Within 2 hours of driving from Reykjavik starts the famous South Coast Iceland with some of the most amazing scenery: impressive waterfalls, fjords, glaciers, lagoons filled with icebergs, black sand beaches... So here comes my travel guide to help you decide what to do and plan your itinerary. Ready to visit South Iceland?
Navigate back to the complete Iceland Travel Guide
This article contains affiliate Links (info on the Disclosure page). If you purchase using my link, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.
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... 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...
VIDEO - VISIT SOUTH ICELAND
Let's start with a short video I made to show you the beautiful landscapes you can admire when visiting South Iceland including the waterfalls, the icebergs and Vestrahorn.
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
Here is a South coast map of Iceland attractions. It to give you an idea of
- what is referred to as the South coast in 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)
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.
If you are planning a road trip, I think 3 to 4 days is the 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 article about driving in Iceland and easily plan your itinerary with my road trip guides:
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
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
What to wear
TOP 5 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 - 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
#5 - 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
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
- You can choose from some great local companies - Iceland has a lot of specificities and their offerings are adapted - you can compare cars and prices of quality local brands on this expert Icelandic website
- Otherwise you can compare offers from international companies on RentalCars.com
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Other South Iceland Attractions
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
Skaftafell National Park
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
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
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
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
About - 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.
Giant Mossy Lava Field
About - 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.
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:
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
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
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
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
South Iceland accommodations
There are many accommodations along the Ring Road on the South Coast of Iceland: hotels, campsites, Guesthouses... For more information, check out my Iceland Accommodations article.
There are 2 main accommodation hubs along the South Coast:
- The town of Vik with its black sand beach. It is a really practical area to stop for the night - see the best rated accommodations in Vik
- 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
I personally stayed at:
Accommodations near Vik
Accommodations near Jokulsarlon
If you want to stay even closer to Jokulsarlon to get there at night if the aurora activity is high, the closest accommodations on Booking.com with great ratings are Hali Country Hotel and Skyrhusid Guesthouse. The drive to the lagoon is only 10 minutes.
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 Iceland's beauty?
Note: If you don't want to book everything yourself, consider booking a Self-Drive Tour Package (see my article to help you choose)
Inspired for your itinerary?
You might also enjoy: