We didn't have a lot of time in Iceland and we knew there was a lot we wanted to see, so we rented a car for a day to take a trip out of Reykjavik and see Southern Iceland. We rented through Cars Iceland and had a great experience. Renting (and fuel) is a bit expensive (and be sure to get the extra insurance!) but we prefer driving ourselves to taking a tour. We were in Iceland in late October, which meant that sunrise was at about 9am, and sunset was about 5:30pm. Since the hours of daylight fluctuate so much in Iceland, it's important to check sunrise/sunset times to make sure you get to see everything you want before it gets too dark! Here was our day, which I tried to plan so that we would arrive to our first stop just after sunrise.
7:30am: First stop: Breakfast! There weren't a lot of places open any earlier than this, but we grabbed some hot tea and sandwiches at C is for Cookie. (Sidenote: Coffee is much more popular than tea in Iceland but if, like me, you're more of a tea drinker, don't worry! Most places have a couple kinds on hand). Then we hit the road on to our first stop: Seljalandsfoss!
9:30am: Seljalandsfoss waterfall is just under 2 hours from Reykjavik. It's a very popular waterfall in Iceland with a path to walk right behind it! There were already a good number of people there when we arrived, including some big tour buses, but it wasn't too crowded.
10:30am: Our next stop, Skogafoss, is just under a half an hour from Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is on the former coastline, which is now over 3 miles away! There's lots to explore here, with a stairway leading up the right side of the falls for great views. As you can see from the pictures, because of the waterfalls' spray, you'll want to make sure you've got a good waterproof coat and boots no matter what time of year you're going.
12pm: Shortly after we got to Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach), a storm kicked up (seemingly out of nowhere) and it began to sleet and hail on us so we couldn't spend much time here (a testament to how quickly weather in Iceland can change!). You can see how big the waves are in the picture, and there were warnings along the beach not to go too close to the water. The basalt columns and the black sand beach were really quite a site and it's no wonder that this spot has inspired some Icelandic legends.
12:30pm: Cold and hungry, we were ready for lunch. Vik is a very small town right on the coast. We headed to Suður-Vík Restaurant. I had heard that they had great pizza (what can I say, I love pizza no matter where I am in the world), but their pizza oven was broken at the time so we had some hot soup instead, which was just we needed to warm up and continue on.
2pm: After lunch, we made our way to Kirkjufjara Beach, where we got absolutely stunning views out over the black sand beaches and ocean. The wind was still very strong, but I think the stormy light made for some of my favorite pictures from the trip. In the distance you can see Reynisfjara.
2:30pm: As we made our way back to the main road from Kirkjufjara, we saw a road leading up the cliffs that some (brave) people were driving up and down. The road looked terrifying to me, zig-zagging upwards with no guard rails and with massive potholes all over, but we braved it and very slowly made our way to the top. It was well worth it. We came out onto a peninsula called Dyrhólaey, and the views were amazing.
Depending on the weather, you can see the glacier Mýrdalsjökull to the north, Reynisfjara to the east, and the black sand coastline stretching out to Selfoss. This is one of those times where I was reminded how truly small I am in the world.
3pm: The wind was brutal at the top of the peninsula and another storm came up on us so quickly that we almost didn't make it to the car before being completely soaked. We decided to make our way back to Reykjavik as the sun would be setting in a couple of hours.
The drive itself is quite beautiful and we encountered what seemed like every type of weather and terrain that day. The road is not busy so pulling to the side every once in a while is possible as you see things you want to explore more (a benefit of having your own car!). I met this beautiful Icelandic horse along the way! (I think he was used to having his picture taken).