Guide to Iceland’s southern coast

It’s easy to find advice and guides to Iceland’s famed Golden Circle, and yes, this well-trafficked and easy route from Reykjavik is definitely worth doing. However, beyond the Golden Circle, there’s so much to see in Southern Iceland. Here’s where to go and what to see on Iceland’s southern coast along the Ring Road.

Touring Iceland’s Southern Coast

iceland southern coast

From Reykjavik, take the Ring Road (Route 1) and head southeast, doing the following. You’ll want at least 2-3 days to enjoy this region at your leisure, though it is possible to drive out and back in one long day with very few stops (not recommended). Here’s where to go:

Hveragerði: 

This town 45 km from Reykjavik is home to the wonderful Reykjadalur hot springs river hike. We’ve included it in our post on Iceland hot springs off the beaten path. Follow the signage through the main street of this tiny town to find the trailhead, and then hike 3.5 km (one way) up into the hills to find the hot springs river. The reward of the steaming bath that awaits makes the hike well worth the effort! Even young kids can do this hike with enough time to take it slow (it does get steep).

iceland hot springs

Hvolsvöllur:

Continue past the pretty town of Selfoss and stop at Hvolsvöllur to visit the LAVA Centre. We’ve included details in our post on Iceland national parks. This brand new center does a great job of explaining the volcanic activity of Iceland, which will be very useful information as you tour the natural formations of the southern end of the island.

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss: 

These waterfalls are definitely worth the stop. As you drive, you’ll see plenty of others, but most are on private property, behind the quaint farms of this region. At Seljalandsfoss, you can walk behind the falls, and explore two additional on a walking path to the left. At Skogafoss, you can hike up the steep stairs to the top of the waterfall, or, if you’re ambitious, you can continue on the start of the Fimmvörðuháls trail. This 25 km trail between Skógar and Þórsmörk is divided into three sections, the first of which is called Waterfall Way. Families can do this as an out-and-back on nice days. (To do the whole trail, a GPS unit or guide is necessary, and most people do it in two days.) Also at Skogafoss is a very good museum: standard admission gets you into a transportation museum and history/folk museum, or you can buy a reduced ticket for just the outdoor buildings of the folk museum side, which include historic sod farm buildings, a schoolhouse, church, and outbuildings. We recommend this option.

Vik:

vik

This little coastal town at the very southern end of Iceland is known for its black sand beaches at Reynisfjara. The turn off Route 1 for the beach is just west of town, and a great place to see the basalt column geological formations Iceland is known for. You can also see puffins, apparently, but we only saw other sea birds making their nests in the cliffs. Vik has a public swimming pool (as do most Icelandic towns) and is a good place to refuel.

Kirkjubæjarklaustur:

We loved this little village, which a lovely waterfall at the end of town (take the hike up it to the impressive lake at the top) and Kirkjugolf (church floor). This natural rock formation was once mistaken for a manmade church floor. It’s located just a few meters down the road from the N1 gas station and easy to access.

iceland

Skaftafell:

iceland

The most accessible gateway to the largest glacier in Iceland (and Europe), Skaftafell houses the visitor center for the national park, Vatnagokull. Families can take lots of great day hikes here with views of the glacier and Skaftafoss (waterfall), or can hire a guide for a glacier walk (it’s not permissible or safe to walk on the glacier on one’s own). It’s also home to impressive ice cave touring. There’s a nice campground here, if you want to make Skaftafell a turn-around point.

Have you toured the Southern Coast of Iceland? Where do you recommend stopping?

 

 

 

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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