2024.04.15 South Coast – Glaciers and Black Sand

The guesthouse’s geothermal hot tubs opened at 7:00am and we were plunging in by 7:30.  There were several hot tubs where you could sit and look at the next-door glacier if you didn’t mind getting blasted by 20mph winds.  We gave up that view and selected a hot tub on the other side of a large rock where the environment was more to our liking.  We had the place to ourselves and couldn’t have had a better experience.

Hot Tubs With Glacier In Distance
Hot Tubbin’
Amazing Views

After a 45 minute soak, we returned to our room at the GlacierWorld guesthouse and went to the dining room for breakfast.  There were 8 – 10 other guests eating when we arrived, which is more than I expected given the few cars we had seen in the parking lot.

This was a very simple breakfast, but certainly enjoyable.  Several selections of bread, lunch meats, cheese, coffee, orange juice, and fruit.

Breakfast, Steve, Glacier (in background)

Once we checked out of GlacierWorld, we stopped for a picture at the Vatnajokulspjodgardur National Park sign.  What I wouldn’t give for a t-shirt with that emblazoned across the chest.

Steve and Stephanie Visit Vatnajokulspjodgardur National Park!

We made an impromptu decision to drive out and see the Hoffellsjokull Glacier up close.  We were able drive about 4 kilometers through a rocky wash, sometimes a riverbed (with no water), to the very small parking area at the base of the glacier.

We have learned that the waterproof pants that we purchased for waterfall exploring are perfect for protection against the Iceland wind.  So after parking the car, we put on all our layers and walked up the moraine to view the glacier.


The wind was ridiculously strong as it blew right across the glacier towards the ocean. It definitely added to the experience and the moment.  Some of the nicest informational signs we have seen on our trip were there, which is funny considering how few people (comparatively) will see them.  We did learn that we would be unable to actually hike on the glacier since it was inaccessible to a couple of novice glacier hikers like us.  But we were still incredibly close, and we took a short hike along the rocks and sat down and soaked it in for a while.

Approaching The Glacier
Hello Glacier
Visiting A Glacier
View Looking Away From The Glacier

After a suitable amount of time, we got back in the car and on the road.  Not too long into the drive we came upon a large monument on the side of the road.  We had noticed it yesterday, but was unable to stop.

Jon Eriksson Monument

It was essentially a monument to Jon Eriksson, who was born in the area in 1728.  He was extremely bright and was educated in Denmark and Norway, and ultimately died in Denmark after achieving a lofty status as Chief Librarian of the Royal Library.  Quality monument.

Our next stop on the journey was at Diamond Beach.  This area has the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier which feeds into a glacier lagoon.  The ice breaks free out of the lagoon out to sea where fragments of the glacier collect on the beach.  It is a surreal landscape and it was very crowded, considering how few people we have seen along the South Coast.

There was a lot to see here, so we started on the beach and had a lot of fun looking at the chunks of ice on the beach and taking pictures.  Again, waterproof clothing For The Win!

Diamond Beach
Diamond Beach
Diamond Beach
Stephanie – Queen Of The Diamonds

Leaving the beach, we followed the very short river from the beach to the lagoon.  We got to see a pretty sizeable chunk of ice floating towards the sea.

The icebergs in the glacier lagoon had some of the bluest ice we have ever seen.  Nothing’s as pure as glacier water, right?  The icebergs were of all shapes and sizes. One sign said that only 10% of an iceberg is typically above water, so there was a lot of ice in that lagoon.

Blue Iceberg With One Lane Bridge In Background
Blue iceberg With Tourists

For the second day in a row, we had an unexpected wildlife sighting.  Today it was Harbor Seals!  There were 6 seals relaxing on slabs of ice in the lagoon.  At one point, one of them rolled its fat self off the ice and into the water. Seal action!

Blurry Seal Photo (seals are circled)
Glacier and Glacier Lagoon

This area has huge parking lots, and once again we got to pay for parking.  During the “summer”, this is even a bigger tourist hotspot than it was today.  There were several food trucks and hot chocolate huts on-site and ready to serve. 

The drive continues.  Along the way, we stopped at a pull-out with a sign discussing a nearby glacier.  The entire area from the mountains & glaciers to the ocean is nearly featureless. 

For lunch, we opted to stop at a gas station we had visited yesterday, that had a restaurant.  I had heard several people order the Seafood Soup and I was intrigued.  We ordered the soup and some fish & chips, and for the second time today had a view of a glacier while we ate our meal.

The soup was amazing, and the fish was also good. Sometimes a great meal can come from a surprising location.

As we left, we each grabbed an ice cream from their freezer and ate it in the car.  Our next stop was just a few miles away – the Svartifoss Waterfall.  This waterfall is notable because you have to hike abut 45 minutes to get to it, and it features a wall of basalt that the water falls over. 

We soon learned that the hike to the waterfall was all uphill. But fortunately, the weather was quite pleasant. The sun was shining and there was very little wind on the hike.  There were lots of people on the trail enjoying the hike with us.

The hike was worth it.  A very nice waterfall on a wall of basalt.

Svartifoss Waterfall
Waterfall Geeks
View Looking Away From The Waterfall

The drive continues westward.  We would go from sunny, to snow, to sleet, and back to sunny in 20-30 minutes. 

We stopped in Vik at the travel center again, for a restroom break, coffee, and souvenir shopping.  Unfortunately, we did not buy any dinner supplies, which we would regret later.

Another 20 minutes down the road and we arrived at the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.  We arrived with just a few minutes of sunlight streaming, so parts of the beach were already in the shadows.  I was disappointed we were unable to see it in the light of day, but Stephanie was unbothered.  She loved the beach, and I did too.  I was expecting it to be sand, but the beach was actually made up of black rocks.  So unique!

Black Sand in Stephanie’s Hand
Black Sand Beach

Just a few miles down the road from the beach was the Dyrholaey Rock Formation.  Stephanie cleverly described this in our itinerary as “Rock with big hole”.  No wasted words there.

Dyrholaey Rock

We drove the short distance to get a better view and we were really chasing the last remaining sunlight now.  We did finally make it to the top of the rock and get to see the hole from a much closer vantage point.  There was also a bonus, a lighthouse at the top near where we parked.  The sun had set, but there were still a dozen or so cars in the parking lot trying to pack in a bit more sightseeing, just like us.

Dyrholaey Rock
Lighthouse With Black Sand Beach In Background
Sunset at Dyrholaey Rock

We visited a restroom that was at the base of the rock, and it was a new experience.  It was a pay-for-use bathroom.  You just scan your credit card and for the low price of $1.42, you can relieve yourself in this beautiful bathroom with scenic views.

Scenic View From Bathroom

As we pulled out of the parking lot, it was around 9:45, and we had missed our chance to get food at Vik. We knew there would be nothing open between here and Reykjavik, so we really had no choice but to head for our hotel.  We did have some beef jerky in the car, which I snacked on, but Stephanie passed as she is quite a bit more discriminating than I am.

We arrived at our hotel for the next two nights, the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, a few minutes before midnight and were quickly checked in.  They even had a selection of food adjacent to the check-in desk, so Stephanie got her sandwich at the hotel at midnight.  Thank you, Hilton.

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