This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2016. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
Reykjavik is a great little city, but you can’t go to Iceland without exploring some of the countryside.
On my trip to Iceland, I did two road trips out of Reykjavik: One around the Golden Circle, and one down the South Coast. These road trips allowed me to see most of Iceland’s major attractions without having to travel too far from the city.
If you’re planning a trip to Reykjavik and want to see some epic waterfalls, black sand beaches, otherworldly landscapes, cute townships, and generally a whole lot of awesome nature stuff, then put aside a day to do this road trip along Iceland’s south coast!
Road trip along Iceland’s South Coast:
Of the two road trips we did in Iceland, the south coast was my favourite. This is where you’ll see some of Iceland’s best waterfalls and most amazing natural scenery.
It’s 2 hours and 15 minutes driving time one way from Reykjavik to Vik, but you’ll be stopping constantly to take photos and do some exploring. It’s worth noting that we did not complete this itinerary in the order that I have listed – we did a few stops on the way to Vik, had lunch in the town, then a few stops on the way back to Reykjavik.
If you’d prefer to do this itinerary on a guided minibus tour, you can book a South Coast Full Day Tour from Reykjavik.
Icealand south coast one day itinerary:
This magnificent waterfall offers a truly enchanting experience! You’ll spot the cascading waters from a distance way before you arrive at the turn off on the main road. What sets Seljalandsfoss apart from other waterfalls is its unique walking path that allows visitors to go behind the falls, providing an awe-inspiring perspective. You are guaranteed to get wet from the spray, so take a raincoat!
Seljavallalaug Zwembad thermal pool
Seljavallalaug Zwembad is hidden gem tucked away in the breathtaking Icelandic countryside. Built in 1923 and surrounded by stunning mountains, this is one of the oldest and most serene thermal pools in Iceland. Apparently it does involve a short scenic walk to get there and it doesn’t have any fancy facilities like toilets or change rooms, but it’s very pretty, fairly quiet, and free to enter!
As one of the country’s largest and most iconic waterfalls, Skógafoss is impressive from every angle. The river plunges over a towering cliff, creating a mesmerizing display of mist and thundering water. A constant spray that produces dazzling rainbows on sunny days can be seen at the base, adding a majestic touch to the scene.
There’s a path that will take you all the way up to the top of the falls for a panoramic vista of the surrounding countryside, and if you’re steady footed and not afraid of heights then you can stray from the path and climb along the cliffs to get some great photos (though please be careful!).
Solheimasandur plane wreck
Located on the vast black sand plains of Iceland’s south coast, this abandoned aircraft is a fascinating sight. The skeletal remains of a US military plane that crashed in 1973 have been sitting on the beach for decades, and the location is now an intriguing destination for photographers and tourists.
There is no signage for the plane wreck (at least there wasn’t when I visited in 2016), only a gravel area where you’ll see a few cars parked by the side of the road. It takes 40 minutes to walk from the road to the plane wreck (and the walk is suuuuuper boring along a desolate landscape!) but it’s worth it for the photos.
On the one end of Reynisfjara you’ll find a car park and vista point at Dyrhólaey, perched atop a majestic headland. This natural landmark offers panoramic views of the rugged coastline, expansive black sand beach, and the vast Atlantic Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. The dramatic cliffs provide a perfect vantage point for observing the rock arch that gives the place its name. During the summer months you may even be lucky enough to spot puffins nesting in the cliffs!
Reynisfjara Beach is a true spectacle of nature. This black sand beach is a destination where you can climb over giant boulders and explore enormous caves facing the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Don’t miss the iconic Reynisdrangar sea stacks rising straight out of the dark pebbles – it’s like a natural playground and the layered grey rocks provide an excellent location for photos (especially if you’re wearing bright colours)!
Vik is a tiny yet gorgeous little town – you won’t be able to resist taking a photo of its’ super cute church nestled among the hills! The township offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with quaint shops, cozy cafes, and a sense of Icelandic charm. You can stay here overnight, or just stop for lunch. We dropped in to Halldorskaffi for a bite to eat.
Tips for driving along Iceland’s south coast:
- Fill up on gas before you departing Reykjavik. Gas stations are sporadic, so be sure to leave the city with a full tank.
- Head out early in the day. This road trip can easily fill an entire day, so set your alarm at start early! There’s a ton of sights to see and you won’t want to miss any great locations because of a lack of time.
- Be responsible. Overtourism is a problem in Iceland, and the number of tourists could potentially be harming the local environment or culture. Here’s how to be a socially conscious traveller in Iceland.