11 Best Things to See & Do on Iceland’s South Coast

Fjadrargljufur canyon

Explore Iceland’s beautiful south coast, where majestic waterfalls, cute coastal villages, and huge icebergs await. No visit is complete without experiencing this region, home to some of the island’s most iconic natural wonders.

Uncover the top 11 things to see and do on the south coast of Iceland in this guide. You'll soon understand why this stunning area is a must-visit for travelers from around the world.

Should you visit Iceland’s south coast?

Absolutely! There are so many unmissable things to see in South Iceland, and it’s an adventure you won't want to miss.

If you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply just love stunning landscapes, the south coast has something for you.

Top things to do in South Iceland

A breaching humpback whale with the town of Húsavík in the background © Northsailing

Here are some of the best activities you could do on Iceland’s south coast:

  • Chase majestic waterfalls
  • Stroll along black sand beaches
  • Hike on glaciers or through canyons
  • Sail across blue waters in search of whales
  • Go on an ice caving expedition
  • Visit charming coastal villages
  • Kayak or sail on a glacier lagoon
  • Go on a road trip
  • Unwind in soothing hot springs
  • Indulge in local food

Best things to see on the south coast of Iceland

Discover the unmatched beauty of Iceland's south coast, where landscapes, waterfalls, and lava formations will leave you speechless. 

Add some of these locations to your travel itinerary when you're planning a trip to Iceland, for a getaway to remember.

1. Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls

The Skógafoss waterfall as seen from above in winter

Iceland is overflowing with stunning waterfalls, and you can find them in every corner of the island. Some of the most striking ones, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, are just a 2-hour drive from Reykjavík.

At Seljalandsfoss waterfall, you’ll follow a trail that leads you behind the curtain of water. This gives you an incredible view through the waterfall itself. Just be sure to wear something waterproof!

A short drive from here, you can feast your eyes on the Skógafoss waterfall. At 60m (200ft) tall and 25m (80ft) wide, this natural giant will certainly make you feel small in comparison. On sunny days, you might catch a glimpse of a rainbow appearing in the mist.

For the perfect snapshot, hike up to the viewing platform and look down at the impressive waters below.

2. Vatnajökull National Park and glacier

Person standing inside Vatnajökull ice cave © Matthew Shearer

Discover the majestic beauty of Vatnajökull National Park, home to Iceland’s highest mountain and Europe's largest glacier.

With over 14,000 square km (5,500 square mi) to explore, the park has some of the country's most impressive landscapes. Take your pick of outdoor adventures like glacier hiking, ice caving, and even snowmobiling. 

But in all the excitement, don't forget to pause and take in the amazing views that surround you.

A nearby attraction you might want to visit is the Sólheimajökul glacier. You can join a guided tour to discover its icy blue formations, deep crevasses, and ancient ice caves. Plus, you could even navigate the iceberg-filled lagoon aboard a kayak.

3. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon 

View over Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón is easily one of Iceland’s most awe-inspiring attractions. Here, you could go on a thrilling boat tour and glide among the floating ice sculptures. Or you could take a scenic stroll along the shoreline to see still turquoise waters dotted with bright white icebergs.

You’ll find Jökulsárlón just south of Vatnajökull National Park. This lagoon was created when the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier slowly melted, feeding the Jökulsárlón pool. That’s why the water here is crystal clear and dazzling blue. 

Be sure to savor the moment, especially during sunrise and sunset when the sky comes alive with hues of pink and orange. 

4. Diamond Beach (Fellsfjara)


Just a short walk from Jökulsárlón, you’ll find the famous Diamond Beach. 

Its real name is Fellsfjara, but it won’t take you long to figure out why it got its nickname when you see the sparkling icebergs washed up on the dark volcanic sand. 

These chunks of ice break away from the nearby glacier and head towards the sea. Fortunately, a few get stuck on the beach, creating a stunning scene for you to enjoy.

