If you travel to experience dramatic landscapes then the southern region of Iceland will surely be on your list. A land of fire and ice, the country’s striking and beguiling volcanic landscape appears almost to have been custom-made with the express purpose of stirring the soul of nature lovers everywhere. Even if you’ve never travelled to the country before, there’s a good chance that you’ll be familiar with at least some of its wonders - with Iceland’s awe-inspiring scenery featuring in everything from Game of Thrones to major blockbusters. The famous Golden Circle touring route, which winds its way through southern Iceland, is home to a host of jaw-dropping sights - from the majestic black sand beach and jagged sea stacks of Reynisfjara to the volcanic might of the Great Geysir and the stunning cascade of the Gullfoss waterfall. Iceland’s rich Viking past is also front and centre at a number of attractions, including the Musée de Skógar. Read on to discover more things to do in Southern Region, Iceland.
1. Pay a visit to Þingvellir
Welcome to the point where continents meet. Þingvellir - or Thingvellir - is a visually stunning national park which straddles the tectonic boundary between the North American and European plates and is one of the few places on earth where a mid-ocean ridge emerges from the seas. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is, unsurprisingly, characterised by a number of fissures and chasms where the earth is literally rent asunder by the colossal forces beneath our feet. Part of the so-called Golden Circle of famous Icelandic sights - along with the country’s famed geysers and the Gullfoss waterfall (more on them later) - the park sits just 40 km (25 miles) outside Rejkjavik, making it easy to reach, either on your own or as part of a tour.
Pay a visit to Þingvellir
Address: Hakid, Iceland
Website: Þingvellir Visitor Centre
Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)
Price: Adults: 1000 ISK (8 USD); Seniors and students: 500 ISK (4 USD); Under 18: free
2. Learn about life in Iceland at Musée de Skógar
Explore Iceland’s fascinating past and Viking roots with a visit to Skógar Museum. Boasting no fewer than 15,000 artefacts, it is actually three museums–one explores the folk heritage of the country, an open air museum that boasts examples of traditional Icelandic building designs and a technical museum which looks at the more modern past of the country - specifically the communication and transport evolution of the past two centuries. Located in the small village of Skógar (population only 25), it is also well placed for the stunning 60 metre (200 ft) tall Skógafoss waterfall, which sits nearby.
Musée de Skógar
Address: Safnavegur 1, 861 Skógar, Iceland
Website: Musée de Skógar
Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily, in June, July and August); 10am - 5pm (daily, from September to May)
Price: Adults: 2000 ISK (16USD); Students and seniors: 1700 ISK (14 USD); 12 to 17 years: 1200 ISK (10 USD); Under 12s go free
Speaking of stunning waterfalls. The Golden Circle is particularly blessed in this regard - and its striking landscape makes it a popular destination for day tours, such as this one. Departing Rejkjavik, it visits the majestic curved staircase falls of Gullfoss. This tiered waterfall, which plunges over 2 ledges into a 1.6 mile long (2.5 km) crevasse, is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, with its powerful waters making for some memorable Instagram snaps. Little wonder then that it’s a protected site. If you head there using your own transport - and if you time your visit right - you may be treated to a majestic display of the Northern Lights in the skies above the falls. Opt for the tour though, and you’ll also visit the aforementioned Þingvellir national park, as well as some of the area’s geysers - more on them in a bit.
Golden Circle and Thingvellir Full-Day Tour from Reykjavik
Duration: 7 hours
Signs of volcanism are everywhere in Iceland, and the Kerið - or Kerid - crater is a case in point. This crater lake sits in a 3,000-year-old caldera and boasts vivid aquamarine waters and steep red volcanic rock walls that just itch to be photographed. Unsurprisingly, it is considered another of the highlights of a Golden Circle tour, such as this eight-hour one, which departs the Icelandic capital and visits the hot springs town of Hveragerdi before enjoying stops at the likes of the Kerið crater, aforementioned Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir’s powerful jets of water, and Þingvellir for a walk.
Reykjavik: Golden Circle Full Day Tour with Kerid Crater
Duration: 8 hour
Speaking of geysers, the Great Geysir is another of Iceland’s natural marvels. A hot spring which has been active for some 10,000 years, its regular outbursts send boiling water soaring up to 100 feet (30 metres) into the sky - making it not only an enticing target for the amateur photographer in you, but also a humbling experience when you consider the sheer powers at play beneath the crust. Unsurprisingly, its impressive power makes it a popular stop on tours of the Golden Circle. As well as the Great Geysir, this particular nine-hour option also takes you through Þingvellir National Park, and includes stops at the Gullfoss and Faxi waterfalls, and even a visit to a traditional farm.
