Within 2 hours of driving from Reykjavik starts the famous Iceland South Coast.
With easy access, it offers mazing scenery: waterfalls, fjords, glaciers, lagoons, icebergs and black sand beaches!
Below is my guide to help plan your Iceland South coast itinerary with map, best attractions, tips, photos...
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Why visit the South Coast of Iceland?
The South Coast of Iceland is a world of majestic and colorful landscapes:
- from impressive 60m high waterfalls,
- to long black beaches where you don't see the end,
- to easily accessed white glacier tongues melting into lagoons.
- And you can also walk around blue and white icebergs sparkling on the dark sand
- or inside swirling canyons and fjords...
- Plus, in June, the lupin fields turn all that pink and violet and in Winter, the glaciers give you crystal caves.
It is a great region to discover on your Road trip around Iceland
Let me show you around...
Below is a short video I made to show you a snapshot of the beautiful landscapes you can admire when visiting South Iceland including the waterfalls, the icebergs and Vestrahorn.
Is South or North Iceland better?
Most visitors visit the South Region as it is easier to access, close to Reykjavik.
Both regions are very different and worth a visit. In my opinion:
- South Iceland is more romantic with elegant waterfalls, lagoons, icebergs...
- North Iceland is more impressive with a post-apocalyptic feel: geothermal fields, craters, lava, canyons...
More photos after the planning tips
Planning tips - Iceland South Coast
How to get to South Iceland & Map
It is very easy to reach this region it is all in length between the sea and the Mountains of the Central Highlands. And the Ring Road (Road 1) leads you through it with all the major points of interest not far from it.
- Reykjavik to Vik - 2h15 drive
- Vik to Jokulsarlon - 2h15 drive
- Jokulsarlon to Höfn - 1h drive
How long to plan to visit South Iceland?
Considering the driving distances, with only one day from Reykjavik, you can only see a portion of the coast (the first half to Vik).
If you are planning a road trip:
- I think 3 days allow you to see the highlights
- But 5 days is best to go in depth and see all the variations in landscapes.
Option 1 - Self-drive
For the freedom of stopping wherever you want and spending more time in the places you really enjoy, renting a car is the best solution. Driving on the South Coast of Iceland is actually really easy. The Ring Road is there all along, and the side roads are short and in good conditions.
Plus all major locations have large carparks.
You can read my articles about
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
directly see the best deals on my favorite platform
Option 2 - South Coast Iceland Tours
Considering the amazing landscapes everywhere, organized tour from Reykjavik to Vik or the South Coast are a good idea. This way you can remain the whole time the nose against the window.
South Coast Iceland Tour Options include some of the best day trips from Reykjavik:
- Reykjavik to Vik Tour - it includes stops at Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss and the black sand beaches around Vik - Check out program and book
- Jokulsarlon Tour from Reykjavik - Drive all the way to the amazing lagoon and its icebergs - Check out program and book
- Overnight South Coast Tour - with an overnight trip, you get to see a lot more of the South Coast and spend less time in the bus - Check out Winter program - or check out a Summer program and book
Map of Southern Iceland + itinerary tips + place to stay
Top 5 things to do in South Iceland
Let's start with a map highlighting 5 of the most famous attractions in South Iceland to help you get oriented:
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall
- Skogafoss waterfall
- Vik and its black beach (Reynisfjara)
- Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon
- Diamond beach
Below is a South coast map of Iceland attractions. It to give you an idea of
- what is referred to as the South coast of Iceland
- the locations of its 2 main towns: Vik and Höfn
- The 4 most famous attractions
- The locations of other points of interest (complete South Iceland map available in my eBook)
All my favorite locations are included (with GPS coordinates, map of region and planning info) in both my travel guide eBooks that help you easily plan your Iceland road trip:
The towns of South Iceland
The main touristic towns are :
- Vik in the middle of the coast with black sand beaches all around
- Höfn the gateway town to the East Fjords
In between are very small settlements.
South Coast driving times
- Reykjavik to Seljalandsfoss = 2h drive
- Seljalandsfoss to Vik = 50min
- Vik to Jokulsarlon = 2h30
- Jokulsarlon to Höfn = 1h10
Road trip in South Iceland Itinerary Tips
You can use the list of places to see below to help you select what you want to see on your itinerary.
