Looking for the ultimate list of things to do in South Iceland? You've come to the right place. Famous for its natural wonders, rich culture, and unique experiences, South Iceland promises an unforgettable journey for every traveler.
In this guide, we'll explore 15 must-see attractions, from breathtaking waterfalls to epic hiking trails and the legendary black sand beaches. Let's embark on an adventure that promises to captivate your senses and leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Check out our comprehensive guide to South Iceland for an even deeper look into this incredible destination.
1. Embrace the Beauty of Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrafoss
Among the most alluring South Iceland attractions, the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrafoss undeniably shine.
Seljalandsfoss, with its impressive 200 feet (61 meters) plunge, is a standout feature of the Icelandic landscape. One of its unique attributes is a pathway that allows visitors to actually walk behind the cascade, offering a rare and breathtaking perspective. Just 2 minutes away, tucked into a beautiful cliff, is the semi-hidden wonder of Gljúfrafoss.
Its name translates to 'Canyon Dweller,' a fitting description for this slightly secret yet equally remarkable waterfall. Gljúfrafoss is partly concealed by its surrounding rock face, providing a more secluded and intimate experience, making it a favorite among adventurers.
2. Marvel at the Magnificent Skogafoss
Rising as one of the most stunning Iceland's south coast attractions, the magnificent Skógafoss is a force to be reckoned with. With its massive 227 feet (about 60 meters) drop, this powerful waterfall originates from the Skógá River that flows from beneath the Eyjafjöll mountains.
It marks where the Eyjafjallajökull and Katla volcano plateau culminates, creating a spectacular display as the water plummets over the high basalt cliffs. Skógafoss is a nature photographer's paradise, with frequent rainbows forming in the cascade's mist. But the allure of Skógafoss extends beyond its natural beauty.
Legends tell of a Viking settler named Þrasi Þórólfsson who hid his treasure in the waterfall, and this saga lends an air of mystery and allure to this already mesmerizing site. Its imposing backdrop has even caught the eye of Hollywood, serving as a filming location for multiple high-profile movies and series such as 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' and 'Thor: Into Darkness.'
3. Explore the Dyrhólaey Peninsula
If you're compiling a list of the best things to do in Southern Iceland, exploring the Dyrhólaey Peninsula should certainly be at the top. Situated just off the Ring Road, Dyrhólaey is an accessible yet breathtaking natural monument recognized for its remarkable volcanic arch - a symbol of Iceland's dynamic and ever-evolving landscape.
As you traverse this fascinating area, you'll be captivated by the spectacular views surrounding you. On one side, the boundless Atlantic Ocean stretches out. In contrast, the other side boasts black beaches, glistening glacier caps, and rolling green hills.
Bird enthusiasts, you're in for a treat, as the peninsula is home to a large puffin colony during the summer months. Don't forget to visit the Dyrhólaey lighthouse. This beautiful beacon offers striking photo opportunities against the sea and the midnight sun.
4. Discover the Unique Svartifoss
As you venture through the assortment of South East Iceland attractions, Svartifoss - or the 'Black Waterfall' - undoubtedly commands attention. Tucked away in the Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park, Svartifoss is known for its unique formation of dark, hexagonal basalt columns surrounding it, resembling an organ pipe.
This natural architecture has inspired various Icelandic buildings, including the famous Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik. When you first look at Svartifoss, the contrast between the waterfall's white waters and the dark basalt columns creates an unforgettable sight.
The approximately 1.5-kilometer (about 1 mile) hiking trail leading to it also promises an engaging journey, with scenic views of glaciers and lush vegetation along the way.
5. Sail in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Sailing in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of the most mesmerizing things in South Iceland. Located between the sprawling Vatnajökull glacier and the Atlantic Ocean, this glacial lagoon is dotted with massive, sparkling icebergs detached from the glacier and now calmly floating on its chilly blue waters.
Embarking on a boat tour presents an unrivaled opportunity to get up close with these ice sculptures. Each iceberg, distinct in its size and shape, makes for an astonishing sight that leaves you in awe of nature's artistic prowess.
Seeing seals playfully splashing in the water or lounging on an iceberg adds to the lagoon's charm. But the magic of Jokulsarlon doesn't end with the sunset. A nighttime visit could reward you with a hypnotic show of the Northern Lights dancing off the ice surface.
