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!

Explore Reykjavik

What to do in Iceland - Reykjavik

Photo by Erica

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!

What to do in Iceland - Reykjavik

Photo by Erica

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

What to do in Iceland - Seljavallalaug Pool

Photo by Erica’s fiancé, Antonio

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!

What to do in Iceland - Seljavallalaug Pool

Photo by Erica’s fiancé, Antonio

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

best photos of 2016 - what to do in Iceland - Iceland

Photo by Erica

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!

best photos of 2016 - what to do in Iceland - Iceland

Photo by Erica’s fiance, Antonio

 

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.

What to do in Iceland - plane crash

Photo by Erica

 

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.

What to do in Iceland - Northern Lights

Photo by Erica

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!

What to do in Iceland - glacier

Photo by Erica

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!).

What to do in Iceland - glacier

Photo by Erica

 

Go Off-Roading

What to do in Iceland - off roading with a 4x4

Photo by Erica

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!

What to do in Iceland - off roading

Photo by Erica

 

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!

What to do in Iceland - moss covered lava field

Photo by Erica’s fiancé, Antonio

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.

best photos of 2016 - what to do in Iceland - Iceland

Photo by Erica

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!

xoxo,

Manini girl, Erica

 

About Erica Kay

Manini girl Erica is our professional photographer, travel curator, and adventure designer. When she isn't busy working on Manini stuff, she's running two photography companies, petting her pup, eating her way around the world with her fiancé, or hanging with friends and family.

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Wow these photos are incredible! I’ve been to Iceland twice now and need to go back again! Seeing the Northern Lights and photographing them was truly a bucket list experience. Amazing article with some truly incredible photos!

    • maniniexp says:

      Thanks so much, Penelope! I can’t wait to go back to Iceland and hopefully see/photograph the Northern Lights on a clear night. It was still such an awesome experience!

  • […] Check out some more truly incredible photos from the South Coast over on The Manini Experience! […]

  • Kelly Duhigg says:

    Thank you so much!! I cannot wait to go this sunmer. I love the plane weeckage idea. That seems so cool. And the pictures are gorgeous. Can’t wait to see what iceland has to offer. Glad the Blue lagoon is worth it, eveb with all the tourists. 🙂

    • maniniexp says:

      You’re going to have a blast! It’s good you’re going in the summer so that you have plenty of daylight. You’ll be able to see much more than we did!

  • Melissa says:

    Your photos are fantastic! I have been dreaming of visiting Iceland for a few years now – so this is a great post listing out the places to see. Thanks for putting together a great post.

  • Dan and I are heading to Iceland in May. We will be volunteering most of the time, building trails, but it’s in the South, so I’m definitly going to favourite this guide for our spare time afterwards. I’d love to go to Fjadrargljufur! It sounds amazing.

  • Meg says:

    I’m planning on coming here next November – I’m thinking of skipping the Blue Lagoon though – I like more off the beaten path places so thanks for the alternative hot spring suggestion! Did you camp or stay in rooms? I’m trying to figure out how feasible it would be to campervan it in the winter. Definitely want something to hit dirt roads with though! Thanks for sharing! I’ve bookmarked this for later. 🙂

    • maniniexp says:

      You’ll have a blast! We stayed in rooms because, like you, I was nervous about camping/vanning during the winter. I’d like to go back again and do a camper van, for sure!

  • Kate says:

    This is perfect! You took some amazing photos. I’m taking my first trip to Iceland in April. So, how do you find the thermal pools? Are they in towns or should you watch for signage?

    • maniniexp says:

      You’ll definitely need to either do some research before or ask the locals. Many of them are outside of town a bit and the signs are all in Icelandic. I did some research beforehand to find a couple that looked good to me!

  • Iceland looks like an action-packed trip. I would love to visit the hot springs and the blue lagoon of course. I love the idea of road-tripping. It seems you got off the beaten path while still getting in the must sees. I definitely want to go to Iceland soon!

    • maniniexp says:

      That’s what I try to do with every trip – combine the must-do with my own little adventures. You’ll love Iceland!

  • Rhiannon says:

    There’s so much more to Iceland than the Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights!! I haven’t been myself (yet!) but will hopefully make time this year. Your photos are incredible!
    Also, I come from Wales and people always say our language looks like somebody sneezing/a child hitting the keyboard, but Fjadrargljufur takes the biscuit there! Such a cool language.

  • Beautiful scenery! We are outdoor adventure lovers, and the vistas of Iceland as we’ve seen in the Net and travel magazines have always captivated us. We would definitely grab the chance to hike and camp there. Reykjavic is cool too! It’s more like a rustic town than a chaotic metropolis.

  • Munchkin Treks says:

    I’ve never been to Iceland. I didn’t realize how different the landscapes were around the island. Reykjavik seems like a great place to visit. I love the perspective in your photos of the city. Iceland is definitely on my bucket list!

  • I can’t get over how beautiful Iceland is! I keep hearing about Iceland as an amazing travel destination and I’m dying to visit, especially now that I know the Blue Lagoon has a swim up bar!

  • Awesome! Iceland is on the top of my bucket list. I won’t miss also camping and diving in the Silfra rift. 🙂

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