South Coast of Iceland: The 36 best things to do and see (with an itinerary!)

There’s a reason millions flock to the South Coast of Iceland each year. It’s incredible, and it’s close enough to the capital city of Reykjavik, where you can do a great road trip in a short amount of time.

I’ve now had the fortune of exploring this area twice (2019 and 2023) and loved seeing it in different conditions and through a new perspective. Below, I have some of my favorite things to do, as well as a four-day south coast Iceland itinerary to help you plan your trip!

Enjoy your trip to Iceland’s southern coast. You won’t forget it!

An Ultimate Guide to the South Coast of Iceland

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The Top Things to do on Iceland’s South Coast

1. Adventure through the Katla Ice Cave

This was our splurge activity for our Iceland trip and holy heck, was it amazing! While it’s not exactly a cave, the Katla Ice Cave Tour is still an incredible experience and one we loved getting to explore.

You take a 3-minute drive through some gnarly-looking landscapes before heading off into the cave. This is where it’s wild. You’re actually just walking through a melting glacier. Because of this, the Katla Ice Cave is always changing, and from year to year is in a different location.

Book a trip here
Exploring the Katla Ice cave on the southern coast of Iceland.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

2. Explore the waterfalls

Icelandic waterfalls are one of the main reasons to explore the South Coast of Iceland. There are so many to see, it’ll make your head spin. Most are right off the road and accessible to almost everyone. However, there are some that require you to hike a bit more. The link above has 35 waterfalls to see in Iceland.

Skogafoss is one of the most recognizable waterfalls on the south coast of Iceland.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Thankfully, it’s a good combination of things to do on the South Coast of Iceland.

Here are nine of the best waterfalls to see on Iceland’s south coast.

  • Skogafoss
  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Gljufrabui
  • Nauthúsagil
  • Kvernufoss
  • Mögáfoss
  • Stjórnarfoss
  • Svartifoss
  • Múlagljúfur Canyon
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

3. Walk the black sand beaches near Vik

Vik is known for having some of the best black sand beaches in Iceland! Take time to enjoy the different areas and sights to see on the south coast of Iceland.

What to see near Vik on Iceland’s southern coast:

  • Dyrhólaey Lighthouse
  • Dyrhólaey Arch
  • Reynisfjara Beach
  • Víkurfjara black sand beach
  • Þakgil
One of the best Iceland beaches with black sand is in Vik!
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

4. Take a trip to Thórsmörk

One of the areas I really wanted to visit, but time didn’t allow us. This place looks ridiculously beautiful and something few people get to see. If I make it back to Iceland, I’m 100% getting a tour inside here. (The reason you want a tour is because you cross multiple rivers that could flood your SUV.)

Take a look at the tour

5. Enjoy the many glaciers in Vatnajökull National Park

We loved driving around and checking out the amazing glacier arms along the South Coast of Iceland. My favorite spot was Svínafellsjökull Glacier. The walk to the glacier takes less than 20 minutes, and you’ve truly got an insane view in front of you!

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Glaciers to explore or photograph:

  • Svínafellsjökull Glacier
  • Sólheimajökull
  • Eyjafjöll
  • Falljokull
  • Öræfajökull
  • Fjallsjökull
  • Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
  • Skeidhararjokull
  • Skaftafellsjökull
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

6. Kayak on the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon or Sólheimajökull Glacier Lagoon

We took our kayaking tour on Jokulsarlon, but the one linked below is Sólheimajökull. Both offer really great views and are something you surely won’t be able to experience back home. You can also do some tours on Fjallsárlón, which is another great glacier lagoon, too.

Visitors out on the jokulsarlon glacier lagoon kayaking tour.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

7. Photograph Diamond Beach

One of the most special and stunning places on the south coast of Iceland. Just outside of the Glacier Lagoon, ice chucks that have broken off of the glaciers wash up on shore. Here, they look like diamonds and offer the chance to touch and photograph.

If you’re a photographer, make sure to bring a wide-angle lens and an ND Filter to ensure you can do some long exposure if it’s not cloudy out!

Diamond Beach on the southern coast of Iceland is a must see spot
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

8. Take a ferry to Vestmannaeyjabær

Not something I’ve done yet, but it looks like a really cool time and a way to ditch the usual crowds for something that most Iceland visitors don’t get to see or do. For those looking for puffins, this is one of the better places to do and one of the closest to Reykjavik.

The ferry takes off from Landeyjahöfn, which is an hour west of Vik.

Learn about the ferry here.

You can book some tours here: Puffins, Private Tour, Puffin & Volcano Tour, Westman Island Tour

9. Go Paragliding near Vik

If you’re looking for some thrill, this might be the one for you! You’ll get an incredible view of the beautiful Vik and the South Coast of Iceland’s coastline. Plus, the scenery can’t be matched by any other activity.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

10. Explore Landmannalaugar by Super Jeep

I LOVED Landmannalaugar and wish we could have spent more time there. The landscape is out of another planet, and it felt so remote (well, it is) compared to other busy places in Iceland. If you’re looking for a must-do, you’ve got to get to the Highlands.

