Iceland is one of those places that really opens up your eyes to the raw beauty of nature. Every time I think back to my trip, I still remember experiencing such an overwhelming sense of awe. The sites, the sounds, each mountain and valley; everything was so new and wonderful to me. Let me take you along my 5 day journey through the southern regions of Iceland to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Day 1: Keflavík Airport to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
We arrived at Keflavik Airport at 5:30 AM. After picking up a cup of coffee, some sandwiches and our rental car, we were well on our way towards the ring road before sunrise. Leaving the airport, I distinctly remember seeing mossy lava fields lining both sides of the road and the most magnificent double rainbow that seemed to span the entire sky! Pair this with sunrise, and that had to be one of the greatest welcomes I’ve ever witnessed in a country.
Continuing east for 45 minutes along Route 1, we arrived in the town of Vík. I fondly remember seeing the town just around the bend in the road, with mountains lining both sides…what an entrance! Here we stopped for a bite to eat at Halldórskaffi. This is restaurant serves everything from smoked trout, cured lamb, burgers to local beers. It is located in the oldest building in Vík and has a very chill and homey vibe. We quickly picked up some groceries from Kjarval, filled our gas tank and were back on the road towards Dyrhólaey.
Dyrhólaey is a small peninsula only 20 minutes west of Vík. Keep in mind, we back tracked to this area but you can easily stop by before heading into town. We were just really hungry so we decided it was easy enough to come back after replenishing our energy levels.
When driving east on Route 1/ring road, turn right onto road 218. Note, there are two options to drive – an upper and lower part. I highly recommend you visit both. Taking the upper path, drive carefully and keep your car in a lower gear. The path is very narrow and winds sharply. At the top you are graced with breathtaking views of the coastline extending into the horizon and the naturally formed arch that extends from the cliff into the ocean.
Driving back down, be sure to take the lower path, and take a walk out onto the the amazing rock formations that have been shaped by the pounding waves! You can also view Reynisfara from a different angle and the “Eagle Rock”, which sticks up from the black sand beach.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
I could honestly spend hours at Dyrhólaey, but next stop is the famous Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Head back to Route 1 and go east until you see Road 215. Turn right and drive all the way down until you see a parking lot.
Reynisfjara is exactly as you imagine and more! The beach is lined with black pebbles and features towering cliffs of geometric basalt columns. Watch our for the waves as you walk around, they can be exceptionally powerful and I distinctly remember almost getting caught by a wave that travelled all the way up to the cliffs! I had to jump up on the first set of rocks to avoid the water. This is definitely a must see site!
Finally, we headed to our final destination for the day, the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. We spent both our first and second nights of accommodation at Hótel Geirland. This is a good spot between Vík and Jokulsarlon for a break. They have a restaurant on site and specialize in smoked lamb, smoked Atlantic charr, homemade skyr cake and more!
Icelandic horses and sheep roam the fields and hills surrounding the property. It truly is a scenic and calm place to rest after a long day of site seeing.
There is a small yet distinctive waterfall called Stjórnarfoss along the same road that leads to the hotel (Road 203 Geirland). Just take a short walk along the narrow footpath beside the river until you reach it.