Iceland is known for its ferocious weather and stunning landscapes. While the whole North Atlantic island is open for exploration, those looking to see Iceland for a short vacation head to Iceland’s south shore.
The south shore has a brilliant landscape and is easily accessible from Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. It boasts black sand beaches, towering basalt columns and lovely waterfalls.
Iceland’s south shore seems to me like something out of this world. I noted how quickly the landscape changed from wild grass fields to lava rock fields. There were views of the ocean and views of the mountains, including volcanoes such as the infamous Eyjafjallajökull, which stopped air traffic in Europe for weeks.
If you have 3 to 4 days, Iceland’s south shore is the best way to see the most of the famous landscape during your trip.
Here are the stops you should make on Iceland’s south shore.
What’s a trip to Iceland without a stop at one of its magnificent waterfalls? The Seljalandsfoss is a great first stop on Iceland’s south shore. This 60-metre tall waterfall isn’t Iceland’s most powerful, but the ability to walk behind it, gives this one a star on the map.
Don’t forget to pack a raincoat and rain pants, because you’ll need it for this stop. As you get closer to the falls, you’ll see the wall open up behind it, giving you a unique opportunity to get soaked and up close to Seljalandsfoss.
Did you know “foss” means waterfall in Icelandic?
Skogafoss is a pretty incredible waterfall. It’s wide, tall and powerful. Plus, it always seems to have a rainbow if the light is right. You can get pretty close to the base of the waterfall, and you can take the journey up the 400-plus steps to the top.
Due to high winds, we were stuck here for the night; let me tell you, it’s not a bad place to spend the night.
If you have the time, you should look into taking a hike on sólheimajökull – an easily accessible glacier.
If you don’t, then take the time to at least walk closer to this massive natural feature. A lot, located a few kilometres from the ring road, will allow you to park and walk up to the glacier. (It’s about a kilometre, so be prepared for that). It’s a beautiful sight – and massive! Just do not go onto the glacier without a guide, it can be hazardous.
Along Iceland’s south shore, Dyrhólaey juts up from the flat surrounding landscape like an inland island. From the top, you can watch out for whales out in the Atlantic Ocean, and spot the waves crash into the shore. Dotting the black beach are spires of tall rock formations like claws coming from the sea.
From the top of this peninsula, you can see the Dyrhólaey arch and the black beach stretch out in each direction.
There’s a more accessible parking lot for the Kirkjufjara beach lookout, or you can brave the winding road up to the lighthouse to have some breathtaking views of the famous black beach and arch.
Reynisfjara Beach – aka the black beach
Iceland is well known for its volcanoes. During the drive along Iceland’s south shore, you’ll spot the infamous Eyjafjallajökull as well as fields of lava rocks. But what happens when the ocean continuously beats the shore of volcanic rock? Sand as black as night.
Black sand beaches stretch along much of Iceland’s south shore. One of the best examples of this is the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach near Vik.
Here you can also spot the beautiful geometric basalt columns that are found in numerous places around the world.
Just beware of the “dangerous sneaker waves.” Seriously. There are many stories in the news about tourists being swept into the sea here.
(2019 update: this place is no longer accessible and has been closed to the public.)
Getting to Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is, well, challenging to say the least. The road is riddled with potholes the size of the Icelandic horse. The short jaunt from Iceland’s ring road took us nearly 30 minutes of white-knuckled driving.
The end result, however, is worth it.
This canyon, created by glacial runoff eroding the rock, looks like a beautiful green scar taken out of the landscape of Iceland’s south shore.
If you have the right vehicle (aka a 4×4 or one that levitates instead haha.) then you should brave the road here.
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a beautiful sight. Icebergs, broken off from the nearby glacier, dot the blue silty lake. You can take a zodiac boat out on the water and weave in and out of these frozen sleepy giants.
You can also get close to these bright blue ice sculptures by walking along the shore of the lagoon.
What I love most about this lake is the silence. The icebergs are flowing but it is just so silent.
Jökulsárlón Ice Beach – aka the Diamond Beach
Have you ever wanted to hold a diamond larger than your head? Okay, it’s not a real diamond, but the icebergs from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon that have floated out to sea wash back up to shore rubbed smooth and clear as glass.
It’s a neat sight to see them scattered along the pitch black beach, sparkling in the sunlight.
Map of 8 best stops along Iceland’s South Shore
Here is a map of the best stops along Iceland’s south shore. Add it to your favourite to save for your next trip to Iceland.
What would be your number one stop along Iceland’s south shore?
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