TOP ATTRACTIONS ON THE SOUTH COAST ROUTE
Are you thinking of where to spend your next vacation? Then, head over to Iceland. In Iceland, there is so much to see that you could spend days on tour and still not visit all of it. However, your visit to Iceland won’t be complete if you don’t visit some sites that qualify as its top attraction. The good news is that the beautiful South coast is usually accessible all year long, and you can never be short on unforgettable experiences here. From old volcanoes and incredible coastlines to glaciers and mighty waterfalls, here are the must-see sites in the South Coast.
Waterfalls and Hot Springs in the South Coast
1. Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Has anyone ever told you that you could walk behind this famous waterfall? Well, you can. All you need is a waterproof coat, and you are good to go. The scenery is fantastic, and you definitely need a good camera to capture all the moments. After Gullfoss, this waterfall qualifies as the most visited. It is located along the Seljalndsa river, and its uniqueness is in the shape of the cliff. The water plummets 40m in a way that allows people to walk behind via a footpath. If you are at Reykjavik, it will take approximately two hours to get to this waterfall and you can also get to Seljalandsfoss from the Seljaland farm which sits along the Ring Road.
The Gulfoss, in all its glory, another breathtaking two-tiered waterfall that draws in tourists daily. Also known as the “Golden Waterfall,” Gulfoss is a 32m high waterfall that drops into a narrow canyon of about 2.5km long and 70m deep. To get a proper view of this waterfall, there is a viewing platform right after the car park. This waterfall also has a little story behind it. A stone memorial in memory of SigridurTomasdottir stands above this waterfall. It is said that the woman was protesting against foreign investors who wished to convert the waterfall into a source of power supply and threatened to jump into the falls. This gained the attention of the government, and they intervened by making it a property of Iceland.
3. Skogafoss Waterfall
Skogafoss sits at the bottom of the Eyjafjoll mountains. No doubt, seeing this waterfall will inspire you to whip out your camera and take hundreds of pictures as it is incredibly photogenic. From the mists produced by the waterfall to the occasional surprise visits from rainbows, it is no wonder that this is one of Iceland’s top attractions. As you walk up to the waterfall, it seems to call to you. Fancy a view from the top? There is a staircase next to it to give you an amazing top view.
4. The Geysir
This famous hot spring that sits in the Haukadalur valley is just a few kilometers away from Gullfoss. While it has been dormant for years till it became active again in 2000 due to the eruption of Mount Hekla, this is a cool spot to spend a relaxing few hours after a day of sightseeing. Not too far from Geysir is Strokkur, which is a very active hot spring and a main attraction in the area.
5. Landbrotalaug Hot Spring
Just about two hours from Reykjavik, the Landbrotalaug Hot Spring is right after the ancient volcanic crater, Eldborg. It is safe to walk on this crater as it has not erupted in hundreds of years. The hot spring is a bed of surprises, and it can take about three people at a time. That soothing feeling when you step into the Landbrotalaug Hot Spring makes it all worth it.
6. Reykjadalur Hot Spring
Reykjadalur, translating to “Steam Valley,” is really a hidden gem. To access the spring, you have to take a hike of about an hour. The walk itself is impressive, with incredible landscapes surrounding you on all sides. There is a very low chance of getting lost as the roads are marked.
Need a geothermal footbath? Then, this is the spot you are looking for. If you are not in the mood for a full-day hot spring mission, but you still want to do something amazing, visit this one. It is small and is more of a simple geothermal foot bath. While soaking in this hot spring, you can see the stunning views ofthe Snæfellsjökull glacier in the far west and Mount Esjaup ahead.It is just a short drive or walks from downtown Reykjavik.
8. Secret lagoon hot spring
The name is GamlaLaugin, and it’s perfect!GamlaLaugin is the oldest pool in Iceland, and the name translates simply as “The old pool.” Another more common name for this hot spring is The Secret Lagoon. It sits next to a large flowing river and even small geysers that explode every ten minutes!
