Iceland's South Coast: Our 10 Day Campervan Trip - Day 2
Updated: May 7, 2019
In this 9-part series we'll give you an in-depth, no fluff account of our trip around Iceland in a campervan. We had our itinerary for the entire 10 day Ring Road adventure well-planned (some say even over-planned, but we say there's no such thing when your destination country is jam-packed with must-see places and your time is limited) and yet we had to tackle a few surprises along the way. After all, this was our first ever campervan trip (we'll jump ahead and say that we are totally hooked now! #vanlife).
Day 2: Iceland's South Coast
On our second day we planned to drive along Iceland's south coast which is said to have the most beautiful landscapes in the country.
We woke up at the Hamragarðar campsite to a breathtaking view of the notorious Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano which last erupted in 2010 halting air travel across Europe and causing evacuation of 800 people. It is safe to visit the volcano now, as it is not expected to erupt for another hundred of years or so. Since we arrived late the previous night, we couldn't see anything but the vast fields in front of us and the dark cliff outlines behind the campground. As we climbed out of our campervan into the sunlight of the most beautiful Icelandic morning, we were greeted by the view of the notorious volcano with its unbelievably green hills and graceful Seljalandfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls in the distance. It was only about a 10 minute hike along the side of the volcano to reach Seljalandfoss from the campsite. Seljalandfoss is one of those waterfalls that you can fully encircle, walking behind the wall of falling water, getting delightfully soaked and truly feeling the power of nature.
Tip: If you plan on walking behind Seljalandfoss, make sure to wear waterproof clothing. There is a lot of spray in the air and you will get wet. Waterproof rain pants and jackets worked well for us.
As we left the Hamragarðar campsite, we headed towards the Seljavallalaug swimming pool. This pool was built in 1923 and is one of the oldest in Iceland. Its purpose was to teach locals how to swim, and swimming lessons are now a part of the compulsory eduction in Iceland's public schools. Seljavallalaug pool has since been replaced by a more modern pool not far away and is now abandoned, open to the public to use at their own risk. It is cleaned once every summer by a group of volunteers.
To get to the swimming pool you will have to hike for about 40 minutes through a beautiful landscape of green lush hills along a shallow swift river (which you will need to cross at one point by hopping across some rocks thoughtfully placed for that exact purpose). By the time we arrived, there were already a dozen or so people at the pool. But, with the pool being 25 meters long and 10 meters wide, there was enough room for everyone. If you can change into your swim clothes before you set off on the hike, we would highly recommend you do. There are two changing rooms by the pool, but the doors don't lock, the floors are covered in heaps of garbage, and it smells REALLY bad in there. We didn't think of changing in our van and therefore had no choice but to take turns changing and holding the door shut for each other, all the while trying not to breathe too much.
If you are a clean freak, Seljavallalaug pool might not be for you. Its walls and floor are covered with algae, the flow of water in and out of the pool is minimal, and the water is murky. We only hesitated for a couple of seconds before getting in (it was too cold to stand around with no clothes on and, after going through all the trouble of changing, we didn't really have a choice). There are a couple of spots in the pool where the hot water comes in and those spots are heavenly! You'll have no trouble finding them as that's where most of the people will be hanging out. We waited for our turn and then enjoyed some mind-blowing time soaking in hot geothermal water in an abandoned pool built into the side of a lush green hill. It was a truly unforgettable experience and we hope you consider adding it to your itinerary (the hike alone is worth it).
From the abandoned pool we continued on towards Skógafoss. Skógafoss is 60 meters tall and 25 meters wide, making it one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Its cliffs actually used to be the coastline long time ago before it receded about 5 km seaward. You can climb about 500 steps all the way up to the top of the waterfall for some spectacular views. From the parking lot, the walk to the falls is short and you can get right to the falling water but, as is the case with Seljalandfoss, you will get drenched so make sure to wear appropriate clothing. Entry is free and washroom facilities are available for a small fee.
Sólheimasandur plane wreck site was the last stop we had planned for our second day in Iceland. In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black sand beach. Everyone on board survived and the remains of the plane are still there, in the same spot where it crashed 45 years ago, slowly being claimed by the elements and the tourists climbing all over them (we're looking at you, Justing Bieber).
Tip: The hike to the plane wreck from the parking lot is about 4 km each way, so plan on spending at least 2 hours here.
While the hike to the crash site is long, there is something about walking for an hour with nothing around around you but the black sand beach and the faraway mountains in the distance. If you ever wondered what it would be like to walk on Mars, this might be as close as it gets!
Tip: If you are into photography and want to get some stunning photos of the plane minus the people crawling all over it (literally) , plan to spend quite a bit of time at the site waiting.
We spent our second night in Iceland at a campsite in Vik. The campground is located only one km from the village's centre. Being so close to the main road and the town doesn't make for the most scenic setting (although it is way more picturesque than you are probably imagining since it is nestled to the side of some beautiful green hills). We did not have any issues finding a spot to park our campervan.
In our next post we'll write about some of our favorite spots in Iceland so make sure to keep your eye out or, better yet, subscribe to our newsletter so we can let you know when the post is up! Við sjáumst!