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The Ultimate Guide to Exploring The South Coast Of Iceland For A Memorable Vacation!

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Are you ready for an unforgettable vacation to the South Coast of Iceland? If so, then this guide is just what you need! Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, this comprehensive guide will help ensure your journey is full of amazing experiences and lasting memories.


Imagine standing on top of a glacier, surrounded by towering peaks and colorful wildflowers in bloom, exploring spectacular waterfalls cascading down rugged cliffs, or soaking in hot springs beneath an awe-inspiring sky filled with stars.


These are just some incredible adventures awaiting you on the South Coast of Iceland! So grab your passport and get ready to explore – but keep reading before you go because there's lots more to learn about this extraordinary destination.


south coast iceland

Is It Worth Visiting the Southern Coast of Iceland?


Absolutely! The South Coast of Iceland has it all. Whether you're looking for unique outdoor activities, stunning landscapes and wildlife, or a cultural experience unlike any other – the South Coast has it.


From majestic glaciers to magnificent waterfalls, this region is a nature lover's paradise. Plus, it's home to some of the most iconic landmarks in Iceland, such as Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Springs, the famous Gullfoss Waterfall, and more.


What is the Best Time to Visit South Iceland?


The best time to visit South Iceland depends on your desire. The weather in Iceland is quite unpredictable and can change quickly, so it's important to be prepared for any type of conditions.


Here is a breakdown of each season in South Iceland and what you can expect.


Spring (March to May)


As winter bids farewell, the South Coast of Iceland welcomes the refreshing embrace of the Icelandic spring. Temperatures range from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F), offering mild weather for outdoor activities.


Blooming landscapes and vibrant flora paint the countryside, creating a picturesque backdrop for your adventures. Spring is also an excellent time to spot wildlife in Iceland, including puffins, seals, and more.


South Iceland in Spring

Summer (June to August)


Iceland in June is a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts. During summer, temperatures on the South Coast of Iceland range from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), with some occasional days reaching even higher.


With long daylight hours and the Midnight Sun phenomenon, you'll have ample time to explore the breathtaking landscapes. From thrilling glacial hikes to mesmerizing ice cave explorations, summer offers endless opportunities for adventure.


Summer in Iceland

Fall (September to October)


Fall in Iceland unveils a tapestry of colors across the South Coast. As the temperatures cool down, ranging from 7°C to 12°C (45°F to 54°F), the landscapes undergo a breathtaking transformation.


Vibrant autumn hues paint the countryside, creating a picturesque setting. With fewer crowds and lower prices, this season offers a serene and magical experience for those who venture to the South Coast of Iceland.


Fall in South Iceland

Winter (December to March)


Winter in Iceland is a true wonderland, especially along the captivating South Coast. Embrace the chill as temperatures range from -10°C to 0°C (14°F to 32°F). The landscape is transformed into a pristine snowy paradise, offering a unique and enchanting experience.


Winter in Iceland also lets one witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights illuminating the dark skies. From thrilling glacier hikes to exploring ice caves, winter unveils a world of adventure and natural beauty along the Southern Coast of Iceland.


winter in Iceland

How To Get To South Iceland and Around


You have several options to consider to reach the captivating South Coast of Iceland. Here are the different ways to embark on your journey:


  • Campervan: Renting a campervan is a fantastic option combining transportation and accommodation. The advantages of a campervan in Iceland are its flexibility and affordability, allowing you to explore the Southern Coast of Iceland at your own pace. Plus, you'll have no shortage of campsites to choose from!

  • Driving: Renting a car allows you to explore the South Coast quickly. You can start your adventure from Reykjavík and drive along Route 1 (Ring Road), which encircles the island. This option allows you to enjoy scenic drives and stop at various attractions.

  • Taking the Bus: Public buses operate between Reykjavík and several towns along the South Coast. Bus services are less frequent than other transportation options, so this might not be the best choice if you're short on time. However, it is an inexpensive option for those who are flexible with their itinerary.

  • Flying: Flying into Keflavík International Airport, located near Reykjavík, is a convenient option. From there, you can fly domestically to regional airports near the South Coast, such as Vestmannaeyjar or Höfn. This allows for a quick and hassle-free arrival, especially with limited time.


Iceland south coast driving route

Driving the South Coast Roads of Iceland


When driving in Iceland, it's important to familiarize yourself with the Icelandic roads. The South Coast of Iceland is known for its winding roads and stunning scenery, so be sure to take your time and enjoy the journey. Here are some of the roads you'll want to explore on your travels:


Route 1 (Ring Road) and Other Major Highways


Iceland's Route 1 encircles the entire island. It's the country's busiest road and offers stunning views of the Southern Coast of Iceland. Along the way, you'll find numerous attractions and points of interest, including Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Springs, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, and many more. Several major highways intersect Route 1, such as Road 31 and Road 35, which lead to other towns in the region.