9. Hrunalaug natural hot spring
A beautiful natural hot spring in southern Iceland is undoubtedly this gem here. You can find it near the small town of Flúðir.Hrunalaug has a perfect temperature throughout the year. It is the largest hot spring that can comfortably accommodate 6-8 people. It is quite hidden but definitely worth checking out!
10. The Blue Lagoon
Oh, did you think we wouldn’t include the most popular, largest, and most famous hot spring in Iceland?The Blue Lagoon does not need much presentation. It is one of the 25 wonders of the world and is the main reason why many travelers visit Iceland.The natural lava environment is magical, and diving into the Blue Lagoon is really like nothing else.The Blue Lagoon is like the Colosseum in Rome or the Pyramids of Egypt. It’s something you should do while you’re in Iceland!
11. Seljavallalaug hot spring
Here is a shocking fact about this hot spring that you may not know. This is the oldest artificial pool in Iceland, but geothermal water flowsnaturally. This is super fun since it is also quite hidden from the main road. It takes a beautiful little walk to get there, and a lovely little river flows by your side.
South Coast Iceland Glaciers
1. Skaftafellsjökull glacier
The Skaftafellsjökull glacier tongue is located in Skaftafell at the Vatnajökull National Park. This park is also the largest in Iceland. Skaftafellsjökull and several other glacier tongues extend fromVatnajökull,which we know to be the largest glacier in Europe as it covers up to eleven percent of Iceland. In theVatnajökull National Park are the Jökulsárgjlúfur canyon in the north and the Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon in the south.
It is possible to walk around Skaftafellsjökull to ensure a fantastic perspective of this glacier tongue. After registering with the Skaftafell Visitor Center for the best hiking trails and conditions, you can follow an 8km trail, up to 390m to the waterfall, Svartifoss. From here, you can observe the glacier and its adjacent lagoon.
Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull are Vatnajökull’s glacial languages within Skaftafell, and people often confuse one for the other, despite their distinct characteristics.Most glacier hiking tours in this part of the country are actually done in Svínafellsjökull.One of the most beautiful views is from the Svinafellsjokull glacier. A tour of the south coast is not complete without a visit to the Svinafellsjokull glacier.
3. Jokulsarlon/Glacier Lagoon
The beautiful Jokulsarlon featured in top movies such as Batman Begins, Tomb Raider, Die Another Day, and A View to a Kill, with the last two being James Bond movies. It is not surprising why famous directors would choose this fantastic location as a backdrop.Not only is this glacial lagoon very picturesque, but it also qualifies as one of Iceland’s most incredible natural wonders. Vast pieces of ice regularly separate from the glacier and head to the sea through the glacier lagoon. The view from the coast is unforgettable, but you can also take boat trips around the lagoon to navigate the iceberg’s labyrinth to learn about the blue ice. From land or in the water, you are also likely to see playful seals swimming in the cold waters, for the enjoyment of the spectators.
Right next to the glacier lagoon is the Diamond Beach. There are thousands of ice chunks on this beach, hence the name. As you can guess, they fall from the glacier and float until they wash up to the shore. The clever contrast of the black sand beach and the blue chunks of ice makes it unique and worth seeing.
4. Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park is one of the three national parks in Iceland and encompasses all of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, along with a broad strip of the surrounding area. In total, the park covers approximately 14% of Iceland’s continental mass. It includes the Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur national parks within its borders.The glacier goes as high as 2000m at its highest point with lots of active volcanoes beneath it. One of such is the most active volcano in Iceland known asGrímsvötn. There have been a lot of eruptions recorded here in recent years.
The diverse landscape of the park was shaped by the many mighty rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic activity of the region. Here you can find many of Iceland’s most impressive natural attractions, including the Grímsvötn,Askja and Bárðarbunga volcanoes, the Ásbyrgi canyon and the powerful Dettifoss waterfall in the northern region of the park; the lush oasis of Skaftafell, the volcanic fissures of Lakagígarand Eldgjá and the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnjúkur, in the extreme south.