As you stroll along the beach, you'll feel like you've stepped into a scene straight out of a fairy tale.

5. Reykjadalur valley

The geothermal river in the Reykjadalur valley

Tucked away in the moss-covered lava fields of Reykjadalur valley, nature’s hot tubs await. 

Thanks to Iceland’s volcanic earth, cracks in the ground allow heated water to seep to the surface. This means you can find dozens of natural hot pools to bathe in all over the island – perfect for some relaxation.

In fact, this is one of the best day hikes in Iceland. So enjoy the walk through the valley and don’t forget to pack your swimsuit!

Reykjadalur translates to ’Steam Valley’, and its thermal waters live up to the name. Take a dip in the bubbling stream and admire the rugged scenery around you.

6. Reynisfjara black sand beach

Woman walking on Reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland

Reynisfjara is probably Iceland’s best-known black sand beach because of its striking natural formations. Here you can witness how Iceland's volcanic nature has completely shaped the island.

One cool feature is the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. Out in the water, you’ll see 3 tall, black rock formations. According to Icelandic folklore, these stacks were trolls that turned to stone when they attempted to drag a ship onto the shore. 

The beach is also known for its powerful tides and currents, with sneaker waves quickly making their way up the shore. So for safety, be sure to follow the signs!

You’ll also see huge cliffs made up of black basalt columns. These are remains from volcanic activity in the area thousands of years ago. Together, they create a dramatic scene.

And for Game of Thrones fans, you might even recognize this beach as the location of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the Night's Watch fortress located at the end of the Wall.

Nearby, you’ll notice Dyrhólaey, a 120m (400ft) rock arch jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Sculpted by waves crashing against it for thousands of years, you’ll again be reminded of the power of nature.

7. Vík í Mýrdal village

Vík í Mýrdal village, South Iceland

Just inland from Reynisfjara, you’ll find Vík í Mýrdal, a traditional village surrounded by nature. Its charming buildings and iconic red-roofed church contrast with the rugged setting.

You can't miss the Katla volcano in the background, adding a touch of drama to the scenery.

In Vík, there's no shortage of things to do. Treat your taste buds to local delicacies, dive into the region's geological history at the visitor center, or saddle up for a scenic horseback ride. And don't leave without checking out the handcrafted knitwear at the Katla wool factory. 

So, whether you're craving natural beauty, cultural experiences, or a bit of both, Vík í Mýrdal makes for an ideal stop.

8. Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon near Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Imagine you're standing at the edge of a huge canyon, surrounded by cliffs and the sound of a river below. Experience this at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. Its steep walls are covered in lush greenery, and the winding Fjaðrá River runs through it. 

Take in the views from the visitors' platform, hike the surrounding paths or venture into the canyon itself. The walk to the platform only takes a few minutes. But you could extend it and visit the waterfall at the end of the canyon.

If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, lace up your hiking boots and walk along the 2 km (1 mi) river. With every twist and turn, you can take in your surroundings from a new perspective. 

9. Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel

A group of people inside the Raufarhólshellir lava cave

At the Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to when fiery volcanoes ruled the land. Stand inside a massive cave, surrounded by walls sculpted by ancient lava flows.

Guides will lead you, sharing tales of volcanic eruptions and the forces that shaped this tunnel. You'll admire the vibrant colors of the lava walls and spot some cool formations like stalactites and stalagmites.

Whether you're a seasoned explorer or just curious about Iceland's volcanic past, a trip to Raufarhólshellir is a journey you won't soon forget.

10. Skaftafell

Mountains in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve on a cloudy day

Visit Skaftafell, and you’ll be treated to views of stunning mountains, icy glaciers, and lush valleys. It's like a playground for nature lovers!

The hiking trails here are top-notch. Whether you're up for an easy stroll or a more challenging trek, there's something for everyone. Along the way, you might stumble across hidden waterfalls or jaw-dropping viewpoints.

Keep your eyes peeled for Arctic foxes and reindeer, who often come here.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, you could try ice climbing or explore one of the ice caves in the Vatnajökull glacier. You could even climb Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur. 

