Beyond the Golden Circle – highlights of South Iceland

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We were up pretty early for us to take a quick last walk around the Geysir’s without the crowds. Being a free national site it’s open 24 hours day, there was only one other couple there taking pictures of Stokur. We wandered around and enjoyed the peacefulness, even managing to get a pretty good Geysir selfie!

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Our main stop for the morning was the Secret Lagoon. You may have noticed that so far we haven’t hit up the famous Blue Lagoon. This is because we decided to take a gamble and not visit, not because it’s expensive or touristy but more due to location and timings. We also wanted to be able to experience a more natural lagoon. On our way we stopped at a waterfall which I saw on Google Maps called Faxi.

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Again it was quite early and there were no other people around so it was really peaceful. We had a wander and took some pictures with all the camera equipment we had been carrying around. It was a good waterfall, not as impressive as Gulfoss the previous day but good nonetheless. I would definitely recommend stopping here if you have time on the Golden Circle route you’re taking.

The Golden Circle is probably the most famous tourist route in Iceland (for good reason) but it can be packed with people. If you book yourself on a tour then it’s normally done in one day which can be a tight squeeze on time. Personally I think 1.5 – 2 days is a much better pace. It gives you time to really spend time at each stop and allows you to discover hidden gems along the way!

We arrived at the Secret Lagoon at about 10:30am, we weren’t quite sure if it would be open as the information online was confusing but luckily for us it was. We rented towels and headed into the changing rooms to wash and get changed. Icelandic culture dictates that you should wash completely naked before entering the lagoon. It was very quiet which meant we had no problem following this rule even if it did feel a little strange!

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The lagoon itself was everything you want in a lagoon, warm, big enough to swim around in and set in a beautiful setting. The bottom of the lagoon wasn’t tiled or cement like you might expect but natural stone – I thought this was pretty cool! The geysir that creates the heat for the lagoon is situated in one corner and there is a boardwalk which you can walk along to get a closer view. The closer you got to the geysir in the water the hotter it gets!

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I could have spent all day there, it was super relaxing right up my street. A couple of hours after we got there a large bus of people turned up so we called it a day. If you are in this area please visit this wonderful lagoon, either along with the Blue Lagoon or instead of – its well worth it! I’ve read online that it can be busy from lunchtime until late afternoon so I would recommend getting there early or late as the atmosphere is much better without the crowds! I have added this to my list to revisit in the winter as I love the idea of star gazing in the warm water.

Our next stop after some lunch was Kerið Crater Lake. Previously an active volcano it’s no fallen in on itself and the crater has filled with water. It was VERY windy when we got here (and you had to pay to visit) so we didn’t stay too long. Stuart took a walk around the rim of the crater while I sat down and watched him. We also took a stroll down to the lake a the bottom, which was a bit hairy because there isn’t really a path down the final section. The pictures do it more justice then I can but there was a random bench positioned at the water’s edge which added some quirkiness.

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We had quite a long drive from here down to our final destination of Vik. A little out of the way and not normally visited as part of a short break in Iceland but I think it’s definitely doable and worth sacrificing a day in Reykjavik for!

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We made a few stops on the way, the first was Seljalandsfoss – a waterfall that you can actually walk behind! There were lots of tour buses parked in the car park but it wasn’t too busy and we still got to enjoy the wonderful site.

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We walked right up to and behind the waterfall trying hard not to slip into the icy water. It was coming down with some force and caused a lot of spray. The walk behind was quite precarious and I wouldn’t recommend it for children or anyone not stable on their own legs as it involved a scramble up some rocks to get up the other side.

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We decided to continue walking down the path towards some other sign posted waterfalls. We had heard from a work colleague and online that there was a hidden waterfall in the area. After walking for 5-10 minutes we can across just this place. There were two options for seeing the waterfall, one was climbing up a near vertical mound to look at it from above or balancing across some rocks in a river to inside the cave and see the waterfall from below. We chose this option, which turned out well for one of us.

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I thought I would go first and would be fine hopping from rock to rock not touching the ice cold water but no I slipped and dunked one of my feet up to my ankles in the freezing water. This didn’t dampen the experience as once we got into the cave it was pretty awesome. A waterfall plunging from high above into the cave causing spray to fly everywhere. If you go to Seljalandsfoss and you have time make sure you visit this place. Worth the 10 minute walk. Our pictures were rubbish as it’s hard to take them through the mist but you get the jist.

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Next up was a layby where you can see the infamous Eyjafjallajokull – the volcano that caused all the air travel disruption in 2010. What amazed me is that there is a glacier on top of the volcano and you can hike most of the way up! It was unfortunately hidden by clouds but it was still pretty cool to be able to be that close to it and the farm underneath.

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Our next and final waterfall of the day was Skogafoss about 20 minutes up the road. After a hot chocolate in the car (as it had got very cold and windy by this point) we walked up to the more typical style waterfall. I’ve seen lots of pictures online of people having their wedding photographs here and I can understand why as even in the grey it was pretty.

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There is a path that runs up the side of the waterfall to the top which Stuart wanted to “amble” up but I put my foot down in light of the weather and the steep steps. If we go back in the summer at any point then it would be good to see what’s on the other side!

We packed a huge amount into the day and it wasn’t over yet! We knew that tomorrow would mainly consist of driving so we I thought it would be a good idea to visit Dyrhólaey. The arch with a hole – a peninsula near Vik. It had an exciting drive through countryside and a road sandwiched by lake and sea. We then began, what can only be described as a nail biting off roading experience. One that the rental company would not have been pleased with.

Up a twisty turney pot-holded road to the very top. At this point the wind was so strong I thought we might get blown off the side! A quick walk to the lighthouse at the top and to the edge to see the famous rock formation was more than enough wind and danger for us both so we ran back to the car and drove back down. An exhilarating experience and not one I would particularly repeat.

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We finally made it to the hotel (which was very fancy and had an AMAZING shower) to rest up after an action packed day. Filled with nature and spectacular views it was by far my favourite day in this country of extremes.  

2 thoughts on “Beyond the Golden Circle – highlights of South Iceland

  1. Pingback: 2016 Review and looking forward | The Non Backpacker

  2. Pingback: Vik and those famous black sand beaches | The Non Backpacker

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