Golden Circle Small Group Full Day Tour
Duration: 9 Hrs Duration
Welcome to Iceland’s southern tip. The picturesque small village of Vík í Mýrdal is the most southerly settlement in the country and, despite its small size, its location on the country’s main ring road makes it an important hub settlement. Located to the south of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the Katla volcano, it wears its volcanic roots on its sleeve. It is also home to one of the country’s striking black sand beaches, Reynisfjara (more on that in a moment). This natural majesty makes it a popular target for tours, such as this south coast option, which also includes visits to the falls at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
Iceland South Coast, Waterfalls, and Black Sand Beach Day Tour from Reykjavik
Duration: 10 Hrs Duration
Ah, Reynisfjara Beach. Even if you’ve never visited before, you’re likely familiar with it - as its haunting black sands and the dramatic ‘dragon teeth’-like appearance of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks have made it a popular destination for film crews shooting everything from Darren Aronofsky’s movie Noah in 2014 to 2019’s The Planets science documentary series. The stacks - which, legend has it, are the petrified remains of trolls caught out by the rising sun - are just one of the beach’s attractions, with the basaltic columns on the flanks of the Reynisfjall mountain and the nearby Dyrhólaey sea arch among the other much-photographed subjects.
Southern Iceland Glaciers, Waterfalls and Beaches Day Trip from Reykjavik
Duration: 10 hours
Another marvel of the Icelandic landscape, Fjaðrárgljúfur stretches for about 2 km (1.25 miles), its sheers walls tower up to 100 metres (330 ft) above the canyon floor and the Fjaðrá river which runs through it - making for a memorable destination, whether you opt to head there under your own steam or as part of an organised tour. This particular three-hour tour includes the chance to enjoy a 35-minute hike through the canyon - as well as some of the views looking down into it from above - before being picked up at the other end. Other tour highlights include the Fagrifoss waterfall.
Iceland Fjadrargljufur Canyon, Fagrifoss Waterfall 3-Hour Tour
Duration: 3 hours
As mentioned a little earlier, any visit to the small settlement of Skógar simply has to include a stop at the stunning Skógafoss waterfall. One of the country’s most dramatic falls, it plunges 60 metres (almost 200 ft) over the edge of former sea cliffs into a pool below. Its striking photogenic features have made it a doyenne of cinematographers and amateur snappers alike - with its majestic curtain of water featuring in everything from Thor: The Dark World to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and a number of music videos. Will you snap something Instagram-worthy? Those who opt for one of the tours, such as this one, will also stop by it at some point - as well as such landmarks as Reynisfjara beach and a number of other falls.
Wild South Coast - Waterfalls, Black Beach, and Glacier Hike from Reykjavik
Duration: 12 Hrs Duration
Iceland’s landscape just itches to be hiked and is sure to prove appealing to fans of a good walking holiday. One such popular option is the Laugavegur long-distance trail, which stretches some 55 km (34 miles) from the geothermal springs at Landmannalaugar to the nature reserve at Þórsmörk. But if a strenuous multi-day hike doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then fret not, as some of the area’s tours include much shorter taster experiences, such as this four-hour hike near the Landmannalaugar end.
Iceland: Landmannalaugar 4-Hour Hiking Experience
Duration: 5 to 14 hour
Located close to Vík, the impressive promontory and sea arch at Dyrhólaey towers some 37 metres (120 ft) above the Atlantic waves below, the peninsula enjoys picturesque views back inland to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, as well as along the coast to the imposing sea stacks of Reynisdrangar. Popular with sea birds - including Puffins - Dyrhólaey is also home to a lighthouse, which adds to the picturesque appearance of the scene. Those who opt for this Private Vík South Coast tour will visit the promontory as well as Reynisfjara beach, Sólheimajökull glacier (more on this soon), and the Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss falls.
Private South Coast Tour from Reykjavik
Duration: 8 hours
12. Attend a ceremonial service at Skálholtskirkja
Set amid the beautiful landscape of Skálholt, the present-day Skálholtskirkja, or Skálholt Cathedral, may only have been consecrated as recently as 1963, but its roots date back to antiquity. Indeed, it is the 10th church to have stood on the same spot, and has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times. The history of the site can still be evidenced in the church’s pulpit, which dates back to the 17th century. And the crypt is also home to a small exhibition, which features items belonging to the National Museum which were unearthed in the Skálholt area. As well as local history - and a popular summer music festival - the still-active church continues to host a range of services, should you wish to experience one.
