Discover Iceland’s Scenic South Coast 

Skógafoss waterfall on the South Coast in Iceland

The magnificent South Coast in Iceland makes for a diverse and exciting adventure for sightseers. But what are the best sites en route, and how long does it take to experience? Are there tours that will escort you along the South Coast, or is it better to drive yourself? Read on to learn more about this beautiful region.

There are several routes in Iceland that have become famed for their beauty, most notably the Golden Circle in West Iceland, and the Diamond Circle to the north. 

The South Coast is part of this pantheon, offering an esoteric mix of attractions that are sure to delight even the most seasoned of travellers. 

Why experience the South Coast in Iceland? 

South Coast travellers
Photo: Golli. The South is one of Iceland’s most stunning regions.

The South Coast is among Iceland’s most beloved sightseeing routes. Waterfalls, canyons, glacier lagoons, black sand beaches and desert – all lie in wait for those venturing along this pristine stretch of shoreline.

Thankfully, the South Coast happens to be incredibly accessible, strengthening its popularity amongst foreign guests. Travellers need only follow the Ring Road – or Route 1; the major tarmac road circling the island – east from the capital, Reykjavík. This route will pass by each of one of its major stops.

Frankly, the South Coast has something to offer everyone. Be you a landscape photographer seeking out picturesque vantage points. Or a road warrior looking to cover as much ground in Iceland in the limited time available to you. The South Coast provides. 

What major sites are on Iceland’s South Coast?

Travellers in Iceland's south
Photo: Golli. Behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall

As is the case with so much of Iceland, the South Coast in its entirety is a sight to behold. Driving between sites, you are just as likely to have your breath taken away by the passing visuals as you are at each of its famous attractions. 

With that said, there are places that are more worthy of discussion than others, be it because of their interesting geological makeup, importance to Icelandic culture, or stunning aesthetic.

Let’s learn more about each of the attractions you’ll pass when leaving from Reykjavík.

Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls 

Skógafoss in the mist
Photo: Golli. Skógafoss waterfall.

The famous waterfall alley of South Iceland. The first waterfall visitors will stumble upon is Seljalandsfoss, with Skógafoss being around half an hour’s drive east. Both of their waters originate from the mighty Eyjafjallajökull glacier, famous for its violent eruption in 2010. 

Seljalandsfoss allows guests to walk behind its narrow waterfall, offering truly fabulous photography opportunities for capturing the surrounding landscape through a natural filter of cascading water. This gorgeous natural landmark falls 60 m [200 feet] over an ancient sea cliff, making for unbelievable visuals when seen besides the enclosing meadows and nearby shoreline.

A twisting staircase leads up the side of Skógafoss. This presents visitors with the chance to see this feature from the top and bottom. This waterfall is just as high as Seljalandsfoss, but has a much greater width at 25 m [82 ft.] According to legends, treasures hide behind the waterfall, but we would not recommend venturing too close for fear you may be crushed. 

The hidden falls, Gljúfrabúi 

Gljúfrabúi hidden falls
Photo: Golli. Gljúfrabúi is the among Iceland’s hiddden falls

While Seljalandsfoss is one of the most well-known waterfalls on the South Coast, Gljúfrabúi (Canyon Dweller) is within easy walking distance, nestled away inside a diminutive gorge of its own. 

Gljúfrabúi remains something of an open secret in the area. Quite the feat given the many thousands who visit Seljalandsfoss each day.

The waterfall is 40 m [131 ft] tall, and trickles into the oceanbound stream, Gljúfurá. Those who want a closer look at this feature will have to hopscotch their way over the trickling water to the best vantage point. 



Standing at 30 m [98 ft], observing Kvernufoss waterfall feels akin to discovering treasure given that it’s hidden inside a mossy gorge. 

Just like Seljalandsfoss, it is possible to traipse behind Kvernufoss by following its conveniently placed walking path. Given the great plumes of mist that erupt at the base of the falls, anyone hoping to look upon the waterfall from this inside angle should expect to get wet!

