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Iceland’s south coast stretches eastwards from the Reykjanes Peninsula across a diverse region that encompasses black-sand beaches and jagged sea stacks and basalt columns, and offers access to rhyolite hills further inland. It’s home to several notable volcanoes, easily accessible glaciers and a vast sweep of wilderness that offers ample opportunities for hiking, 4x4 tours, glacier walks and visits to offshore islands. Rugged mountains, powerful waterfalls and a smattering of hot pools provide a variety of experiences with a network of walking trails and off-road tracks linking the various sights.

While it’s one of Iceland’s wettest areas, I love the south coast for its diverse landscapes. In one compact area you have everything from volcanoes and waterfalls to black-sand beaches. You’re fairly close to Reykjavík here, but I recommend staying overnight to fully explore.

Iceland specialist Grace

Things to see and do on Iceland's South Coast

Geological activity

EyjafjallajökullThe south coast of Iceland is highly geologically active — Iceland’s largest volcano, Katla, is here, along with Hekla, one of its most active volcanoes, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull, which caused the 2010 ash clouds that disrupted international flights.

The LAVA Centre in Hvolsvöllur explains the effects that earthquakes, volcanoes, lava flows and glacial floods have had over millions of years and how they created the Iceland you see today. You’ll also get to learn about the elaborate monitoring system that surveys the country’s fault lines, rifts and volcanoes for potential activity.

An hour to the southeast, the Icelandic Lava Show in Vík is the only place in the world where you can safely get close to molten lava. The show recreates eruptions by pouring white-hot, liquid rock over ice, causing furious bubbling and creating different lava structures. This can give you first-hand insight into the intense forces that have formed many of the landscapes you’ll see across Iceland.

Outdoor activities

With such a varied landscape, the south coast offers myriad options for outdoor adventure. The most accessible glacier hiking in Iceland is at Sólheimajökull, an outlet glacier of the huge Mýrdalsjökull icecap. The region is about a two-hour drive from Reykjavík and activities here are easier than you’ll find in more remote regions. We can arrange for you to enjoy for short glaciers hikes, horse riding, accessible ice caves and options for snowmobiling and quad bike tours.

You can also visit the Skógafoss, a powerful waterfall, or venture behind the cascading water at Seljalandsfoss. Between September and early April, the region is also a popular spot for observing the northern lights — many hotels and lodges provide remote access and excellent conditions.

Accessing the interior wilderness

Þórsmörk Nature ReserveThe south coast provides several points from which you can easily access Iceland’s interior and the vast wilderness that lies beyond the ring road. The tracks into the backcountry are very rough however, and you’ll need to join a tour to get there. Most areas offer hiking far from crowds, but the landscape can vary dramatically.

Lush Þórsmörk is a deep valley surrounded by three glaciers, rugged gorges and jagged rock formations. In Landmannalaugar, you’ll find lakes, mountains and hot springs surrounded by gray, pink and orange-streaked rhyolite hills.

Þjórsárdalur is a valley in the southern highlands with clear views of Hekla, and home to Iceland’s longest river as well as Háifoss, one of its tallest waterfalls. Very few venture here, making this one of the best places to avoid the crowds.

Best time to visit Iceland's South Coast

Iceland’s south coast can be visited year-round but access to places such as Þjórsárdalur, the Westman Islands and Landmannalaugar is easiest between June and September. Glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull is possible throughout the year, but you’ll have fewer fellow hikers outside the summer months. You’re most likely to see the northern lights between September and early April.

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Audley specialist Brittany

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Suggested itineraries featuring South Coast

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in South Coast, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of South Coast

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near South Coast

    Accommodation choices for South Coast

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit South Coast. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Hotel Rangá, Hvolsvöllur
      Responsible Choice

      Hotel Rangá

      South Coast

    Ideas for experiencing South Coast

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting South Coast, and which use the best local guides.

    • Full day Þórsmörk private Superjeep tour with BBQ lunch
      Þórsmörk Nature Reserve

      Full day Þórsmörk private Superjeep tour with BBQ lunch

      Full day Þórsmörk private Superjeep tour with BBQ lunch

      Formed by thousands of years of volcanic and glacial activity, Þórsmörk is one of Iceland’s most dramatic hiking and off-roading destinations, where braided rivers weave through black sands and rugged peaks and glaciers lord over a sweeping valley.

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    • Snowmobiling on Mýrdalsjökull glacier
      Glacier tracks

      Snowmobiling on Mýrdalsjökull glacier

      Snowmobiling on Mýrdalsjökull glacier

      Explore Mýrdalsjökull, one of Iceland’s most renowned glaciers, by snowmobile as part of a small-group tour. From the mountain top, you can enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and coast and a close-up view of the glacier’s structure.

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    • Small group glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull glacier
      Glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull glacier

      Small group glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull glacier

      Small group glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull glacier

      This three-hour hike takes you up onto Sólheimajökull to learn about its formation and see the dramatic ice sculptures, ridges and crevasses on its surface. En route, you’ll learn about its structure and get sweeping views of the surrounding wilderness.

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