The South coast holds many of the most iconic attractions in Iceland. It kinda has it all; waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches, towering mountains, and of course beautiful glacier lagoons. These stunning attractions make for a fantastic road trip.
Don’t believe me?
Keep reading and follow me through a South Iceland road trip.
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Entering the South coast the waterfall Seljalandsfoss will be your first major attraction. This stunning waterfall is a part of the Seljalandsá river that originates in the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. The name Eyjafjallajökull might sound familiar as the glacier is also an active volcano that erupted last in the year 2010 and caused quite the havoc at airports all over the world.
The waterfall is quite unique in the sense that there is a pathway that will allow you to encircle it which gives a different perspective and an awesome photo opportunity. Floodlights have also been put up by the waterfall which enables guests to see it 24/7 all year round.
When you visit Seljalandsfoss don’t forget to take a peek at its little brother, Gljúfrabúi. This small but elegant waterfall is nestled inside a canyon and offers a memorable experience. Just remember to put on your rain gear as you are going to get wet…. Totally worth it though.
No road trip in Iceland is complete until you have bathed in the open air. The semi-hidden gem Seljalandslaug pool is located between Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and is the perfect stop on a South Iceland road trip. The pool is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland and was the largest one in the whole country until 1936. It was built in order for children to learn how to swim. Swimming, after all, can be a very useful skill for a nation that still makes most of its income via the fishing industry.
Now just so you know, this is a geothermal pool that is not cleaned regularly so the pool is full of algae. Which gives it a green color and the walls and bottom are very slippery. It’s not going to be the most hygienic of pools so if you are sensitive to bacteria you should probably skip the dip. If not, my opinion is GO for it!
Skógafoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s biggest and most iconic waterfalls with a staggering drop of 60 meters (197 feet) and width of about 25 meters (82 feet). The unrivaled beauty of this waterfall has placed it firmly as Iceland’s top locations and it’s been featured in many films and TV shows.
There are some 20+ waterfalls to be explored above Skógafoss so if you have the time and energy, you can climb the stairs and follow the banks of Skógá river and get your moneys worth!
Legend has it that a Viking settler hid a treasure chest behind Skógafoss waterfall. Although many have tried to retrieve it no one has succeeded to this date. Some tales say that some kind of magic is involved as many who have tried have experienced hallucinations. So, the old saying “somethings are better left undone” really does apply in this case. In any case, any attempt to go under the waterfall is a tragedy waiting to happen… you’ll see what I mean when you get there.
The beauty of road trips is that you’re able to take your time and see things you normally wouldn’t during a scheduled tour. Kvernufoss waterfall is located a short 20 minute walk from Skógafoss waterfall and yet you’ll often find yourself completely alone there. It might not be the most powerful or impressive waterfalls but it’s a looker nonetheless and definitely worth the walk.
Like Seljalandsfoss waterfall, there is a pathway there that allows you to encircle the waterfall which gives you a unique view and awesome photo op! However, if you are travelling during winter you might want to stay clear as giant icicles that form there in the winter cold, can pose a risk when they fall. The trail will also get very slippery.
Plane wreck on Sólheimasandur beach
This is probably the most unusual attraction in Iceland. This abandoned plane wreck has been sitting on the desolate black beach since 1973, breaking apart piece by piece. The US Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing on the beach. Luckily everyone survived. The wreckage and the surrounding landscape is a photographers delight and a very surreal sight.
It takes about an hour each way but it’s on level ground so it’s fairly easy. If you are not able to walk the distance there is a shuttle service there and you can also opt for a ATV tour that includes a visit to the plane wreck.
Sólheimajökull outlet glacier
The Sólheimajökull glacier is an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland’s third biggest glacier. The reason why I am listing this place as one of Iceland’s classic highlights is because it is the setting for some of Iceland’s most popular activities.
There you can go for a ATV tour to the nearby Sólheimasandur beach, go kayaking on the adjacent glacier lagoon, or race across the glacier on a snowmobile. Sólheimajökull is above all famous for glacier hike tours which is, in my opinion, something everyone should try when in Iceland so I highly recommend it!
Before you arrive at Reynisfjara black sand beach, I highly recommend taking a small detour to Reynisfjara “island”. This promontory offers an excellent view in all directions, provided that skies are fairly clear.
To the North you’ll be able to see Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland’s fourth largest glacier. To the West you’ll see the seemingly endless black sand coastline and to the East you’ll see the Reynisdrangar sea stacks just off the Reynisfjara beach and of course Arnardrangur boulder.
Dyrhólaey also boasts of prosperous birdlife so during summer you should be able to see the beautiful Puffins and other species roaming about.
Reynisfjara black sand beach
The iconic basalt stacks, the beautiful black sand stretching for miles, and the roaring waves of the North Atlantic Ocean are truly a sight to sea making Reynisfjara a classic highlight. The immense beauty should however be experienced with care as the waves can be treacherous and should be treated with great respect.
According to folklore the basalt sea stacks were once trolls trying to pull ships ashore. The trolls went out to late that night and once dawn broke they were turned into stone.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a massive and extremely beautiful canyon located near the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The 100-meter-deep and two kilometer long canyon, is believed to have formed at the end of the last ice age about nine thousand years ago.
The river Fjaðrá that runs through the Fjaðrárgljúfur is fairly small so visitors can easily wade inside for a unique view. Most people however choose to walk up on the canyon’s edge to enjoy the spectacular view from above.
Skaftafell National Park
Scenic landscape, favorable weather conditions and a selection of hiking trails make Skaftafell an ideal destination for those who like to enjoy outdoor activities in Icelandic nature. Trust me you’ll want to add this destination to your South Iceland road trip.
There are plenty of hiking trails in the area so one can easily spend more than one day in the area. One of these trails leads to one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland, Svartifoss. This stunning waterfall is surrounded by basalt columns which frame it nicely. The hike to it is fairly short and easy and well worth the effort.
You can also hike to one of the outlet glaciers in the area. There is just something about seeing these monstrous blocks of ice crawling down the hills.
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
This is without a doubt one of the most spectacular sights in Iceland! Literally thousands of people make their way to this popular destination to see giant blocks of ice, that have crumbled from the Vatnajökull glacier, slowly float to the ocean.
The adjacent beach is also worth taking a look at as giant blocks of ice wash back on shore and lie on the black sand beach like diamonds on a black canvas. Hence it has been given the name: Diamond beach.
Want to take a self drive road trip in South Iceland? Nordic Green Travel can help! Check out their South Iceland Self Drive tour. They can also assist you in getting the most out of your travels by creating a custom itinerary that includes iconic highlights as well as off the beaten path attractions. Peruse their various tour options and get in contact with them here.