F-Roads


The F-Roads in Iceland are gravel roads that lead to remote destinations within the southern Highlands of Iceland. They're only accessible by 4x4 vehicles and require extreme caution, as the terrain can be quite challenging. Some of the most popular F-Roads in South Iceland include Route F242 (Fjallabaksleið) and Road F206 (Lakagigar). Also, note that F-roads are often closed in winter, so check road conditions before taking these routes.


The Golden Circle


The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route that covers some of the most iconic sights on the South Coast of Iceland. It includes stops at Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Springs, and the famous Gullfoss Waterfall. The Golden Circle is easily accessible from Reykjavík and can be completed in a day or two.


The Golden Circle

Tips For Driving the South Coast of Iceland


Driving around the South Coast of Iceland is generally easy as the roads are well-maintained. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind:


  • Check road conditions before heading out, as some roads may be closed due to bad weather or snow.

  • Be aware of potential wildlife on the roads, especially if you're driving in rural areas.

  • Make sure to fuel up when necessary, as gas stations can be few and far between.

  • Always follow the speed limits, as speed cameras are common along Iceland's roads.

  • Be mindful of other drivers on the road, as some might not be familiar with driving in Iceland.

  • Finally, enjoy your journey and take in the breathtaking scenery that Iceland has to offer!

Exploring the South Coast of Iceland


If you want breathtaking scenery, adventure, and unique experiences in Iceland, the South Coast is the perfect destination. Let's take a look at some of the attractions you can explore along the way:


southern coast iceland

Reykjavík to Selfoss


From Reykjavik to Selfoss, you will pass through some of the most iconic sights in South West Iceland.


Here are the must-visit attractions along this part of the South Coast:


Thingvellir National Park


Situated in South West Iceland, Þingvellir National Park is an awe-inspiring fusion of geological, historical, and cultural elements. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fundamental part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, witnessing the meeting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.


As the site of the first Icelandic Parliament, Alþingi, from 930 AD, it offers a peek into the nation's history. The park also features the Silfra fissure, a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. As one of the stunning National Parks in Iceland, Þingvellir symbolizes perfectly the country's rich heritage and captivating natural beauty.


Geothermal areas (Geysir and Strokkur)


In South West Iceland, the geothermal areas of Geysir and Strokkur are famed natural spectacles, embodying the raw, volatile beauty of Iceland's landscape. While largely dormant now, Geysir has given its name to geysers worldwide.


Nearby, Strokkur captivates visitors by regularly erupting every 4-10 minutes, shooting water up to 15-20 meters (49-66 feet) into the air. Both lie in the Haukadalur Valley, an area teeming with hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles.


As two of the most renowned best geysers in Iceland, Geysir and Strokkur are must-visit attractions for anyone seeking a glimpse of Iceland's extraordinary geothermal activity.


Geothermal areas in Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall


Located in South West Iceland, the mighty Gullfoss Waterfall is a striking hallmark of the country's diverse landscape. As a key attraction in the famed Golden Circle route, Gullfoss, meaning 'Golden Falls,' cascades in two stages - first dropping 11 meters (36 feet) before falling another 21 meters (69 feet) into a rugged, 32-meter (105 feet) deep and 70-meter (230 feet) wide crevice.


This magnificent waterfall is fed by the glacier river Hvítá, originating from Langjökull, Iceland's second-largest glacier. A carefully constructed pathway allows for awe-inspiring views, with rainbows often visible in the waterfall's misty spray. As one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss is truly unforgettable.


Selfoss to Vík


Continuing on the South Coast, you'll find more of Iceland's remarkable attractions. Here are some of the highlights as you make your way from Selfoss to Vík:


Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls


When you visit South Iceland, two breathtaking waterfalls stand out: Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi.


Seljalandsfoss, one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, is uniquely positioned with a walking path that leads behind the cascading water, allowing visitors to experience the waterfall from a stunningly different perspective. Dropping around 60 meters (200 feet) over ancient sea cliffs into a tranquil pool, this waterfall is renowned for its captivating beauty, especially at sunset when the falling water glows in the dimming light.


Gljugrabui waterfall

Just a short walk north from Seljalandsfoss lies the hidden gem Gljúfrabúi, often overlooked due to its seclusion within a narrow canyon. Its name translates to 'dweller in the gorge,' an apt name considering the 40-meter (131 feet) waterfall partially concealed behind a large cliff, making it appear as though it's tucked away in a secret cave.


