South Iceland is a popular area to drive along with plenty of things to do and see. For a list of places and detailed maps, please scroll down.
The most popular route to drive in Iceland is the Golden Circle.
Þingvellir national park is an historical site and around 930 the Alþingi parliament was established there. Alþingi continued to convene at Þingvellir until 1798 before being moved to Reykjavik. In 1928 Þingvellir was made a property of the Icelandic nation, under the preservation of the parliament so it's a protected national gem. Thingvellir lies in a rift valley, part of the Great Atlantic Rift which has been forming over the last 10,000 years.
Þingvallavatn is the largest lake in Iceland and a popular spot to go fishing during the summer and for diving or snorkeling in Silfra. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge goes through Iceland and this is the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Thingvellir national park, is one of the few spots in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rises above the water surface.
Gullfoss is one of the most known waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in Hvítá river and the water plummets down 32 meters into a rugged canyon. From Reykjavík it takes about 1 h 40 min (112KM) to drive to Gullfoss waterfall.
In Haukadalur valley is the famous geothermal area, Geysir which is one of the most popular sites to visit in Iceland. Today there is only one geyser spouting water up to 30 meters (98 ft), the majestic Strokkur geyser.
Easily forgotten missed while driving around the Golden Circle is the volcano crater, Kerið. Formed about 6,500 years ago the oval shaped crater is about 270 m long, 170 m wide and 55 m deep. The crater is filled with strikingly blue water and surrounded by red and purple lava rocks.
A list of places with GPS coordinates to visit around the Golden Circle area, South Iceland.
For a detailed Google Maps of the Golden Circle area click HERE
The Reykjanes Peninsula is a continuation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Many tourists plan to visit the Blue Lagoon after arriving in Iceland – The lagoon is located only 15 minutes from the airport, making it the perfect stop either on the day arriving or departing Iceland. If you arrive in Iceland with a morning flight, you have time to explore Reykjanes Peninsula before the lagoon opens. Traveler tip: before visiting the Blue Lagoon, pre-booking is required at bluelagoon.com
We’ve picked out a few noteworthy places to explore! Hvalsneskirkja, a stone church built in 1887 that is located in a photogenic area with an old cemetery that dates back to the 1600s.
Reykjanesviti lighthouse is located right next to sea stacks and cliffs with some great views. Enjoy the view and the island you see in the far distance is Eldey. Also, if you have time walk up to the lighthouse and enjoy the view. Right next to the lighthouse is Gunnuhver, very active geothermal area.
The bridge between continents. Located at Sandvík there is a bridge over a major fissure where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are continuously drifting apart. The fissure provides clear evidence of the presence of a diverging plate margin. When crossing the bridge you are going between the two continents, so you can technically stand with one foot in Europe and the other in North America!
Seltún is a high temperature geothermal area that has many mud pots and fumaroles. There is a walking path through the area and parking, located near Kleifarvatn lake.
Brimketill lava rock is a known natural attraction in Reykjanes. Shaped like a pool and formed by massive surf braking on the lava rock coast. Please be careful when exploring the site to take photos.
Here are a few more sights to visit around Reykjanes: Reykjanes Unesco Global Geopark, Almenningur, Arnarsetur, Básendar, Brennisteinsfjöll, Drykkjarsteinn, Eldborg, Fagradalsfjall, Festarfjall, Eldvörp, Grænavatn, Hafnarberg sea cliffs, Háleyjabunga, Krísuvík, Selatangar and Lambafellsgjá.
For a detailed Google Map of Reykjanes Peninsula drive click HERE
Seljalandsfoss is a unique waterfall because you can walk behind it almost all year around. (TIP: some days during winter the stairs leading behind the waterfall can be frozen)
Right next to Seljalandsfoss waterfall is Gljúfrabúi waterfall, only 2.min driving max! It is a hidden waterfall and you can get inside the waterfall by walking underneath a little cave. If you are already having a stop at Seljalandsfoss then you don't want to miss this one.
