Welcome to our Iceland South Coast itinerary, where we will list some of the very best places to visit on Iceland’s dramatic southern coastline. The south coast hosts some of the country’s most amazing waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers and ice caves, all waiting to be explored. It’s a popular place for an action-packed one day adventure from Reykjavik, but you’ll need at least 3 days to explore it fully.
Read on for a step-by-step Iceland South Coast itinerary, with options for a 1 or 2 day visit. Whilst you can see most of the sites on our list as part of a guided tour, we highly recommend renting a car if you can. It’ll give you the freedom to explore at your own pace and you’ll see more in a shorter amount of time. It’s cheaper too. Tours in Iceland can be very expensive.
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Travelling from Reykjavik or Selfoss, the two main towns in the southwest of Iceland, Urriðafoss is the first waterfall you’ll encounter on your south coast adventure. Rather than one waterfall, it’s a wider area of many small falls, with powerful rapids, and a scenic river with a bridge. Embark on the short river trail to get up close with the fast-running-water, viewing the falls from different angles. In winter, the entire area is covered in snow and ice.
Just down the road from Urriðafoss, you’ll encounter one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is a 60m high waterfall that plunges into a stream below, giving off a steamy mist. See it from afar and then get closer, where you’ll learn how huge this waterfall is. You can walk up the staircase to get a nice sideview, or during the summer months, stand behind the waterfall and look out at the scenic valley below.
Walk 10 minutes down the trail from Seljalandsfoss and you’ll encounter the lesser known but even more unique waterfall of Glufrabui. Being a more well-known waterfall, Seljalandsfoss overshadows Glufrabui and many people miss the latter, even though it’s very close by. We personally preferred this waterfall… and you’ll soon learn why.
Glufrabui sits deep within a cave in-between two rock faces. Whilst you can get a glimpse of it from outside, you’ll need to step inside to experience how cool this waterfall actually is. Water crashes down into the cave stream, creating a loud roar and thrilling scenery. In winter, the cave is covered in snow and icicles.
Both of the above waterfalls can be seen in one stop off point. Simply park your car and follow the trail to both falls. You’ll also stumble upon some smaller falls along the way.
Eyjafjallajökull Info Point
Do you remember when an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano erupted in 2010 and sent ash over much of Europe which shutdown flights for weeks? There is a small info center just past the tiny town of Holt which has information about that eruption. Eyjafjallajökull is only a few miles from the road at this point.
We’re not done with waterfalls just yet. A further 30-minute drive down the south coast main road, Skógafoss proudly sits as one of Iceland’s most famous falls. It’s the filming location for Game of Thrones, Vikings and other popular TV series and movies, which will give you an indication to how cool this place really is.
Skógafoss is nestled in the corner of a valley, plunging 60m to the stream below. It’s amongst a cliffside of giant boulders and you get up close to the base of the falls (if you don’t mind getting wet). It gives off an almighty roar and eerie mist as tourists flock over to take pictures. It’s one of the busier waterfall attractions in Iceland, so we recommend getting there as early as possible.
Once you’ve seen Skógafoss from the base, hike up the winding staircase to get a glimpse of the falling water from above. It’s a challenging hike up but is well worth it for the view. For a longer hiking route, continue down the path at the top of the staircase to find a smaller waterfall and river valley.
Skógar Open-Air Museum
If you want to sample Iceland’s rich Viking history Skógar Museum is the place to visit. It’s only a 2-minute drive from Skógafoss Waterfall and within walking distance of another beautiful waterfall, Kvernufoss. The museum comprises of 3 separate exhibits and hosts over 18,000 unique Icelandic artefacts. Learn about the early settlements of the island, its historical revolution, the evolvement of fishing and other interesting events in Iceland’s past.
In addition to the artefacts inside the main building, you’ll find a number of original early settlements in the open-air section of the museum.
Walk 10 minutes from Skógar Museum and you have our favorite waterfall recommendation on our Iceland South Coast itinerary, Kvernufoss. Unlike the other waterfalls we’ve listed so far, you’ll need to hike a little bit to reach Kvernufoss. It’s nestled in a narrow valley, so you’ll need to cross a field and walk upstream of the river to find it.
