Ever since I had seen a photo of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Black Diamond Beach, I had desperately wanted to visit so waking up early at 6:30am to see them at sunrise was not difficult in the slightest. The key to clothes for this morning was even more layers than usual and lots of them. After getting dressed, we left the hotel just after 7:00am and started the twenty minute drive towards Jökulsárlón – I do not think we saw another car on the road at all.
We arrived at Black Diamond Beach just before 7:30am as the sun was rising. As expected, there were lots of cars there already and lots of large groups of people with tripods all set up around the larger blocks of ice on the beach. After collecting our cameras, we made our way along the beach where there was hardly anyone standing – the further away from the car park you go, the quieter it is.
The beach was absolutely beautiful and to be able to see it at sunrise was amazing and something I would recommend anyone to do. There were so many blocks of ice on the beach that changed colour constantly and sparkled brightly in the sunlight. Despite being a bright sunny morning, it was freezing but I could not stop taking photos.
As we found out though no matter where you stand on the beach, the next minute someone will walk along and set up their tripod right in front of you ruining your photo and any long exposure shots you were doing at that time. I ended up laughing at most of the people doing this as they had so little awareness as to what was going on around them or how many photos they were ending up in and ruining, that they were ending up knee deep in the freezing cold water as the waves came in and some were even getting expensive camera equipment damaged.
After forty five minutes of standing on the beach, we got back in the car and moved it to the car park on the other side of the Ring Road where Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is located. It was much quieter here as I think most people do sunrise at the beach and then go back to their hotels for breakfast before heading back out for the rest of the day. There were no tour buses here at this time either as it was too early for them to be there as they only leave Reykjavik at 7:30am before having a five hour drive ahead of them.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. To this day, I still cannot believe that I was there. Watching all the ice floating out of the lagoon towards the sea was amazing.
I walked up the hill to get a more panoramic view of the lagoon and was even more blown away by the view from there. I do not have the words to describe it that could even do it justice. I honestly to this day, still feel privileged to have been able to visit.
However there was no escape from the bitter cold at the top of this hill. I have never felt cold like it in my life as there was no shelter from the freezing wind. I could not even feel my hands at one point despite having gloves on (and having hand warmers in my pockets) and was struggling to take any photos as I could not feel the shutter button. Despite this, I could not have been happier.
Despite only renting a compact car, we were happy that ours had heated seats and a heated steering wheel so it did not take long for us both to thaw out on our journey back to hotel. We arrived back for breakfast which was very quiet as we had missed the crowds there too.
For breakfast I had Beans on Toast washed down with several cups of tea which were very much needed. Once again I was incredibly impressed that they not only had Soy Milk available but also Coconut Milk and Oat Milk – I wish more hotels could be like the two we stayed in whilst in Iceland.
After a hot shower, we packed our bags and said goodbye to our beautiful room at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon before loading up the car and starting the drive back towards Reykjavik. We were in no rush for the rest of the day and had plenty of stops scheduled to see as much as we could. Our first stop was only ten minutes away which was the small beautiful village of Hof.
Our next stop was the Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Vatnajökull National Park which was twenty minutes drive away. You can actually see the glacier from the Ring Road however you have to drive down a smaller road with more potholes than I have ever seen anywhere before to get to the parking lot. From there, there is a small path which leads you to the nearby viewpoint and the further along you walk, the more the view changes and the quieter it is.
The peace and quiet here was amazing until it was interrupted by two guys flying their drones around and trying to outdo each other – I’m not joking when I say their drones sounded like two angry wasps flying around. Once they got bored and left which seemed to take forever, everyone else could go back to enjoying the incredible view and colours of the glacier.
It was then my turn to drive for the next leg of our journey. One thing that as immediately noticeable was that the blue skies that we had enjoyed so far that day were fading fast and a lot of snow had fallen since the previous day. Thankfully the road was clear so there was no difficulty in driving. We stopped after an hour at Kirkjubæjarklaustur to use the toilets and buy some drinks before driving another fifty minutes to Vik where we filled the car up with petrol at the same petrol station as the day before.
We then drove up the hill to the Víkurkirkja church and thankfully missed a bus load full of tourists who were just leaving as we arrived so we were able to take photos without anyone in them. This is also the best spot to get a great view overlooking the town of Vik.
It was only a few minutes drive to our next stop which was the famous Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. The car park was full which was not helped by the sheer number of tour buses parked there. Thankfully we did not have to wait long for a space as we saw someone leaving.
The first thing that you will notice when walking down towards the beach is the sheer number of warning signs everywhere you look about how dangerous the waves on the beach can be. People do get swept out to sea here but if you follow the instructions which are simple common sense and not difficult to understand, then there is no danger. Reynisfjara whilst beautiful can be deadly.
