South Iceland is a treasure trove of natural wonders. The South Coast makes for the perfect road trip because there are so many amazing things to see close together and it is easily my favorite place in the whole country [and I’ve been all over!]
There are so many incredible south Iceland activities including walking behind Seljalandsfoss, hiking to Reykjadalur Hot Springs, and visiting the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon!
Road-tripping through the south of Iceland is great for any time of year. Be sure to check the road conditions, but unlike more remote parts of Iceland, the roads along the South Coast tend to stay open almost all year long. With a few exceptions, the big tourist draws are just off the side of the road, making them easily accessible!
Now let’s see where to go in South Iceland!
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Southern Iceland Map Attractions
Sometimes it is helpful to have all of the suggestions in one place! As a result, I created this handy-dandy map of South Iceland attractions which features of all the locations in one place.
My pro-tip to you would be to download the Google Maps app and then make sure to download our map of best things to do in South Iceland offline so that you have it easily accessible when you are on the go exploring the country.
Best Iceland South Coast Tours
Unless you rent a car, the only way to see South Iceland is by booking a tour. You can easily do a day tour from Reykjavik. This is a great way to get an introduction to this amazing region. If you need more time to explore, consider booking a multi-day tour. Letting a knowledgeable guide take over will reduce the stress of deciding what to do in South Iceland.
20 Best Things To Do In South Iceland You Shouldn’t Miss
The 200-foot Seljalandsfoss waterfall is right off Route 1 (Ring Road) on the South Coast of Iceland. There is no hiking required to see this waterfall. It is just a short walk from the parking lot.
Though Iceland is graced with an endless display of stunning waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss’ unique quality is it is possible to walk behind the waterfall.
A path leads from the parking lot to the front of the waterfall and then loops around the back so you get a view of the waterfall from every angle.
We suggest wearing rain gear, as you’ll likely get a little wet, particularly on a windy day.
- Walk Behind the Waterfall: Experience the unique opportunity to walk behind the falls. Wear a waterproof jacket as you will get wet.
- Best Viewing Times: Go either early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience.
- Nearby Hidden Gem: Check out Gljúfrabúi, a nearby lesser-known waterfall within walking distance, tucked away in a small canyon.
- Prepare for Wet Conditions: The area around the waterfall can be slippery, so wear sturdy, waterproof footwear for safety.
Gljufabui is often overlooked as it is slightly hidden and is smaller than its towering neighbor, Seljalandsfoss. But since Gljufrabui is within walking distance of Seljalandsfoss, you do not want to miss out on this South Coast hidden gem.
After Seljalandsfoss, head to the right (if you’re facing the parking lot), and walk to the campgrounds until you see a sign for the waterfall and a cavern with a river. To get to the waterfall, you’ll have to walk through the river, so be prepared with waterproof boots or a change of shoes.
Once inside, you’ll be greeted with a beautiful waterfall that looks as if it’s pouring through a skylight in nature’s ceiling. There’s a giant boulder in the middle of the cavern, which is easy to climb and perfect for taking pictures.
- Hidden Gem: Gljúfrabúi is less known and often less crowded than nearby Seljalandsfoss, offering a more secluded experience.
- Access Through a Canyon: To fully view the waterfall, you’ll need to walk through a narrow canyon. Waterproof shoes are essential.
- Prepare to Get Wet: The enclosed nature of the waterfall means more spray, so wearing waterproof clothing is recommended
- Photography Inside the Canyon: For photographers, capturing the falls inside the canyon can be challenging but rewarding. Protect your camera from water spray.
Located in Southern Iceland a little further down the coast, Skogafoss is just a 25-minute drive from Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabrui. You will quickly see why this is one of the best things to do in south Iceland!
The Skoga River flows along a wide, pebbled path leading right up to the waterfall. The path is flat and easy to walk. The waterfall is forceful, and you will get unrelentingly sprayed as you approach it.
You might even see a rainbow on a sunny day, adding its finishing touch to an already stunning waterfall.
