We took a road trip across the South coast of Iceland from Reykjavik to Höfn. The busses here are extremely expensive and inflexible so we looked for another option and found it at a tourist info center in Reykjavik. They offered a car rental at their winter rates as they didn't change them yet. We rented a tiny two wheel drive Suzuki and packed our food and backpacks and left. Driving in Iceland is very easy because one road (the Ring road) connects the entire perimeter of the island. The entire drive is like taking a constant scenic route and we stopped many times to take photos and explore famous landmarks.
The first landmarks on our way were two waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. The former is smaller but it is possible to walk behind the waterfall. Skogafoss is much larger and we were able to walk up a long staircase to reach the top of it. Our first stop on the road trip was a little town called Vik. It has been a trading post since 1887 and its population is under 300. It is famous for its wool and we were able to visit Vikurprjon, the shop and factory where the wool is processed. There are also natural landmarks in Vik such as the black sand beach, Reynisdrangar, and Dyrhólaey. We spent some time on the black sand beach and from there one can see Reynisdrangar, a rock formation that looks like three fingers. Dyrhólaey is the southernmost point of Iceland's mainland and serves as a nature reserve for bird life. We stayed in the youth hostel there and were the only youths there. We left early the next morning because the schedule of the people staying there was far different from that of ours as we were woken up at 5 AM.
After leaving Vik we were planning to drive to Höfn, but we planned to stop at the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Much of Iceland's Southeast region is made up of Vatnajokull Glacier and the lagoon is a large lake filled with icebergs that filter out through the beach and into the sea. Scenes from the James Bond film, Die Another Day, were shot at Jokulsarlon. We spent a couple hours there and continued to Höfn. When we got to the youth hostel they had booked us in the wrong room and did not have any other double rooms so we got upgraded. We stayed at a guesthouse down the road that was basically a hotel for the price of a youth hostel. We got the best sleep of our trip so far.
While at Höfn, we visited a horse farm called Arnanes. It is run by a father and son. The father runs the guesthouse on the property and the son takes care of all of the horses. He raises them and trains them himself. We got to take a tour with him around their farm and property on horseback. We also had a conversation about their lifestyle as they live very close to a volcano. He told us that "they are waiting for it to erupt." It actually is not life threatening for them. The bigger risk is that the ash will harm the farmland. Following that we "took a drive on a line" to Hoffellsjokull Glacier, a tongue of Vatnajokull. We drove the tiny Suzuki Swift over a very rocky road. While we were driving two Whimbrels approached our car and had a conversation. We also spotted two Reindeer from afar. When we finally arrived at Hoffellsjokull we spent time hiking around it and looking at a photo exhibition of women posing in the same spot at the glacier.
We stopped at Skaftafell for a night on the way back to Reykjavik. It was actually the only night that we could have stayed as there are scarce affordable accommodations around the national park. We stayed at the Bolti Guesthouse. It is a house that was built in 1953 before the area became Skaftafell National Park. It is owned by an artist and three generations of her family. Every wall and room were decorated with the works of the woman including knitted panels, mixed media works done with rocks and paintings on wood. The kitchen is a separate turf house right next to the main house. There were two gas stove tops and we met many people while sharing this stove top. We took a hike with a French woman around the park who was a waitress traveling the world. We also met an intense middle-aged woman from Ireland who was biking across the South coast of Iceland with all her food and gear strapped to the bike. The next day, we went on a guided glacier walk on a tongue of Vatnajokull Glacier. We've never had an experience like that in our lives. Our guide gave us crampons and an ax to help scale the surfaces. He told us about his experiences of climbing mountains. He also educated us about the different formations of the glaciers. One of them is a moulin which is a shaft where water drains from the glacier.