Here are a few tips to help you plan your itinerary in South Iceland:
- If you are doing a ring road tour and continuing to the South coast and the East Fjords, better to group by locations day after day.
- But if you are driving back to Reykjavik after the South Coast, you can skip locations to see them as you return. This will help to balance the views and the time on the road. For example, you can stop at Seljalandsfoss at the beginning and see Skogafoss, the other major waterfall on the return drive.
- Accommodations are mainly in Vik and Hofn, although you have a few options in between, so take the driving time to accommodations into account
- Plan a sunset and sunrise at Jokulsarlon, it is a truly magnificent location
- Sunset at Seljalandsfoss is also worth planning to take photos from behind the waterfall
Note: If you don't want to book everything yourself, consider booking a Self-Drive Tour Package (see my article to help you choose)
3 days return along South Iceland (Summer) - itinerary example with highlights
- Day 1
Depart from Reykjavik
Stop 1 - Seljalandsfoss - walk behind + walk to Gljufrabui
Stop 2 - Skogafoss - enjoy the rush of water, walk up the stairs and maybe a little along the river
Stop 3 - Reynifjara black beach - enjoy the basalt column and a long walk on the black sand
Night in Vik - see the best rated accommodations in Vik
- Day 2
Stop 1 - Explore Skaftafell National Park
Stop 2 - Admire the turh church Hofskirkja
Stop 3 - Walk along Jokulsarlon, admire the icebergs + Explore Diamond beach
Choose between 2 activities: Glacier walking at Skaftafell or boat at Jokulsarlon
Sunset at Jokulsarlon
Night near between Jokulsarlon and Höfn - see the best rated accommodations in Höfn
- Day 3
Stop 1 - Sunrise at Jokulsarlon
Stop 2 - Admire the other glacial lagoon at Fjallsarlon
Stop 3 - hike at the Fjadragljufur canyon
Drive back to Reykjavik (if early, detour to the Blue lagoon)
Night in Reykjavik - see best rated accommodations
Find out more itineraries including the South Coast:
What to wear
Where to stay along the Icelandic South Coast
There are many accommodations along the Ring Road on the South Coast of Iceland: hotels, campsites, Guesthouses...
There are 2 main accommodation hubs along the South Coast:
The town of Vik with its black sand beaches. It is a really practical area to stop for the night
See the best rated accommodations in Vik
Edda Vik with a choice of modern rooms and old huts. Plus a delicious restaurant - See more photos and availabilities
Hotel Katla Hofdabrekka, close to Vik but more in nature, large comfortable rooms - See more photos and availabilities
The town of Höfn at the East end before continuing to the East fjords or turning around to drive back to Reykjavik - see the best rated accommodations in Höfn
For example, the Edda Höfn, right by the harbor - see more photos and availability
TOP 5 - Best things to do on the South Coast of Iceland
#1 - Seljalandsfoss
About - One of the most visited spots in Iceland. The 60 m drop can be disappointing as you arrive on the parking but don't worry, the magic of this waterfall starts when you walk behind it!
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Seljalandsfoss
#2 - Skogafoss
About - Another one of the most visited spots in Iceland, Skogafoss is a very elegant 60m high curtain waterfall. You can get up-close at the bottom or climb the steps to the viewing platform higher up.
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Skogafoss
#3 - Reynisfjara black sand beach
About - The South coast has many black sand beaches, but the most famous is Reynisfjara with its stacks of basalt columns. Just be careful with the waves!
More - Photos and planning info on my article about the Iceland black sand beaches
#4 - Jokulsarlon Lagoon
About - The lagoon of Jokulsarlon and its icebergs are THE HIGHLIGHT of the South Coast of Iceland. The glacier releases huge chunks of ice that float towards the sea.