Vík í Mýrdal

Vík i Myrdal Church
Photo: Golli. Vík i Myrdal Church in Iceland

Better known simply as Vík, this pleasant coastal village is found 180 km [112 mi] from Reykjavík, making it the perfect place to stop, breathe, and grab a bite to eat during your trip along the South Coast. 

Home to little under 400 people, Vík has become something of an attraction in its own right on account that its isolated position and seafront architecture present a side of Icelandic life rarely seen in the capital. 

To many, Vík is defined by its amazing surrounding scenery. It lies at the base of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which itself covers the once ominous Katla volcano. 

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach 

Reynisfjara black sand beach on the South Coast in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Reynisfjara black sand beach.

By now, much has been discussed about the inherent dangers of Reynisfjara, given the fact that its unpredictable wave patterns have cost lives, and created many incidences of panic among visitors. 

Despite this, Reynisfjara does remind one of the country’s most beautiful shorelines, and is well worthy of appreciation at a distance. 

This is not so much for its glassy black pebbles – a bonafide staple of many beaches in Iceland – but more so because it’s home to Reynisdrangar; impressive basalt sea stacks that loom over the adjacent coastal village of Vík í Mýrdal. 

Dyrhólaey peninsula

Dyrhólaey peninsula
Photo: Golli. The epic landscape of Dyrhólaey peninsula

Closeby to Reynisfjara, Dyrhólaey Peninsula (Door Hill Island) is a true geographical marvel thanks to its breathtaking, arch-shaped rock formation. 

The dramatic hole in the basalt rock is the result of wind and water erosion, reminding its observers of the natural forces that continue to shape Iceland to this day. The site is home to various bird species, including skuas, guillemots, and in summer, the iconic Atlantic Puffin.

This promontory offers panoramic views of the black sand coastline and adjoining ocean, making it a fabulous spot for landscape photographs. 

Katla Ice Caves  

Katla Ice Caves
Photo: Golli. Katla ice caves in South Iceland.

The Katla ice caves are a worthwhile stop for travellers interested to learn more about the underworld beneath Iceland’s glaciers. If ever there was a place to take your camera, this would be it! 

Katla’s ice caves lack the crystal blue ice that has made those beneath Vatnajökull world-famous. Instead, these caverns are better characterised as being white with snowfall, with black volcanic ash mixed in, creating an aesthetic all its own. 

During your caving tour at Katla, your certified guide will provide you with a pair of spiked crampons to help your feet grip the icy surface, as well as a pair of hiking poles for anyone seeking extra support. You will also wear a protective helmet so as to protect you should slips or stumbles occur. 

Solheimajökull Glacier



Solheimajökull is an outlet glacier originating from the larger Mýrdalsjökull ice cap – the very same that looms over Vík í Mýrdal. It is a popular spot for glacier hiking, an exciting activity which sees visitors walk across great ice plains in spiky crampons, taking in its dramatic moulins and crevasses. 

Solheimajökull is approximately 10 km long and 2 km wide, though it blends in with the Mýrdalsjökull ice in such a way as to appear much larger. Its exterior surface is a mixture of white ice and black volcanic ash, creating scenes reminiscent of a science fiction film. 

The DC Plane Wreck at Solheimasandur

The DC Plane Wreck at Solheimasandur
Photo: Golli. The abandoned wreckage

An artificial monument, of sorts. The metallic husk of a US Navy Douglas R4D-8 aircraft lays on the flattened dunes of Solheimasandur black sand desert. It has ever since it crashed there on November 21st 1973. Its degraded grey metal, twisted and hollow with time, stands separate to the emptiness of the surrounding landscape.

What could have been a catastrophe actually turned out to be an astounding stroke of luck for its crew. Not a single person died in the crash. The accident was caused by the pilot accidentally switching to the wrong fuel tank. What otherwise had been a routine flight as part of the US defence agreement with Iceland quickly devolved into an emergency landing. 

Interestingly enough, the DC plane wreck is not held in such high regard by the Icelanders as it with tourists. It is, actually, tourists who have taken it upon themselves to grant it a special spot among the South Coast’s attractions. Hence its inclusion in this article. 

Be aware that the wreckage cannot be seen from the Ring Road. And there are no clear signs. It is only advised to trek here in the company of those who are certain of its location, and never in the wintertime, given the copious amounts of snow that fall over Solheimasandur. 