As expected given the amount of coaches, the beach was packed but thankfully most of the people were standing in groups close to the basalt columns on the rocks so it was easy to get away from them. It was fun though to see them all run when a giant sneaker wave washed up high on the beach. There was even some people having their wedding photos taken though I’m not sure how great wedding photos turn out when you’re not wearing much and it’s raining, windy, freezing and you’re standing there trying to smile and avoid waves – it was definitely amusing to watch.
The sea that day was very rough and the waves were huge and despite all the signs warning of the dangers, we constantly saw people getting closer and closer to the water to get a photo of themselves with the sea in the background and therefore turning their backs on the giant waves. Idiots.
However the prize (and near Darwin Award winner) for the stupidest and most idiotic person has to go to this mother who thought it was a good idea for her and her small child to go paddling in the freezing cold sea. Even after they were nearly knocked over by a giant wave and had to run like crazy, she went back into the sea to try and retrieve her flip flops that she had lost and had to run again when another giant wave appeared. To make matters worse, she then allowed the child to go back into the water and paddle by themselves. Seriously how dumb can you be?!
Once we left Reynisfjara, we headed to Skógafoss which was a thirty minute drive. On the way we passed the parking area where you can leave you car if you want to hike to the Sólheimasandur DC3 Plane Wreck. Although we both would have liked to have seen it, we decided to pass as it is a 4km walk each way and we just did not have the time – we’ll leave it for our next visit.
Skógafoss is located just off the Ring Road and despite there being lots of tour buses again, there were plenty of parking spaces available. There was a lot of spray from the waterfall which made taking photos incredibly difficult as it was so hard to keep my camera dry – I had to keep using the lens cloth I had with me in my pocket. Being this close to a waterfall in winter is when you’ll be grateful for all the layers that you are wearing and the waterproof jacket, trousers and shoes that you bought with you all the way to Iceland.
There is a long staircase next to Skógafoss that you can climb to get a view of the valley from the top of the waterfall but we decided against it as it was so cold and rainy at that point and the steps looked very slippery.
Another nice to know is that there are toilets at the Skógafoss parking area but they were in a disgusting state when we visited – they were nothing like the ones available at Gullfoss!
Our next stop was Seljalandsfoss and on the drive there we passed a sign for Eyjafjallajökull which most of us will know as “That Volcano” which brought air travel in Europe to a halt when it erupted back in 2010 – I remember those few weeks very well!
Thankfully Seljalandsfoss was quieter than what it had been the previous afternoon when we had made a quick stop there. We had no issues finding a parking space and it had also stopped raining again. As we both love people watching, the best thing we saw was a man fly his drone six foot off the ground to take a selfie instead of just asking someone to take his photo which would have been a lot quicker.
However the best part of Seljalandsfoss is that there is actually a path so you can walk behind the waterfall. If the weather is bad and it is too icy, then you would not be able to do this as it would be too slippery to walk as the path is very uneven and rocky in places. The spray was like nothing else and it was freezing but it was definitely worth it to get that view.
We had one more stop on our list of places to see before we got back to Reykjavik which was the Kerið crater lake which was just over an hour’s drive away and is another stop on the Golden Circle Route. Kerið is also one of the only places in Iceland that charges an entrance fee which costs 400 ISK an adult. We did not stay long here although you can hike to the bottom of the crater if you wish. It is incredibly beautiful especially in the ice and snow and definitely worth a quick visit.
It was about another hour of driving to get back to our hotel in Reykjavik. There was a lot of snow everywhere but thankfully the roads were completely clear so it was a very easy drive. Once again we managed to get a parking space right outside our hotel and as we arrived at the hotel after 6:00pm (it was nearly 8:30pm) we did not have to pay for any parking as it was free until 9:00am the following morning. I also realised that Reykjavik was the first European capital city (apart from London) that I have driven in.
We were both hungry so after leaving our bags in our room we decided to walk to Noodle Station that was close to our hotel which we had walked past on the first night. It was very busy when we got there and there were no spaces to sit but then we found out we could also get the noodles to takeaway which sounded perfect as we were both so tired. Our noodles were 980 ISK each which is so cheap for Reykjavik and they were hot, delicious and filling – exactly what was needed after a long, cold day on the road. I also decided to treat myself to a cocktail back at the hotel which tasted heavenly.
I had a much needed hot shower before getting ready for bed. Sadly once again, it was completely overcast outside with a very low forecast to see the Northern Lights. I kept looking out of the window every few minutes in the hope of seeing some clear sky in the distance as we would have driven out of the city at a moment’s notice to see them.
I still could not be sad about not seeing the Northern Lights after the brilliant two days we had spent on the road exploring the Golden Circle and the South Coast of Iceland. Now we could relax and enjoy the next two days in Reykjavik without any long drives anywhere and as an added bonus, we did not need to set an alarm clock for the rest of our trip!