And don't forget your camera because you'll want to capture every moment of this wild adventure.

11. Eldhraun lava field

The Eldhraun lava field showing moss-covered lava rocks

See the sheer scale of Iceland's largest lava fields firsthand. You’ll look across the endless, soft green moss landscape, creating an almost otherworldly atmosphere. But did you know that beneath this calm surface, there’s a troubled history?

Back in the 1700s, the Eldhraun lava field was the site of one of the biggest volcanic events in recorded history. Rivers of molten lava flowed from the Lakagígar fissures, changing the landscape forever.

You’ll find the lava field between the villages of Vík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Spot the alien-like terrain from the Ring Road (Route 1), then pull over into the designated parking lot for Eldhraun.

Remember, you can’t walk on lava fields for safety reasons and because it causes damage to the delicate moss layer. Just take in the mesmerizing views and imagine the forces of nature that shaped this incredible landscape.

Other places you shouldn’t miss near the south coast 

1. Golden Circle 

geyser erupting amidst rocky landscape with orange sunset

As you travel along the stunning south coast of Iceland, you should definitely add a detour to explore the legendary Golden Circle.

This iconic route is like a condensed dose of natural wonders and cultural gems. You’ll visit 3 of the main sights in Iceland – Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss.

Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with plenty to offer. Here, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. You could go snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure, which is the crack between the 2 plates that meet underwater. The park is also home to the world’s first Viking-era parliament.

On the route, you’ll stop by the Geysir geothermal area. See the earth come alive with the powerful eruption of Strokkur, shooting hot water into the sky in a dramatic display.

And let's not forget about Gullfoss, which translates to ’Golden Falls’. Gullfoss is not only known for its power but also for the rainbows that sometimes appear above the falls.

2. The Blue Lagoon

Woman relaxing in the Blue Lagoon

No trip to Iceland is complete without visiting a geothermal spa. Imagine yourself soaking in the milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon, surrounded by Iceland's rugged volcanic landscapes.

The warm water is heated by the earth's geothermal forces, and it’s even said to be healing for your skin.

But the Blue Lagoon isn't just about relaxing in the water. It's a full-on sensory experience, with mud masks and stunning views. 

3. Westman Islands 

Elephant Rock cliff in the Westman Islands

The Westman Islands, or ‘Vestmannaeyjar’, are little slices of paradise off Iceland's south coast. Picture dramatic cliffs, wild ocean views, and a community that's as tough as the volcanic forces that shaped these islands.

Stop off at Heimaey, the largest and only inhabited island here. You can't miss the towering basalt cliffs as you navigate the waters. You might even spot a few whales, seals, and puffins on your journey!

With 15 islands in total, each with its own story to tell, there's no shortage of surprises waiting for you.

Planning your trip to Iceland’s south coast 

Now that you know the top things to see and do on the south coast of Iceland, you’re ready to start planning your trip. Book with Iceland Tours and choose from a range of travel styles, such as self-drive, guided group, privately guided tours, and more.

Travel with us, and we’ll make sure your journey is seamless. You don’t need to worry about the details, because we’ll book your accommodation, local transport and most of your activities. Plus, our Reykjavík-based team can give you more ideas for things to see and do on your getaway.

Whatever trip you choose, you can customize your itinerary with extra nights and activities.

Uncover the best of the Land of Fire and Ice with Iceland Tours and secure your booking with just a 5% deposit.

ITo Author Bio Emma J Transparent

About the author

Emma, a nature-lover from Scotland, roams the open road with her trusty, self-built campervan. She loves exploring everything from the misty Scottish Highlands to the epic mountains of the Alps. With a passion for climbing, hiking, cycling, and all things outdoors, she finds joy in every journey. Her ideal day in Iceland starts with hunting for waterfalls and cool landscapes and ends with relaxing in a geothermal spa.

View more posts by Emma

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