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon



With 100 m walls of rock rising on either side of the Fjaðrá river, the dark, dramatic Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is a bewitching sight. It is found close to the Ring Road, nearby to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, and trails 2 km through across the landscape. 

It is believed the canyon is around 9000 years old, only enforcing the idea that better belongs in a fantastical, storybook setting. Its origins lie at Geirlandshraun mountain, which would have seeped vast amounts of glacier water across the landscape at the end of the last Ice Age.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach 

Jökulsárlón lake
Photo: Golli. Jökulsárlón lagoon

Jökulsárlón lagoon sits at the base of Breiðamerkurjökull outlet glacier, a single tongue that slithers off Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull. 

This glistening, ice-berg filled water body is just one part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Vatnajökull National Park, and is often considered the last stop people will make on the South Coast. 

Jökulsárlón is one the most photographed spots in the entire country. It is very popular among guests, many who add to the experience with an amphibious or zodiac boat tour. Others are content to stand at the water’s banks, appreciating the incredible ice formations as they float peacefully on their way out to the ocean. 

You can read more in our full article: Visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in South East Iceland 

How long does driving the South Coast take? 

South Coast driving
Photo: Golli. Driving on the South Coast

In reality, this depends on how long you wish to spend enjoying this pristine route. Reaching what is considered to be the last stop on the South Coast, Jökulsárlón, will take you five hours when travelling directly along Route 1.  

So, if you are hoping to see everything the South Coast has to offer in a single day, you should expect to be driving for a minimum of twelve hours, taking into consideration that you will stop and appreciate many of its sites along the way. 

Is the South Coast free? 

A Reykjavik Excursions coach
Photo: Golli. There are many coach tours along the South Coast.

As with most things in Iceland, travelling the South Coast is not completely without cost. There is the price of fuel to consider, and any stops you make along the way for food and respite. Some sites may also incur parking fees, so it is most certainly wise to keep cash on hand. 

Naturally, tour operators can also transport you along this route, stopping from one site to the next. Prices vary greatly depending on the type of experience they offer. For example, private tours will require more payment. But they do allow for you and your family to enjoy Iceland’s southern region in a quieter, more personal way. 

For a lighter cost, but less freedom, you can opt for a coach tour. This means travelling with a larger group. In these circumstances, you are tied to the whims of the group-at-large, not to mention the coach driver. And you will have less wiggle room when it comes to scheduling.  

What towns and villages offer a place to eat on the South Coast? 

Friðheimar farm
Photo: Golden Circle — Platinum Tour | Small group. Visitors to Friðheimar farm.

The South Coast is an expensive area, covering 401 km in total. So where exactly you should stop to eat depends on your preference, and whether amenities can be found closeby. Taking that into consideration, let’s start by shining a light on a handful of the eateries on the western side of this southerly coastal route. 

Places to eat on the western side of the South Coast

Prized by travellers as a restaurant and boutique hotel, Varma is located in the geothermal town of Hveragerði. It offers delicious meals like slow-smoked salmon, langoustine soup, and sourdough steak sandwiches. The dining space is situated in an airy, greenhouse-style area. As such, it allows for beautiful views of the rural surroundings. 

Also in Hveragerði is Ölverk Pizza & Brugghús. Unsurprisingly, it specialises in wood-fired pizza and craft beer brewed on-site. Hveragerði is only 45 km east of Reykjavík, making it a great town to eat at the beginning or end of your journey. The same can be said of Selfoss, only fifteen minutes drive away. This lovely town also boasts such places as Kaffi Krús and Tryggvaskáli. The latter placing emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients. 

A delicious meal served on the Golden Circle route
Photo: The Elite Golden Circle with lunch at farm & luxury hot sea baths

Places to eat on eastern side of the South Coast

Further east, closeby to the famed waterfall that shares its name, visitors can stop to eat at Hótel Skógafoss Bistro and Bar. The restaurant offers a variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates, both Icelandic and international dishes. 

