The Ultimate 6-Day South Iceland Itinerary

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by Michael Rozenblit

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Iceland has always been a dream destination of mine. Like for most people when travelling to a destination that they’ve dreamed about for years, I had grand illusions of packing as much as possible into my 6-day South Iceland itinerary. 

I wanted to travel all around the Ring Road and see everything that Iceland had to offer. However, the more I researched, the more I realised that it simply wasn’t possible to pack everything in such a short period of time. Instead, I took a step back and decided to focus on seeing a specific region in depth rather than rushing through the whole country.

If you’re facing a similar conundrum and only have a short time in Iceland, then I urge you to not attempt to see all of the country and instead focus on a specific part. I guarantee that no matter which area you see, you’ll definitely start planning a return trip to this amazingly beautiful country.

Getting To & Around Iceland

You are almost certainly going to be arriving in Iceland via Keflavik International Airport, Iceland’s main airport that serves several airlines across Europe and North America. Keflavik is located about 45 minutes driving from Reykjavik, and it’s possible to organise a bus or transfer to the capital or drive yourself.

When it comes to getting around Iceland, if you’re keen to do it independently (which is going to be the most cost-effective and the way we’d recommend), then you’re going to need to hire a car. I recommend searching on to find great deals!

Alternatively, you could make a base in Reykjavik and head out on day trips to see some of the highlights in the Golden Circle and along the south coast of Iceland.

This is going to be more expensive and you won’t have any freedom with your itinerary, however, you also don’t need to worry much about advance planning or driving.

For instance, this full-day tour includes stops along the Golden Circle along with the beautiful Kerid Crater Lake.

And if you want to venture along the coast of southern Iceland, then this guided tour has stops at Vik, Seljalandsfoss, and Diamond Beach and also includes a boat tour on the incredible Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

One thing to keep in mind before jumping into the route is what time you are going to be arriving i Iceland. As our flight arrived late in the evening, after picking up our car, we focused on finding a place to stay for the evening.

A lot of week-long Iceland itineraries will suggest starting in Reykjavik, however, I think a relaxing day in the capital city is a nice way to round out your trip so I suggest staying in the town of Hafnarfjordur, a port town about 10km from Reykjavik which can easily be reached off the main highway from the airport.

Despite being so close to Reykjavik, Hafnarfjordur is very much its own town and if you arrive early enough it’s worth taking the time to have a leisurely stroll around.

The lovely town of Hafnarfjordur
The lovely town of Hafnarfjordur

6-Day South Coast Iceland Itinerary

Day 1 – Explore the Golden Circle

I suggest using Reykjavik or even the nearby town of Hafnarfjordur as a base for the first day and set out to explore the popular Golden Circle.

There are so many amazing Golden Circle stops to explore that it’s almost impossible to see absolutely everything in the one day. If you are planning on heading east along the Ring Road, then you will drive past the Golden Circle again so I recommend trying to see the sites that were located furthest away from the Ring Road.

Get an early start and head to Pingvellir National Park as soon as you wake up as it can get extremely busy, particularly at the entrance of the park. We only did a short one-hour walk through the park however you could easily spend a full day tackling a longer hiking trail.

We then proceeded to hike to the undiscovered Bruarfoss Waterfall before driving to the popular Strokkur Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall.

On the way back to Hafnarfjordur or Reykjavik, I suggest making a quick detour to the peaceful Faxi Waterfall and if you still have the time and energy then make a stop at Kerið Crater Lake. The crater lake is only a short detour from the Ring Road so if you don’t have enough time you can stop here when heading east or on your way back to Reykjavik.

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

ION City Hotel – A modern hotel with a variety of private rooms located on one of the main streets of Reykjavik. Rooms are clean and comfortable with the option to include breakfast in your rate.

Loft HI Hostel – One of the best budget accommodation options in Reykjavik, this hostel offers dorm and private rooms with a large common room and Happy Hour specials.

Hotel Viking – A Viking-themed hotel located next to the West Nordic Culture House in Hafnarfjordur near Reykjavik, they offer a wide range of rooms suitable for solo travellers, couples and families. There is also an on-site restaurant that offers breakfast.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Reykjavik

Bruarfoss Waterfall

Day 2 – Reykjanes Peninsula and Reykjadalur Hot Springs

Many travellers planning a south coast itinerary will skip the South West Peninsula as they leave Reykjavik, however, it’s definitely worth making a detour in the morning and exploring the less visited sites south of the capital.

