Top 10 Places on the South Coast of Iceland
The South coast of Iceland has often been described as one of the most beautiful areas in Iceland. The area is exceptionally beautiful, unique and basically has it all. Driving along the coast you will see beautiful waterfalls, glaciers, majestic mountains, canyons, black sand beaches, volcanoes and glacier lagoons. The South coast is the perfect day trip from Reykjavik and there is so much to do there. If you are looking for an exciting adventure check out our list of the top 10 places and activities on the South Coast.
How to get there
To get to the South coast just follow the Ring Road nr. 1 towards the small town Vík. The drive from Reykjavik to Vík (without stops) takes about 2,5 hours (180km) and to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon it takes about 5 hours (375 km). The road is usually easy to drive but the area is known for some heavy winds and during winter road conditions can be difficult so make sure to check the weather forecast before your journey.
If you are not comfortable driving yourself don’t worry we offer some bus tours and super jeeps tours to the South coast.
Top 10 Places on the South Coast
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is probably one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and it is located just off the main road. The water from Seljalandsá river cascades down 62 meters off the cliff edge into a pool. The waterfall stands in a lovely location, surrounded by cliffs and green slopes. It is possible to walk behind the waterfall but be careful it might be slippery and you might get wet!
Make sure you don’t miss that one.
Skógafoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls and one of the most popular sites in Iceland. The waterfall is about 60 meters tall and very powerful. There is an easy access to the waterfall from the main road and you can both enjoy it from the ground or walk up the stairs next to it and observe it from above. If you have time we recommend hiking further into Skógargil ravine, where there are more than 30 smaller waterfalls along the way, it’s like being in a waterfall paradise!
Also we recommend checking out Skogar Museum located only one minute from Skógafoss waterfall. It is a cultural heritage collection of more than 15,000 regional folk craft artifacts exhibited. At the museum you can catch the atmosphere of how Icelanders used to live through the centuries, see some turf houses, huge variety of tools used for fishing and farming back in the days and at the museum of transport you can explore the development of technology and transportation in Iceland in the 19th and 20th century.
8. Mýrdalsjökull Glacier & Snowmobiling
Mýrdalsjökull Glacier is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland about 600 km2. The thickest part of the glacier is about 750 meters of ice that is covering the caldera of Katla volcano. Katla is one of the most powerful volcano in Iceland and is very active, although last eruption in Katla was 100 years ago in 1918. Last 1000 years Katla has erupted on average every 60 years so that means the volcano is way overdue! In last eruption in 1918 it is estimated that the total amount of volcanic ash was about 700 million cubic meters, to compare that in the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 it was estimated that the total amount of volcanic ash was about 250 million cubic meters. So let's just say Icelanders are not very excited about Katla erupting any time soon.
We don’t recommend going to the glacier on your own, the road to the glacier is impassable and only for jeeps with very big tires. Also the conditions on the glacier can be dangerous if you don't know your way around.
We recommend doing a guided snowmobile tour on Mýrdalsjökull it is a very unique experience where you get the chance to learn more about the glacier and the volcano. Also if the weather is good the view from the top of the glacier is amazing over the South coast. The tour is also available as a day tour from Reykjavik.
Kvernufoss waterfall is one of those hidden gems in Iceland. It is located east of Skógafoss and not far from the main road but is often overlooked by tourists. It is located in Kvernugil gorge and it takes about 30 minutes (one way) to hike to the waterfall but the hike is rather easy. The waterfall is beautiful, it falls in a narrow cascade about 30 meters high. It is possible to walk behind Kvernufoss and then you can really feel the power of the waterfall.
6. Sólheimajökull Glacier & Glacier Hike
Sólheimajökull glacier is an outlet glacier from the main cap Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The glacier is easily accessible from the main road and the perfect stop when driving along the south coast. Sólheimajökull is the perfect place to see how the climate change has affected the environment for the last decades. The glacier has been melting quite fast since the year 1993 and the glacier is losing about 10 to 20 meters of thickness every year.
If you want to learn more about the glacier and it’s melting or if you just want to add more adventure to your trip and get some great photos from a glacier we recommend doing a glacier walk on Sólheimajökull. It is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. The tour is also available as a day tour from Reykjavik.
You can also walk by yourself close up to the glacier but please do not enter the glacier without a professional guide and equipments.
5. Sólheimasandur beach and ATV
Sólheimasandur is a black lava sand field which derives from the volcano Katla. The scenery at Sólheimasandur is one of a kind with the Atlantic ocean in the background and amazing view over Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Eyjafjallajökull glacier and Dyrhólaey peninsula on a good day. There you will also find the famous plane wreck of a DC-3 from the US navy.
It is prohibited to drive on the beach but there is a parking lot just off the main road. The walk to the plane is about 4 km and takes about 40 minutes.
For more adventure we recommend doing a ATV tour to the beach with a stop at the plane wreck. It is a fun ride where you will also get a chance to learn more about the area. The tour is also available as a day tour from Reykjavik.
Have you ever heard of a swimming pool nestled in the mountains in South Iceland? Well that's Seljavallalaug, a hidden place in Iceland (Well not really anymore) but still many tourist bypass it because they don’t have time, but if you do it really is worth it to check out this place. The swimming pool was built in the early 20th century and is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. It is known for its spectacular natural setting, of magnificent volcanic scenery.
The hike to the pool takes about 15-20 minutes (one way) and is relatively easy. There are dressing rooms but no showers. No entry fee. Please treat the area with respect and don’t leave anything behind.
Dyrhólaey is a beautiful naturally formed arch and the southernmost part of Iceland. The hole in the middle of the arch really shows the true power of the nature. Dyrhólaey is also a great place to spot the puffins and other seabirds from the end of April until early September.
You can access the peninsula from road nr. 218 or you can visit the famous black pebble beach Reynisfjara where you will get great view of Dyrhólaey. Please be careful when visiting these places, the waves from the Atlantic Ocean are very unpredictable and unfortunately fatal accidents have happened there when warnings and restrictions are ignored.
Close to the town Kirkjubæjarklaustur you will find the magnificent Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Yes the canyon is just as amazing as it is hard to pronounce the name of it. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a massive canyon about 100 meters deep and 2 kilometers long. Fjaðrárgljúfur was formed about nine thousand years ago from melted glacier water, flowing through the rocks, over a long period.
From Reykjavik it is about 3 hour drive to the town Kirkjubæjarklaustur on Ring Road nr. 1. Before the town turn left on road nr. 206 and drive for about 3 km to the parking lot at Fjaðrárgljúfur.
Jökulsárlón is not only one of the most spectacular place to visit on the South coast but in whole Iceland. The lagoon is part of the Vatnajökull National Park and is easily accessible from the highway. Jökulsárlón is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland and for a reason. It is naturally formed from the melting of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and due to warmer climate over the last centuries the glacier has been melting rapidly and the lagoon therefor growing. The icebergs from the glacier break down into the water and then drift around. It is amazing watching those luminous-blue icebergs floating around the lagoon and the perfect place for photography.
During the summer it is possible to do a boat ride on the lagoon from May to October.
It takes about 5-6 hours to drive to the Glacier Lagoon depending on weather conditions. Even if it is possible to drive to the Glacier Lagoon in one day we don’t really recommend it. There are so many things you want to do on the way so you probably won't enjoy it as much.