You can climb steps to view Skogafoss from above. There are a little over 500 stairs to get to the top!
At the top, there is a hiking trail that follows the Skoga River back into the valley, and it’s filled with additional waterfalls if you’re up for a long, extended day hike.
- Best Time to Visit: Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds and for better photography lighting.
- Appropriate Footwear: Wear waterproof and sturdy shoes, as the area can be slippery and wet.
- Explore Beyond the Base: Climb the staircase to the top of the waterfall for a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape.
- Nearby Camping: There’s a camping ground close to the waterfall, offering a great spot for those who want to stay overnight.
Right next door to Skogafoss is the waterfall Kvernufoss. This is one of South Iceland’s less frequented gems. Fewer tourists know of its existence, but it’s certainly not lacking in beauty.
To get to Kvernufoss, you’ll take the same exit off the Ring Road for Skogafoss, but instead of following the signs to the left for Skogafoss, continue straight down Skogar to the end of the road and turn right.
You’ll park near Hotel Edda and climb a short ladder over a fence into the valley. It takes about 10-15 minutes to reach Kvernufoss. The walk is comfortable, requiring very little in the way of elevation gain or rocky terrain.
The path ends right up alongside the waterfall and provides you with plenty of excellent viewing spots. And like Seljalandsfoss, you can even walk behind it!
Though the path is easily navigated in the summer months, in the winter, it is often covered in ice and can be dangerous. Bring crampons to stabilize your feet on the slippery ground and exercise caution.
- Off the Beaten Path: Kvernufoss, located near Skógar, is less crowded than its famous neighbor Skogafoss, offering a more tranquil experience.
- Hiking Trail: Access the waterfall via a short, scenic hike (about 20 minutes one way) through a gorge. The trail is relatively easy but can be slippery.
- Opportunity to Walk Behind: Like Seljalandsfoss, Kvernufoss offers the chance to walk behind the waterfall, a unique and picturesque experience.
- Photography Tips: The natural scenery and lesser foot traffic make it an excellent spot for photography. Morning or late afternoon light is ideal.
Right on the edge of the highlands in South Iceland sits Haifoss, an impressive 400-foot waterfall. It is one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland. Haifoss thunders down right next to its partner waterfall, Granni (which translates to neighbor).
It is possible to hike down to the falls if you have the time, but the view from the top is incredible and easily accessible from the parking lot.
In winter, Haifoss is usually inaccessible unless you are driving there in buses or jeeps designed for winter weather and icy gravel roads. Don’t attempt the drive unless you are in an appropriate vehicle. Even in summer, the gravel roads are rocky and full of potholes and require slow driving.
- Spectacular Height: Háifoss is one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls, plunging about 122 meters into a dramatic canyon, offering stunning views.
- Rough Access Road: The road to Háifoss is gravel and can be rough, so a 4×4 vehicle is recommended, especially outside of the summer months.
- Weather Considerations: The area can be windy and cold, even in summer. Dress in layers and bring windproof clothing.
- No Facilities Nearby: This is a remote location with no facilities, so bring your own food, water, and any necessary supplies.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most famous and heavily trafficked tourist routes, and for good reason.
This South Iceland road trip hits three major stops; Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Strokkur Geyser. Other stops such as Kerid Crater and the Secret Lagoon can be added to your Golden Circle itinerary as well.
Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Iceland’s first parliament was formed back in 930 AD. It is also the site of a giant rift valley that marks the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Strokkur is an amazing geyser that erupts at 5-7 minute intervals. Crowds of tourists gather around Strokkur in anticipation of its burst of water and steam shooting up into the air.
This South Iceland road trip is completed with a trip to Gullfoss Waterfall. In the summer months, it is common to see a rainbow arching over the waterfall.
Though south coast Iceland spoils you with an abnormally large number of impressive waterfalls, Gullfoss is rightfully among the top. The waterfall has both upper and lower viewing platforms, and we suggest spending some time at both.
The Golden Circle Tips
- Thingvellir National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its geological significance and historical importance as the site of Iceland’s first parliament.