When you see this waterfall, you’ll be blown away by the sheer beauty of the area. It cascades over the side of the cliff face into a secluded valley, and if you’re visiting in winter, the entire area is covered in ice and snow. You can also walk behind the waterfall here if you’re brave enough. Kvernufoss is off the tourist trail, so if you’re lucky, you might have the waterfall entirely to yourself.
Did you know that Iceland’s South Coast has a receding glacier? One that you can actually climb? Sólheimajökull is one of the country’s smaller glaciers, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. To get there, you’ll need to head to the car park and then hike 20-minutes across the pass to the foot of the glacier. You’ll see some amazing views of the glacial lake and mountains on the way.
Touch the towering blue ice blocks at Sólheimajökull’s base, or join a guided tour. Ice guides will then take you up onto the glacier ice, where you’ll encounter unique ice formations, small caves and deep glacial crevasses. Sólheimajökull is no doubt one of the best things to do on the South Coast, so be sure not to miss it.
DC-3 Plane Wreck
An unusual next stop on your Iceland South Coast itinerary is the downed American DC-3 Plane Wreck on the beaches of Sólheimasandur. An American pilot ran out of fuel and crash landed here in 1973 and it has become a popular tourist site ever since. Visitors take the 1 hour trek across the barren land to catch a glimpse of this unique wreckage, which is perched on the black sand beach. It’s a popular spot for photographers and those who want a unique place to visit in Iceland.
Although you can park up and take the long walk to the plane wreckage, we recommend using the organized bus transport, which operates from the car park a couple of times per hour. It’ll save a lot of time for other sites and the walking route can have quite harsh weather conditions.
Dyrhólaey Viewpoint and Lighthouse
The next stop on our Iceland South Coast itinerary is one you’ve probably been waiting for. It’s no secret that this area of Iceland is home to some amazing black sand beaches. The sand is a jet black color and the waves on the shore are some of the most powerful you’ll see. Before walking on the beach, we recommend driving to Dyrhólaey viewpoint.
Dyrhólaey is a popular tourist spot on top of the cliffside. It has a lighthouse with a unique design, which overlooks the sea stacks of the shore below. It also boasts some breath-taking panoramic views of the black sand beaches below. Dyrhólaey is a great place to witness the beauty of Iceland’s south coast, but be prepared for the weather. It can get extremely windy.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Drive 20-minutes around the cove from Dyrhólaey and you’ll reach Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Iceland has many black sand beaches, but none of them are as popular as Reynisfjara. It’s one of the most common stop-off points on any Iceland South Coast itinerary and you can actually walk on the beach.
See the aggressive waves crash against the shoreline, get a good view of the famous sea stacks offshore, and wander into the sea cave. Reynisfjara is a beautiful place to visit no matter the month of the year. However, be very careful as the powerful waves here have claimed many lives. It is a testament to the powerful forces of Iceland’s nature.
The Town of Vík
You can fit all of the above attractions into one action-packed day of sightseeing. After visiting all of the above, many tourists then drive back to Reykjavik. If you have time in your itinerary, we recommend staying overnight in the quaint town of Vik and then continuing your journey to see the rest of the south coast the next day.
Vík is a tiny town by the black sand beach. It has a number of small shops, bars and restaurants, and some excellent places to stay. We personally stayed at Vík í Mýrdal hotel for one night and highly recommend it. Explore Vík at your leisure and enjoy a much needed rest and recharge before continuing your south coast adventure.
Yoda Cave (Hjörleifshöfði Cave)
Made famous by the cave scene in the Star Wars The Mandalorian TV series, Yoda Cave, known locally as Hjörleifshöfði, is a unique cliffside formation in the Vik area. It sits on a secluded black sand beach, and to get there, you’ll need to drive along a long rocky trail. Capture some cool photos of the ‘Yoda’ shaped cave entrance and watch the waves crashing against the shore. It’s the perfect place to visit at sunrise or sunset.
