Although it’s an island, Iceland is actually a pretty big country. There are approximately one billion gorgeous locations across the island, ranging from waterfalls to canyons to beaches to mountains and pretty much everything in between. To make this article a little more manageable, we’re going to focus on the southern part of the island. So, here are our tips for what to do in Iceland, focusing specifically on the southern coast!
Reykjavik is seriously THE coolest little town. It’s full of Icelanders with incredible accents, good food (and some weird food, as well!), good drinks, beautiful buildings, and tons of activities. Definitely check out the Hallsgrimkirkja, the iconic church at the top of the city. While there, be sure to make your way to the top of the church for panoramic views of the city, ocean, and mountains. It’s worth the $8 elevator ticket!
If you’re interested in expanding your pallet and trying some Icelandic cuisine, consider trying the Icelandic feast from Sushi Samba. This unique seven-course meal starts with a shot of Brennivin (a traditional Icelandic spirit) and wanders its way through puffin, whale, lamb, sushi, ling, and char, ending with a delicious Icelandic dessert called Skyr. Prepare to splurge, though, as it’s definitely an expensive dinner option!
Soak in Lesser Traveled Hot Springs
Iceland is full of natural hot springs, all heated by the volcanic activity on the island. We stumbled across a BEAUTIFUL hot spring nestled in the mountains. The Seljavallalaug Pool requires a bit of off-roading and a bit of a hike to find, but the views are incredible and it’s one of the lesser populated pools in the area. A few people came and went during our visit, but we had the place entirely to ourselves for the majority of our stay. Be sure to bring some Icelandic beers to enjoy while soaking up the warm waters and beautiful views!
Pro-tip: There are changing rooms here, but no electricity, running water, bathrooms, mirrors, etc. Be sure to bring a towel, dry clothes, and boots for hiking!
Splurge on the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of those places that you just HAVE to visit. Sure, it’s incredibly touristy and perhaps overpriced, but I’d say it’s for good reason. This geothermal spa is insanely beautiful, wonderfully relaxing, and as some claim, even incredibly healing. Be sure to try out one of the complimentary mud masks and consider grabbing a glass of champagne at the swim up bar to truly enjoy the ultimate luxury experience.
Be Daring at Fjadrargljufur
This place is basically the little sister of the Grand Canyon. It’s an incredible moss and lava covered canyon through which a river runs. The views are gorgeous, the trails are endless, and it’s definitely a MUST on your what to do in Iceland list!
Witness the Remains of a Plane Crash
Yes, you read that right. Back in 1973, a US Navy plane crashed on a black sand beach in southern Iceland. Fortunately everyone survived, however the wreckage was never removed. Now, people can endure a 4 km walk down to the ghost of a plane and enjoy rummaging through the wreckage. It’s a creepy and surreal, yet beautiful scene.
Hunt for the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are most active during the winter months, when the skies are (usually) more clear and the cold temperatures provide the perfect environment for the lights. Unfortunately, it was extremely cloudy during our trip, so most of our hunts weren’t fruitful. However, during our final night, we were lucky enough to get a small break in the clouds at the exact time some aurora activity occurred. I may or may not have jumped up and down and squealed for joy at my first glimpse of the beautiful green lights.
Pro-tip: You’ll want to use an aurora prediction site to help you on your hunt. These sites will show where the clearest skies are as well as measure the aurora activity.
Hike a Glacier
Hike it, explore it, and even do some ice climbing!
One of our favorite adventures of the whole trip was our tour to Solheimajokull Glacier. I’m not really a “tour” person, but this one was small (maybe 10 people) and awesome. First of all, the glacier is incredible. It’s so surreal to explore something that is thousands of years old. Second, we not only got to trek through ice caves, over ice rivers, and under landslides, but we also got to ice climb! The guys at Arctic Adventures set everything up perfectly for us, taught us how to climb, and supported us as we climbed (or failed to climb) an ice wall. It was so cool (but SO hard haha!).
Did you know that many of Iceland’s roads are unpaved? There are thousands (ok, I might be exaggerating here, I really have no idea about the number) of unpaved roads that snake throughout the country. My best piece of advice for those looking for what to do in Iceland is to rent a 4×4 car and explore the unpaved roads around the country. Some of my favorite photos of the trip came as a result of our off-roading adventure!
Explore Lava Fields
Iceland is basically one giant lava field. The lava fields are endless and many of them are covered in moss, creating this serene, other-worldly type of landscape. I instantly fell in love with these vast fields and couldn’t stop myself from wandering through the infinite greenness. Although there are many that are accessible via main roads, there are many more that are found while exploring the unpaved roads. Another reason to rent a 4×4 car!
Aren’t they beautiful?!
Cruise the Golden Circle
This gorgeous 190 mi (300 km) ring road is full of waterfalls, geysers, mountains, and views that could impress even the most seasoned traveler. Whether you choose to rent a car and explore on your own or partake in one of the hundreds of tours offered in the area, this is definitely something you don’t want to miss. Beware, though, this is one of the most popular tourist routes, so consider going in the off season or later in the day so that you miss the hoards of tourists pouring out of the tour buses.
As I mentioned earlier, Iceland is essentially heaven on earth, so this list is just a fraction of the beautiful places you can see and the epic adventures you can have on the southern coast. There are hundreds of other sights to see on the southern coast (the epic waterfalls, Vik, Glacier Lagoon, etc.), but unfortunately, I had only so much time in Iceland and wasn’t able to check everything off of my list. Here’s hoping I’ll have more opportunities to explore this amazing place soon!
Do you have anything to add to this what to do in Iceland list? Let us know in the comments!
Manini girl, Erica
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