This national park is so large that it is divided into four territories and includes five visitor centers: Skaftafell, Snæfellsstofa in SkriðuklausturGamlabúð in Höfn, Gljúfrastofa in Ásbyrgiand Skaftárstofa in Kirk jubæjarklaustur. There are also many exciting hiking trails within the park, classified from easy to challenging.
Located in Skateftafel is the unique Svartifosswaterfall in southern Iceland. Belonging to the Vatnajökull national park, it is definitely refreshing to seeSkaftafell after driving through the vast plains of the black lava of Skeiðarársandur glacial lava.Svartifoss is a sophisticated waterfall with the black basalt formations that frame it. Standing 20m high, it lends an air of romanceand would be a lovely place to spend with a lover. In the visitor center in Skaftafell, which is open all year, you can get information on how to get to the Svartifoss waterfall. The walk is 1.5km from the visitor center, uphill, and on the way to Svartifoss, you will find other waterfalls in the gorge. It takes about 90 minutes to get to Svartifossand back if you have a lot of photographic stops. You can take a short walk directly to Svartifoss to see it up close. However, it has been fenced to protect nature from intruders, but you will get close enough anyway. The state architect known asGuðjónSamúelssongot his inspiration for the design of theHallgrímskirkja church, one of the notable landmarks of Reykjavík, from the beautiful basalt formations.
On your way back, you can go back the same way or cross the bridge through Svartifoss and return on the west side. On that route, you will see some of the other three waterfalls up close. These waterfalls which sit beneath the Svartifoss waterfall at the Wester gorge are Þjófafoss, Hundafoss, andMagnúsarfoss. There was one more called the Lambhagafoss waterfall, but it became nonexistent after the glacial outbreak of Skeiðarárhlaup. You can see the Magnúsarfoss waterfall from the east bank on your way to Svartifoss, somewhat blocked by trees. It is the second waterfall you will see on the hike; first, you will see Hundafoss.
Hundafoss: the waterfalls are not clearly visible on the east side of the river that leads to Svartifoss. Here you can see from the side, but you can get a better view from the west side of the river. However, it is beautiful on both sides of the river, just a different angle.Hundafoss, which means Dog’s Falls, got its name because of the fact that dogs from the farm close by sometimes floated off the waterfall when the river swells.
Magnúsarfoss: Magnús Falls can be seen just above the old domestic electric generator, which ran from 1925 to 1973 and was rebuilt by the locals in 2001. If you check out the inside of a magical turf house-like structure, you will see this generator. Just after the turf house is a view of the Magnúsarfoss waterfall from the west bank. However, many huge trees block the view, but you can get a good sight from the edge of the gorge where there is a small waterfall called Þjófafoss. It is worth a relatively short walk to Mount Skaftafellsheiði to Sjónarsker for a great view of the surroundings. There, 310 meters above sea level, you will find a view dial designed by Jón J. Víðis and built by the Department of Education in 1973.
Things to do in the South Coast
1. Check out the Northern Lights
On the south coast, there is a very high chance of getting to see the magnificent Northern lights, especially if you are traveling between September and April. The dancing aurora borealis has been a fascinating sight for years and is always a great way to round up your trip. As they are best seen in the darkness, the chances may be lower in Reykjavik city due to the presence of light pollution that could prevent the Northern Lights from coming up. Based on recommendations by experts, Northern Lights are very active during the drive to Reykjavik in darkness, and the right tour will help you get the best out of this. A Northern Lights hunting mission is always super fun.
2. Relax at the Black Sand Beach
If you have ever heard the term Reynisfjara, then that was referring to the Black Sand Beach located next to Vik. Just like its name suggests, this beach is filled with nothing but black sand. Not your typical beach, that’s for sure. From the incredible views to the unique lava formations, the Black Sand beach experience is every inch as fascinating as it sounds. The basalt lava rock formations are stunning and continue to draw attention from people all over the world every year. The Reynisdrangar cliffs sit on the ocean while the large lava cave winks from the beach.
