Iceland, Finale: The Touristy Southern Coast

Part I: Introduction
Part II: Snaefellsness Peninsula
Part III: Into the Westfjords and Dynjandi
Part IV: Djupavik and the most remote swimming pool in the world
Part V: Hvitserkur and a lot of driving
Part VI: Aldeyjarfoss and some friendly Dutch people
Finale: The Touristy Southern Coast

At long last it’s time to wrap up my trip report from Iceland (only about 5 months late I guess).  I saved the southern coast for last and, if I’m honest, I much preferred the northern bit, particularly the remote and isolated Westfjords.

The Southern Coast of Iceland

The southern coast of the island of Iceland is absolutely packed with touristy spots, most of which are visible from Highway 1 (the Ring Road).  This is good and bad.  It’s good because it’s convenient and the various sites are relatively close (30-60 minutes) to each other, but it’s bad because: tour buses.

Iceland has quickly become overrun with tourists.  It’s relatively cheap to get to, from both Europe and the USA, and it’s incredibly beautiful, so combine those and you end up with crowds all over the place.  I went in the first week of September, after the busy season, and it was still packed.

I don’t regret going to the southern coast, because it is beautiful, but I’m not in a rush to go back, although there are definitely some waterfalls I missed.  My visit to the southern coast encompassed a few days, with little variation between them outside of gradually making my way west towards Reykjavik night by night, so this is more of a collab of the places I saw on the southern coast than it is a day-by-day wrap-up.

Vestrahorn Mountain

Like most of my trip to Iceland, I was inspired by my buddy Elia Locardi and his Fstoppers tutorial where he taught advanced landscape photography techniques on location in Iceland.  One of my favorite lessons from that tutorial (which is expensive but very worth it IMO) was the panorama lesson at Vestrahorn Mountain.  I knew I had to visit when I was there.

I was checking Instagram the evening before I was going to visit the Vestrahorn and saw that an IG friend named Toby, who was also from Dallas, was close by!  Even though he and I had never met in person we had followed each other’s work for a long time (he’s an absolutely incredible photographer, give him a follow!).  Sometimes you have to travel all the way to Iceland to meet someone who lives about 20 minutes from you I guess!

The mountain sits fairly isolated on the southeast coast of Iceland and is actually on private property, so you have to pay a small amount to access the site.  Toby and I went to pay for our entry ticket, but the little cafe was closed, and the ticket machine was broken, so we just made our way into the site (we paid afterward).

The walk out to Vestrahorn is short and wonderful.  The mountain sits next to a beautiful black sand beach, with a small layer of water casting amazing reflections.

I busted out the camera and the drone and got to work!

The reflections almost didn’t look real, but Toby and I both had a blast talking about photography and life as we had this beautiful scene in front of us.  One of my favorite parts about the Mavic 2 Pro is the panorama mode, so I sent up the drone and got an enormous panorama of the entire site.

Toby was then an unassuming model for a pretty epic shot which gives some scale and humanity to the whole scene (which is very important in landscape photography, it can’t all be background).

He then got one of me and tried to make me look as epic as possible.

We decided we were both epic enough.

Then it was time to fly the drone a little more and get one of the awesomely epic shots for my Iceland drone video.

Vestrahorn was a 10/10 for me, would definitely visit again.

Jökulsárlón (Ice Lagoon)

There are quite a few glaciers in Iceland, some of which you can see right from the road.

A particular glacier feeds the Jokulsarlon ice lagoon.  The ice lagoon has enormous icebergs in it from the nearby glaciers, when they get down to the lagoon they break off and float out to sea.

This was one of the most crowded places I saw in Iceland.  Too crowded for me, in fact.  I didn’t feel like there were any unique photography vistas with all the people around, so instead of Jokulsarlon, I went to the

Diamond Beach

The icebergs wash down the Jokulsarlon lagoon and make their way out to sea, where they’re frequently broken up and wash ashore as enormous chunks of ice.  These chunks are thousands of years old and have incredible blue hues.  They call this place Diamond Beach because these ice chunks, some as big as automobiles, reflect all sorts of sunlight, which I was really looking forward to.  Unfortunately for me I visited the beach on a day when there was no sunlight, so instead of amazing reflections I got some moody long exposures, which were still wonderful!

I would definitely visit Diamond Beach again, I’d really love to catch a great sunrise or sunset here!  The ice lagoon would be nice during the offseason.

Fjaðrárgljúfur

This famous canyon is as beautiful as it is hard to pronounce.  Steve Carrell, from the movie Bruce Almighty, gives us a quick lesson on how to pronounce this crazy name:

Ok so maybe that’s not the best pronunciation guide but that’s probably better than I could do.  Anyway, people come to this amazing place because it looks like you’re on a different planet!

The crazy canyon used to be walkable but tourism has really wrecked the site so now people are limited to defined paths to help rehabilitate the environment at the site.  So, while I couldn’t get any better pictures with my camera, my drone was up for the job!

It’s a rather short canyon but it’s worth seeing.  It’s hard to show just how crazy the canyon walls are in a picture so I sent my drone through the canyon to get some video to help illustrate:

Oh and I also tried to get an action shot of me taking a photo but there’s not really any “action” about taking a photo, oh well.

This place was really remarkable and I wish I would’ve had more time to walk the entire side of the canyon but it started to rain really hard so I had to cut my visit short.

10/10 would visit Asdfasdfasdf Canyon again.

Skogafoss

This is Iceland’s second most famous waterfall.  It’s massive, it’s tall, and it’s incredibly easy to get to (it’s visible from the Ring Road, even!).  It’s incredibly popular and crowded and I feel like most of the good pictures from here have already been taken but it’s still worth a visit, just to experience its power.

Skogafoss was also the site of the single dumbest thing I’ve ever done while traveling, which I’ll cover in another post.

Seljalandsfoss

This is the most popular waterfall in Iceland.  It’s crowded as all heck as a result.  It’s a fairly short drive from Reykjavik and is unique in that it’s super easy to walk behind the falls to get soaked by the mist take some pictures.

The weather wasn’t super cooperative for most of my trip, which was a bummer at Seljalandsfoss, because the falls face the west and could’ve made for some epic sunset pictures!

(notice the parking lot in the background of the above shot)

Wrapping up Iceland

I missed a lot and honestly a lot of it was on purpose.  I was flat out exhausted at the end of this trip as I felt like I was driving nearly the entire time (I felt like this because I had been driving nearly the entire time).  Iceland was devastatingly beautiful, irrationally expensive, and a place which pleads for you to drink deeply of it instead of just skimming the surface like I had.

I will definitely return to Iceland and cannot wait for the day!  Thanks for following along!

1 Comment

  1. I share your sentiments about the south coast… It had some of my favorite spots, but nothing topped the Westfjords. If you return, I highly recommend the northeast and eastern fjords, as they’re off the beaten path and have some stunning locations. I really enjoyed reading about your very fast trip, and your pictures are amazing and inspire me to get a ND filter and step up my game. (I come from photographing automotive racing, so my landscape game is a bit lacking…)

    Reply

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