Exploring Iceland’s south coast has to be one of the world’s best road trips. It doesn’t matter if you head to Iceland in winter or summer, you’ll be met by spectacular waterfalls, quaint seaside towns, breathtaking glaciers and wild black sand beaches year round. Iceland points of interest are many.
The South Coast can be explored by following the ring road from Reykjavik. The Ring Road (Route 1) is Iceland’s only highway and circles the whole island. You can take a day trip to the South Coast from Reykjavik, or make a longer trip by staying in one of the seaside towns for a night or two before heading further along the highway.
Here’s the top spots to visit on your Icelandic road trip.
South Coast Waterfalls
‘Foss’ is the Icelandic word for waterfall, and Iceland certainly has a number of spectacular waterfalls to visit. On the south coast, the Skoga and Seljalands waterfalls are not far from each other and are a breathtaking sight at any time of year as the water roars down.
Take the time to get the heart pumping and climb the steep stairs to see the Skoga waterfall from above and also get views out to the ocean.
Walk up behind Seljalands waterfall, but prepare to get wet!
Tip: If you’re visiting the waterfalls in winter, make sure you wear good shoes suitable for walking on snow. The snow around the waterfalls can be very slippery and if you plan to walk up behind the Seljalands waterfall, be very careful on the icy stairs.
Wreckage of the US Navy Aircraft
Just past the Skoga waterfall lies the wreck of a US Navy Super Douglas DC-3 aircraft that made a forced landing in November 1973 on the Solheimasandur black sand beach. All on board survived the crash, but the abandoned wreck is now a good photo stop.
The wreck is located on a dirt track – look for a gate and a dirt track on your right when coming from Reykjavik just as you pass the turnoff to the Solheima Glacier (Solheimajokull). If there hasn’t been recent snow, the trail is accessible by 2WD if you take it slow. Keep to the trail on the left when heading in – and keep driving until you see the plane. A dune hides the plane so you won’t see it until you’re almost on top of it.
One of the best viewpoints of the black sand beaches is from the Dyrholaey headland – where you can look down to the beach and nearby rock formations. Nearby is the Reynishverfi beach dominated by a basalt column cave.
Jokularson Glacial Lagoon
The Jokularson Glacial Lagoon is one of those ‘have to see it to believe it’ places. Seeing crystal clear blocks of ice perched on the black sand and floating in the lagoon is breathtaking.
Tip: You can do boat trips in the lagoon during the summer months.
You can check out the Vatna Glacier (Vatnajokull) on foot. Vatnajokull is the biggest glacier in Europe and covers about 8% of Iceland. A number of operators offer glacier hikes which last about 90 minutes. Operators supply crampons, harness and ice picks, but dressing warm and a reasonable level of fitness are essential.
A guide leads the way on the hike, making sure you stay on the trail away from dangerous crevasses. You’ll also learn how the glacier was formed.
The pristine landscapes seem surreal as mountains and crevasses loom around you.
Tip: You can also book a tour to go inside an ice cave.
You can see the Eyjafjallajokull volcano towering above you as you drive along the Ring Road. You can stop for a better look at the museum which provides information about the infamous 2010 eruption of the volcano. You can also opt to get a bird’s eye view of the volcano with a helicopter flight. A number of helicopter operators run out of Reykjavik.