In Vík í Mýrdal, there are a good number of places to chow down. How about the iconic Black Beach Restaurant (​Svarta Fjaran), or the great lunch spot, Suður? You could also stray towards American or European dishes at the old-fashioned Halldors Kaffi in a beautiful historic home. 

There are many other restaurants, snack bars, and cafes found further along the South Coast. The Glacier Lagoon Café is located beside Jökulsárlón and offers an array of delicious sandwiches and soups. At the far east of the South Coast in the town of Höfn, travellers can pay a visit to such places as Hali Country Hotel Restaurant, the lobster-mad Pakkhús Restaurant, or the harbour-side Íshúsið Pizzeria

In Summary 

Eyjafjöll - Undir Eyjafjöllum Kýr á beit
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. Cows at Eyjafjöll, South Iceland

What else is there to say? If you’re planning on taking a trip to Iceland for a week or more, the South Coast is highly recommended. 

Regardless of how you experience it, expect to be left in awe of Iceland’s beautiful natural scenery. Its quaint coastal towns. Its memorable activities.  

Make sure to browse our selection of South Coast tours before you go! 

Glacial Outburst Flood Will Likely Peak on Sunday

The glacial outburst flood, or jökulhlaup, which started when the ice sheet in the Grímsvötn volcano beneath Vatnajökull glacier began to melt 11 days ago, is predicted to reach its peak on Sunday. At time of writing, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration does not believe that the runoff will affect traffic on Route 1 in South Iceland, nor that roads will need to be closed.

As of Friday morning, the Met Office reported that Grímsvötn ice sheet had sunk over 27m [89 ft] and was flooding the Gígjukvísl river at a rate of 1600 m3/s [56503 f3/s]. The electrical conductivity of the river, which is an indicator of how much geothermal meltwater it has taken on, has also been increasing and was measured above 464 µS/cm on Friday. The gas concentrations along the perimeter of the glacier have been measured at higher than normal levels, but do not currently pose a danger.

In the past, eruptions at Grímsvötn have begun following a glacial outburst flood. Per the Met Office, “[t]he loss of the water from Grímsvötn lake reduces the pressure on top of the volcano and this can allow an eruption to begin.” This happened in 1922, 1934, and later, in 2004, when an eruption beginning three days after a flood began. In that instance, there were a series of earthquakes before the eruption. But no earthquakes have been measured around the volcano at present.

Fizzy Bubbles in Lagoon No Cause for Concern

The Icelandic Met Office has determined that unusual air bubbles in the Kvíárlón lagoon to the southeast of the Öræfajökull volcano neither pose a health hazard to travellers nor indicate the onset of volcanic activity. Vísir reports that a local landowner contacted the meteorological office after seeing unusual air bubbles in the lagoon that “sounded like a soft drink.”

In a post on its Facebook page, the Met Office explained that employees visited the lagoon on Wednesday with a device that can measure carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, and hydrogen in its environment. Repeated attempts to take measurements of these compounds under the surface of the lagoon, however, returned only trace-amount readings. Based on this, experts agree that the whatever is causing the bubbles in the lagoon does not pose a safety concern for travellers.

Further tests will be run on water samples taken from the lagoon, but the current hypothesis is that carbon dioxide emissions from the volcano are causing the carbonated effect. Such emissions are normal and do not in and of themselves indicate an increase or onset of volcanic activity. Indeed, earthquake and expansionary activity at Öræfajökull has been on the decline this year.

New Walking Bridge Over Jökulsá í Lóni

The bridge construction team of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has completed the construction of a new walking bridge over Jökulsá í Lóni River. The old was destroyed in a storm during the turn of the year. The completion of the new bridge was a priority for the Road and Coastal Administration as it is important for travellers and hikers in the Lónsöræfi region. The river is dangerous in the summertime when glacial meltwater increases the water flow. Those who try to wade the river close to Múlaskáli cabin can face problems.

Jökulsá í Lóni is a glacial river in South-East Iceland which flows out of the east side of Vatnajökull glacier down into the beautiful Lónsöræfi area. The first bridge in the area was built in 1953, crossing at Múlasel. A new 95-metre long bridge was constructed in 2004, becoming the longest walking bridge in Iceland when it opened. That bridge was destroyed in late 2018.

