Anhelina is a wanderlust-fueled soul who is also a cat mom, amateur cyclist, and painter in her free time. She believes that every location, no matter how remote or obscure, has a unique charm that deserves to be shared with the world.
Explore the mesmerizing landscapes of Iceland's south coast in a comprehensive 5-day itinerary, with an option to extend to 7 days, unveiling glaciers, waterfalls, and hidden locations.
Seeking a destination where geothermal wonders meet majestic glacial landscapes? The South Coast of Iceland is your answer. Set against the backdrop of the North Atlantic, this region is a tapestry of breathtaking views steeped in ancient sagas and natural beauty. From cascading waterfalls to black sand beaches, every turn promises a new discovery. Embark on a 5-day road trip that will etch memories for a lifetime. Ready to explore? Let's chart the journey!
This Iceland road trip itinerary is your key to unlocking the best of what Iceland's south coast has to offer. Dive deep into a 5-day exploration with an optional 2-day extension, ensuring you don't miss out on any corners of the South!
Day 1: Reykjavik Exploration, Golden Circle Highlights, and Volcanic Adventure
Panoramic view on Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland
Kick off your Icelandic saga in Reykjavik, the world's northernmost capital. You can start by climbing the tower of Hallgrímskirkja Church for a panoramic view of the city's vibrant rooftops. Then visit the Old Harbor, once the heart of Reykjavik's maritime life.
Your afternoon is all about the Golden Circle. At Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, witness the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the site of the world's oldest parliament from 930 AD. Nearby, the Geysir Geothermal Area showcases Strokkur's eruptions, which spout water up to 30 meters every few minutes. Concluding the route, Gullfoss, or the "Golden Falls", mesmerizes with its powerful cascades, its name inspired by the golden hue on sunny days, and its historical significance in conservation efforts.
As evening approaches, join a meet-on-location tour of the 2023 Volcano eruption site. Even though the craters are now quiet, you can witness the freshly formed lava field and observe the power of the volcano!
Total Driving Distance: Approx. 258 km, 3 hours 25 minutes
Day 2: Waterfalls, Black Sand Beach, and Historical Plane Wreck
DC-3 Plane wreck in the south of Iceland
Begin your day at Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls. What makes Seljalandsfoss special is its cave behind the cascade, which allows you to walk behind the waterfall—a rare experience. On sunny days, the mist from the waterfall can create rainbows, making the view even more spectacular.
On your way to Skógafoss, make a detour to a hidden gem—Gljúfrabúi Waterfall. It's hidden in a small gorge, and you'll need to wade through a stream to see it.
A short drive away from Seljalandsfoss lies Skógafoss, another majestic waterfall. With a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters, it's one of the biggest waterfalls in the country. Tip: If you feel energetic, climb the 527 steps to the top of Skógafoss. The view from above, with the Atlantic Ocean in the distance, is breathtaking!
By the afternoon, make your way to the rare and beautiful Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. The roaring Atlantic waves and the unique black sand make it a must-visit. The basalt columns, resembling a rocky step pyramid, are a favorite spot for photographers.
As the evening approaches, embark on a guided tour of the DC-3 Plane Wreck. This US Navy plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the beach in 1973. Thankfully, everyone survived. Against the backdrop of the black sands and roaring ocean, the wreckage offers a hauntingly beautiful sight and a photo opportunity.
Total Driving Distance: Approx. 151 km, 2 hours 25 minutes
Day 3: Glaciers, Glacier Lagoons, and Diamond Beach
Woman enjoying a view over the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
Start your day in the Skaftafell wilderness area, a part of Vatnajökull National Park. This area is an explorer's paradise, with trails leading to glaciers, waterfalls, and stunning viewpoints.
Tip: If you're up for a moderate hike, the trail to Svartifoss is a must. This waterfall is surrounded by dark basalt columns, a result of the rapid cooling of lava, which gave it its name, 'The Black Falls'. These columns have inspired Icelandic architecture, most notably Reykjavik's Hallgrímskirkja church!
In the afternoon, head to the world-famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Here, you can see icebergs that have broken off from the glacier, floating and glistening in the sun before heading out to sea. These icebergs can be several thousand years old and carry with them volcanic ash from ancient eruptions. Seals are often spotted swimming around or resting on the ice!
Right next to the lagoon is Diamond Beach, named for the chunks of ice that wash ashore and sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight.
Tip: Opt for a boat tour on Jökulsárlón. It's a unique opportunity to sail among the ancient ice! It's not just about getting close to the icebergs but also about understanding their journey, from snowfall on the Vatnajökull glacier to their final voyage out to the Atlantic Ocean.
