The Ultimate Itinerary for South Iceland + Highlights

Putting together a good itinerary for Iceland can be quite a task. There are so many beautiful things to see, and it can be challenging to estimate how much time you’ll need for each place. To make it easy for you, we are sharing the ultimate itinerary for South Iceland. With this itinerary full of tips, you’ll not only check off the most beautiful attractions in Iceland but also embark on some beautiful hikes. Because that’s the perfect way to enjoy the rugged landscapes that Iceland has to offer.

Why Is This Itinerary Only for South Iceland?

Because the majority of Iceland’s most diverse attractions are located in the south, and because Iceland is a perfect “in-between travel destination,” most people opt for a period of around 8 days to keep it affordable and save enough vacation days for longer trips. Therefore, we have created an itinerary where you get to see as many diverse things as possible without spending entire days in the car. You probably don’t want to cram your days in Iceland too full but still want to experience as much as possible of this incredible country. Some people drive around the whole of Iceland in 10 days, but that means spending a lot of time in the car, and it feels more like checking items off a list. If you do want to drive around the entire country, you’ll need at least 14 days. Of course, that’s an exciting option as well, but it becomes more of the same after a while. At least, that has been our experience. Check out the itinerary below, and you’ll see that in the south, you’ll encounter more than enough beauty to have an authentic Iceland experience.

Pay attention: In the winter, there are fewer daylight hours per day, which means you have less time to see things. For this itinerary, we assume around 9 hours of daylight per day. This means you’ll be on the road, including stops and lunch, from approximately 09:00 to 18:00. Depending on the month, you might need to adjust these times. Even if you visit Iceland in the summer and have around 21 hours of daylight, after 9 hours of driving, hiking, and taking in all the impressions, you’ll likely be quite tired. In our article, you can find an overview by month of the number of daylight hours per day in Iceland.

Transportation Options for this Travel Itinerary

When you embark on a journey through Iceland, the chances are high that you’ll rent a car. 90% of all tourists rent a car in Iceland because there is no public transportation outside of Reykjavik, and tours from Reykjavik can be very expensive. Therefore, a road trip with a rental car is the best and most enjoyable way to explore Iceland. Before you rent a car, make sure to read our recommendations for renting a car in Iceland.

The Itinerary in the South of Iceland

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Day 1: Fly to Iceland, Rent a Car and Do the Groceries

You can fly to Reykjavik, it takes 3 hours, and due to the time difference, Iceland is 2 hours behind. You can pick up your rental car directly at the airport, and it’s just a short drive of about an hour to Reykjavik. If you arrive early and have some time on this day, you can explore a bit of Reykjavik. It’s also wise to do some grocery shopping in case you plan to cook during your trip.

A Townhouse Hotel is an excellent base for your first night in Reykjavik. You’ll stay in a stylish room with a kitchen. Upon arrival, you can easily check-in yourself, but there is always someone available to assist you if needed. The hotel is located a bit outside the city center, but you can quickly reach it by car or bus. Another advantage is the free parking right in front of the hotel. Booking here also allows you to cancel for free up to 2 days in advance. Quite convenient!

Enjoy your first day in Iceland and get ready for an adventurous and unforgettable journey through this beautiful country!

Day 2: The Golden Circle and Reykjadalur Hotspring

Today, your adventure in Iceland truly begins. The Golden Circle is a route of attractions near Reykjavik, and your first stop is Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir is a rift between two tectonic plates that move a few inches apart each year. It marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American continents. While the entire national park forms the actual separation line, in the northern part of the park, there is a massive rift in the ground with towering rocks on both sides. Part of the rift has been flooded with glacier water, and at Silfra, you can go snorkeling in the extremely clear water, offering more than 100 meters (328 feet) of visibility. Does this sound appealing to you? Then check out our article with recommendations for snorkeling at Silfra.

The next stop is Geysir, a geothermal area where the geyser Strokkur erupts water up to 20 meters (65 feet) high in the air every 5 to 7 minutes. It’s a remarkable natural phenomenon to witness! From here, it’s just a short drive to Gullfoss, a gigantic waterfall that spans 20 meters (65 feet) wide. Before reaching today’s most exciting destination, make a quick stop at Kerið. This volcanic crater collapsed 3000 years ago and is now filled with water, displaying a unique green-blue color.