The adventurous can wade into the shallow stream to witness the cascade up close. Both waterfalls offer visitors unforgettable, unique experiences that encapsulate the wild, natural charm of South Iceland.


Skógafoss Waterfall


Skógafoss Waterfall, situated on the Skógá River in South Iceland, is a breathtaking spectacle of the country's abundant natural beauty. Plunging from the cliffs of the former coastline, it descends a dramatic 60 meters (197 feet) with a width of 25 meters (82 feet), creating a constant spray that often results in a single or double rainbow on sunny days.


Visitors can marvel at its power from the base or ascend the staircase alongside it for an awe-inspiring view from above. According to legend, a Viking treasure is hidden behind this waterfall, further enhancing its allure.


Dyrhólaey Peninsula


The Dyrhólaey Peninsula is a captivating destination on the South Shore of Iceland. Named after the massive, door-like hole in the peninsula's sea arch, Dyrhólaey translates to 'the hill island with the door hole.'


This nature reserve is famed for its towering cliffs and diverse birdlife, including puffins during the summer months. The surrounding beaches offer fantastic opportunities to explore the area's varied wildlife and enjoy the bre


Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach


A jewel on the South Shore of Iceland, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is an unforgettable destination for visitors. It boasts a stunning coastline dotted with towering basalt sea stacks, jagged cliffs, and a vast expanse of jet-black sand, the result of volcanic activity.


It's home to the iconic Reynisdrangar, legendary basalt rock formations rising from the sea, believed to be petrified trolls. Nearby, the dramatic Hálsanefshellir sea cave awaits exploration. With the wild Atlantic waves crashing against the shore, Reynisfjara offers a unique, exhilarating experience that showcases the raw, dramatic beauty of the South Shore of Iceland.


Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Vík to Jökulsárlón


As you make your way from Vík to Jökulsárlón, there are plenty of attractions along the way. Here are a few of the places where you can stop and explore:


Skaftafell National Park


Nestled in South East Iceland, Skaftafell National Park is a paradise of contrast and natural wonder. A part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park, it sprawls over diverse landscapes ranging from glaciers, ice caves, and snow-peaked mountains to verdant valleys, crystal-clear rivers, and blooming wildflowers.


Its jewel is the Svartifoss waterfall, famed for its dramatic basalt column backdrop. Adventurers can hike the glacier tongues, explore ice caves, or tread scenic trails that weave through birch woodlands. Skaftafell is also a gateway to the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull.


Svartifoss Waterfall


In the heart of South East Iceland, nestled within the Skaftafell National Park, is the striking Svartifoss Waterfall. Also known as 'Black Falls', Svartifoss is surrounded by dark basalt columns that resemble an organ, which has inspired Icelandic architects over the years.

The waterfall tumbles from a height of 20 meters (66 feet), creating a stark contrast against the black columns and bright-green foliage.


Visitors can take a short but rewarding hike through verdant terrain to reach this unique spectacle. In the autumn months, the changing colors around the waterfall add another layer to its natural beauty.


Svartifoss Waterfall

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, located in South East Iceland, offers an awe-inspiring panorama that feels otherworldly. It's a vast expanse of tranquil, icy waters dotted with glistening icebergs calving off from the Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of the massive Vatnajökull. Ranging from milky white to the deepest blue, the icebergs present a mesmerizing spectacle, especially when sunlight dances on their surfaces.


During summer, visitors can take boat tours amidst these floating giants, offering an up-close view of the ice and a chance to spot seals lounging on the ice. Close to the lagoon is the famous Diamond Beach, where stranded icebergs create a breathtaking scene.


Diamond Beach


A glittering spectacle on the South East Iceland coastline, Diamond Beach is a natural marvel that lives up to its name. This black sand beach is studded with icebergs that have calved from the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and washed ashore.


Resembling diamonds against the contrasting black sand, these ice chunks create an enchanting landscape. The sizes of these 'diamonds' range from small ice cubes to massive, car-sized blocks. As sunlight refracts through the ice, the beach sparkles, making it a photographer's dream.


visit south iceland

Unique Experiences and Activities on the South Coast of Iceland


The South Coast of Iceland offers a range of unique experiences and activities that cater to every kind of traveler:


  • Glacier Hiking Tours: The South Coast has several glaciers, including Sólheimajökull and Eyjafjallajökull. Guided hikes on these ancient ice formations offer breathtaking views and an exhilarating experience.

  • Super Jeep Tours: Take a thrilling ride in a super jeep across the South Coast's rugged terrain. Tour operators provide the opportunity to explore remote areas such as Þórsmörk Nature Reserve and Landmannalaugar, which are inaccessible by regular vehicles.