If you have a 4×4 and want to drive yourself, you can go to the highlands from the southern coast. You’ll want to get off the Ring Road at 208 (GPS coordinates: 63.671578270985755, -18.402483849469967) and take that all the way to Landmannalaugar. Check local conditions, as the road was not open when we visited in June.

Landmannalaugar from above in the Icelandic Highlands.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Furthermore, this route does have two small to medium water crossings. Doing them early in the day when the melt is low will make it the easiest.

Google Maps says it should take you over 2 hours to go 73.5 km or about 45 miles.

11. Walk on a Glacier

I walked on a glacier in Alaska and found it captivating. The idea that you’re walking on ice that’s millions of years old and finally being exposed is wild! This would be a remarkable experience and one you’ll remember for a while.

12. Explore the Icelandic Highlands

Anytime you can get off the beaten path and see untouched landscapes, do it. Yes, this one’s a bit pricey for a day trip, but if you’re looking for something incredible and memorable, you won’t be disappointed in this trip to the highlands!

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

13. Go Ice Climbing on a Glacier

There are only a few places in Iceland where you can climb on a glacier, so why not do it on the South Coast of Iceland? This tour looks to be a bit more technical than most, so make sure it fits with you and your group’s skill level before booking it!

14. See the Plane Wreck

The parking lot is right off the road, but the actual plane wreck is about an hour’s walk away. (It’s flat, I believe.) But if you’re looking for something free to do that’s also super unique, this is it!

Where to stay on the south coast of Iceland

As you head east, there are fewer and fewer places to stay that are not campgrounds or one-off spots. We did ours in a camper van, so we camped at campgrounds the entire time. I’ve included places we slept as well.

Vik

Vik is the biggest city on the south coast of Iceland and has a decent number of hospitality options. We stayed at the campground in town, but there are some options outside if you’re looking for that.

Campground location.

The Vik church on the southern coast of iceland is a great place for photography.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Selfoss

This is closer to Reykjavik and would be a good area to stay if you’ve been exploring the Golden Circle or got a later start to your trip.

Skogafoss Campground

I didn’t realize you could camp literally in front of Skogafoss. So we did, and it was amazing. There’s not much to it, but it has bathrooms and showers to use all through the night without restrictions. I think this is the best campground in the area.

Location.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Camp at Skaftafell 

Another campground we adored. This is about an hour from the glacier lagoon, and you’re surrounded by glaciers and towering mountain peaks. The facilities were fantastic (showers, laundry, and clean bathrooms) for only about $35 a couple per night.

Location.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon

If you want to go past the above campground, there is a hotel closer to the lagoon. If you’re looking for more luxury, this is your spot.

4-Day South Coast Iceland Itinerary

For our 10-day trip around Iceland, we spent three nights on the south coast of Iceland. Each moment was astounding, and we couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was! I hope this south coast Iceland itinerary helps!

Day 1 – South Coast of Iceland

The first day of your Iceland adventures on the Southern Coast. I would stop at Urriðafoss and Kerid Crater as you’re heading east. The crater is quite popular and will be crowded.

The waterfall? Not so much. There were only two other cars there, and it’s a lovely spot to have lunch and enjoy the views.

Now let’s go for more waterfalls!

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This is where you’ll get to check out Gljufrabui and Seljalandsfoss, which are right next to each other. Both are quite famous – but brilliantly beautiful. If you want another one, keep driving for a bit to see Nauthúsagil.

For all of these, make sure you have rain gear on, as you’ll get soaked.

Wrap up the day and camp at Skogafoss.

Day 2 – South Coast of Iceland

Day two on the south coast of Iceland! Who’s excited? 

Explore Skogafoss and do about a 6-mile round trip hike above the waterfall to see another seven gorgeous Icelandic waterfalls. Then, when you’re done and post-eating, do a short walk to Kvernufoss. 

Drive for about 30 minutes to the black sand beaches of Vik and Reynisfjara Beach. Here, you can explore the Lighthouse, and the beach down below, and then drive around to see it from the Vik side. Also, take a moment to explore the church on the hill. 

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

If you’re like me and enjoy photographing things, I think this should take you most of the day. We grabbed dinner at Smiðjan Brugghús, which had beers and good burgers/bar food/ribs. 

Day 3 – South Coast of Iceland

Go explore the Katla Ice Cave and see something you’ll never get to see again. This was a great tour – albeit a bit quick – and you’ll be so stoked you went. 

We took the 9 a.m. tour that wrapped up around noon. From here, we kept driving east on the south coast of Iceland

If you want a brief stop, enjoy Gígjagjá, which is a rock formation that looks like Yoda from Star Wars. 

