The South Coast Iceland Experience – The Viking Riviera

south coast Iceland

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    The south coast of Iceland is the place to go if you are looking to maximize a couple of days in Iceland. The roads are great, and the area is full of amazing attractions to visit. This is the area in Iceland that often has the best weather, and while the summer is known as the warmest, the other seasons have amazing qualities too.

    If you want to get the most out of a holiday in Iceland without doing a long road trip, there are plenty of good options. Going on a south coast Iceland road trip for a day or two is one of our favorite things to recommend. Along the south coast, you will be able to see many popular attractions as well as some places that are off the beaten path. Read on to find out more about the Icelandic south coast.

    The South Coast of Iceland; Why it’s so Popular

    The southern coast of Iceland is the most popular area in the country to visit. The entire south coast is littered with attractions. It often offers the mildest (and warmest) weather, and also has some pretty stunning beaches. Many take a trip over one to three days along the south coast. Most use Reykjavík as a starting point and often turn back to Reykjavík once they reach Jökulsarlon or Höfn.

    The Viking Riviera is the perfect place for any adventurous visitor. This is one of the few areas in Iceland where you can enjoy a good dip in the ocean (preferably in the summer) without it being too cold. You just need to pick your place to swim carefully, as places like Reynisfjara are notorious for having sneaker waves that can pull you out to sea.

    south coast Iceland

    The south coast of Iceland is also close to many hiking areas and nature reserves, making it an excellent area to go to for a camping trip. The southern region also provides easy access to some of the country's most stunning green areas and highlands.

    There is even a biking path between three of the lighthouses on the south coast of Iceland that has become increasingly popular. It will take roughly a day to complete, but it is supposed to be a really nice route.

    The Weather on the South Coast of Iceland

    As with most places in this country, the weather and climate in Iceland will be unpredictable – and that includes the south. Along the south shore of Iceland, however, you are more likely to have a nice, warm day in the summer than in any other part of the country.

    The weather along the south coast of Iceland follows the same pattern as in the rest of the country. Snowy winters, wet and windy falls and springs, and summers that are warm (by Icelandic standards). When it comes to weather and climate, you need to choose the time to visit carefully.

    The Winter Months

    The winters are often quite harsh with temperatures that go well below zero degrees Celsius, and the weather will seldom be calm. The days are short, but the ground will be covered in a stunning white blanket of snow. Luckily, your Iceland south coast itinerary can include plenty of winter activities and attractions. We just urge you to keep an eye on the weather via the national weather forecast website, so that you don’t drive into any undesirable situations.

    South Coast Iceland, Winter

    The Summer Months

    In the summertime, you might get the chance to experience all four seasons in one day if you’re lucky. You might wake up to some gloomy rain, but get to spend lunchtime with the shining sun, just to have the weather turn into hail or snow in the late afternoon. So, when you’re on your Iceland south coast tour, you should be prepared with both sunglasses and a raincoat. Leave the umbrella, though, the wind will just grab it, and it won’t help you much.

    South coast of Iceland summer

    The Shoulder Months

    The shoulder months are the times of the year when you should visit the many waterfalls that can be found along the south coast of Iceland. In the spring, all the meltwater runs down from mountains and glaciers, filling up the rivers to the brim. This creates majestic waterfalls that you simply can’t see in the summer or winter. In the fall, the excessive amount of rainwater does the same thing.

    South Iceland shoulder months

    When to Go to the South Coast of Iceland

    When you have chosen which season you’d rather visit the south coast of Iceland, it’s time to start picking dates.

    If you are in the area to marvel at majestic waterfalls, you should come at the end of spring, sometime in April, or in the middle of fall (sometime in October). The weather will still be manageable, and you will be able to catch the water flows when they are at their peaks. You will also experience the amazing horizontal rain in the fall. Likewise, the indescribable feeling of having days become longer and longer in the spring.

    The south coast of Iceland is popular for spotting the Northern Lights in the winter months when the skies are clear. To have the best chance of spotting this in the wintertime, you should come to Iceland somewhere in December, preferably around the winter solstice. You will also be able to visit plenty of glacier caves and ice caves in the wintertime, so make sure to bring really warm clothing.

    In the summertime, there is no specific month that is better than the others in terms of experiencing attractions. You will have the company of many other visitors all throughout the summer months. Thus, the prices for most things will be slightly raised, as it is the peak tourism season in Iceland.

    south shore Iceland

    Driving the South Coast of Iceland

    As with most trips you take in this country, you will rely heavily on Ring Road 1 when you drive along the south coast of Iceland. This road is generally in good condition, and you will be able to drive and navigate it with ease, even in the wintertime. If you are ever worried, you can always keep an eye on the website for the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration. They will continuously update the road conditions there, so you always know what you’re driving into.

    As mentioned earlier, driving on the south coast of Iceland is not restricted to cars. If you are in Iceland in the summer, you could look into the south coast bicycle paths. You can either do like the brave and try to bike all the way from Reykjavík. Or you can make things easier for yourself and bring the bikes with you in your campervan.

    Driving in South Iceland

    Places to Visit on the South Coast of Iceland

    The reason why the south coast of Iceland is one of the most popular places to visit is more than just the vicinity to Reykjavík. There are plenty of attractions along Reykjavík and the south coast east end:

    • Easily continue from Reykjanes Peninsula or the Golden Circle to the south coast for Jökulsarlon and the Diamond Beach.
    • We also recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon for an amazing spa experience, regardless of your starting point.
    • Jökulsarlon is also a clear must on your Iceland south coast itinerary. Nothing says Iceland like visiting a large glacier lagoon that is filled with icebergs! Then take a stroll on a pitch-black beach with more icebergs on it that look like giant diamonds.
    • You should also visit the famous volcanoes Eyjafjallajökull and Katla. Eyjafjallajökull is the volcano that erupted in 2010 and halted most of the air travel in Northern Europe. Katla is one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland and generally has an eruption once every 20-90 years. It hasn’t erupted in over a hundred years, so the people in Vík I Myrdal (the town closest to the volcano) are a little nervous.
    • Close to Katla, next to the town of Vík, you can visit one of the most famous and visited black beaches in Iceland.
    • Other than that, there are so many waterfalls between Reykjavík and Jökulsarlon that you should visit that it would require an article on its own. The famous Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Svartifoss can all be seen here. All of them are unique in their own ways and will make perfect additions to a south coast Iceland experience.

    Iceland south coast itinerary

    The South Coast Iceland Experience

    If you are going to go on a south coast trip in Iceland, having the right gear is key to a successful road trip. Firstly, make sure to rent a campervan in Iceland to save on accommodation costs. The south coast is full of camping spots, so you don’t have to worry too much.

    Secondly, bring waterproof clothing. It’s always a good idea in this country, as the weather is unpredictable, and you’ll find yourself in plenty of soggy situations.

    Lastly, make a plan of what you want to see and do around the south coast of Iceland. Not having any sort of plan might sound fun, but it can quickly become complicated, and you want to give the stress a rest on your south coast holiday.

    Let’s go on an adventure!

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