The Reykjadalur hot spring is the perfect way to end a day filled with impressions. First, you’ll embark on a stunning hike through a geothermal area, surrounded by hot springs, steam, and boiling pools. The trail leads to a valley with a warm river where you can relax and soak in the soothing warmth. It’s a peaceful opportunity to take in the Icelandic landscape. For more tips on Reykjadalur, check out our article.

The attractions: Thingvellir, Silfra, Geysir, Gullfoss, Kerið & Reykjadalur
Travel time: 3.5 hours – 135 miles (217 km)
Stay overnight in: Selfoss. Recommended options are Guesthouse Bitra B&B and Selfoss Hostel.

Day 3: The Most Beautiful Waterfalls of Iceland

Iceland boasts hundreds of waterfalls, and today, you have four of the most beautiful ones on your itinerary: Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss, and Kvernufoss. The first two and the last two waterfalls are within walking distance of each other. Each of them is beautiful and unique in its own way. Kvernufoss is, by far, our favorite because it’s often not on many people’s itineraries, despite possibly being the most stunning waterfall among all four. Just like at Seljalandsfoss, you can also walk behind Kvernufoss, providing an opportunity for extraordinary photos. Find out how to get there in the article about the Kvernufoss waterfall.

After visiting these waterfalls, you can climb the stairs at Skógafoss, where a beautiful hike awaits you. This trail is part of the two-day Fimmvörðuháls Hike. The views are breathtaking, and you’ll encounter many waterfalls along the way. You can decide how far you want to hike and turn back whenever you’ve had enough.

Attractions: Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss, and Kvernufoss
Travel time: 1.5 hours – 81 miles (130 km)
Stay overnight in: Vík. Recommended options are The Barn and Black Beach Suites.

Day 4: A Canyon, A Glacier Lake and Diamond Beach

Today, you have a beautiful road trip ahead, crossing through one of the most stunning areas of Iceland. It’s a journey of almost 300 kilometers (186 miles), with a different fantastic view of vast plains, mountains, and glaciers after every few kilometers (miles). Along the way, you’ll make stops at 4 remarkable places, with Fjaðrárgljúfur being the first. This 100-meter-deep (328-feet-deep) canyon is over 2 million years old and incredibly photogenic. There are various viewpoints where you’ll feel like you’re standing on a different planet.

As you get closer to the glaciers, you’ll pass by two glacier lagoons: Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón. Both are filled with enormous pieces of glacier ice, ranging in colors from blue to white. Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s largest glacier lagoon, and the icebergs float directly from the lagoon into the sea. Afterwards, these large and small pieces of ice wash up on the black beach. The shore is covered with shining ice chunks, which is why it’s called Diamond Beach. Throughout the year, you’ll find pieces of glacier ice both in the lagoon and on the beach. The amount varies depending on the weather and the tides.

Attractions: Fjaðrárgljúfur, Fjallsárlón, Jökulsárlón, and Diamond Beach
Travel time: 3.5 hours – 176 miles (283 km).
Stay in: Höfn. Recommended options are Seljavellir Guesthouse and Höfn Guesthouse.

Day 5: The Most Beautiful Beach in Iceland and a Unique Waterfall.

From Höfn, it’s just a 15-minute drive to Stokksnes, the most beautiful beach in Iceland. What makes this beach so special are the steep, pointed mountains rising at the edge of a lagoon. These peaks reach heights of up to 454 meters (1490 feet), and when combined with the black sand, they create a stunning view. Additionally, you’ll find a beach where seals often lounge, an old NATO radar station, and a Viking village that was once built for a film set.

During high tide, a large part of the area gets submerged, providing an excellent opportunity for capturing amazing photos due to the reflections. However, even during low tide, Stokksnes remains equally captivating. At the entrance, you’ll find the Viking Café, where you can purchase an entrance ticket and get a map showing the locations of all the mentioned attractions.

On the way back to Vik, you’ll pass through Skaftafell National Park, where you can take a beautiful hike. The highlight of this hike is undoubtedly the Svartifoss waterfall, surrounded by columns of black basalt. These basalt columns were formed when lava cooled very slowly, allowing the molten rock to crystallize. It’s a unique sight that almost looks man-made due to its striking appearance.