- Geysir Geothermal Area: Witness the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every few minutes. The area is also home to numerous hot springs and mud pots.
- Gullfoss Waterfall: A powerful and picturesque waterfall, Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic and accessible waterfalls.
Accessibility and Facilities: The Golden Circle is easily accessible from Reykjavik and well-equipped with visitor facilities, making it ideal for a day trip.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs
If you’ve ever wanted to bathe in a hot river right in the middle of nature, you should make Reykjadalur Hot Springs a part of your South Coast itinerary.
Just 45 minutes from Reykjavik, Reykjadalur Hot Springs is the perfect day trip from the capital. The well-maintained trail to the hot springs is roughly 45 minutes to an hour and is easy to moderate with steep sections.
When you reach the part of the river that is safe for bathing, you can change on a wooden platform with partitions. Privacy is lacking, so be aware.
Arrive in the early morning or late evening (when you can enjoy the midnight sun) to avoid the biggest crowds. There is nothing quite like bathing in a river surrounded by stunning nature, and you’ll no doubt be glad you made this stop to kick off or end your South Iceland road trip.
- Hiking Required: Prepare for a moderately challenging hike of about 3 km (1.9 miles) each way. The path is well-marked but can be steep in places.
- Bring Bathing Suits and Towels: Don’t forget your swimsuit and a towel for the hot springs, along with a waterproof bag for your belongings.
- No Changing Facilities: Change into your swimwear before the hike or be prepared to change outdoors, as there are no formal changing facilities.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
One of the more famous stops along Iceland’s South Coast is Reynisfjara Beach, known for its signature black sand and towering basalt columns. This beach is among Iceland’s most impressive black sand beaches and was even featured in the TV show Game of Thrones.
There are so many incredible spots along the beach to enjoy, and one of the top things to do in southern Iceland. However, you should be aware that the beach is developing a reputation for its large sleeper waves. Be aware and don’t get too close to the water.
There is an impressive collection of rock formations, including a cliff of basalt columns that seem to rise out of the sand. This is a prime photography location, and you’ll see many tourists climbing the uneven columns to pose for a picture. This is truly one of the best things to do in Vik!
- Beware of Sneaker Waves: The beach is known for its unpredictable and potentially dangerous waves. Stay well back from the water and never turn your back to the sea.
- Basalt Columns and Caves: Explore the striking basalt columns and caves, but be cautious of the tide and waves when near them.
- Dress for Windy Conditions: Reynisfjara is often windy, so wear windproof clothing and be prepared for chilly conditions, even in summer.
- Parking and Facilities: There is a parking area close to the beach, with restroom facilities available. A café is also nearby for refreshments.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Though the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik, it is well worth the trip. This is one of the top southern Iceland attractions and is so vastly different from anything else you’ll have seen along the rest of the coast. Located in the east part of South Iceland, Jorkulsarlon is a stunning lagoon filled with floating icebergs.
The lagoon is ever-changing as the surrounding glacier continues to melt, and new ice blocks fall. During the summer, you can take a boat tour through the lagoon and get an up-close view of the icebergs.
Across the street is a black sand beach called Diamond Beach. It sets itself apart from other black sand beaches like Reynisfjara Beach because the entire beach is covered in clear, sparkling ice.
The contrast of the black sand against the clear ice is striking and makes for some powerful photographs.
- Boat Tours: Consider taking a boat tour to get up close to the icebergs. Zodiac tours offer a more adventurous experience, while amphibian boats are more stable and family-friendly.
- Wildlife Spotting: Keep an eye out for seals, which are often seen lounging on the icebergs or swimming in the lagoon.
- Photography Opportunities: The lagoon offers stunning photo opportunities, especially during sunrise or sunset when the light is softer.
- Dress Warmly: Even in summer, it can be chilly near the glacier, so dress in warm layers and bring a waterproof jacket.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
This popular South Iceland tourist destination is the result of a DC-3 U.S. Navy plane running out of fuel and crashing on Solheimasandur Beach in 1973.