Lónsöræfi is a beautiful area between the Jökulsá í Lóni river and Vatnajökull glacier and is considered a great hike. There are numerous hiking lodges in the area. For more information on Lónsöræfi and the surrounding area, head to the website for Vatnajökull national park:

The bridge construction team achieved a great feat as they had to transport a lot of instruments and materials on foot up the treacherous Illikambur ridge. The also had some difficulties with the wind while constructing the bridge, according to bridge smith Sveinn Þórðarson. The team started working on the bridge in May, completing it on June 21.

When asked what was the hardest part of the construction, Sveinn had this to say: “Probably the physical labour. We had a digging machine which could help with loading and unloading from vehicles. But when we had set up the bridge towers, the digger left, and we needed to do it all manually by hand. We had to carry a substantial amount of material, and our guys were completely spent after each day. We also had to return home two times due to severe winds which stopped all work. The walk to and from the car was difficult, especially in Illikambur.” It was not all doom and gloom, however. “We are somewhat used to spending many days and nights together in the working camps. But we didn’t have individual rooms in our lodge nor did we have any phone or internet connection. Therefore we started to play Trivial Pursuit while dinner was being prepared.” Sveinn says that the group enjoyed playing Trivial Pursuit so much that they have asked for the Road and Coastal Administration to purchase the board game so they can play it in the evening on other construction projects.

19 Tons of Garbage Collected From Beaches

Just over nineteen tons of garbage were collected from Icelandic beaches in the last two weeks, as part of the Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day. It is believed that around 80% of the garbage comes from the fishing industry.

The initiative, overseen by the Environment Agency of Iceland, focused on beaches and shorelines on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hópsnes peninsula near the Southwestern town of Grindavík, and Hornafjörður in Southeast Iceland. The Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day is a collaborative project of environmental organizations from the Nordic countries. The day itself took place on May 6 in Iceland and is a part of the Hreinsum Ísland (Let’s Clean Iceland) initiative, spearheaded by the Icelandic Environment Association and Blái Herinn (The Blue army). The public can access info about the cleanups and also registers their own clean up in a special map where all the cleanup data is collected.

This is the second year in a row that Snæfellsnes has participated in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day. Four different locations were cleaned on the peninsula, with as many as 40 volunteers taking part in efforts in the town of Stykkishölmur and anywhere from a dozen to 30 participants in other locations. Grundafjördúr mayor Björg Ágústsdóttir said the weather was beautiful for the volunteer effort.

“The amount never surprises me. I know there’s one ton of garbage per kilometre in Icelandic beaches, it doesn’t matter where you look,” said Tómas J. Knútsson, head of the Blái Herinn organization. “If we’re far away from settlements, the trash is about 80% fishing gear and 20% other forms of trash, which could have drifted from land or thrown overboard.” Closer to settlements, there’s more of household refuse. “Luckily, public interest is increasing, and we’re seeing more folks taking matters into their own hands in their hometown. For me, that’s the biggest positive,” said Tómas.

Iceland Takes Part in Nordic Beach Cleaning Day

Residents of several municipalities in Iceland took part in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day on Saturday. RÚV reports that the initiative, overseen by the Environment Agency of Iceland, focused on beaches and shorelines on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hópsnes peninsula near the Southwestern town of Grindavík, and Suðurfjörur on the Hornafjörður fjord in Southeast Iceland.

This is the second year in a row that Snæfellsnes has participated in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day. Four different locations were cleaned on the peninsula, with as many as 40 volunteers taking part in efforts in the town of Stykkishölmur and anywhere from a dozen to 30 participants in other locations. Grundafjördúr mayor Björg Ágústsdóttir said the weather was beautiful for the volunteer effort.

Björg also noted that as people who live close to the sea, residents of Snæfellsnes generally place particular importance on having clean shores and oceans. Interest in environmental issues has, nevertheless, been increasing in recent years, she said.

Teams in Snæfellsnes combed the areas along shorelines and the Ring Road, picking up metal, plastic, and sticks and wood debris. Björg said that what really surprised her was that there wasn’t more garbage to collect.

