Image credit: Nico Kaiser
No-one needs an excuse to explore Iceland’s south-west coast, but we thought we’d give you some anyway. With long, picturesque roads and tiny villages full of character dotted around the region, it’s easy to feel like you’re wandering through a fantasy novel; here are five locations to get you started on your quest.
Image credit: Vestman
Situated on the south west of the island, this small fishing town is one of few harbours on its coastline and provides the country with close to half of Iceland’s salt fish. Stop off at one of several highly rated restaurants along the front and be sure to taste the local lobster soup.
Once full and ready for the day head to Grindavik’s biggest attraction, the Blue Lagoon. This geothermal spring with stunning views calls itself ‘Iceland’s hottest tourist attraction’ and amazingly, more tourists visit the Blue Lagoon annually than live in Iceland. Keen golfers should look out for the local golf course just so they can say they’ve played a round of golf on a course cut into old lava fields.
Image credit: Francisco Antunes
Standing over a 105 foot drop, Gullfoss, literally translating to ‘Golden Falls’, is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Plans to harness the fall’s energy have frequently floundered in the past and the beauty spot now deservedly boasts a protected status.
Fans of post-punk band Echo and the Bunnymen will recognise the falls from the cover of their 1983 album ‘Porcupine’ as well as various other nearby locations which were chosen for the accompanying music videos. Also nearby is Geysir, known as the Great Geysir, a 10,000 year old geyser that can propel boiling water up to 70 metres in the air, sometimes without warning. Both natural sights might well leave you contemplating the beauty of your simple drive to work…
1 hour 30 minutes
Image credit: Margrét Adamsdóttir
The tiny community of Snæfellsnes is known as ‘Iceland in Miniature’ as so many of Iceland’s famous symbols lie within it’s collection of coastal villages. One of these iconic symbols is none other than Snæfellsjökull volcano, which literary buffs might identify as the setting for Jules Verne’s 1864 novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The area is the perfect destination for views of Iceland’s famous glaciers in the right seasons, while boat trips, shark museums, whale watching, bird watching, natures reserves, hiking and horse riding mean there’s so much to do here – and all of it is in the fresh, cold air.
2 hours 10 minutes
Image credit: Patrick Nouhailler
Situated on a beautiful fjord, the town of Grundarfjörður is perhaps one for the architecturally curious. Luxurious and original houses are dotted frequently across its striking landscape, while fans of order and cleanliness will be pleased to read that the town has also won awards for its tidiness.
We don’t think we’re doing the town a disservice however when we say the real star of the show is Kirkjufell mountain nearby, which is well worth a visit. This magnificent mountain could be easily be a location from a fantasy film and if your there over the winter months you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Magical.
2 hours 20 minutes
Image credit: Geri
Although Landmannalaugar might seem like a long drive, we can assure you it’s absolutely worth it. Situated in the southern highland of the island, it’s an area of the Fjallabak nature reserve, at the edge of a lava field formed 750 years ago.
The road to Landmannalaugar is closed from late September through to June, so your best bet is to seek out this beautiful yet lunar-like landscape during the summer tourist seasons. Also, you’ll want to bring your supplies as what shops do exist only sell the bare essentials and these parts can be particularly inhospitable if you’ve not come prepared.
3 hours 35 minutes