3. See some Puffins
The Black Sand Beach is not just for relaxation and enjoying the views, but it is also an excellent time to check out the huge flock of Puffins that nest in the cliffs. Apart from the Puffins, there are always other unique sea-birds that pop in now and again. Traveling up the cliffs of Dryholaey gives you an even more breathtaking view of the Puffins where they could be swimming in the sea or flying above you.
4. Stop by at a small town
How about a stop at the coastal town of Vik? This is a small and beautiful city with little houses, incredible views, some good restaurants, hotels, camping, and its own black sand beach. Most people start driving back to Reykjavik from here to begin their daily adventures on the south coast. The city of Vik is located in the center of southern Iceland, and many beautiful attractions can be found further. So, if you plan to rent a car, drive yourself, and camp on the road, Vik is perfect.
However, there is more to enjoy if you join a group tour. The adventure will undoubtedly go up a notch as you get to have more fun and stop at unique places on the way to Reykjavik. There are some other lovelytowns to stop by during your adventure on the south coast, such as Selfoss, which has lots of fantastic restaurants, the geothermal city of Hveragerði with its natural hot springs and walking trails, Hvolsvöllur Hella, and so much more.
What’s the best way to explore the South Coast?
While you may be considering renting a car for a self-drive tour, you may make a lot of rookie mistakes and miss out on fantastic sights. Sure, it allows for more freedom, and you can go even further based on your preferences. However, the best way to explore the South Coast is with a tour company that knows its onions. Reykjavik Tours has several tours to help you explore Iceland on your terms while getting the best guidance from an expert. Think you are ready for some fun exploration of the South Coast? Then check these tours out.
1. Iceland South Coast Glacial Hike
Explore the Basaltic rocks on the black sand beach, bask in the magnificence of two magical waterfalls and wrap it all up with a dining experience at the Viking house. These are just a few things you get to enjoy on this semi-private tour. Sites to visit are the Viking house, Reynisfjara, Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Solheimajokull glacier. This tour, which lasts about twelve hours, starts in the morning at Reykjavik, where you will be picked up at your location to begin your journey to the land of volcanoes and ice. The first stop is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, where you will take a walking trail just behind it. Next is the Skógafoss waterfall which is every inch as perfect as you have been told. This waterfall is better experienced yourself. As soon as you are done exploring this marvel, you will be taking the Sólheimajökull Glacier hike with your group. This is most often the highlight of the trip as you get to get that surreal feeling of walking on the glacier while a mighty volcano rests just beneath it.
Of course, you can indulge in the pastry and hot chocolate that is always a part of the Iceland culture. Remember the Black Sand Beach we mentioned earlier? Well, this area served as a filming spot for Game of thrones in the scene where the troll tows three-mast ships out in the ocean to the shore. The background features beautiful basaltic rocks, and you could stare at it for hours without tiring. The final stop is the Ingólfsskáli Viking house, where you cap the day with a lovely dinner. This is not just a fancy name; it is really a Viking house dating back to more than a thousand years ago. The owner dresses like a Viking and sets a meal of Icelandic free roaming lamb just for you. You get to top this up with either a glass of wine or local beer, your choice. To enjoy this trip, go along with rain gear, hiking boots and thermal layers.
2. The Sólheimajökull glacier tour
This is another South Coast glacial hike cutting across the Reynisfjara black beach, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Solheimajokull glacier, Skógafoss waterfall, and Skyr factory. The first port of call is the waterfall that runs from Eyjafjallajökull, a famous volcano. After checking out the impressive Seljalandsfoss waterfall, we head over to another spectacular waterfall Skogafoss. You can walk right up to it and watch the water running down in front of you or get this view from the top of the waterfall. The Solheimajokull glacier is right next to this waterfall and is an outlet glacier from Myrdalsjokul. One thing to note is that Katla, a mighty volcano, is underneath this glacier. While it hasn’t erupted in over a hundred years, there is no telling that it won’t erupt anytime soon. Glacier hike with an experienced guide is everything you want it to be and more. After this refreshing hike is a visit to the Black Sand Beach and, finally, the Skyr factory. Dinner at Skry also includes a little story about the history of the Vikings who survived on it.