If you still have time and energy for a hidden spot, just a short drive from Jökulsárlón is Fjallsárlón, a smaller glacier lagoon. It's less crowded and offers a more intimate experience with the icebergs!
Total Driving Distance: Approx. 187 km, 2 hours 20 minutes
Day 4: Canyons, Glaciers, and Geothermal Springs
Travellers posing next to the famous Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
Your day begins with a visit to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, a majestic formation believed to be around two million years old. Carved by the Fjaðrá River, the canyon’s winding paths and steep green walls stretch over 100 meters deep and about 2 kilometers long, making it a testament to the persistent power of water over time. Tip: A higher viewing platform offers a panoramic view of the entire canyon for those looking for a bird's-eye view.
Next, venture to Sólheimajökull Glacier, an outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland's fourth-largest glacier. Sólheimajökull is unique due to its rapid retreat in recent years, showcasing the tangible effects of climate change. Activity Suggestion: Join a guided glacier walk or even try ice climbing! With the right equipment provided on the tour, you'll learn about the glacier's history, its formations, and the effects of climate change.
Conclude your day at the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir, one of the oldest natural geothermal pools in Iceland. Unlike the more touristy Blue Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon retains its natural charm, with steam rising into the air and a consistent water temperature of 38-40°C year-round. The surrounding geothermal area also features a little geyser that erupts every few minutes, adding to the ambiance.
Total Driving Distance: Approx. 360 km, 4 hours 40 minutes
Day 5: Crater Lakes, Geothermal Valleys, and Reykjavik's Highlights
Woman hiking at the South Coast of Iceland
Begin your day with a visit to Kerið Crater Lake, a volcanic marvel approximately 3,000 years old. The vibrant aquamarine waters set against the contrasting red and black volcanic rock create a mesmerizing visual spectacle. There's a small fee to visit Kerið, but it's well worth it. Tip: You can walk around the rim for different perspectives or go to the lake level.
Your journey continues to Reykjadalur, aptly named 'Steam Valley'. This geothermal haven is adorned with bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, and the highlight—a naturally warm river. After a moderate hike, reward yourself with a dip in this geothermal river, letting the warm waters soothe your muscles amidst the cool, Icelandic air.
Upon returning to Reykjavik, delve into the city's architectural and cultural gems. The Harpa Concert Hall stands as a testament to modern Icelandic architecture, with its geometric glass design reflecting the city's vibrancy. For those seeking a cultural immersion, the Reykjavik Art Museum and the National Museum of Iceland offer a rich variety of Icelandic art and history.
Total Driving Distance: Approx. 115 km, 1 hour 50 minutes
Optional 2-Day Extension:
Day 6: Vestmannaeyjar Exploration and Volcanic History
A panoramic view of the scenery of Vestmannaeyjar islands
Set sail to the Westman Islands, or Vestmannaeyjar, an archipelago renowned for its volcanic landscapes and rich history. Your first stop is the Eldfell volcano, born from the 1973 eruption. This event reshaped Heimaey Island, with lava flows consuming parts of the town. Tip: The Eldheimar Museum offers a deep dive into the events of the 1973 eruption. It's built around one of the houses buried under ash and lava, providing a poignant look into the disaster.
In the afternoon, take a boat tour around the islands for unparalleled views of puffin colonies, rugged sea caves, and the archipelago's dramatic coastline.
If you're visiting during summer, the island of Heimaey comes alive with the Þjóðhátíð festival. This event celebrates Icelandic culture with music, fireworks, and a community spirit.
Total Driving Distance: Approx. 130 km, 2 hours
Day 7: Reykjavik's Cultural and Modern Attractions
Reykjavik’s skyline at dawn, Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland's vibrant capital, offers a blend of rich history and modernity. Begin your exploration at the Sun Voyager, a striking steel sculpture that represents a dreamboat and an ode to the sun. Its location by the sea offers a serene backdrop, making it a popular spot for both locals and tourists.
For a touch of history, visit the Saga Museum, which brings to life the sagas of Iceland. Through realistic silicone figures, you can experience the significant events from the Viking Age to the Reformation.
Tip: The Perlan Museum is another must-visit. Located in a modern glass dome, it offers interactive exhibits on Iceland's geological wonders, including a real ice cave!
We also highly recommend an afternoon whale-watching tour from the Old Harbor. Reykjavik's surrounding waters are a haven for marine life, with minke whales, humpback whales, and occasionally orcas making an appearance.