Fortunately, everyone survived, but the body of the plane was abandoned, making it one of the best places to see in South Iceland. The parking lot to access the plane wreck is only 10-minutes down the South Coast Ring Road from Skogafoss Waterfall.
On the Ring Road, you’ll come across a large parking lot designed for visitors to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck.
The path is flat and relatively easy but will take you roughly 45 minutes to an hour each way. On a windy day, the walk can be particularly frustrating, as you have to fight the wind resistance as well.
The plane doesn’t come into sight until the very end of your walk. Get your camera ready, and be prepared to photograph the wreckage.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck Tips
- Prepare for a Long Walk: The walk to the plane wreck is about 4 km (2.5 miles) each way on flat, open terrain, so wear comfortable walking shoes.
- No Shelter on the Route: The path to the wreck is exposed with no shelter from the elements. Dress appropriately for the weather, including wind protection.
- Photography Etiquette: The site is popular for photography. Be respectful of others taking photos and wait your turn for that perfect shot.
- No Facilities: There are no facilities at the site or along the walk, so bring water, snacks, and any other necessities with you.
The seven-step Sky Ritual with take you through an amazing spa treatment that involves a sauna, a cleansing scrub, steam, and more. You will be so incredibly relaxed afterward.
The hot spring portion of your trip will be very memorable as well. The pool is a mix of nature and Nordic culture with large, rugged rocks surrounding the water and creating little nooks for privacy. There is even a waterfall!
The infinity pool brings you jaw-dropping views of the ocean. In the winter, you might even spot the Northern Lights. Another place to enjoy the water is the swim-up bar where you can grab a drink. There is also a sit-down café and bar.
Book Here: Sky Lagoon: Sky Pass with 7-Step Spa Ritual
Sky Lagoon Tips
- Booking in Advance: It’s recommended to book your visit in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, as this geothermal spa is quite popular.
- Infinity Edge Experience: Don’t miss the infinity edge, offering a stunning view that blends the lagoon with the ocean horizon.
- The Ritual: Consider trying the seven-step Sky Lagoon Ritual, which includes a sauna, cold plunge, and relaxation in the lagoon.
- Bring Swimsuits: Although towels and robes can be rented, remember to bring your own swimsuit. Locker rooms are available for changing and storing your belongings.
Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
The Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool is another amazing hot spring on the South Coast, but it is farther from the city. It will take a two-hour drive and a twenty-minute hike to reach the oldest pool in Iceland.
While it is a famous and scenic hot spring in Iceland, it might not live up to your expectations. The pool is not the hottest at about 68 to 86°F and the changing rooms can be dirty. Do not be surprised to find algae in the water.
Even so, the pool is super photogenic and the historical aspect makes it interesting too. It was built in 1923 and was once where locals learned to swim.
Today, tourists take advantage of the free price to take a dip in a pool nestled among mountains. Make sure to leave no trace and pack out all your trash.
- Access by Hike: It involves a short hike (about 20 minutes) to reach the pool. The path is relatively easy, but good walking shoes are recommended.
- Rustic and Remote: Seljavallalaug is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools, offering a rustic, natural experience in a remote setting.
- No Facilities: There are very basic changing facilities, but no showers or other amenities. Bring your own towels and be prepared for a minimalistic experience.
- Temperature Variability: The pool’s water temperature can be lukewarm, depending on recent rainfall and geothermal activity, so be prepared for varying conditions.
Solheimajokull Glacier is one of the best things to do on the south coast. You get to see the raw power of nature up close. This natural wonder is easily accessible and is just a short drive from the Ring Road. Don’t forget to check out our tips for Solheimajokull Glacier!
A short walk from the parking lot with lead you to gorgeous views of the glacier. If you want to get even closer, you can book a glacier hiking tour. You cannot go without a guide. Trained experts will provide the equipment you need and lead you safely across the ice.
Solheimajokull Glacier Tips
- Glacier Hiking and Tours: Consider booking a guided glacier hike or ice climbing tour for a safe and informative experience. Guides provide the necessary equipment.
