Reykjavík is a good starting point for your Iceland adventure. But you haven't seen the real Iceland unless you have branched out to discover the surrounding (and very close) natural wonders! On my second stopover in Iceland at the beginning of June 2017, I branched out myself by taking the guided South Coast + Glacier Lagoon (Jökulsárlón) Tour with BusTravel Iceland. Here is what I thought of an action‐packed day that featured many Icelandic film locations, beautiful scenery and perfect photo weather…
What is it all about?
Conveniently, many of Iceland's natural wonders are easily reached within a day from the capital Reykjavík. And there is a wide range of guided bus tours that start from here. So sit back, relax and enjoy the highlights of this truly unique country in the far north of Europe!
How do I get there and what's the schedule?
Like all of Reykjavík's tour bus operators, BusTravel Iceland conveniently picks you up from your hotel or hostel. If you are staying at an AirBnB, find out which hotel or hostel is closest to you (they also pick you up from the central bus terminal BSI) and be there a little bit before 7 am, which is the official departure time for this tour.
This is an all‐day tour lasting 14 hours. You will get back to Reykjavík around 9 to 9.30 pm. Nevertheless, there is no need to be worried about a long drive and sitting on the bus for hours. You will make many stops on your way where you will get out of the bus and walk around. The longest you will drive at a time is two hours and on my tour that only happened once.
Also, your knowledgable tour guide (Helgi in my case), will keep you informed about all the stops on the tour and also tell you a lot about the people, the history and the nature of Iceland.
There is also a quick pit stop in the morning to get some breakfast on the go and a longer one to sit down with a proper meal at lunch time. So you'll have plenty of opportunities to fuel up and go to the restrooms.
What's there to see?
First of all: Lots of beautiful scenery! Icelandic horses, many sheep and every now and then a house populated by humans. 🙂 Seriously though, here are the 5 main reasons why you should not miss this tour:
1. Skógafoss waterfall
Our first sightseeing stop was the breathtaking Skógafoss waterfall – one of Iceland's most famous sights ever!
Chances are, you have probably seen this waterfall in some kind of Iceland (travel) brochure, on postcards, souvenirs etc. It is everywhere! And today, you will have the chance to see it for yourself!
You many also recognize this mesmerizing waterfall from the Marvel adventure Thor: The Dark World (2013). Furthermore, the film crew of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) made their way to Skógafoss. In this movie, however, the waterfall was pretending to be in Nepal!
I thought being there was an amazing experience and was particularly impressed by how close you can get to the water (just bear in mind that you will get pretty wet the closer you get).
2. Glacier Lagoon – Jökulsárlón
Passing by lush green fields, majestic volcanoes, many more waterfalls and the typical Icelandic lava landscapes, we arrived at our sit‐down lunch stop. From here, we could see the outskirts of Iceland's biggest glacier called Vatnajökull. As our tour guide Helgi told us, this was one of the main filming locations for the latest season of Game of Thrones (2011‐ongoing).
Our next sightseeing stop and filming location was the actual glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón itself! In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Jökulsárlón stood in for Siberia. It also served as the backdrop of a wild chase in James Bond: Die Another Day (2002).
Less cold than I had anticipated, the floating icebergs of the lagoon and the nearby "black beach" really were a beautiful backdrop for a wonderful stroll.
If you like to get even closer to the ice, you can book the tour with an optional glacier lagoon boat ride. This will also increase your chances of spotting some seals literally chilling out here on the icy rocks.
3. Village of Vík
The small village of Vík (population: 318 people) is the southernmost village in Iceland and lies at a beautiful black "diamond beach" as well as directly south of the volcano Katla – one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Iceland. Katla has last erupted in 1918 and is currently "overdue".
Vík features heavily in Darren Aronofsky biblical epic Noah (2014). You may also recognize it – again – from Game of Thrones (2011‐ongoing) as everything that is "north of the wall" is filmed in Iceland.
We took a nice little stroll here and "climbed" the stones that led to the black beach. From here, there is a great view of the village and its church, which is thought to be the only building that would withstand a flood following a possible eruption of Katla.
4. View to Eyjafjallajökull volcano (in good weather)
On a clear day, such as the day I took the tour, the bus will stop at a farm with the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the background. The "unpronounceable" volcano erupted in 2010 for the first time in 200 years. Its ash was so fine it could stay airborne for 4–7 days and thus caused a massive amount of flight delays all over Europe and beyond.
That's why Eyjafjallajökull has become the most famous volcano of Iceland. Compared to other volcanoes in Iceland though, the outbreak of Eyjafjallajökull was actually a minor one.
Don't forget to take yet another very Icelandic souvenir pic with this famous "troublemaker" and off you go to the last stop of the day.
5. Seljalandsfoss waterfall
As impressive as it is from the front, the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is not one of your ordinary waterfalls. It is in fact a waterfall, which you can see "from behind".
There is a set of wooden stairs that lead you up to the viewpoint where you can "look behind the scenes". It can get pretty wet when you're walking up (depending from which side the wind blows). For that reason, I would recommend to hide cameras, phones and other water‐sensitive gear in a bag. But it's actually ok just behind the fall.
A very cool experience indeed and a spectacular wrap‐up to an amazing tour!
What do I need to bring?
Not much, aside from a wind‐ and waterproof jacket (an all‐year must for Iceland!) and your camera of course!
It might also be a good idea to bring an umbrella, a winter hat and gloves – even in the summer. I took my tour at the beginning of June and it was still kind of cold (under 10 degrees Celsius).
The weather also changed a lot during the day (from bright sunshine to light rain and cold winds). This is not uncommon in Iceland as it is often said that there can be several seasons in one day – all year round.
Ready for your Icelandic South Coast Adventure?
Book the tour through Tour Desk
Book the tour + the optional glacier lagoon boat ride through Tour Desk
All photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the South Coast and Glacier Lagoon Tour by BusTravel Iceland via Tour Desk. The views expressed in this blog post, however, are entirely my own and thus reflect my personal, unbiased experience. If you book a tour through my dedicated Iceland tour booking website on TourDesk, I will receive a small affiliate fee, which I use towards running my website.