Updated: Feb 28, 2022
If you are on a short trip to Iceland with accommodations booked in Reykjavik for the duration of your stay, don’t rule out seeing more of the island. You can experience many of the wonders of the South Coast within a two hour drive from the capital
Stop One: Selfoss
Just under an hour from Reykjavik you’ll come across the town of Selfoss. This will be your last good opportunity to fill up your car and stomach with fuel before you reach Vík, the final stop of this itinerary. In Iceland, it is imperative to always keep an eye on your fuel tank as you will often go long stretches of road without coming across civilization. Take advantage of this stop to see a bit of the quaint town and what life looks like outside of the capital. Enjoy the scenic terrain for the next hour as you drive towards your first real South Coast stop.
Stop Two: Seljalandsfoss
If you are planning a trip to Iceland, you have already seen photos of the astounding Seljalandsfoss. Just a short walk from the parking lot leads you to a path that will give you perfect views of the waterfall from both in front of and behind it! Yes, you can walk behind this 200 ft waterfall. Although the ground may be slightly slick, the path behind the waterfall is wide enough to feel safe and worth taking a lap, or two. Both of the “entrances” to the path require some agility to move up and down rocks. Poles or assistance could be helpful. As with many locations in Iceland, raincoats are recommended.
Stop Two: Skógafoss
Drive another thirty minutes with rocky cliffs on your left and flat plains with ocean views on your right - the journey is truly part of the destination in Iceland. While Skógafoss is approximately the same height as Seljalandsfoss, it has an impressive width of over 80 ft. Take in the view from the misty bottom before climbing 527 steps to the viewing platform which puts you above the waterfall and feels like the top of the world. Here, avid hikers can begin the over 16 mile long Fimmvörðuháls trail where there will be plenty of additional waterfalls. You can also take a short walk up the path to see further up the river before returning to your car.
Stop Three: Reynisfjara Beach
It’s only another thirty minute drive from Skógafoss to Reynisfjara beach, where you get multiple impressive geological features to treat your eyes to all in one stop. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the iconic black sand beaches, a sea cave, the famous rock pillars for which the beach is known, and basalt sea stacks towering in the sea. While taking in the beautiful and impressive scenery, you will notice enormous waves. These waves are sneaker waves and not to be messed with. This beach is enjoyable and well worth the stop, but to be safe make sure you keep your distance from the water.
Stop Four: Vík
Less than fifteen minutes away is Vík, a small picturesque seaside village with a population under four hundred. Looking over the town is Víkurkirkja Church. Like the town, the church is relatively new. Built-in 1934, this is a perfect spot to get a good picture and an even better view. Although the town is small, you can fill an evening here. Try taking a horseback ride along the beach, seeing an indoor lava show, or grabbing a bite to eat before making the two and a half hour drive back to Reykjavik.
If you are visiting Iceland in the Summer and have extra hours of daylight or find yourself speeding through the four above MUST SEE stops, here are a few bonus locations to swing by.
A partially hidden waterfall in a narrow canyon north of the nearby Seljalandsfoss.
Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
A rustic hot spring, and the oldest pool in Iceland, it is rumored to be warm, not hot, with algae and seaweed. The surroundings are beautiful and a twenty minute hike takes you to the free pool.
Looking like a scene from the Shire, these man-made caves were made in a rock formation and hold a murderous history surrounding either a man or troll (verdict is still out).
Step back into history spread out across multiple buildings at Skógar Museum located right near Skógafoss. View a model turf farm, traditional church, schoolhouse, and artifacts from the Icelandic countryside. Guided tours are available.
A one hundred foot waterfall hidden within a mossy gorge close to Skógafoss.
The social-media-famous 1973 plane wreck, from which all passengers survived, takes two hours of walking to visit. While it is on a beautiful black sand beach and makes for amazing photos, it is tough to squeeze into an already full day.
A castle-like lighthouse from 1910 is perfectly planted in rugged terrain. A visit here allows you to see a massive rock arching into the ocean. Between May and September you may be treated to puffins.
Although my personal preference for traveling around Iceland is renting your own car, there are plenty of tour groups that will take you to all of the major stops as well. If this is more of your MO, consider a tour from: Get Your Guide, Guide to Iceland, or Arctic Adventures