- Safety First: Due to the changing nature of glaciers, it’s not recommended to walk on the glacier without a guide.
- Photography Opportunities: The glacier offers stunning views and photo opportunities, especially of the ice formations and crevasses.
- Dress Appropriately: Wear warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy hiking boots. Weather conditions can change rapidly in the area.
Dverghamrar, also known as the Dwarf Rocks, is a unique hidden gem on the South Coast.
This is a beautiful area to explore, especially in summer when it is lush and green. There is also a waterfall nearby called Foss at Sída adding even more magic to the scenery.
Dverghamrar is just off the Ring Road near the small village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Even though it is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the main tourist road, it is not a popular spot to stop, and you might get the landscape to yourself! Definitely add this stop to your south Iceland itinerary,
- Unique Geological Formation: Explore the fascinating columnar basalt formations, which are said to be the homes of dwarfs and elves according to Icelandic folklore.
- Easy Accessibility: Located close to the Ring Road, Dverghamrar is easily accessible with a short walk from the parking area.
- Photography Spot: The area is a great photography location, especially with the contrast between the basalt columns and the surrounding landscape.
Dyrholaey is an interesting and photogenic sea arch next to the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. If you are looking for amazing, sweeping views, this is where you can find them.
To get to the peninsula’s viewpoint, you’ll have to drive a gravel road, and a 4×4 is recommended, especially in winter. This open area is super windy, too, and it can get cold. Even so, it is a spectacular spot for photography with panoramic views.
This is also a great place to spot seabirds. Puffins are especially popular and cute. Bring binoculars or a telephoto camera lens to see them close up on the cliffside.
- Bird Watching: Known for its rich birdlife, including puffins during the nesting season (usually May to August). Bring binoculars for bird watching.
- Stunning Views: Offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the Reynisfjara black sand beach and the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
- Lighthouse: Don’t miss the picturesque Dyrhólaey lighthouse, which adds to the charm of the area.
- Respect Wildlife and Nature: Stay on designated paths to protect the natural habitat and be cautious around cliff edges.
Þakgil, or Thakgil, translates to “Roof Canyon” and looks like a landscape out of Middle Earth.
Hiking through this South Iceland attraction will give you views of mountains, valleys, volcanos, and glaciers. This is the perfect slice of Icelandic landscapes.
As you explore the many miles of trails, it is likely you will find yourself alone in nature since not many people hike here. It is not as close to the Ring Road as other stops at about 7 miles but is so worth it.
There is also one of the best Iceland campgrounds here. It is a pretty spot with summer bringing greenery on all sides. A natural cave with picnic tables makes a unique place for a meal.
- Camping Facilities: Þakgil offers unique camping experiences, with options for tents, campervans, or rentable cabins. Check availability in advance.
- Hiking Trails: There are several hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and canyons.
- Remote Location: The area is quite remote and off the beaten path, so make sure your vehicle is suitable for gravel roads.
- Bring Supplies: Due to its remoteness, bring all necessary supplies, including food, water, and any hiking or camping gear you might need.
Vatnajokull National Park
There are some epic national parks in Iceland, and Vatnajokull National Park is one of them. In 2008, Jokulsargljufur and Skaftafell National Parks were combined to form the biggest national park in Europe.
At 5,459 square miles, this World Heritage Site has plenty to explore including the second-largest glacier in Europe. Vatnajokull glacier covers more than 8% of the country.
Make sure to book a guide if you want to hike the glacier or see the ice caves. You can also go snowmobiling here, which is a memorable South Iceland activity. Don’t forget to check out our list of the best Ice caves in Iceland!
Since this is Iceland, there are of course a bunch of waterfalls here too. Svartifoss is one of the most iconic southern Iceland waterfalls with towering black basalt columns surrounding it. The hike is about two miles roundtrip and is rated easy.
Vatnajokull National Park Tips
- Diverse Landscapes: The park encompasses a variety of landscapes from glaciers, ice caves, and volcanic areas to waterfalls and black sand plains.