3. Glymur waterfall hike
Glymur waterfall is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland, and it is a spectacular sight. This 7-hour tour takes you from Reykjavik to the waterfall, where you soak in the geothermal swimming pool. First, you will head out to Hvalfjordur, where you have about an hour to talk to your local guide about anything. Then, you make your way up to the waterfall from the foothills. After about an hour and a half from hiking, you get to take a short rest while enjoying the view over Whale Fjord. Cool off after the hike at the magnificent hot spring Krauma fitted with luxury bathing facilities. There is no better way to regenerate those sore muscles and feel reborn. After you are fully charged, the next step is to enjoy the great nightlife of Reykjavik.
4. Mount Esja hiking tour
This 6-hour tour is unlike any other you have ever experienced, and that is putting it mildly. It features a clever mix of food, adventure, drinks, and dipping in the pool. The Mount Esja tour takes you through the most popular hiking trail where Icelandic fish is waiting at the other side. Mount Esja towers over the city, and you can see this as soon as you arrive at Reykjavik city. The view from the top is simply amazing. You will get to savor this hiking tour with plenty of time to admire the view as you journey to the top. There is also a lot of entertainment with Icelandic music on the 30-minute trip to Mount Esja. From the vast array of Icelandic dishes at the Kopar restaurant and the long dip in the Lágafellslaug swimming pool, this is definitely worth the price. Be sure to come around with your swimwear, water bottle, which we will fill with fresh Icelandic spring water and a good pair of hiking shoes. Apart from the Lágafellslaug swimming pool, you can also enjoy the steam bath, sauna and hot tubs. There is something for everyone.
5. Reykjavik city food tour
Here is the reason why we keep mentioning Reykjavik, and every tour starts from here: it is Iceland’s only city. While the others are jut towns, this vibrant city has all the whims of fun and adventurous city. From swimming pools, clubs, and bars to galleries and museums, feel free to indulge as much as you want. This tour lets you do that under the guidance of an experienced tour guide. You will be amazed that this city has just about a hundred thousand inhabitants while it gives off the vibe of a diverse city occupied by way more people. Of course, the Reykjavik city walk wouldn’t be complete without tasting the local food and drinks; you won’t be disappointed. Icelandic fish, pastries, beers and even new friends are all available. The tour starts at the entrance of the Hallgrimskirkja church and ends at the Icelandic chocolate factory. In between is a lot of food from arctic charr to fish stew, Icelandic spirit, rye-bread ice cream and so much more. You will definitely fall in love with Iceland’s food just like every other person who takes a bite. Reykjavik also has a thriving birdlife scenery and you can get a fantastic view of this while you walk down the pond. The full Reykjavik City Tour takes you to Kopar, Café Loki, the lake, Omnom chocolate factory and Brauðog Co.
6. Northern Light tour
Is any tour ever complete without seeing the captivating Northern Lights? The answer is a resounding no. Get ready to fall in love with nature all over again. The Northern Lights, named the Aurora Borealis after the Greek Goddess Aurora, always elicits gasps of delights from those who are lucky enough to get a view of it. As it glows all around the night sky, it simply takes your breath away and renders you speechless. And you can get to experience this with the Northern Lights tour. A lot of luck has to do with seeing the Aurora, and so does experience. Our experienced guide will take you into town to search for these lights, with a lot of home-made hot chocolate and cinnamon buns to keep you in good spirits. Light pollution diminishes the actual effects of the Aurora, and we will go to the darkest areas. While all the right conditions such as no clouds and a clear night sky will be set, this is a purely natural phenomenon and we can’t control the appearance of the Northern Lights. However, in our experience, we have been mostly successful with this chase. So, what happens if you don’t see the lights? While this is incredibly rare in this tour, you can come around again anytime you are in Iceland and you get to join in on the search for free.
