a cave. This is where we got stuck. It would be a great one to see in the summer, but with the snow on the ground it was inaccessible in March.
- STOP 2. Skógafoss Waterfall
If you thought the first two waterfalls were epic, this next one was my favorite – Skogafoss is only a short drive from the first stop and there are plenty of signs to direct you where you need to go.
When you are at Skogafoss, make sure to head to both the base and the top of the waterfall. Many people spend a ton of time at the bottom but don’t hike the stairs to the top.
Be sure to look all around as the views from the top are just beautiful. Just to note, Skogafoss Waterfall will be one of the busiest waterfall stops. There’s a little mobile cafe with snacks and coffee in the parking lot and LOTS of peopl everywhere.
- STOP 3. (Weather permitting) Maybe also- Kvernufoss Waterfall
This is one part of your Iceland road trip itinerary that many people miss or don’t know about. Kvernufoss Waterfall is located down the same road as Skogafoss! Once you turn off the Ring Road, instead of turning left for Skogafoss, you continue straight until you reach the Skogar Museum.
Exact hike instructions to get to the waterfall can be found here. You will walk along the base of the mountain and round a bend to the left. You will follow a river along until you reach Kvernufoss. The hike is about 20 minutes long each way.
My One Regret From The South Ring Road
My one regret from driving the south ring road is that we didn’t get to see the famous Sólheimasandur plane crash. I was really looking forward to it, but timing after enjoying waterfall and glacier hikes all day, coupled with weather later in the day just didn’t allow for it.
If you have time though, just note you’ll need to hike about 30 minutes to get to it! (maybe do it the next morning if out of time/weather etc). Exact coordinates to get to the Plane Crash – 63.459523,-19.364618
Seeing Mendenhall Glacier
We stopped where we would actually be able to see the Mendenhall Glacier. I think it’s a really easy glacier to see because the hiking trail you take to it is simple and nice. You can just park in the parking lot and walk right up to it.
This was absolutely insane to see. In the summer months, you can kayak in the lagoon and I’d definitely plan that if I went back when it was warmer.
After exploring the glacier, we continued on down to Vik. It was such a cute town and there were more churches to look at (the churches were all beautiful in Iceland). Everything was so quaint.
We settled into the nicest hotel we stayed on our entire trip. It was just beautiful. In Vik we stayed the night at Hotel Kria which was a great spot to explore from. The hotel was nice with a great bar downstairs and just across the street from the iconic black sand beach.
The next morning we got coffee at this cute little school bus coffee place right behind the hotel, and I would totally recommend it.
Horseback Riding On The Black Sand Beach
While horseback riding is in no way unique to Iceland, the Icelandic horses certainly are. This pure breed of horse has been exclusive to Iceland for over 1000 years. As a result, it has a unique gait that you will not see on any other horse outside of Iceland.
While this doesn’t make a lot of difference to the horseback riding experience itself, it does provide you with the opportunity to experience something unique and they were so cuuute! They were adorable, honestly. They had extra hairy manes that were styled like bangs, which was super funny.
Icelandic horses also tend to be more comfortable. So if you aren’t good at horseback riding, you may find that riding these horses aren’t as difficult. If you still don’t want to ride a horse, you can always visit the farm and just pet them and play around while taking pictures. It would definitely make a great addition to your Instagram.
I know that social media isn’t the point of a vacation, but where is the harm in getting an aesthetically pleasing photo or two?
While in Vik we finally got a chance to ride the horses. Hooray! This was such a relief after being stopped by weather previously. Here’s the tour we booked to ride them out to the Reynisfjara Beach and back.
Take Photos at the Basalt Rocks
Afterwards we went back to the hotel room and I got changed, and then we went on to take pictures at the basalt rocks at Reynisfjara Beach. This is something that I got stuck in my head (Thanks Instagram) that I just really wanted to do.
I had this idea where my daughter and I would buy fancy dresses and wear them at the basalt rocks for photos, and it was way colder than I imagined…
And we did it! I couldn’t have been happier.
We posed on the rocks with these adorable dresses on and it was a surreal moment. It was freezing cold and the wind was blowing like crazy on this beach, which resulted in some hilarious hair moments in our photos.
Just to be forewarned if you attempt this, it is a very windy beach no matter the time of year. Reynisfjara Beach is also known as Iceland’s most dangerous beach – Please if you go read the signs & stay back from the water!
If you get there however when the tide is out, climb on them for unforgettable photos!
You can easily reach the basalt columns by a side road off Highway 1 near Vik. Keep your eyes out and program your GPS accordingly.
** Note the cool stepped rock formations you are looking for are right here, drive 1 minute, or even just maybe walk the other way from the parking lot – called Reynisdrangar
Before driving back we did get the chance to do Katla Volcano Ice Glacier Tour which I’ve written another post about, because it was just that good!
So to summarize everything you need to know about the south ring road: Make sure that the weather is good if you want to add horse riding to your list. And if you get turned away, just fill in your time for a few hours with some of the other amazing activities and perhaps your luck will change.
Take your time seeing everything, just know that the road itself is an experience so really try to absorb as much of the scenery as you possibly can. We highly recommend the staying on a horse farm. And of course, if you have the time, get dressed up in some fancy clothes and take photos with the Basalt rocks.
That just about does it for our day on the south ring road.
There were so many amazing experiences in Iceland that I couldn’t fit them all here. If you want to read more about me and my families in Iceland we have more posts coming soon.