As evening approaches, make your way to Grótta Lighthouse. This tranquil spot is ideal for sunset views. If you're visiting during the winter months, it's also a prime location to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights away from the city's hustle and bustle.
Driving Distance: Minimal, as you'll be exploring within Reykjavik
Winter Travel Tips for Iceland's South Coast
Ice cave at the Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe
Traveling to Iceland's South Coast during winter is a mesmerizing experience, offering a different perspective of its natural wonders. However, the season brings its own set of challenges, making it crucial to be well-prepared. Deciding on the best season for your road trip depends on what you seek: Winter offers snowy landscapes and the chance to see the Northern Lights while summer provides longer daylight hours and milder weather.
December has limited daylight, around 4-5 hours. It's essential to start your day early and focus on the main attractions.
Always consult the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration for current road conditions. Vehicles equipped with winter tires, preferably 4x4s, are advised.
The weather can be unpredictable. Regularly check forecasts and remain flexible with your plans.
Layered clothing is key. Ensure you have thermal wear and waterproof and windproof outer layers. Don't forget essentials like a hat, gloves, and insulated footwear.
Monitor the aurora forecast and seek out areas with minimal light pollution for optimal viewing.
Some tourist spots might be less accessible or even closed. Always check in advance.
Familiarize yourself with emergency services, keeping the number 112 accessible.
If you're not confident about driving in icy conditions, it's worth considering guided tours.
If you are unsure about navigating the challenges of winter travel, guided tours offer a hassle-free alternative. Opting for a tour ensures you have experienced guides familiar with the terrain and conditions, enhancing safety and enriching your experience with their knowledge. Choosing the right season and being well-informed can make your Icelandic road trip relaxed and memorable. Whether you opt for a self-drive journey or a guided tour, the South Coast's beauty awaits!
Traveler photographing a black sand beach in Iceland
As you reach the end of your trip along Iceland's south coast, you'll realize that this area is full of natural wonders, historical landmarks, and cultural experiences. Every day spent here reveals a new aspect of Iceland's diverse beauty, such as mesmerizing waterfalls, dark sandy beaches, lively towns, and folklore. While this 5-day Iceland trip itineraryprovides a comprehensive look into the heart of the south coast, remember that Iceland is a land of endless exploration.
Whether you extend your stay or plan a short Iceland itinerary, the memories forged here will undoubtedly call you back to this island. Safe travels, and may the magic of Iceland stay with you long after you've returned home!
Iceland’s South Coast Itinerary FAQs
How many days do you need on the South Coast of Iceland?
To fully experience diverseIceland's south coast attractions,a minimum 3-day trip is recommended. While one day can give you a taste, truly exploring the waterfalls, black sand beaches, and towns would ideally take around 3-5 days. And since the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, having a few extra days in your itinerary can offer flexibility against unforeseen delays or changes.
Can you do South Coast Iceland in one day?
Absolutely, you can explore the South Coast of Iceland in a day, but it would be a packed adventure! While you'll be able to catch some must-see spots like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the black sand beach at Reynisfjara, and the quaint town of Vik, a one-day trip really only gives you a glimpse of the region's magic. To truly appreciate its beauty and immerse yourself, we advise spending a few days there.
What is there to see on the South Coast of Iceland?
There are plenty of things to see in the most popular region of Iceland! One of the most popular attractions is the black sand beaches, such as Reynisfjara and Vik. You can also visit the famous Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, explore the glaciers and ice caves, and go hiking in the beautiful landscapes. Don't forget to check out the charming towns and villages along the way, like Hofn and Selfoss. Whether you're interested in nature, history, or culture, the South Coast of Iceland has something for everyone!
Is it better to go North or South in Iceland?
Both North and South coast Iceland offer distinct experiences. South Iceland, more accessible from Reykjavik, boasts popular attractions like the Golden Circle, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and the black sand beach at Reynisfjara. On the other hand, North Iceland, less crowded, is home to the Mývatn lake area, the mighty Dettifoss waterfall, Húsavík for whale-watching, and the Mývatn Nature Baths. While the South is ideal for iconic sites and proximity to the capital, the North offers a quieter, more authentic Icelandic experience with unique attractions.
How far is the South Coast from Reykjavík?
The start of the South Coast, with attractions like Seljalandsfoss, is about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Reykjavík. If you're heading to farther destinations like Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, expect a drive of around5 hours. Planning overnight stops can make the journey more enjoyable and less tiring.