Overall, organizers were pleased with the level of commitment from residents, although not surprised. “We live in a nature paradise,” Björg remarked, “and it’s important that it be clean.”

Yellow and Orange Weather Alerts Around Iceland

winter tires reykjavík

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a series of serious weather warnings for much of the country on Friday.

An orange alert has been issued for Northeast Iceland, the East Fjords, and Eastern coastal areas, where blizzard conditions are expected to begin in the early morning and continue as late as 7:00 pm. Hurricane-strength winds and moderate to heavy snowfall is expected. Slippery, snow-covered roads and limited visibility make travel inadvisable from Varmahlíð to Akureyri, Akureyri to Egilsstaðir, and Egilsstaðir to Djúpivógur.

Yellow warnings are in effect for Reykjavík and the surrounding capital area, as well as Northwest Iceland, the Southeast, and the Central Highlands. Considerable snowfall and hurricane-strength winds of up to 28 m/s are expected between Vík and Djúpivogur between noon and midnight and as such, travel is, during this time, inadvisable in the region.

There is also considerable danger of avalanches (3 on a scale of 5) in the Westfjords and mountainous areas around Reykjavík.

You can keep up to date on the most recent weather alerts by checking the Icelandic Met’s English-language page, here. is another very good source of travel and weather advisories in Icelandic, English, French, German, and Chinese.

Missing Woman Found in Skaftafell

An extensive search for a woman who went missing in Skaftafell National Park on Thursday afternoon came to a happy conclusion just after midnight, Vísir reports. The woman, who is in her sixties and originally from Japan (although she’s been living in Europe for several decades), was found cold and suffering from prolonged exposure to yesterday’s harsh weather, but otherwise safe and sound.

Search and Rescue teams in Southeast Iceland were called out on Thursday evening to look for the woman, who got separated from her family around midday while hiking in Skaftafell park. According to ICE-SAR spokesperson Davíð Már Bjarnason, when the search got underway, 27 teams—or around 100 people—were searching in the area, as well as a Coast Guard helicopter equipped with heat vision. Searchers from surrounding regions then arrived with search dogs and drones. Seven hours into the search, around 11pm, even more searchers were called in from as far away as the capital area, bringing the number of searchers to 300.

Searchers were able to get a general idea of where the woman might be by tracing her cellphone, but that still left the group with an enormous area to cover: Skaftafell encompasses 4,807 km2 [1,856 m2] and is filled with hiking trails. Adding to difficulties were the high winds that the region was experiencing at the time, with speeds reaching up to 23 m/s [51 mph], and temperatures hovering around 1°C [33°F]. Weather conditions—particularly wind speeds—worsened overnight. Luckily, the woman was very well prepared for a winter hike and around midnight, she was finally found by two searchers on foot, not far from where she’d been first been separated from her family.

“She was very happy to see people,” said Friðrik Jónas Friðriksson, chair of ICE-SAR’s southwest division. “She had seen the helicopter fly over her a few times, but they didn’t see her. She didn’t know about the searchers, but there were two of them who saw her trail, followed it, and found her there, huddled up and extremely cold.”

After being taken to doctors in Höfn in Southeast Iceland, it was decided that the woman should be transported to the National and University Hospital in Reykjavík and treated for hypothermia. She is, however, otherwise unharmed and should be able to be released from the hospital after a night of observation.

Seventy-Year-Old Footbridge Collapses in Storm

A nearly 70-year-old footbridge from Illikambur over to the Múlaskáli hut in the Lónsöræfi wilderness area has collapsed, RÚV reports. The guy ropes holding up the bridge appear to have given way during a storm at the beginning of the year.

Few travellers make their way into Lónsöræfi, a remote and expansive nature preserve in Southeast Iceland that is nonetheless known for its majestic nature and one-of-kind hiking trails. The reason for this is that the area is not accessible by regular car. Hikers wishing to stop over at the Múlaskáli hut have, then, needed to pick their way along the Illikambur ridge, holding onto a guide chain for balance, and then walking over the footbridge, which was suspended over the powerful Jökulsá river.

The whole route used to take about an hour, but now that the bridge has collapsed, it’s impassable.

See a picture of the collapsed bridge, on the RÚV website, here.