Regardless if you stop, your next destination is Fjaðrárgljúfur, an awesome canyon that’s about a moderate 3-mile walk round trip. I strongly recommend checking it out. If you have a drone, it’s a darn good spot to launch it!

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

From here, you can make your way to the Skatafell campground and claim a spot. If you have more time in your day, you can hike to the mouth of the Skatafell glacier or to the Svartifoss waterfall.

Shower, make dinner, and enjoy the views of sunset on the massive mountain above you!

Day 4 – South Coast of Iceland

If you’re going to book a kayaking tour at Jokulsarlon, make it early. This is when winds are the lowest, increasing the chance of your trip being hassle-free. We booked a 1 p.m. trip, and it was canceled due to heavy winds (and moving icebergs). 

If this is your turnaround for your south coast of Iceland road trip, I’d do the kayaking tour, explore Diamond Beach for a bit, and then begin coming home. 

But on the way back, check out Múlagljúfur Canyon. This hike will lead you into a stunning canyon with tons of waterfalls. Then, after that, as you head back to the campground, stop for a very short hike near Svínafellsjökull Glacier. 

You’ll love it. 

Then, keep heading back to what I can assume is the airport or the capital. 

Hopefully, this four-day Iceland itinerary will help point you in the right direction and allow you to experience some truly incredible things. 

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

FAQ: South Coast of Iceland

What is considered the south coast of Iceland?

I think that’s up to each person, but I generally say it’s anything from Selfoss to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This entire stretch of Iceland is majestic. 

It honestly shows how diverse the country is. You have towering waterfalls, gorgeous lupine flowers (in season), desolate volcanic wastelands, and loads of glaciers.

Once you pass Jokulsarlon, you still are on the southern coast, but it begins to morph into East Iceland before you know it.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Is South Iceland worth it?

South Iceland is so incredibly worth it. It offers the best of Iceland and everyone who visits has the best time. There are ample hiking and tours, so those who are looking to either not spend money can have a good time, but also lots of activities for those who can afford it.

You will love every moment you spend on the South Coast of Iceland.

Is North or South Iceland better?

That’s a great question and one that’s hard to answer. 

South Iceland has more of the classics that you’ll see on Instagram and in magazines. No doubt, it’s fantastic and has more than enough to do to fill your vacation.

Up north, it’s different. Everything isn’t clustered relatively close together like it is in Vik. Yes, there’s the geothermal area with the Diamond Circle (Dettifoss, Godafoss, and others).

I would say to maximize your trip, go south. However, if you’re looking for some truly unique sights and fewer crowds, the north is fantastic.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Do I need a 4×4 car in Iceland in October?

From what I’ve read, you do not need a 4×4 to just just drive around the country. The main roads should be in good enough shape for you to enjoy yourself. Especially in October, this is not full on winter yet, though your days will begin to be pretty short.

The 4×4 is only needed on F-Roads where there’s soft sand or river crossings.

How long does it take to do the south coast of Iceland?

I recommend 4-7 days when visiting the South Coast of Iceland. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Reykavik to Vik, the largest city on the southern coast. However, this part of the drive should take you at least 2 days, as you’ll want to stop at all of the waterfalls and scenic vistas (or see the Golden Circle).

So, while the drive time is short, you’ll have plenty to do while traversing some of Iceland’s most scenic terrain!

Where to go on the south coast of Iceland?

After two trips to Iceland, these are the best places to go on the south coast of Iceland:

  • Katla Ice Cave
  • Skogafoss
  • Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Thorsmork
  • Diamond Beach
  • Vik’s Black Sand Beaches

Which coast of Iceland is best?

The southern coast of Iceland is frequently hailed as one of the country’s most exquisite regions, boasting an unparalleled blend of beauty and diversity.

As you journey along this coastal stretch, you’ll encounter stunning waterfalls, glaciers, majestic mountains, picturesque canyons, ebony-hued sand beaches, volcanoes, and captivating glacier lagoons. It truly encompasses the essence of Iceland’s natural wonders.

Is the north or south of Iceland better?

While this is a personal decision, the south coast of Iceland is more developed and has more to do. (Even though the second largest city is on the north coast.) Additionally, it’s easier to access and is much closer to the capital city. This leads more people to visit and explore this side of the island.

But if you have time to venture north, I recommend it. You’ll see far fewer tourists and some stunning coastlines and mountains.

Final Thoughts on the things to do on the South Coast of Iceland

The only way you can have a bad time on the South Coast of Iceland is if your weather is complete trash. If it’s not, there’s so much to do with hiking, activities, sightseeing, and waterfalls.

I hope you are able to take this south coast Iceland guide and turn it into a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you and your group. Best of luck with the things to do on the South Coast of Iceland. I know you will love it!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.


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This article originally appeared on ExplorewithAlec.com

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside