What to do on the South Coast of Iceland: A Comprehensive Guide
The south coast is a scenic slice of Iceland with epic waterfalls, vast glaciers, looming volcanoes, charming towns, and a beautiful black sand beach. After the Golden Circle, the South Coast is the most popular region of South Iceland to visit, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s ideal for those that want to sightsee across the gorgeous landscape and engage in outdoor activities like glacier hiking. A trip to Iceland isn’t complete without a visit to its incredible South Coast.
Is it easy to get to the South Coast of Iceland?
The South Coast is a region of the island that is very easy to visit. Gray Line offers 10-hour and 14-hour day tours to the South Coast, visiting several of the attractions listed below. Also, it is an accessible region to self-drive, if that’s more your speed. However, self-driving during the winter should give you pause if you are not an experienced winter driver. It could be safer to take guided tours.
Attractions to visit on the south coast
A visit to the stunning Skógafoss allows you to soak up the beautiful atmosphere, snap some selfies, and climb the staircase to the top for an unbeatable view. It’s a dramatic waterfall, one of the biggest in the country, as it looms 82 feet high and has a drop-off of 197 feet! The impressive width of the falls makes it unique, as well as the option to scale a set of stairs to the top. If you’re lucky, you will see a rainbow during your stop at Skógafoss!
Seljalandsfoss is a beautiful waterfall, a highlight for many visitors to the South Coast; tourists delight in the spray from the 40-meter (131-ft) falls. The long stream of thundering water cascades over a rocky cliff, tumbling meters below. What makes this waterfall unique in a land of spectacular waterfalls is that there’s a path that lets you walk behind it. Those who do so are treated to a fantastic view; there is a path on the right side of the falls that leads to the top, but the best viewpoint is right in front. This is a very unique experience, even for Iceland.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara is probably the most well-known black sand beach in Iceland and for an excellent reason. Maybe it’s the stark contrast of white waves crashing on the black sand or the towering rock formations. Whatever it is, you have to see it to understand its popularity; then you’ll be glad you visited. Pay close attention to the warning signs in the parking lot, as there are sneaker waves that can drag you out to sea; there have been fatal accidents here in recent years. Tour guides will provide you with all the information you need to keep safe.
Eyjafjallajökull became Iceland’s most famous volcano after its eruption in 2010 halted air travel across Europe, stranding tens of thousands of people. Before Eyjafjallajökull made worldwide headlines, the volcano had been a popular destination to explore, and it remains so today, with a rugged and icy landscape. Eyjafjallajökull is a stratovolcano that ascends to 1,651 meters (5,417 ft) at its highest point. A magma chamber under the mountain feeds the volcano, and it is part of a chain of volcanoes stretching across Iceland. Its nearest active neighbors are Katla to the north and Heimaey and Eldfell to the south.
Solheimajökull Glacier is one of Iceland’s most popular locations for guided glacier hiking tours. It is just a two-hour drive from Reykjavík, and it’s a top-rated day tour for adventure-seekers. Indeed, it’s incredible to be on the ice and observe the hues, textures, and interesting ice formations; it’s a great way to connect with nature in Iceland. Gray Line offers a day tour combining sightseeing along the South Coast with a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull.
DC-3 plane wreck on Sólheimasandur
The Sólheimasandur plane wreck is an unexpected tourist attraction in Iceland. In 1973, a U.S. Navy plane crash-landed on the haunting black sands of Sólheimasandur, and the plane’s remains lie on the sands, which has attracted tens of thousands of visitors. Even Justin Bieber shot a music video here. It’s not a stop for everyone as it’s a quirky attraction, but it is a popular photo opportunity for many travelers.
Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe; it’s also part of Vatnajökull National Park, the largest protected area in Europe. Vatnajökull has roughly 30 outlet glaciers, long tongues of ice that stretch out from the main glacier. Vatnajökull Glacier is one of the best places in Iceland to go on guided glacier hikes. If you are visiting in the winter, it’s possible to book ice cave tours on Vatnajökull that are often combined with snowmobile rides. Natural ice caves offer a unique viewpoint of the actual ice in Iceland.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a beautiful attraction on the south coast of Iceland. You can simply drive up to the dedicated parking lot, park your car, and walk a short distance to a breathtaking view of towering icebergs bobbing in the vast lagoon. If you’re lucky, you’ll see an iceberg turn over in the water, exposing its icy blue bottom half. For those up for some adventure, it’s possible to take a boat ride or kayak tour of the lagoon. A short distance from the Glacier Lagoon is the Diamond Beach, where you can see scattered chunks of ice glittering on the black sands like diamonds.
What’s the best time of year to visit Iceland’s south coast?
There isn’t a best time to visit the south coast of Iceland; it depends on what you would like to see and do. In the summer, you can enjoy a landscape of lush green with milder temperatures and, of course, the midnight sun. However, in the winter, you have the opportunity to explore natural ice caves on guided tours and hunt for the majestic northern lights. The South Coast is beautiful year-round!
Book your South Coast tour with Gray Line
Gray Line’s experienced tour guides lead groups to the South Coast year-round. Tours include the chance to:
- Enjoy the black volcanic sand beach of Reynisfjara
- Stand close to the iconic Skógafoss waterfall
- Witness the incredible Reynisdrangar sea stacks
- Discover the charm and peace of the village of Vík
- Marvel at astonishing views of glaciers and volcanoes
- Soak in the sights around the spectacular Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Where to go on the south coast of Iceland?
There’s a lot to do and do on the South Coast of Iceland. You can visit the iconic waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, enjoy the black sand beach of Reynisfjara and see volcanoes and glaciers.
How long does it take to do the south coast of Iceland?
It doesn’t take long to reach the start of the South Coast route after leaving Reykjavík. It takes about 2.5 hours to get to Seljalandsfoss and another 30 minutes to drive to Skógafoss. After that, it’s another half-hour journey from Skógafoss to Reynisfjara. Returning to the capital from Vík takes about three hours.