Our first stop was Kleifarvatn Lake, the largest lake in the area and we were shocked by the lack of other travellers in this part of Iceland. The lake is incredibly beautiful and we made a mental note to camp here when we return to Iceland with a camper van!

We then proceeded to explore the geothermal area of Krýsuvík in the Reykjanes Peninsula, where there several wooden paths you can walk through to see and breathe in the sulphuric boiling waters!

Unfortunately, the thermal pools in Krýsuvík are slightly too hot to bathe in so we suggest driving towards Reykjadalur Hot Springs and taking the one-hour hike (remember to include waterproof hiking boots on your packing list!) to the natural hot springs whose temperature is perfect for bathing!

If you don’t feel like hiking, then head straight to Hella where I suggest spending the night and visiting one of the local swimming pools instead.

Visiting a swimming pool in Iceland is a quintessential local experience and as it only costs a few dollars, it’s great if you’re trying to reduce your overall trip cost in Iceland!

Where to Stay in Hella

Hotel Kanslarinn – Located right off the Ring Road, this hotel has clean budget rooms and offers a delicious buffet breakfast every morning included in the room rate.

Stracta Hotel Hella – A modern hotel that offers a range of private rooms and apartments suitable for families. Breakfast is included in the room rate and some rooms have a hot tub that is perfect to soothe your sore muscles after hiking!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Hella!

Kleifarvatn Lake
Kleifarvatn Lake

Day 3 – Horse Riding and Waterfalls

Hella is a great town to base yourself as it’s a convenient stop along the Ring Road and there are a number of activities you can actually organise in the town itself including fishing and even playing a round of golf! In fact, there are lots of things to do when you visit the south coast beyond glaciers, natural sites and ice caves!

We took the opportunity to go horse riding on of Iceland’s majestic horses! Our two-hour ride was filled with beautiful scenery, interesting stories and an overall wonderful experience as we rode through the stunning countryside.

Spend the afternoon by starting to explore some of South Iceland’s attractions on the way to Vik. Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are two popular waterfalls on the South Icelandic coast that are situated along the Ring Road.

You can take a short walk to a cave behind Seljalandsfoss while at Skogafoss you can climb up the hill next to it to get a view from above! The Seljavallalaug Hot Pool is located in between the two waterfalls and a good stop if you fancy a quick dip in the 25m metre pool surrounded by mountains!

From these waterfalls drive to the town of Vik where I recommend staying the night. The town of Vik is a good refuel stop and a great place to stretch your legs by strolling along one of Iceland’s famous black sand beaches – including the iconic Reynisfjara Beach. It’s also worth driving to the top of the nearby cliffs to get a great view of the Dyrholaey Arch and the surrounding coastline.

Where to Stay in Vik

Hótel Kría – A hotel in the centre of town and close to the black sand beaches. They offer modern and clean rooms with a great buffet breakfast included in the daily rate.

Vik Apartments – A self-catered apartment that can house up to six people, making it a great option if travelling with children. They are located in the centre of Vik.

The Barn – A great modern hostel that offers both dorm and private rooms. It’s located a few kilometres from the centre of Vik and is a great place to stay if travelling in Iceland on a budget.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Vik


Day 4 – Black sand beaches and glaciers

Day four is packed with more South Iceland highlights as you drive from Vik to Jokulsarlon.

From Vik, head to Skatafell National Park where, similarly to Pingvellir National Park, there are a number of fantastic trails to explore.

If you’re short on time like us, then it’s certainly worth doing at least the one hour walk to see the glaciers and lovely Svartifoss waterfall. However, you could also easily spend the better part of a day here doing a glacier hike.

The last stop on day four is the spectacular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. You can easily spend a full day here staring at the magnificent beauty of the glacier lagoon so I urge you to give yourselves enough time at this amazing natural site.

Nearby Diamond Beach is also worth visiting as it combines the beauty of the black sand beaches with parts of the glacier that have broken off and washed ashore. I think I had a little too much fun here picking up the large sections of ice and throwing them to the ground!

