WHAT CAN YOU SEE & DO ON A SOUTH COAST SELF-DRIVE ICELAND TOUR?
The south coast of Iceland is a wealth of wonders, most of which are easily accessible just off the Ring Road, Iceland’s Route 1. How many days you spend on your self driving holiday along the southern coast of Iceland depends on many factors. For example, how much daily driving you’re comfortable with, how many hikes or activities you wish to enjoy and how many sights you want to visit.
For a classic South Iceland experience, we recommend 5 days or longer for a road trip along Iceland’s south coast. If you’re travelling with small children, driving in wintertime or planning on lots of outdoor activities, give yourself a few extra days.
To give you an idea of what each day could offer, below is a sample itinerary for a 5-day south coast self-drive Iceland tour.
Day 1 – Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city
Kick off your vacation in Reykjavik and get acquainted with Iceland's culture scene. Weary from a long flight? Grab a kaffi (coffee) and snack at one of the cosy cafés on Laugavegur, the city’s high street. How about a refreshing walk? Take a stroll alongside the fishing boats and colourful buildings in the old harbour.
To see as much of the city as you can in a short time, why not get an aerial view? Head up to the bell tower of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, or enjoy the panoramic scenery from the Perlan viewing deck, just outside the downtown.
Bonus: Go for a short whale watching cruise from the old harbour, a helicopter sightseeing tour or a guided city walk.
Day 2 – Iceland’s waterfall country & black sand beaches
Heading south-east out of Reykjavik, you soon reach the most photographed part of Iceland. Have you ever taken a selfie at a waterfall? How about behind a waterfall? Today is your lucky day! Southern Iceland contains some of Iceland’s most popular – and unique – waterfalls.
Take a walk on the footpath behind the majestic waterfall Seljalandsfoss, where a rainbow might appear in the mist on a sunny day. You can also follow a trail to the 'hidden falls' of Gljúfrabúi nearby. Not far down the road is another gem, Skógafoss Waterfall, one of Iceland‘s most photogenic landmarks. For a blast from the past, check out the old-fashioned turf house and turf farm at the Skógar Folk Museum next to the falls.
Had enough waterfalls for one day? (Is that possible?) Head toward the town of Vík and make a pit stop at the Reynisfjara black sand beach. With its volcanic black sands, smooth pebbles, basalt columns and jagged sea stacks off the shoreline, it's a great attraction to end the day.
Bonus: Explore the black sands via ATV tour and see the popular DC-3 plane crash wreckage, or take a guided crampon hike on Sólheimajökull glacier.
Day 3 – Glaciers & icebergs of Vatnajökull National Park
Travelling in the area of Vatnajökull National Park, you might get the impression that you’re in Greenland or Antarctica. TNamed for Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland and all of Europe, this is prime iceberg-spotting territory. Here you’ll find Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with its clusters of floating icebergs and – just across the road – the otherworldly Diamond Beach, where large pieces of glacier ice sit atop black sands before drifting out to sea.
For a slightly quieter place to watch the icebergs, check out the smaller Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon nearby Jökulsárlón. Want to take a spectacular hike in the area? Follow a hiking trail in Skaftafell to the stunning Svartifoss waterfall, named “Black Falls” for the dark basalt columns etched in the cliff.
Bonus: Take an iceberg boat tour at Jökulsárlón, or join a glacier walk among the blue ice at Skaftafell.
Day 4 – The famous Golden Circle route
Head for the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route serving up an incredible array of geological formations. This journey includes the Geysir hot springs area, where you can watch the Strokkur geyser erupt, and the stunning two-tiered Gullfoss waterfall.
The route also features the UNESCO-listed Þingvellir National Park, which is located in a rift valley where two tectonic plates are slowly separating. Characterized by unusual rock formations and deep fissures, Þingvellir is definitely a place you’ll want to spend some time exploring on foot.
Back in Reykjavik for the evening, why not cap your last night in Iceland with a fine dinner of delicious local cuisine?
Bonus: Join an Icelandic horse riding tour, or snorkel “between continents” in Silfra at Þingvellir.
Day 5 – Blue Lagoon geothermal baths
Wind down in the Blue Lagoon surrounded by black lava fields on the Reykjanes Peninsula. This geothermal spa is one of Iceland’s must-see attractions, known for its radiant blue waters and skin-smoothing white silica mud. It’s conveniently located on the way to Keflavik Airport, so it’s easy to fit in a few hours of thermal bathing before catching your flight.
Nordic Visitor offers a wide range of tours in Iceland that can be customised to your liking, with extra nights and optional activities added to your itinerary on request.