Our Iceland South Coast itinerary has already featured some amazing places so far, but if you’re a keen hiker, you’re going to want a scenic walking route. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a lush green valley that’s the ideal spot for a long scenic walk (if weather permits). In the warmer months of the year, it’s a bright green valley of winding rock formations and a river stream. Winter has a much frostier façade, with snow covered cliffs and icicles hanging by the river.
We recommend parking your car and going on a small hike across Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. It’s not too popular with tourists so you’ll have the beauty of the area all to yourself.
Svartifoss Waterfall and Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park is one of many Icelandic National Parks that are worth visiting. It’s home to snow covered peaks, a glacier, geothermal areas and a majestic waterfall. You’ll visit much of the national park further down our itinerary. The waterfall known as Svartifoss is where the park starts and will be the first place you’ll visit. Before venturing to the glacier, park up your car near Svartifoss Waterfall and take the short walk to the base of the falls.
Svartifoss is known for its cascading basalt rock columns on either side of the falling water, creating scenery that’s unlike any of the other waterfalls on the south coast. It’s not as powerful as others so you can get up close for some excellent photo opportunities.
As a quick stop off point on your way to the much anticipated Diamond Beach, be sure to visit the quaint town of Hof. This tiny village is a popular place to stay whilst visiting the south coast, but is also ideal for grabbing some lunch. Warm up and re-charge in a local restaurant or walk around town to take in the sites. It’s a perfect representation of a southern Iceland town and has a number of old buildings to discover. Expect churches and houses covered in mossy grass and lush green farmland.
Continuing your Iceland adventure further east along the south coast, you’ll soon reach the infamous ‘Diamond Beach’. This black sand beach is known for having huge iceberg fragments sitting on the beach, which have drifted ashore from the nearby glacier. It creates a unique layer of ‘diamond-like’ ice on the beach and is an amazing site to see. The glacial ice fragments are visible every month of the year.
Right next to Diamond Beach, you have the vast Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. The best way to explore the lagoon is on a guided boat tour. Multiple tours operate from Jökulsárlón car park throughout the day, taking you on a scenic cruise of the lake. You’ll encounter towering icebergs, frozen ice sheets and the cascading base of Vatnajokull Glacier.
Vatnajokull and Jökulsárlón are very popular places to visit and are quite possibly some of the best things you’ll see on your Iceland South Coast itinerary. We recommend booking a tour in advance, the day before, as you can’t explore the area by yourself. You don’t want to miss out if tours are fully booked. Many excursions take you to both the glacier and lake in a half-day trip.
Vatnajokull Ice Cave and Glacier hike
If you’re traveling in the winter months of October – March, you have to embark on a glacier hike. Vatnajokull has some of the most impressive ice caves in the world and they’re stable enough to explore during the colder months of the year. An hour of hiking will take you across the base of the glacier. You’ll then descend into a labyrinth of spectacular blue ice caves.
To experience this once in a lifetime activity, you’ll need to book a group or private tour with an experienced guide. We recommend Troll Expeditions.
The final destination on our itinerary is a large peninsula known as Stokknes. It sits to the very far eastern corner of Iceland’s South Coast and is the furthest point before you start heading north-east up the famous ring road. Many tourists turn back and return to Reykjavik before reaching this eastern-most point, but we highly recommend taking the journey to Stokknes if you have time.
Far away from the busy tourist attractions, this region is a remote, breath-taking sample of Iceland’s beauty. It features miles upon miles of mountain scenery, empty black sand beaches and scenic coastal trails. Not only that; it has historical significance too. It’s home to Höfn, one of Iceland’s first settlements, and was also an important base for the British Army during World War II.
That brings us to the end of our Iceland South Coast itinerary. As you can see, there’s a lot to see and do in this area of the country and the attractions you’ll see are extremely diverse. It remains our favorite area of Iceland and we highly recommend seeing as much of it as you can. As tempting as it may be to visit the south coast on a single day trip from Reykjavík, we encourage you to spend at two or three days here, staying in the local towns on an evening. Vík and Hof make perfect base.
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