Another fantastic option is to take a hike on the largest glacier in Europe. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks reaching heights of up to 2000 meters (6562 feet), you’ll walk with special metal crampons on your shoes along the crevasses of the glacier. This is always organized as a tour, and you can book it here.

Attractions: Stokksnes, Skaftafell, Svartifoss & glacier hike
Travel time: 3.5 hours – 177 miles (286 km).
Stay in: Vík. Recommended options are Sólheimahjáleiga Guesthouse and Black Beach Suites.

Day 6: The Unique Sightings Around Vík

Vík is the southernmost village in Iceland with about 300 inhabitants. It’s a perfect base for exploring several attractions in the south. One of those attractions is the DC-3 airplane wreck. Due to a fuel shortage, the airplane had to make an emergency landing on the vast black plains of South Iceland in 1973. Over the years, the airplane has transformed from a hidden gem to a quite popular photography spot.

If you want to have the airplane wreck to yourself, you’ll need to get there early and be at the parking lot around 7 o’clock. From there, it’s about an hour’s walk to reach the airplane wreck.

After visiting the airplane wreck, it’s just a short drive to the Dyrhólaey viewpoint. On one side, you’ll have a view of miles of black beach, and on the other side, you’ll find a unique rock formation. If you’re lucky, you might spot the adorable puffins, also known as the Atlantic puffins, in this area.

The next stop is Hálsanefshellir, an enormous basalt formation with multiple caves formed by erosion during high tide. It’s best to visit this place during low tide, so you can walk around it and enjoy a beautiful beach stroll as well. The beach here is stunning with its black sand. Walk all the way to the left, climb over a few rocks at the end, and you’ll find yourself on a Game of Thrones filming location. There, you’ll see four rocks standing upright in the sea.

Recommended: If you skipped the hike above Skógafoss on day 3, you might have some time today to visit it. It’s only about a 20-minute drive from here.

Attractions: DC-3 airplane wreck, Dyrhólaey, and Hálsanefshellir
Travel time: 1 hour – 37 miles
Stay in: Vík. Recommended options are Sólheimahjáleiga Guesthouse and Black Beach Suites.

Day 7: Drive Back to Reykjavik and Visit the Blue Lagoon

After all the busy days, today is the perfect day to take it easy. The Blue Lagoon is a place you might have seen on Facebook or Instagram, and it’s the ideal spot to pamper yourself. This spa gets its name from the light blue water, a mixture of salt and fresh water, geothermally heated. The water comes from as deep as 2000 meters (6562 feet) underground, and the temperatures of the baths range from 37 to 40 degrees Celsius (98.6°F to 104°F)  . The blue-green color is a result of a combination of silica, algae, minerals, and the sunlight reflecting on it.

You need to reserve a ticket well in advance, as the Blue Lagoon allows only a limited number of visitors each day. Tickets start from $70, and with your ticket, you can stay as long as you like. You’ll also receive access to a locker, towels, and a drink of your choice.

Attraction: Blue Lagoon
Travel time: 3.5 hours – 168 miles (270 km)
Stay in: Reykjavik. Recommended options are A Townhouse Hotel and Exeter Hotel.

Day 8: Explore Reykjavik

On the last day, you have all the time to explore the northernmost capital city in the world, Reykjavik. It’s a modern city with a charming center where you can enjoy delicious food, have a great nightlife, and do some fantastic shopping. The city center is not very large, so you can walk almost everywhere. If you’re interested in whale watching, you can join a whale watching tour.

If you want to know more about what else you can do in Reykjavik, you can read our recommendations for Reykjavik.

Attractions: Reykjavik
Travel time:
Stay in: Reykjavik. Recommended options are A Townhouse Hotel and Exeter Hotel.

Our Favorite (Affordable) Places in Iceland

As on all our trips, in Iceland, we have searched for hotels and guesthouses where you get real value for your money. Lovely places where you quickly feel at home. Now, the hotels in Iceland are anything but cheap, so we also paid close attention to the price. In addition, we made sure that all the hotels in our selection have a kitchen that you can use. This way, you can save a lot of money, and the kitchen is often a cozy place where you can meet other travelers. Curious about the accommodations we recommend for this itinerary? Check out the list of our favorite affordable hotels and guesthouses in Iceland.