I would recommend staying near Jokulsarlon if possible so you can enjoy it one more time in the morning!

Where to stay near Jokulsarlon

Skyrhúsid Guest House – Located about a ten-minute drive from Jokulsarlon, this guesthouse is perfect if you want to make the most of your time at the Glacier Lagoon. They offer basic clean rooms for couples or families and serve lunch and dinner at the restaurant on site.

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon –  A great place to stay between Skatafell National Park and the Glacier Lagoon, if you want to minimise driving time back to Reykjavik the next day. Rooms are spacious with breakfast and sauna access included in the daily rate.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Day 5 – Drive back to Reykjavik

It’s nearly a 5-hour drive from the Glacier Lagoon back to Reykjavik so day 5 of your South Iceland itinerary will involve spending a bit of time in your vehicle.

As you’re driving back along the same route, it gives you a great opportunity to stop at any sites you might have missed along the way or couldn’t fully enjoy due to Iceland’s erratic weather (a good coat is essential in Iceland…)!

We stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon which is over 100m deep and has several walking paths that you can take to fully enjoy the stunning views of the canyon.

Other logical stops could be Reykjadalur Hot Springs, Kerið Crater Lake, hiking to the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck or even visiting the Blue Lagoon if that’s on your to-do list! Alternatively, just sit back in your car and enjoy the breathtaking scenery all along the Ring Road!

Visit South Iceland: Beyond the Golden Circle
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Day 6 – Reykjavik

We recommend spending the last day of your itinerary taking it easy in Iceland’s capital! Reykjavik is fairly compact so you can easily see most of the sites and walk around the city in a couple of hours.

One of the best ways to do this is by taking a free walking tour with CityWalk where the guides will give you a thorough and humorous introduction to Reykjavik.

Like the rest of Iceland, it can be difficult to stay on a budget in Reykjavik, so I recommend spending the afternoon relaxing in a venue of your choice.

Whether it’s taking one last dip in a local pool, hanging out in the botanical gardens or going to a local cafe with free coffee refills, staying in one place will keep expenses down and give you a nice mellow afternoon after a hectic week of driving the Ring Road!

If you drop off your car in Reykjavik on the previous day, you can organise an airport transfer to take you back to Keflavik Airport. Alternatively, if you have an early morning flight consider spending the night at a hotel near Keflavik airport.

Reykjavik from above
Reykjavik from above

Don’t try to see all of the country if you only have 6 days in Iceland. Instead, focus on a specific region and if it is your first time visiting the country, then exploring South Iceland will allow you see a number of fantastic sites both on and off the main tourist trail. 

This itinerary will also allow you to have some flexibility as if you can’t see a particular site due to bad weather at the start of your trip you can make your way back there when you return to Reykjavik. 

Are you planning a trip to Iceland? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments! 

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael


  1. I am traveling with 2 other people in the spring. We have rented a house about 20 minutes from the airport for 4 days and one in Selfoss for a few days. We also rented a car. What would be the best way to see the sights on your itinerary when we aren’t staying in different hotels but would be returning to a home base each evening. We’ll be in Iceland for a week.

    • Hi Kathleen, I would focus on Days 1 & 6 while near the Airport, and Days 2 & 3 while in Selfoss. Days 4 & 5 are further from Selfoss so I would suggest finding accommodation for night closer to Jokulsarlon.

  2. Your article with tips is very helpful and the photos are too beautiful. I will visit Iceland next month (first time ) for 8 days. As just me ( I travel alone and a female) so it is not easy to rent a car and ride to South Coast following your interesting itinerary. I will base in Reykjavik and plan to join local tours : one to southern island , one for Golden circle and one for Snaefellsnes Peninsula in 3 days (one tour every 2 days) so I have free time the second day to explore Reykjavik by myself .Do you think it is enough or too much for my short trip ? Please advice me which places I should visit and how to manage my time effectively. I hope one day I will come back in winter to see Norther Light with friends and definitely this time we will rent a car ( more convenience and flexible) for exploring the island)

    Thanks Michael


  3. Great itinerary for a week in Iceland, and terrific photos too. I’m really intrigued to visit this amazing place and it’s helpful to have a plan to start with. Thanks for the tips!


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