- Glacier Tours: Join guided tours for glacier hikes, ice caving, or boat tours on glacial lagoons. Always explore glaciers with a professional guide.
- Weather Preparedness: Weather can be unpredictable and change quickly. Dress in layers, carry waterproof gear, and have sturdy walking shoes.
More commonly known as the Yoda Cave, Gigjagja is gaining popularity among Star Wars fans and photographers as one of the top South Coast activities. You will find the road to the cave just east of Vik. You’ll drive for a few minutes from the Ring Road to reach the standalone Hjorleifshofdi rock formation that hosts the cave.
The cave has two big openings with the upper hole looking like a popular Jedi Master. The silhouette becomes even more obvious from the inside
Another cool fact about this area is that it was used as a filming location for the opening scenes of Star Wars: Rogue One. That is just an added bonus for any Star Wars lover.
- Unique Geological Feature: Gígjagjá is a striking cave formation created by volcanic activity, showcasing Iceland’s dynamic geology.
- Lava Field Surroundings: The cave is set within a vast lava field, providing a dramatic and otherworldly landscape to explore.
- Prepare for Rugged Terrain: Wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for uneven ground. The area around the cave can be rocky and challenging to navigate.
Mulagljufur Canyon is a rugged and quintessentially Icelandic landscape found just off the Ring Road near the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This South Coast hidden gem and worthy of being on your southern Iceland itinerary!
The moderate-rated hike is three miles roundtrip and has steep portions. Don’t focus on the burn in your legs as you head uphill, instead enjoy the amazing views of the mossy cliffs and otherworldly beauty.
You will also love the ribbon of water that cuts through the canyon and the waterfall Mulafoss. This waterfall cascades down for about 328 feet, creating a beautiful scene.
This is easily one of the best canyons in Iceland and since it is less popular, it will be less crowded too. It is a great place for a moody photoshoot.
Mulagljufur Canyon Tips
- Scenic Hiking Trails: The canyon offers breathtaking hiking trails with stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including waterfalls and the canyon itself.
- Less Crowded: Múlagljúfur Canyon is less known and often less crowded than other popular spots in Iceland, offering a more serene experience.
- Moderate Hike: Access to the best viewpoints involves a moderate hike, so wear comfortable hiking shoes and be prepared for some walking.
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
If you are looking for a remote and cheap hot spring in South Iceland, make time to drop by the Hrunalaug Hot Spring. Located near the Golden Circle, this small hot spring only costs about $7.50 which helps the landowner with the upkeep.
The pools only fit about ten people, and it can get crowded. Keep that in mind when planning on when you will visit.
The hot spring is about a five-minute walk from the parking lot. There is a small shed you can use to change, but it does not provide much privacy.
Depending on where you sit in the pools, the temperature ranges from about 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. As you soak, you can admire the rolling hills that surround you.
As always, respect the land and pack out any trash you bring in. Leave the hot springs better than you found them so people can continue to enjoy this slice of beauty.
Hrunalaug Hot Spring Tips
- Small and Cozy: Hrunalaug is a small, natural hot spring, offering a more intimate and rustic soaking experience compared to larger, commercial hot springs.
- Changing Facilities: There are very basic changing facilities available, but they are quite primitive, so be prepared for a minimalistic setup.
- Preserve the Environment: As it’s a natural site, it’s crucial to respect the surroundings by not leaving any trash and keeping the area clean.
- Parking and Access: There’s a small parking area near the spring, and from there, it’s a short walk to reach the hot spring. Be mindful of private property in the area.
Best Places To Stay In South Iceland
Since it is such a popular area in Iceland, there are plenty of places to stay in South Iceland from hotels, guesthouses, and campgrounds. They all range in price and amenities. Here are some options to check out!
It’s hard to go wrong with a road trip to South Iceland. These ten suggestions make up only a handful of all that this region of the country has to offer.
Driving through Iceland’s nature is a unique experience in and of itself, and taking time at each of these impressive stops is icing on the cake!
We hope these get you excited about planning your South Iceland road trip. Please let us know in the comments if you have any thoughts or questions.