Address: Skálholt, Iceland
Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)
As well as its rich volcanic landscape, it will come as little surprise that a country called Iceland is also home to a number of imposing and beautiful glaciers. Sólheimajökull is one such impressive frozen edifice. Part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Sólheimajökull sits between the volcanoes of Katla and Eyjafjallajökull - the latter of which will be known to air passengers around the globe following the ash cloud travel chaos of 2010. If you want to get up close to this slow-flowing mass of ice, there are a number of tours on offer, including this three-hour option - a private walk atop the glacier which is suitable for experienced hikers and beginners alike. Just make sure to watch your step!
Private Glacier Hike on Sólheimajökull
Duration: 3 hour
14. Check out the interactive exhibits at Lava Centre
You’ve been enchanted by some of the natural wonders created by Iceland’s volcanism, now marvel at the colossal powers beneath your feet with a visit to the Lava Centre. Situated in Hvolsvöllur, this interactive museum - which also includes cinema screenings and exhibitions - explores the forces at work. During your visit you’ll be able to watch live monitoring of the country’s active volcanic systems and learn about everything from plate tectonics to the mantle plumes which punch through the crust and, in the case of Iceland, are the very reason the island sits above the waves, rather than many leagues below the surface of the Atlantic.
Address: Austurvegur 14, 860 Hvolsvöllur, Iceland
Website: Lava Centre
Opening hours: 9am - 7pm (daily)
Price: Adult: 3590 ISK (29 USD); Family pass: 7180 ISK (58 USD)
If it’s an evocative misty landscape you’re after then the hot springs in the Reykjadalur Valley will be right up your street. Famed for its steaming hot springs, the water vapour outgassing from parts of the valley floor lends the area an evocative, sometimes otherworldly, atmosphere. If you’re eager to explore it then this hiking tour may be an option for you. Leaving Reykjavik, it takes in visits to Hveragerði town before heading into Reykjadalur’s impressive landscape, complete with bubbling waters. This six-hour tour will also include a stop at a hot spring where you can experience the iconic Icelandic experience of bathing in its naturally heated waters.
Reykjadalur Valley Hiking, Hot Spring Tour from Reykjavik
Duration: 6 hours
16. Relish some yummy delicacies at Gamla fjósið
If it’s a memorable setting for a meal you’re after, then this family-owned restaurant is likely to appeal. Located within a formerly abandoned barn, now converted for life as a unique restaurant, it is situated on the Hvassafell farm, in the shadow of the Steinafjall mountain, and boasts ingredients sourced from the farm and local area. Tantalising treats include the likes of roasted lobster tails, tenderloin steak sourced direct from the farm, a number of juicy burgers, and vegetarian options. If you’re craving something a little sweeter, then why not opt for locally sourced ice cream or the famous Icelandic skyr with sugar and cream.
Address: Hvassafell, Eyjafjöllum, 861, Iceland
Website: Gamla fjósið
Opening hours: 11am - 9pm (daily)
Another for true hiking aficionados now, this trek is sure to appeal to fit travellers eager to explore the majestic landscape. One of the country’s most famous hiking routes it stretches for roughly 25 km (15.5 miles) and passes dozens of waterfalls - including an 8 km (5 mile) section that takes in the iconic Skogafoss and 25 other falls. Nestled between the Katla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes and traversing the famed Land of the Gods landscape, it can be completed in one to two days. However, it is only open for three months in summer and, while it can be tackled by experienced hikers without a guide, its dangerous and young volcanic landscape makes a guide preferable for most. The seven-day tour option below combines the Fimmvörðuháls and Laugavegur trails and will appeal to real outdoors enthusiasts.
7-Day Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals Trek in Huts from Reykjavik
Duration: 7 days
18. Hang out with friends over a couple of drinks at Smiðjan Brugghús
If you’re a fan of real ales, or simply want to while away a few hours in good company during a break from your south coast sightseeing, then a visit to the Smiðjan Brugghús in Vík may be on the cards. This young brew pub, which only opened in April 2018, boasts 10 different Icelandic craft beers on draft and also serves a range of tempting grilled burgers. And, despite its fledgling status, it has won hundreds of fans among ale and food fans alike, winning praise for its good music and night-time atmosphere, its American/pub menu and its vegetarian-friendly options.
Address: Sunnubraut 15, 870 Vík, Iceland
Website: Smiðjan Brugghús
Opening hours: 12pm - 12am (daily); 12pm - 10pm (kitchen)
If you were intrigued by the earlier description of the black sands of at Reynisfjara Beach but crave something a little extra special to make your visit particularly memorable, then why not consider taking in the sights and sounds on horseback? This tour departs from stables in the small town of Vík and takes riders along the sands, while enjoying excellent views of the mighty Reynisdrangar sea stacks. What’s more, the pace is relaxed, meaning that even complete horse-riding novices can be catered for.