6. Encounter the Stunning Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
If you're wondering about the most awe-inspiring things to see in South Iceland, encountering the stunning Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon should undoubtedly be on your list. Tucked away at the southern end of the massive Vatnajökull Glacier, Fjallsárlón is a true gem, offering more intimate and less crowded experiences than its famous counterpart, Jökulsárlón.
As you approach the lagoon, you'll be taken aback by the sight of floating icebergs that have calved off from the glacier, creating a dramatic tableau on the lagoon's surface. The backdrop of the towering ice cap completes the surreal and breathtaking landscape. Adding to its charm, Fjallsárlón is also home to various Icelandic wildlife.
As you explore, watch for seals bobbing in the water and numerous bird species, including Arctic Terns and Skuas, gracing the skies above. A boat tour here offers a close encounter with the icebergs and a unique perspective of the immense glacier.
7. Learn About the Trolls of Icelandic Folklore
While exploring the many tourist attractions in South Iceland, you'll find that the folklore of trolls is intrinsically woven into the very fabric of the land. Intriguing tales of these mystical beings have been told and retold over centuries, breathing some enchantment into the natural landscapes.
Trolls, as the legends go, are nocturnal creatures that turn into stone if caught by the sunrise. You'll encounter numerous such 'petrified trolls' across South Iceland. For instance, Reynisdrangar, the sea stacks off the shore of Reynisfjara's black sand beach, are said to be trolls caught by the dawn while attempting to drag a ship to shore.
Likewise, not far from Reykjavik, you'll find Tröllafoss or 'Troll Falls.' This picturesque southwest Iceland attraction is said to be the dwelling of these mythical beings. The falls, amidst lush greenery and stunning mountain views, offer a magical atmosphere that perfectly complements the troll stories.
These narratives offer a fascinating peek into Icelandic culture, where natural phenomena and folklore are intricately intertwined.
8. Visit the Sparkling Diamond Beach
When thinking about the most unique places to visit in South Iceland, the surreal landscape of Diamond Beach is an absolute standout. Adjacent to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the beach offers a stark contrast of glittering ice against a backdrop of black volcanic sand, making it a must-visit destination on every Iceland itinerary.
The 'diamonds' scattered across the beach are iceberg fragments that have journeyed from the nearby glacier, through the lagoon, and onto the shore. These icy relics and the play of sunlight transform the black expanse into a sparkling canvas, creating an ethereal spectacle you won't easily forget.
With each visit to Diamond Beach, you're likely to witness a new and captivating scene. As the Atlantic waves dance with the ice, they continuously re-sculpt and reposition the frozen diamonds, ensuring that no two visits to this beach are ever the same.
9. Walk on the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Among the diverse things to do in South Iceland, taking a stroll on the magical Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is an experience that truly stands out. Known as one of the most beautiful black sand beaches of Vík, Reynisfjara is a spectacle of natural wonder that will captivate any visitor.
Created by the continuous interaction between volcanic activity and the powerful Atlantic Ocean, Reynisfjara's black sand is a stark reminder of Iceland's dynamic geology.
The beach also boasts enormous basalt stacks, which, according to local folklore, are trolls turned to stone at the break of dawn.
Dramatic views of the nearby Reynisdrangar sea stacks and Dyrhólaey peninsula add to the beach's allure, creating an otherworldly, quintessentially Icelandic atmosphere. However, while the beauty of Reynisfjara is undeniably captivating, it's crucial to remember that the ocean's rip currents can be unpredictable. So please be careful near the water.
10. Drive Through the Iconic Golden Circle Route
Embarking on a journey through the iconic Golden Circle Route is undeniably one of the South Iceland must-see experiences. This famed 300-kilometer (190-mile) loop from Reykjavík into the southern uplands and back is a highlight of any Icelandic itinerary.
As you drive through this route, you'll discover an assortment of landscapes and historical landmarks that truly embody the essence of Iceland. From the steamy eruptions of the Geysir geothermal area to the powerful cascade of Gullfoss waterfall, the Golden Circle showcases Iceland's unparalleled natural spectacle.
The journey continues with a visit to Þingvellir National Park, an important site for both cultural and geological reasons. It's here that the world's first democratic parliament was held and where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates visibly drifted apart.
11. Immerse Yourself in History at the Skogar Museum
As you chart your course through the things to see in Southern Iceland, be sure to carve out time to immerse yourself in the rich history at the Skogar Museum. Tucked away near the dramatic Skogafoss waterfall, this museum is a vibrant tapestry of Icelandic culture and heritage.