7. Golden Circle Tour
And it gets better with the Golden Circle Tour. Not to sound cliché, but it really gives a golden experience. It features a ton of historical sights, wonders of nature, and a secret lagoon. The tour starts from the Thingvellir national park, which is power-packed with a lot of history. It was at this site that the first church in Iceland was built. Iceland also took Christianity and gained its independence on this same spot. Amazing, right? Geographically, it also has more history. Iceland is located on two tectonic plates and at this national park, they move apart. When it comes to natural beauty, Thingvellir also scores very high. From here, we move to the volcanic crater known simply as Kerið with its red lava. Eating food and drinks made locally by farmers has to be on your to-do list. A visit to the Icelandic dairy farm during this tour will take care of this. The food is never in short supply with mushroom soup, beef meat soup and home-made ice cream ready to devour. Of course, the next stop is the one and only Geysir in all its glory. Heading over to the Gullfoss waterfall to marvel at its beauty is an experience you shouldn’t miss out on. Its water runs from the Langjokull glacier, the second-largest glacier in Iceland. What better way to end this tour than with a relaxing soak at the Secret Lagoon? It is the oldest natural lagoon in Iceland and seems to grow more beautiful with each passing year. You might just get to witness the eruption of a geothermal hot spring.
8. Snæfellsnes Peninsula Tour
If you would prefer something a little more private, then this tour is perfect for you. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is all about everything that makes Iceland unique: volcanos, glaciers, craters, and lava. The first thing you would notice is the landscape, which is so breathtaking; it is almost like it doesn’t belong on earth. This volcanic peninsula has so much to offer, including the best fish and chips around. The first stops are the Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. Old glaciers shape the mountain, and the waterfall thunders down just ahead. The best fish and chips in Iceland can be gotten from the small fishing village of Ólafsvík and you can savor the test while enjoying the view over the harbor.
In the Snæfellsjökull volcano is the Saxholl crater, which you can walk on and look into it. You will be blessed with the view of the lava source. After this volcanic exploration is a trip to the Djúpalónssandur beach. There are not so many beaches around the world that come with a naturally unique atmosphere, and this black sand beach is definitely a spectacular one. Other aspects of this tour include a short drive to Arnarstapi, a lovely view of the home of elves, a short walk to the coastline, and a visit to the old black church in Búðir where the one and only serial killer in Iceland once lived.
9. Reykjanes Peninsula Tour
The Reykjanes Peninsula tour is proof that you can get the best experiences in just seven hours. This tour consists of a visit to the lava fields, fishing villages, tour of the magnificent cliffs, and rounded up with a delicious lobster soup. The Reykjanes peninsula is also referred to as the youngest part of Iceland, and it is not short on the stunning scenery. Nature lovers will get an extra kick out of this tour, especially with a guide that loves nature just as much and knows all the best stories. The geothermal area of Seltun is where the journey begins. Seltun is located on top of an active volcano in Krysuvik, and the Kleifaryatn lake sits close by. The lobster soup will be waiting at the Grindavik fishing village, where you eat this alongside tasty bread. The next stop is the Blue Lagoon with its fantastic lava fields and the beauty of nature all around you. Did we mention that the Reykjanes peninsula is volcanically active? Next up are the Kirkjubasar cliffs nestled on the Mid-Atlantic ridge surrounded by a small island. After marveling at the wonders of the lava fields, you get to take pictures while being between two continents: Europe and North America. It may sound confusing but, on this tour, the guide will tell you all about it. Finally, who doesn’t love a little mystery? Well, you can get enough of that at the historical village in the peninsula.
The South Coast is positively brimming with so much adventure and high-quality experiences. You will have a fantastic time chasing the Northern Lights, takings a walk on glaciers and craters, or even going glacier hiking with some new friends. All you have to do is head over to Iceland with the right gear. With the right guide, you can get to experience the wonders of all these top attractions and get the taste of the real Iceland.