Top 10 things to do in South Iceland
The south of Iceland is the most popular part of the country amongst visitors, thanks to the world-famous attractions that can be found in this region.
Travelers visit the south to make all their Icelandic dreams come true. Here you can ride horse-back through unspoiled agricultural land, delve deep into mysterious ice caves and even snorkel the Silfra Fissure. Southern Iceland offers an endless supply of vistas straight off the front of a postcard with an abundance of inspiring waterfalls, formidable glaciers and atmospheric black sand beaches to admire.
From fairy-tale waterfalls and cliffs bound in folklore to the largest glacier in Europe and a glittering beach of diamonds, you’ll find more than enough to write home about when you explore the south of Iceland.
1. Explore the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a popular 300km route which takes visitors on a tour of some of Iceland’s best attractions. Highlights include: Þingvellir National Park, where Iceland’s first Parliament congregated in 930AD, and the tectonic Silfra Fissure which offers icy glacial water for scuba diving and snorkelling; Haukadalur, a geothermal region where the geyser Strokkur fires scalding water 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes; and the thunderous Gullfloss Waterfall where the Hvítá River plunges into a deep crevice, thick with mist and rainbows.
2. The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
When the light hits the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon just right, it lights up the verdant cliffs, deep valleys and serpentine river Fjaðrá like a scene out of Middle Earth. Hikers can make their way down to the river – though be prepared for a little wading at times – or trek the walking path up on the canyon’s edge to soak up the panoramic (and very ‘Instagrammable’) views that spread out before them.
3. Dverghamrar - the Dwarf rocks
This peculiar yet beautiful rock formation lends itself well to Icelandic folklore, littered with tales of trolls, giants, elves and dwarfs. The stories say these immense, hexagonal basalt columns were built by dwarves to use as their homes. However, geologists offer a different explanation, suggesting the famous cliffs were moulded at the end of the Ice Age through the cooling of lava, motion of the tides and the build-up of contraction forces.
4. The village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur
This village may just win the prize for having the most tongue-twisting name of any in Iceland. While small in stature with only 150 inhabitants, Kirkjubæjarklaustur has become a popular destination for visitors due to its position as a major crossroads to several dramatic locations. Discover the charming double waterfall, Systrafoss, before dropping by Systravatn lake – once a bathing place for nuns. Next, find a local to tell you the macabre backstory linked to Systrastapi or ‘Sister’s Rock’ and visit Kirkjugólf, a curious field of basalt rock and moss.
5. Skaftafell nature reserve
A wilderness to some and an oasis to others, the beautiful Skaftafell is an area of Vatnajökull National Park that offers epic landscapes, favourable weather conditions and a range of hiking trails to keep even the most dedicated of outdoors enthusiasts happy. Short trails lead visitors on an easy journey to the Black Waterfall, Svartifoss, and Iceland’s most famous glacier, Skaftafellsjökull. However, those who wish to truly test themselves should set their sights on scaling the peaks of the Kristínartindar mountain range – snow-capped Hvannadalshnjúkur is the highest in Iceland.
6. Svartifoss – the Black Waterfall
The glorious Svartifoss waterfall cascades down 12 metres of unique black basalt cliffs and has the reputation of being the crowning glory of Skaftafell. While it may not have the power of some of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, there is a romantic quality to this picturesque scene. Hike the gentle 90-minute trail to the top for the very best views of the falls and fill your lungs with the crisp, clean air.
7. Hiking the Svínafellsjökull Glacier
For many visitors, a trip to Iceland is not complete without paying a visit to Europe’s largest glacier. Svínafellsjökull is a tongue of the monumental Vatnajökull Glacier, stretching right to the verdant region of Skaftafell. Tours are generally available from March through to December and involve fun and easy trekking across the jagged ridges, blue crevasses and many glacial tongues of this otherworldly ice cap.
8. The Crystal Cave
If walking on ice isn’t enough for you and you’re keen to see what lies beneath, book yourself in for an ice cave tour – Iceland has plenty to choose from! Perhaps one of the best-known is the entrancing Crystal Cave, hidden within the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier. The largest ice cave in Vatnajökull National Park was formed as a result of the glacier hitting the Icelandic coastline. The interior is a dream-like study of textures, coloured in fifty shades of blue – it must be seen to be believed.
9. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the Diamond beach
If you want to see a beach that glitters like diamonds, the magical southeast of Iceland will make your wish come true. Jökulsárlón is one of Mother Nature’s greatest triumphs; a glacial lagoon and the deepest natural lake in Iceland, waters broken only by fish, seals and glowing chunks of ice. Head down to the seashore to see more of this ice dotted amongst the black sands, polished to sparkling perfection by the tides and creating the impression of a beach littered with diamonds, shimmering under the sun.
10. Climb the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano
Iceland’s most notorious volcano announced its presence to the world when it blew its glacier cap back in 2010, grounding thousands of planes throughout Europe. However, the trail to the 5,466-foot summit is one of the most beautiful day hikes in Iceland, earning adventurous trekkers expansive views of the country’s coastline and the craggy Vestmannaeyjar Islands offshore. You can even go for a snowmobile tour on the ice cap as you marvel at the effects the eruption had on the landscape.
Book tours and activities
The South Coast of Iceland is amazing and the exotic landscapes will leave you with unforgettable memories. Black lava beaches, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers and much more.
Our partner, TourDesk, offers a comprehensive tour-booking service aimed to simplify the booking process.
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