Before I came to the beautiful country of Iceland, I had come across some of the most beautiful landscapes on social media that I had dreamt of seeing. You’ve probably felt the same. Iceland has been on my bucket list since 2017 and I’m blessed I got to truly appreciate this country… by getting there. Did you know some of those landscapes I saw actually took place on the South Coast of Iceland?
Iceland is an island that is divided by 8 regions: Capitol Region, Southern Peninsula, West, Westfjords, Northwest, East and the one we’ll be covering here… South. These regions can be explored depending on the time of the year and the conditions surrounding it. The South Coast of Iceland is one of the most diversified areas and it is also easily accessible, therefore making it one of the best areas to stop at especially for your first time visiting the country.
It is ideal to spend at least 2 days at the South Coast, as I did with my booked tour with Guide to Iceland (click the link if you want to read my review on the tour company). I list out 10 of the best things you can do and see in the South Coast of Iceland!
There are a ton of waterfalls in Iceland, and this one is so beloved by so many and it’s not hard to see why. Seljalandsfoss, meaning “selling the land of waterfalls”, is a steal. Because it is probably one of the only waterfalls you’ll be able to walk behind it in its small cave as I did and it was a thrilling idea to do so and getting sprayed by its beauty.
The water flowing is from the Seljalands River and these 197-feet high falls were formed by the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Volcano. The path to walk behind the falls may be closed in the winter due to the fact how dangerous they may get with chances of icicles and boulders falling. But during the short winter days, you might get a glance of the golden light reflections beaming towards the falls, which makes for a luminous sight.
Skógafoss is one of my favorite waterfalls that I got to see on my trip. It’s seriously beautiful from how green everything is in the summer and is surrounded by valleys of green. With a drop of 200 feet high and as wide as 82 feet, Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. However, it is not the grandeur size that makes it my favorite, but the power of how it flows and forms a river bank along those green valleys. It’s straight when it falls and it is straight as it flows down and it’s remarkable in its position.
3. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Ever wanted to see a beach that has black pebbles/sand? Then, you would surely have to stop by Iceland’s famous Black Sand Beach. By coming here, you’ll see how much volcanic activity Iceland has had and the black sand is a sight to witness at least once in your life. The sand, or really just sediments from lava, were formed when it was boiling hot lava and has been cooled over time by the cold water.
Yeah, the water is pretty cold and it is not a beach you can swim in or even considered safe to. The Black Sand Beach is known for having “sneaker waves”, which can prove to be very dangerous and deadly. They can come up so suddenly before you can even blink an eye sometimes and I remember while taking pictures of my friend, these waves got past my waterproof hiking boots and they were SOAKED completely! I was highly frustrated by what happened, and went inside the restroom of a restaurant and used the hand dryer for a while to try to dry the boots. Luckily I had different pairs of socks to change right into, but that moment definitely defined an unglamorous part of traveling.
However, what makes this beach more special are the volcanic structures that are protruding into the ocean by this beach. No, that one rock was not carved to be a penis, but your imagination can take you to fun corners of your mind. I also very much admired the basalt column formations that are seriously stacked to one another and you’ll probably notice them first too.
4. Lava Fields
When you first land in Iceland, you might’ve noticed outside of your airplane window that there are clumped up fields of green and brown. Some of the largest lava fields can be found here in the South Coast. The lava field is called Eldhraun and it is the largest lava field in the world! This field was created from one of the most poisonous eruptions from 1783 to 1784. These fragile lava fields (therefore you can’t walk directly on them) are now covered entirely with soft green moss.
5. Shopping Mall/Icewear and Black Sand Beach
The Shopping Mall in Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland (in the South Coast) is a good stop to make if you’re looking to get some souvenirs, do some grocery shopping (at the Kronan store), or looking for some last minute winter gear. Icewear is an Icelandic clothing brand that can be found in this shopping mall and it has anything from down jackets to Icelandic wool sweaters to hats and more. Right outside of the shopping mall and not too far away is a black sand beach that you can walk to, to enjoy some of the surrounding views and beachy breeze.
6. Fjadrargljufur Canyon
This majestic canyon is seriously picturesque and it was featured in Justin Bieber’s “I’ll Show You” music video, which is a great song and that’s why it’s also nicknamed as the “Justin Bieber Canyon” as told by my Icelandic tour guide. However, what makes this canyon extra special is because these steep tuff walls are about 2 million years old and it was formed from around the last ice age. There’s a 2-mile easy hike you can do that my friends and I did to see what’s around the canyon.
7. Klausturhof Guesthouse
I stayed at this really cute hotel called Klausturhof Guesthouse while visiting the South Coast. Around the hotel, it looks like lodge-sized cabins all connected. The rooms are small, almost like a dorm-sized room, but display the Scandinavian simplicity. Outside of some of the hotel rooms like mine, you can see green hills and the Skafta river flowing by! The hotel is situated by the Systrafoss waterfall. There’s also breakfast the next morning by the office.
8. Stop by for Food
Since there’s a lot of places far out from each other around the South Coast, you would definitely need to eat to refuel and you may also need to add more gas fuel to your car anyway! I recommend stopping by Shell Freysnes, even after a long hike in Skaftafell. This is a gas station that’s attached to a convenience store which sells a variety of Icelandic souvenirs and chocolate and it also has food with a buffet-style restaurant. Their food will vary from time to time. The location of this gas station is amazing because outside you can see alpine mountains.
9. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Boat Ride
This was one of my favorite adventures in the South Coast because it was my first time seeing a glacier. The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is exactly what the name is: it’s a glacier lagoon and it’s not far from the black sand beaches. Jökulsárlón translates to “Glacier’s River Lagoon” and it’s also the country’s deepest lake at 814 feet deep. Because the lake connects to the ocean and saltwater mixes with the freshwater, it gives off a very blue hue.
If you really want to experience this glacier lagoon like I did, I recommend booking a boat ride! A boat ride will allow you to see the 1,000-year old icebergs and its ice that breaks away from the glacier and maybe even get a glimpse of seals like I did. It was a nice experience seeing all the different ice formations (and being mesmerized by the stripes in the ice which is a mixture of volcanic ash) and I even got to hold ice from an iceberg!
10. Solheimajokull Glacier and Glacier Hiking
This was one hike I did not get to do, but I did still have the opportunity to see the glacier! I wasn’t healthy enough to do the glacier hike since dealing with a disease that can give me muscle pains and glacier hiking/climbing requires you to be a bit fit.
Solheimajokull Glacier is massive and there is an easy trail to see it up close (that is if you’re not glacier climbing!) and you even get a nice view of the lagoon among the scenic valley views.
The glacier is notable for its crevasses, caves (you can’t go inside it unless you go with an expert because it could be dangerous), and the striped colors of the volcanic ash and ice because the glacier is actually sitting right in between two volcanoes, Eyjafjallajökull and Katla.
If you really want to see the lagoon close up, you can hike down off the trail as I did. (There was no official trail, I just walked down since it’s easy to see how to walk back up in the summer.)