One of the main reasons behind Iceland’s surge in popularity in recent years has been the increasing number of visitors using Iceland as a short layover when they cross the Atlantic. A common three day stop involving Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon & touring the Golden Circle means that many travellers in Iceland miss out on some other fantastic South Iceland attractions that are located further away from Reyjkavik along Iceland’s South Shore. I urge travellers that visit South Iceland to make the effort to spend an extra few days in Iceland and see some of these amazing sites on offer on Iceland’s South Coast.
10 Must Visit South Iceland Attractions
1. Town of Hella
One of the first towns you’ll see when you visit South Iceland beyond the Golden Circle is the quaint village of Hella. Hella is a great town to base yourself away from Reykjavik as it has a few budget hotel options (budget relative to rest of Iceland!) and is close to some of the popular waterfalls along the South Shore of Iceland. Hella is also a good place if you want to go riding on a beautiful Icelandic horse, experience a local geothermal pool or see the beautiful Ægissíðufoss Waterfall which draws few other tourists!
2. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular South Iceland attractions and for good reason – it’s absolutely stunning! Located about a 30-minute drive from Hella, just off the Ring Road, it’s easily accessible for travellers who visit South Iceland. The waterfall is approximately 60 metres tall and one of the highlights is being able to climb up to a cave behind the waterfall and see an amazing view of Seljalandsfoss from behind! Be warned though, the path up can get extremely icy making it difficult to hike up if you don’t have proper footwear. It can be quite amusing watching people trying to scramble their way up and then cautiously slide back down!
3. Seljavallalaug Hot Pool
If you’re looking for an off the beaten path alternative to the Blue Lagoon, a great option is to visit Seljavallalaug hot pools. Located just a short journey from Seljalandsfoss, the 25m outdoor pool was originally built in the 1920s and these days is absolutely free to visit and use. To get here, follow directions to the nearby car park and then it’s about a 15-minute walk to the swimming pool. Many locals visit this swimming pool with a few beers in tow so don’t come here expecting to be able to swim laps! Instead, enjoy the fantastic view of the nearby mountains and the fact it’s absolutely free! There are changing facilities at the pool and also please remember to clean up after yourself as there aren’t regular cleaners in the area!
4. Skogafoss Waterfall
Along with Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss is one of the most popular South Iceland attractions, however, once again it’s popularity is no excuse not to visit! It’s one of Iceland’s widest waterfalls and on sunny days you can often see a rainbow going across the waterfall lending itself to some fantastic photo opportunities! Make sure to also take the time to climb up the top of the waterfall where there are lookout points to get a bird’s eye view of the waterfall. There are also a number of hiking trails that you can take from the top if you fancy going for a bit of a stroll!
5. Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
About 10km from Skogafoss, intrepid travellers who are up for a bit of a hike can go and explore an abandoned plane wreck! In 1973, a US Navy plane crashed on the black sand beach – luckily, all the passengers survived, however, the plane wreck was never moved. Some vehicles used to be allowed to drive to the plane however in order to protect the landscape, all vehicles are now banned so if you want to explore you’ll need to park your car off the Ring Road and then hike 4km to the abandoned plane. There is no paved path and as the area is quite open it can be difficult to get here on a windy day due to sandstorms. We ended up skipping the plane wreck for that very reason however it looks like an incredibly cool site to visit in South Iceland!
6. Dyrholaey Arch
If you never got to see the Azure Window in Malta before it collapsed then don’t worry as Iceland has its own natural cliff arch that you can see when you visit South Iceland! Located next to the town of Vik, it’s quite a steep drive up to the top of the cliffs however once there you’ll be able to enjoy fantastic views of both the arch and the surrounding area. There are some great short walks you can take along the coastline and this is also a great place to try and spot puffins when they visit Iceland!
7. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Also located next to the town of Vik, is one of Iceland’s most famous Black Sand beaches – Reynisfjara. The beach here is an absolute delight to walk along as you listen to the waves crashing down alongside you. Along with Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the black sand beach here is one of the more popular South Iceland attractions however it’s easy to walk a bit along the shore to get away from the crowds. The town of Vik itself is one of the largest towns in South Iceland so is a good choice to spend the night, and buy fuel or snacks!
8. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
The black sand beaches of Vik is probably as far as the day trippers from Reykjavik make it so you’ll certainly begin to notice fewer tourists as you drive past Vik along the South Shore of Iceland. The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is an astonishingly beautiful place and one which photos simply don’t do justice. The canyon is over 100m deep and offers visitors a number of walking paths to take so they can enjoy the breathtaking views! Similarly to Seljalandsfoss, the trail here can get extremely icy so make sure to have appropriate footwear!
9. Skatafell National Park
Travellers could easily spend a couple of days hiking through Skatafell National Park when they visit South Iceland as there are a number of great paths to be explored. Alternatively, if you’re short on time there a couple of shorter one hour walks that you can take to see the glaciers in the park. The visitor centre at Skatafell can provide hikers with maps and information on different trails as well as letting you know which paths are currently open. The national park is also a great place to go on a glacier hike and there a number of tour providers that operate in the area.
10. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Nearly every site that you see in Iceland is spectacular, however, nearly everything you will see will pale in comparison to the spectacular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. It’s hard to put into words how absolutely stunning this place is so I will let the below photo do the talking! Apart from walking along the glacier lagoon, it’s worth also crossing the road to Diamond Beach whose name arises from the bits of ice that break off the glacier which resemble diamonds and lie along the black sand beach. If there’s one site you simply can’t miss when you visit South Iceland, it’s the glacier lagoon!
Places to stay in South Iceland
There aren’t many accommodation options in South Iceland so it’s crucial to book ahead if you want to secure a good room. We recommend first basing yourself in Hella to see stops 1 to 7 and then finding accommodation near Vik to see stops 8 to 10.
In Hella, we stayed at Hotel Kanslarinn for two nights which is located right off the Ring Road, offers clean budget rooms and a delicious buffet breakfast included in the price. Click here to check availability for Hotel Kanslarinn.
To see stops 8 to 10, we stayed at Horgsland Guesthouse which is located about 80km from Vik towards the Glacier Lagoon. The accommodation is fairly basic but is well located for a one night stop while driving the South Iceland Coast. Click here to check availability for Horgsland Guesthouse.
If you are planning far in advance, then there are also a few Airbnb options in Iceland however they tend to book out quickly. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, click here to get up to $40 off your first stay!
Visiting South Iceland Attractions with a Tour
If you don’t have a car in Iceland then the best way to see these South Iceland attractions is to organise a tour from Reykjavik. Most day trips from Reyjkavik will go as far as Vik, however there are also a couple of longer day tour options that include Skatafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We recommend booking in advance as these tours do get booked out in peak seasons. Click here to browse tour options or click on one of our handpicked tours below.
In my opinion, it’s a shame to visit Iceland and spend your time only in Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. Make an effort to visit these South Iceland attractions beyond the Golden Circle and you will be rewarded with amazing sites and scenery that will undoubtedly leave you wanting to explore more of this amazing country!
Have you been to South Iceland? Which place did you enjoy or want to visit most? Add a comment below!