Black Sand Beach Horse Riding Tour from Vik
Duration: 1 hour
20. Put on your dancing shoes at Frón Bar and Nightclub
At the end of a busy week of sightseeing you’ll likely want to let off some steam with a visit to a nightclub. Fron Bar and Nightclub, which is located in Selfoss, is open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and features a range of Icelandic beers (bottle and draft), wines, and dozens of cocktails. Its stylish interior - all exposed wood and chocolate and gold-coloured decor - will likely make for a cosy atmosphere in which to enjoy a good time with friends on a cold Icelandic night. Music fans will also enjoy the DJs on Saturdays.
Frón Bar and Nightclub
Address: Eyrarvegur 35, Selfoss 800, Iceland
Website: Frón Bar and Nightclub
Opening hours: Thu: 8pm - 11pm; Fri - Sat: 8pm - 3am (closed from Sun - Wed)
21. Tee off at Geysir Golf Course
If you’re a golfer looking for a truly memorable round then just picture teeing off on this course as a geyser sends a jet of water soaring into the air in the near distance. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Well the Geysir Golf Course offers just such an opportunity and was specifically laid out to take account of its unique surroundings. Located near the hot springs of Haukadulur, this nine-hole course has been enchanting golfing enthusiasts for more than 13 years and, in a tip of the hat to its volcanic surroundings, each hole is named after a different hot spring in the area.
Geysir Golf Course
Address: Haukadalur 3 801, Selfoss, Iceland
Website: Geysir Golf Course
Price: Adults: From 3000 - 7000 ISK (24 USD - 57 USD); 13 - 17 years: 2000 - 2900 ISK (16 USD - 23 USD); Under 12s: 1500 ISK - 2000 ISK (12 USD - 16 USD)
22. Plan a bowling night with family at Keiluhöllin
Whether you’re with family or friends, a fun-filled evening or rainy afternoon on the 10-pin bowling lanes is always a popular option. Keiluhollin in Reykjavik boasts 22 lanes and is open until late evening 7 days a week. There is also a sports bar on site, offering a range of drinks while you enjoy a game on one of the dozen TV screens. What’s more, it is part of the Egilshöll multi-purpose sports facility in the Icelandic capital, which boasts a cinema, ice rink, football pitches, and has even been used to stage major concerts - so if bowling isn’t your scene, you’ll likely find something else to do.
Address: 112 Reykjavík, Iceland
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 2pm - 10.30pm; Fri: 2pm - 1am; Sat: 11am - 1pm; Sun: 11am - 10.30pm
Price: From 3290 ISK (27 USD) for two
23. Take natural steam baths at Laugarvatn Fontana
Iceland’s various geothermal spas are an iconic image of the country - perhaps best exemplified by the Blue Lagoon off to the south-west of Rejkjavik on the Reykjanes peninsula. Another example is the Laugarvatn Fontana in the centre of the Golden Circle. Boasting natural geothermal pools and hot spring steam rooms (as well as on-site kitchen and bakery) it is sure to appeal to those seeking a little stress-busting R&R or eager to ease aching muscles after a good hike. What’s more the refreshing neighbouring lake comes complete with pontoon and a solitary sofa seat on which to sit and contemplate the wide vista before you. Relaxing.
Address: Hverabraut 1, 840 Laugarvatn, Iceland
Website: Laugarvatn Fontana
Opening hours: 10am - 10pm (daily, June, July and August); 11am - 10pm (daily, September to May)
Price: Adults: 3800 ISK (31 USD); Seniors: 2000 ISK (16 USD); 13 to 16-years: 2000 ISK (16 USD); Under 12: free
24. Shop for the entire family at Cleopatra Tiskuverslun
You’ve indulged in a little stress-busting therapy so how about some therapy of the retail variety now? The Cleopatra Tiskuverslun shopping mall in Selfoss features a wide array of fashions for her, plus gifts for him - ensuring you’ll end your Iceland adventure with plenty of stylish mementos to enjoy in the months and years to come. It is also open six days a week, giving you ample opportunity to swing by during your travels.
Address: Austurvegur 4, 800 Selfoss, Iceland
Website: Cleopatra Tiskuverslun
Opening hours: Mon - Wed: 11am - 5pm; Thu - Fri: 11am - 6pm; Sat: 11am - 3pm (closed on Sun)
Incredible Icelandic wonders await
Volcanic wonders, majestic cascading falls, and soothing hot springs all await you during a visit to the Southern region of Iceland and its world-famous Golden Circle. And, when you’re not exploring its stunning vistas, there’s plenty of cultural charms, tasty eateries, and atmospheric nightspots to enjoy as well. Where will your travel itinerary take you?
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