If you’re looking for a destination that’s a “pinch me, is this even real” type of amazing, then look no further, my friend, Iceland is it. From the endless green hills to absolutely unreal waterfalls, I could not get enough of Iceland’s South Coast.
What is Iceland’s South Coast?
This is kind of obvious, it’s the South Coast of Iceland, which you can reach by driving southeast from Reykjavik. You can find basically every cool natural phenomenon…in one day I saw volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, and black sand beaches. So if you’re looking for dramatic landscapes, indecisive weather, and some seriously tongue-twisting names, you have to check out Iceland’s South Coast.
Should I Self-Drive or Take an Iceland South Coast Tour?
There are pros and cons to each, so let me help you out here.
Self-drive: You can stop where you want and take photos of every single waterfall and field of flowers. If you haven’t been to Iceland, trust me when I say you’ll want to pull over and take photos literally every 5 minutes. Tourists’ cars sitting on the side of the highway at the most random locations is proof of this. Cons include navigating yourself (I always get lost), high gas prices, expensive rental cars, and occasionally difficult road conditions (read: a Floridian trying to drive in snow).
Iceland South Coast Tour: All of the planning is done for you, but the stops are also pre-planned, so you have less flexibility. However, the guides will give you Icelandic history tidbits the whole way (loved these!), and it’s totally acceptable to nap along the way.
Decision: As a solo traveler, it made sense for me to choose a tour. I opted to do the GeoIceland South Coast Tour, and absolutely loved it. The small group size (11 people) was ideal, the guide worked in a stop for a pretty field of flowers, and he was full of random Icelandic knowledge. For example, did you know Reykjavik means “smoke bay,” since it always looks like it’s smoky? Side note: it is not actually smoky, but it does have a lot of geothermal steam!
What are the Must-See Sights on the South Coast?
This is probably the hardest part…you could probably make about 1000 separate stops, but that would take a really long time, so I went ahead and picked 8 of my faves for you!
Brown Trout Falls – Iceland’s government doesn’t publicize this one too much, since they want to convert it to a hydroelectric dam. My advice? Hurry up and go!
Skogafoss Waterfall – Aside from being gorgeous (and freezing!), Skogafoss is also featured in Justin Bieber’s “I’ll Show You” music video. I definitely wasn’t expecting it going in, but I learned a lot about Biebs that day.
Solheimajökull Glacier– You can hike up to the glacier (I may have ignored the don’t continue past here sign) and actually touch it!
Vik – There are surprisingly few towns outside of Reykjavik, but Vik is one of them. For a town with a population of only 300, they got ONE MILLION visitors last year. Do the math: that’s 3,333 visitors per inhabitant! I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not that popular.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach –This is the black sand beach you see in all of the photos (and for good reason). It’s definitely not a swimming beach, but will live up to the dramatic views that Iceland’s South Coast promises.
Dyrholaey—Stop here for views of the black sand beaches from above. Plus, you get the added perk of this arch!
Eyjafjallajökull Volcano –Yes, that’s right…the volcano that spewed ash back in 2010 and brought European air travel to a screeching halt. Personally, what I remember most were the newscasters trying to pronounce this volcano’s name (and failing so miserably). Fun fact: Icelanders tend to string a bunch of nouns together to name a place, so Eyjafallajokull actually means islands-mountains-glacier…now wouldn’t that have been easier to say? Also, I completely butchered it every time I tried to say it, but it sounded so nice rolling off the tongue of a native Icelander.
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall –This is a fun one…you can actually run behind the waterfall here…or walk very safely! Turns out the waterfall had very cold water, so this Florida girl had to move quickly. I’d advise wearing a rain coat!
Other Stops & Activities along the South Coast
Boat through the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon—I was so sad to miss this, but needed another day in Iceland. The glacier lagoon looks like a magical place to boat through the icebergs. It’s on my bucket list!
Hike the Falljökull glacier from Skaftafell –Make your way up some icy slops and watch the glacier in action.
Frolic in a Field of Lupin –These purple flowers are actually not native to Iceland, and were introduced about 80 years ago to stop wind erosion. They’ve basically taken over, but have also done a marvelous job of stopping wind erosion.
Cheap flights: I’d recommend checking out Momondo. They scan tons of different travel discount sites and let you filter by cheapest, best, and shortest. You can typically find good flights on IcelandAir and WOW Air.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik: For higher end hotels, look into Hotel Ódinsvé—the hotel has an awesome location downtown. For a mid-range option, I’d recommend Hotel Frón; this hotel also has a great location and even has kitchen facilities in the rooms. If you’re looking to avoid hotels and go the hostel route, I recommend checking out Hostelworld – there are plenty of options in Reykjavik! My personal hostel recommendation is Loft Hostel. You have an amazing location in the heart of the city, and I absolutely loved the ambiance of the common area/bar and outside terrace. If you’re traveling with friends, another good option here is to do an Airbnb. (Use my link for savings on your first stay!)
My Iceland Essentials
I hope this guide to the Iceland South Coast Tour was helpful! What other recommendations do you have for visiting Iceland’s South Coast? Let me know in the comments. And remember, always chase those waterfalls!
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own. These products/services have been found useful during my travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!