  • Black Sand Beach Horse Riding: Discovering Iceland on horseback is a thrilling adventure. Tours traverse the black sand beaches of Vik, stopping at nearby attractions and enjoying spectacular views of the South Coast.

  • Northern Lights Hunting: Take the Northern Lights hot river hike in Reykjadalur Valley. This tour lets you relax in the thermal hot springs, explore the area, and take a thrilling hunt for the Aurora Borealis.

  • Visit the LAVA Centre: The LAVA Centre in Hvolsvöllur provides an interactive experience of the volcanic and seismic activity of Iceland. Learn about the country's seismic history and get hands-on experience with interactive models.

Accommodation Options on the South Coast of Iceland


The South Coast of Iceland has various accommodation options for any budget and preference. From hotels on the south coast of Iceland to campsites, there are plenty of options for lodging.


hotel south iceland

Hotels in South Iceland


Hotels in South Iceland provide luxury and comfort. Enjoy amenities like pools, spas, and access to popular attractions. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels on the South Coast:


  • Hotel South Coast: This hotel in South Iceland offers cozy accommodations and a strategic location in Selfoss, making it an ideal choice for visitors keen on exploring the region's numerous natural wonders.

  • The Greenhouse Hotel: This sustainable hotel on the South Coast of Iceland combines eco-friendly practices with modern comforts, offering an ideal base for exploring Iceland's stunning southern landscapes.

Camping and Campgrounds in South Iceland


Camping is the ideal way to immerse oneself in the natural wonders of South Iceland. Here are some campsites in Iceland we recommend:


  • Vik campsite: Vik campsite offers an outdoor escape with panoramic views situated amidst the unique landscapes of South Iceland. It's a perfect spot for adventurers seeking a tranquil retreat close to nature's wonders.

  • Thakgil campsite: Tucked away in a beautiful mountain valley, Thakgil campsite provides a serene and picturesque base for camping enthusiasts. It's an ideal spot to connect with Iceland's pristine and untouched nature.

4-Day Iceland South Coast Driving Route Itinerary


Iceland's South Coast driving route is part of the Ring Road (Route 1). Stretching for approximately 401 km, this scenic journey offers breathtaking landscapes, dramatic waterfalls, black sand beaches, and charming coastal towns. Here is an itinerary to make the most of your time in South Iceland:


South Coast Driving Route Itinerary

Day 1

  • Start your journey in Reykjavik and drive east to Seljalandsfoss.

  • Spend time exploring Seljalandsfoss and walk behind the waterfall.

  • Continue driving to Skógafoss and marvel at its impressive cascade.

  • Overnight in the vicinity of Skógafoss or nearby Vik.

Day 2

  • Visit Dyrhólaey and enjoy the panoramic views from the promontory.

  • Drive to Reynisfjara Beach and take a walk on the black sand, admiring the basalt sea stacks.

  • Explore the charming village of Vík í Mýrdal.

  • Overnight in Vík or nearby accommodation.

Day 3

  • Drive to Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park.

  • Explore the park, go for a hike, and admire the glaciers.

  • Continue to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and take a boat tour or enjoy the scenic views.

  • Overnight in the area near Jökulsárlón or in the town of Höfn, depending on available time and preference.

Day 4

  • If you have an extra day, consider driving east to the town of Höfn.

  • Explore Höfn, indulge in delicious seafood, and enjoy the views of Vatnajökull Glacier.

  • Overnight in Höfn or start your return journey towards Reykjavik.

Express FAQ


What is the South Coast of Iceland?


The South Coast of Iceland is a region in the southern part of Iceland. It is known for its rugged beauty, its many glaciers, and its black sand beaches. Some of the most popular tourist destinations on the South Coast include Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, Reynisdrangar sea stacks, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and the Vatnajökull National Park.


What is the best time of year to visit the South Coast of Iceland?


The best time to visit the South Coast of Iceland is during the summer months (June-August). This is when the weather is the most pleasant and there are the most daylight hours. However, the South Coast is also a beautiful place to visit in the winter months, when the waterfalls are frozen and the glaciers are covered in snow.


How do I get to the South Coast of Iceland?


The easiest way to get to the South Coast of Iceland is by car. It is about a 2-hour drive from Reykjavík. There are also several buses that run to the South Coast from Reykjavík.


The Spectacular Journey Through the South Coast of Iceland


The South Coast of Iceland is an unforgettable destination for travelers seeking to explore natural wonders and experience unique activities. From glacier hikes and super jeep tours to horseback riding on black sand beaches, there's something for everyone on this stunning journey.


And when you need a place to rest your head at night, there are plenty of accommodation options available. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start planning your journey along the South Coast of Iceland!


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