The Skogar Museum offers an intimate glance into the bygone era of Icelandic history. Its captivating collection ranges from traditional turf houses that transport you into a simpler past to age-old artifacts that have shaped the Icelandic way of life.
The museum also showcases a historical church, presenting an opportunity to reflect on the country's religious heritage. The Skogar Museum is more than just a museum; it is a time capsule capturing the essence of Icelandic life through the centuries.
12. Experience Glacier Hiking Firsthand
Among the best things to do in Southern Iceland, experiencing glacier hiking in Iceland stands out as a remarkable adventure. It's an opportunity to engage with the raw, unspoiled beauty of the Icelandic landscape in an incredibly immersive and personal way.
Venturing onto one of the numerous accessible glaciers, you'll be in awe of the spectacular ice formations and crevasses that give these landscapes their unique character. Whether it's Sólheimajökull, an outlet glacier of the larger Mýrdalsjökull, or the mesmerizing Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Iceland, the options are plentiful.
Each glacier tour offers a new perspective on the majestic ice-clad terrain and leaves you with memories that last a lifetime. Remember, safety is paramount. Always embark on glacier hikes under the guidance of certified guides.
13. Try Horseback Riding The Icelandic Way
Among the numerous Iceland South Coast attractions, one experience stands out for its unique blend of culture, adventure, and stunning landscapes: Iceland horseback riding.
There's truly no comparison to exploring the awe-inspiring beauty of South Iceland atop the back of an Icelandic horse, known for its strength, friendly demeanor, and unique gait, the "tölt."
Notably, the Volcano Ride at Kálfhóll farm is one of the best horse tours in the region. Whether you're a seasoned rider or a complete beginner, the expert guides at Kálfhóll farm will lead you on a ride through scenic trails, with the enchanting backdrop of South Iceland's volcanic landscape adding to the thrill.
14. Relax in the Natural Hot Springs
Relaxing in one of the natural hot springs is an absolute must when considering the things to do in South Iceland. Immersing yourself in these geothermal pools is an enjoyable pastime and a quintessential Icelandic experience.
There's nothing quite like soaking in the warm, mineral-rich waters as you take in the breathtaking surroundings of South Iceland's rugged landscape. Whether it's the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir with its geothermal area or the hot river in Reykjadalur, each hot spring offers a unique ambiance and a tranquil retreat from everyday life.
No trip to South Iceland would be complete without this natural spa experience. For more information on where to find these relaxing havens, check out our guide to the best Icelandic hot springs.
15. Uncover the History of the DC-3 Plane Wreck
Uncovering the history of the DC-3 Plane Wreck on a quad bike is certainly a South Iceland must-see. This eerie yet fascinating sight, starkly contrasting to the otherwise untouched landscape, offers a tangible connection to the past.
The abandoned US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane, which crashed on Sólheimasandur's black sand beach in 1973, offers a hauntingly beautiful photography opportunity.
For the most enriching experience, consider taking the Icelandic Mountain Guides Tour. This guided excursion will lead you to the wreck and provide historical context and local insights that truly bring the experience to life.
South Iceland FAQ
How can I get around South Iceland?
There are several ways to get around South Iceland. The most popular options are:
Car: This is the most convenient way to get around, as it allows you to go at your own pace and explore the region at your leisure.
Bus: There are several bus routes that travel through South Iceland. This is a more affordable option than renting a car, but it is less flexible.
Tour: There are many tours available that take you to the most popular attractions in South Iceland. This is a great option if you don't want to worry about driving or planning your own itinerary.
What is the best time of year to visit South Iceland?
The best time of year to visit South Iceland depends on what you want to do. If you want to see the Northern Lights, the best time to visit is from September to April. If you want to go hiking or camping, the best time to visit is from June to August.
What are the safety considerations when visiting South Iceland?
The weather in South Iceland can be unpredictable, so it is important to be prepared for anything. The region is also home to many glaciers and volcanoes, so it is important to stay on the marked trails and to be aware of your surroundings
A Look Back at the Best Things to Do in South Iceland
South Iceland offers abundant attractions, adventures, and authentic experiences that are simply waiting for you. To fully immerse yourself and explore everything to do in South Iceland, renting a campervan or RV in Iceland offers unmatched freedom and flexibility.
The open road is your invitation to discover the mesmerizing wonders of this region at your own pace. So why wait? Start your Icelandic journey today with Campervan Reykjavik, and let the adventure unfold.