Seljavallalaug, the oldest swimming pool in Iceland is located between Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfall. To find the pool take first left after Seljalandsfoss onto road 242. You should see a sign for “Raufarfell.” If you hit Skógafoss waterfall, you’ve gone too far! You drive the road all the way in until the road end and you should see other cars (pool guests) and the trail to walk to the pool. It’s about 15min walking inwards to the mountain. Traveler tip: the pool is open to everyone, but there are no trashcans in this area so whatever you bring with you, please take it with you when you leave.)
Vestmannaeyjar - Westman Islands is a group of small islands formed by series of underwater volcanic eruptions. If you have time when road tripping around South Iceland then add a visit to Heimaey, the only island that is habitable (around 4.000 people live there). To access the island you need to take a boat ride from Landeyjarhöfn harbor. The distance from Reykjavík to Landeyjarhöfn is 136 KM (84 miles). There you can find a fairly new volcano museum, Eldheimar, which is great to learn about the massive volcano eruption that happened 1973 in Vestamannaeyjar. More information about Vestmannaeyjar here.
Dyrhólaey cliffs are great to visit for an amazing view overlooking the black sand beach and Reynisdrangar cliffs. If you are driving a 4x4 car then we recommend that you drive the side road to the top of Dyrhólaey, where a lighthouse is located. Dyrhólaey is also a large bird colony and you can spot the Atlantic puffin from April to August on the higher platform. TIP: Be aware when visiting during nesting season (May-June) there are time limits for visiting Dyrhólaey.
Reynisdrangar cliffs can be viewed both from VÍK and from the other side before arriving.
For a detailed Google Map South Iceland route click here
A list of places with GPS coordinates to visit around the route from Reykjavík to VÍK, South Iceland
If you are a backpacker, hiker, traveling in a campervan or in a 4x4 car then you certainly should visit Þakgil canyon. The turn off for Þakgil is “Höfðabrekkuheiði”, about 20km (40 min) driving from VÍK. Around the canyon is a camping area, some cabins and multiple hiking trails to explore.
While driving away from the town of VÍK you will see a mountain on your right in the distance. This is the famous Hjörleifshöfði, named after Hjörleifur. Hjörleifur was the brother of the first settler in Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson. Ingólfur settled in Iceland in 874. If you drive all the way to the end of the mountain you will see a big cave. Hjörleifur is buried on the highest point of the mountain known as “Hjörleifshaugur. If you have time to spare, we recommend hiking to the top of the mountain.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a beautiful canyon in the southeast of Iceland. The canyon is about 100 meters deep and two km long. The turn off is on the left when driving from VÍK (F-road 206).
In Kirkjubæjarklaustur there is a beautiful basalt column formation called the church floor “kirkjugólfið”. Kirkjugólfið is in a meadow just east of the town. If you are up for a little hike, then walk to Systravatn Lake (Sisters Lake). You can start either at the waterfall Systrafoss (Sisters waterfall) or close to the church floor. There are two waterfalls, Rauðárfoss and Stjórnarfoss just a few minutes from the main gas station.
Make sure to stop in Skaftafell national park. There you will find a stunning waterfall, Svartifoss, surrounded by basalt columns resulting from cooling lava. The hike is about 1.8 km long (45min one way). If you are not in a rush then enjoy some other sites on the hike e.g. Eystragil, Hundafoss and Magnúsarfoss. (Notice: If you’re visiting during the winter, please be careful because the path can be slippery in rain/frost.)
The last destination on the South coast is the famous Jökulsárlón (glacier lagoon). Only a few minutes before arriving at the glacier lagoon make sure to stop at Fjallsárlón, often called the hidden glacier lagoon. When arriving to the glacier lagoon go across the bridge and make a right to the glacier beach where icebergs flush up on shore. If you‘re lucky you might even spot seals in the lagoon or at the beach. Additionally you can take a 45-minute boat tour in the lagoon.
Other interesting places we recommend for this route: Lómagnúpur, Núpsstaður, Álftaversgígar, Laufskálavarða, Tröllshylur, Systrastapi, Eldgjá, Lakagígar and Láki, Fagrifoss waterfall, Dverghamrar, Hoffell glacier and Ófærufoss waterfall.
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