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Jokulsarlon lagoon
#4 - Diamond Beach (Jokulsarlon Beach)
About - Just across the lagoon, the beach is less visited but can be spectacular. The tide often pushes back small and big icebergs on the black sand of the beach
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Diamond beach
11 other South Iceland Attractions
#6 - Fjadrargljufur Canyon
About - A little off Road 1, this tortuous canyon is easily accessible and a nice change in scenery, yet a lot less tourists visit it. Its name uses the Icelandic word for feather due to how the canyon is shaped
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Fjadragljufur
#7 - Skaftafell National Park - glacier
About - Beautiful land with great hikes, incredible views towards the sea and a glacier tongue to explore
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Svartifoss & Skaftafell
#8 - Svartifoss
About - The Svartifoss waterfall is the most famous sight in the Skaftafell park. Its organ-like basalt columns makes it quite unique
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Svartifoss & Skaftafell
#9 - Fjallsarlon
About - Less visited than its neighbor Jokulsarlon, this lagoon presents better view of its glacier and some interesting surrounding mountains
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Fjallsarlon
#10 - Vestrahorn
About - What a magnificent mountain! This view requires a short detour, but I recommend taking the time to admire those cliffs against the black sand
More - Photos and planning info on my article about Vestrahorn
#11 - Vik & Beach
Another black sand beach by the small town of Vik. You can also climb to the small church for nice views of the cliff. In June the area is covered with lupin flowers.
#12 - Giant Mossy Lava Field
As you drive along Road 1 you will cross many lava fields. This one is not indicated. There is just a small place to stop on the North side of the Ring Road. It is quite special as the lava rocks are covered with a thick layer of moss, and trees have started to grow. Just be careful not to walk too much on the moss as it takes a very long time to recover.
#13 - Solheimajokull glacier
You can go hiking on the glacier (see options) but you can also only enjoy a short walk to the tongue of the glacier to admire its shape and glacial river.
#14 - Plane wreck
Plane wreck on black sand, east of Vik - 45min walk one way.
Not my thing, but many people love it.
#15 - Hofskirkja
Turf church built in 1884.
This style of church was being created to protect from the harsh cold.
This particular church is a more luxury version with more wood.
#16 - Dverghamrar
A short stop to see basalt columns.
If you have see some in other places, this may not be as interesting.
5 Fun activities in Southern Iceland
If you want to cut your driving and scenery watching with some fun activities, here is a selection on the South Coast of Iceland:
#17 - Boat ride on Jokulsarlon Lagoon
Enjoy a boat tour to get really close to the icebergs and to the Glacier tongue.
Departure from Jokulsarlon lagoon.
From May to October
Reserve your seat
#18 - In Winter - Visit the Natural Ice Cave ***
Discover some of the most amazing places to see in Iceland in Winter: the natural ice caves in glaciers. Some are blue, others black.. Where the ice is sparkling and intense blue. Unforgettable!
Departure from Jokulsarlon lagoon
From November to March
#19 - Skaftafell Glacier Hike (Medium difficulty)
Discover the world of glaciers. How they move, what they look like once you are on them. This is an impressive world.
Departure from Skaftafell visitor center
Reserve your spot
#21 - Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar)
Take a short flight to the island to spend the day there. And enjoy a RIB boat tour to discover the sea caves and cliffs around the island.
Departure from Bakki airport
Or take a boat tour
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Compare car rental prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Option 2 - compare cars and prices of local brands on GuidetoIceland.com
- If you plan on driving on F-roads in the Central Highlands, you need a good 4WD - otherwise, no.
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles (it is a popular island)
Iceland South Coast in Winter
The South Iceland is very accessible in Winter thanks to Road 1. You still have to be careful and prepared, winds can be strong. But it is one of the easiest parts to visit because everything is so close to the Ring Road.
Learn more on my article about the South Coast of Iceland in Winter
Want to see more of the best Iceland has to offer?
- All my favorite things to do in North Iceland - read article
- Itinerary suggestions - read article
- 45 Most beautiful landscapes in Iceland in pictures - read article
- The best stops on the Ring Road - read article
- The best locations off the beaten path around Iceland - read article
- 21 Most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland - read article
- 5 best Lava Fields in Iceland - read article
- The 10 best lava caves in Iceland - read article
- The 5 most beautiful black sand beaches in Iceland - read article
- The Golden Circle - read article
- The Snaefellsnes peninsula - read article
- The best things to do in North Iceland - read article
Planning a trip to Iceland?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Plan your dream road trip in Iceland
And keep track of your own trip!
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