6 Days in Iceland: Black Sand Beach and the Blue Lagoon
After the Golden Circle, the last leg of our trip was from the Southern tip of Iceland—the black sand beaches—to the Blue Lagoon. The initial goal after our 2-day trip around the Golden Circle was to stay in the town of Vik. That is until we learned about how small it was... consequently lacking in places to stay. Luckily for us, there were several small towns with hotels along our route. I couldn’t exactly recommend not staying in Vik (seeing as how we didn’t even visit it), but the city we stayed in, Skógar, was beautiful. Then again, what isn’t beautiful in Iceland? Although the black sand beaches are the main attraction in this area of Iceland, there are other things to do; namely, glacier treks and waterfall hunting. Regrettably, we did not get to explore these glaciers (not enough time), but we had a great time nonetheless.
Seljalandsfoss— 63.6156° N, 19.9886° W
This amazing waterfall was an unexpected but pleasant stop. I was cruising down route 1 while Rachel was taking a nap (she can’t seem to stay awake in the car). When we were a few miles from Seljalandsfoss, I started noticing this mountain that was leaking little waterfalls all over its face. The closer we got, the more I noticed that one of these waterfalls wasn’t small at all–it was massive. Rachel had asked me to wake her up if we drove past anything “extra cool." Sooo I woke her up and we pulled over.
Seljalandsfoss is part of the Seljalands River. Based on how much water is coming out of this mountain, though, you would think the whole top is a basin of water. Upon further inspection on Google Earth, the river/waterfall is directly fed from the glacier Eyjafjallajökull. Seeing this beautiful waterfall is an experience on its own, but the fun doesn’t end there. It’s actually possible to take a walk behind it! Sooo, make sure you’re wearing your rain jacket and pants— you’ll definitely get soaked— and I’d also advise a waterproof camera.
Skógar and Skogafoss — 63.5268° N, 19.5002° W
Skógar is a very small town along route 1 (like, population 25 small) that sits in between a powder black mountain that towers over everything, and rolling green hills. Running through the town is a river that leads to, believe it or not, another amazing waterfall, Skogafoss. At almost 50 ft wide, the waterfall is among the biggest in the country. According to folklore, one of the first Viking settlers hid some treasure behind a cave in the waterfall. We could not confirm this, though... I was afraid of drowning. If you’re like me and don’t want to hunt for the gold, alongside the waterfall there are stairs that lead to the top. It is a lot of stairs, but the view is well worth it. Apparently, there’s also a great hike up there, but I wasn’t feeling well (boooo), so we opted out of the trail. While you’re in Skógar, make sure to stop by the museums. One ticket grants you access to all of them and you can learn a lot about Iceland’s history, from how it was established to their automotive and communication journey.
We stayed at Hotel Skógar. Other than what I think was one or two other hotels, there aren’t many other options in town. This seemed like the cooler hotel of the bunch. The rooms were decent, albeit they did have thin walls that let it a lot of the surrounding sounds. Outside of a view of the corner of Skogafoss, I wouldn’t say there was anything special about it. The hotel is also the only place for dinner in town. And like a lot of Iceland, the food, and the beer selection was pretty good. We each had a dish with ingredients sourced from nearby towns. The view is worth noting, too. With a 180º view of the town, it’s probably the best view in the whole hotel. If you’re searching for a place to eat in the South Coast of Iceland, this is your spot!
Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach)
First, a word of caution–leave your towels and bathing suit at home. It’s not that kind of beach. Well, I guess you can take a bathing suit if you’re down for tanning and swimming in the freezing cold. Reynisfjara is one of the main attractions on the southern coast of Iceland. Out of all the places we stopped in Iceland, this was definitely the one with the most tourists. The black sand, basalt columns, caves, and other lava formations are a sight to see. So, the crowds make all the sense. The beach is a 30-minute drive from Skógar, and 2-hour drive from Reykjavik, if you decide to make this a day trip instead of staying in the area. Other than taking in the sights or hanging out in the restaurant, there isn’t much else to do. An hour or two is more than enough time, so I’d suggest planning other activities if you have the time.
There are hot springs all over Iceland, but because of the amazing colors and its size, this is the one to visit. I’m sure you’ve seen it all over social media. The tint of this blue water really is unbelievable. From Skógar, the Blue Lagoon is a 2-hour drive. Because of its proximity to the airport, this stop is recommended as the first or last stop on your Iceland journey. We opted to do it last. Although hot springs aren’t my favorite thing, the cold weather coupled with the hot water made for a very relaxing experience. Make sure to make reservations ahead of time, otherwise, you’ll end up in a long line of plebs that didn’t read the website. The base ticket is around $60-70, but if you don’t already have them, you’ll also want to add on a bathrobe, flip-flops, and a towel. And, if you're like us, and you didn't pack swimsuits, you can pick up some of those, too. I believe you can add other things like massages and facial mask upgrade things. The base ticket included some silica mask that felt kinda cool (I think it took a year off my face). Conveniently, there are bars in the lagoon with healthy drinks and alcohol. You pay for everything in the lagoon with waterproof bracelets that are hooked up to your card when you check in.
In terms of food, there’s a cafeteria and a fancy restaurant on the grounds, but we didn’t try either. Grindavík, the city that the Blue Lagoon is in, and Keflavík only have a handful of options for dinner, especially for evening grubbing, because most top-reviewed places close early. We were staying at Base Hotel by Keflavík airport and ended up getting food at Olsen Olsen. It was an interesting restaurant, to say the least. I wouldn’t recommend it for dinner. Maybe for drunk food. Most of their options are mayo-loaded sandwiches with meat. I couldn't recommend alternatives, as we were only in Keflavik for a few hours. If you’re looking for a short-term place to stay near the airport, Base Hotel is an okay place. The room and the theme that they’re going for is pretty cool, but it does seem half-assed. The front desk people seemed like they didn’t want to be there and only kinda wanted to help us out. On top of that, our floor and room lost power within minutes of us checking in so we had to change rooms. We were only staying there for its airport proximity, though, so I won’t do a full review. My quick two-cents? Only stay here if you have just a couple of hours to kill until your flight and you need something cheap.
Iceland is amazing. If you keep up with all the places Ape visits, they’ve all been pretty cool, but if you want to know which place I’d recommend going to a thousand times over, it’s Iceland. The food, the culture, the scenery, and the people made for an amazing experience. If you find yourself with tickets to the island, we hope you find our Ape guides helpful. See below for links to the full series. If you have questions, feel free to slide into our DMs. There’s still plenty more of us to do in Iceland, so maybe we’ll catch you there!
6 Days in Iceland:
Keep up with da Apes: