Southeast from the Þórsmörk junction, the Ringroad finds itself pinched between the coast and the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap. Though dwarfed in scale by its big sister Mýrdalsjökull immediately to the east, Eyjafjallajökull’s 1666m apex is southwestern Iceland’s highest point, and the mountain has stamped its personality on the area: an active volcano smoulders away below the ice, responsible for major eruptions in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull awoke from dormancy in a fairly small-scale event, but one in which massive clouds of ash, swept southwards by high-altitude winds, caused chaos across Europe by grounding aircraft – something that (along with listening to foreign reporters’ stumbling efforts to pronounce “Eyjafjallajökull”) created a perverse sense of pride in Iceland.
Exploring the South Coast
The base for exploring all this is the Ringroad hamlet of Skógar, with its magnificent waterfall and superb hike to Þórsmörk via a pass between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull at Fimmvörðuháls, site of the 2010 eruption. Moving down the coast, mountain ridges supporting Mýrdalsjökull – and occasional outlying glaciers, such as Sólheimajökull – intrude further and further towards the sea, finally reaching it around Iceland’s southernmost tip, Dyrhólaey, where they form impressively sculpted cliffs, home to innumerable seabirds. Past Dyrhólaey, the sleepy village of Vík has black-sand beaches, more birds and some easy walks, and marks the beginning of the long cross-desert run into southeastern Iceland.
Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland © Jochen Scheffi / iStock
Sights on the South Coast
The shoreline stretches from Reykjavik to Jökulsarlon glacier lagoon with plenty of natural sights and wildlife spottings along the way. The Route 1 highway allows for easy accessibility, therefore, making it popular for those exploring Iceland.
The South Coast of Iceland is well-known for its numerous species of birds, particularly those who nest through all seasons. Keep an eye out on the coastline for seals, whales and dolphins.
Beneath the spectacular Eyjafjallajökull sit waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Large in size and roaring loud with rushing water, the waterfalls are a great stop and the most recognised falls on the South Coast.
Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland © Kotentko A / iStock
DC-3 Plane Wreck
On the black sandy beach of Sólheimasandur sits the abandoned DC-3 plane wreck belonging to the US Navy that crashed in 1973. Eerily quiet and mysterious, visiting the wreck at the right time has a movie-like sci-fi effect.
DC-3 Plane Wreck, Iceland © Chris Kreymborg / iStock
Featured Image © Dash Med / iStock