Continuing our Iceland series, having spent a 8 days exploring by car, we're sharing our top places to see in Southern Iceland for your next Icelandic road trip!
Here is days 1-4, with a map of our whole trip at then end:
DAY 1 - ARRIVING AT KEFLAVIK AIRPORT
Keflavik Airport (KEF) is Iceland's main airport, located closest to Reykjavik. It's a 4 hour flight from Vilnius, with cheapest tickets usually on Wizz air. The airport is where you can pick up your rental car (more about cost and what's included on our Iceland page) and can also get a sim card from a news agent's inside.
Stop at a supermarket to get food
Stop at BONUS either before you go to your accommodation (since it closes around 8PM) or early the next morning. We've emphasized how important it is to stock up on food in our Lessons Learned Traveling Iceland post, since supermarkets are rare once you leave for the rest of your southern Iceland road trip. Stocking up on food day 1 will save you not only money, but time and stress trying to find shops later on.
Staying the night
Having arrived late afternoon, staying the night close to the airport for a full fresh day in the morning was the best option.
We stayed at a lovely guest house, where the owners cooked up a fresh breakfast in the morning and we got to chat to fellow travelers around the breakfast table!
76 EUR for the night for two of us, which was for a nice double room in a shared house and breakfast.
Just look how cute the view is from the family room!
DAY 2 - EXPLORE THE REYKJANES PENINSULA
This peninsula will be a great start to your road trip, covering the southwestern tip of the Iceland coast. Here are the highlights:
The Bridge Between Continents
This area is where the boundaries between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet, which is also one of the main causes for Iceland’s volcanoes and lunar landscapes. Once you get to the area make sure to walk around and explore around the pedestrian bridge.
Gunnuhver Geothermal Area
This was one of the most unique places we stopped in all of Iceland. With bubbling mud pools, boiling water, steam and the distinct smell of sulphur, there's a pedestrian bridge you can cross, going right through all of the steam! And although you get wet, its fine and exciting. (We admittedly were a bit scared at first)
A lava rock formation in the shape of a pool on the edge of the ocean, definitely worth a stop to see all of the waves crashing on to the cliff side.
A HUGE lake on the side of the road... Its enticing blue and green color stands out in the volcanic colors of the surrounding soil. This lake has actually decreased in size in an earthquake around 10 years ago. You can climb right to the cliff edges of the lake, but it does get super windy at the top, so be careful!
One of the many amazing places to watch the ocean beating on the cliffs of the shore of the Reykjanes peninsula.
Staying the night
After covering the whole peninsula, you'll want to drive back to Reykjavik and plan to spend the night there in order to explore the city in the morning.
We stayed right in the center of Reykjavik at Guesthouse Andrea (72 EUR/ night for the two of us). Which was comfortable, but on the more budget end of accommodation, feeling more like a hostel.
DAY 3 - WANDERING REYKJAVIK
Hallgrímskirkja, Church of Iceland
Located in Reykjavik's old town, this interesting structure is almost impossible to miss. The inside of it is relatively simple, but the thing not to be missed is going up to the top of the bell tower. You have to pay for an entry ticket, but there are 360 degree views of all of Reykjavik to be seen including the surrounding mountains and bodies of water.
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre
After strolling through the old town, stopping for a coffee and baked goods, and having a walk through one of the city's parks, make your way towards the harbor and visit the Harpa Centre. This modern architectural structure has free entry, and its oddly shaped windows make for a great frame for a view of the boats in the harbor.
To be honest, unless you're planning on visiting more museums, a good walk around the old town will do you enough to get a sense of what Reykjavik is about, which means that half a day (5-6 hours) is plenty of time to spend here.
Staying the night
This is the time where you can get some miles behind you for the upcoming days, so we recommend making your way down the coast and aim to stay the night in the Selfoss area. There is an OK sized town here, which means there will be a decent amount of accommodation options, and you'll be located conveniently for the start of your exploring the next morning.
Try the Arctic Nature Hotel for a comfortable and modern stay. It runs about 75 EUR p/night for a double room and is great value for money.
DAY 4 - A DAY OF WATERFALLS AND A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
This waterfall is special because visitors can actually go completely behind it! Venture behind and through the cave to get a different view of the waterfall and walk around along the bottom of the mountain to venture away from the crowds and discover smaller waterfalls or even climb up onto the mountain in some areas!
By far our ABOSULUTE FAVOURITE place to see in southern Iceland! The sheer size of this waterfall and how close you can get to it is one thing, but our biggest recommendation is to spend a few hours walking on the top of the waterfall, towards to snow covered mountain peaks.
We completely lost track of time here. It's secluded, yet you feel safe because there is a path to follow, but you essentially get to follow the water of the waterfall to the mountains of where it comes from. And not a tourist in sight!
Reynisdrangar, Reynisfjall and Black Sand Beach
Driving further along the coast on your journey of the top places to see in southern Iceland, you can make your way towards the village of Vík, where you'll find these three stops at the beach.
The Reynisdrangar are basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain of Reynisfjall, which you might know more as the famous Instagram spot of people sitting on what looks like a giant wall of tall cement blocks. This is framed by Iceland's famous black sand beach that was actually ranked as part of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.
What people don't tell you, is that once you park your car at the black sand parking lot, its actually going to take you at least 30-50 minutes to walk down to the coast. So be prepared and plan accordingly!
Formerly known by sea men as Cape Portland, Dyrhólaey is a small promonotory located not far from the village of Vík. Chances are you're going to have to drive up a hill on a rather windy road to get to the top, but exploring once you're at the top gives you great views, AND you can also see the black sand beaches around you. For us, this was actually a lot easier than walking the 40+ minutes to the actual beaches, I talk about in the stop above, and can end up saving you loads of time!
Staying the night
Once you're done seeing all that Vík and its surrounding beaches have to offer, your next destination will be moving on the glaciers further east. From Vík it will be about another 160 KM, so we suggest getting some road time before you give in for the night. We went another 40 minutes of driving or so and stayed about half way to the glacier's at Icelandair Hotel Klaustur.
Accomodation in this area of Iceland becomes more scarce and accordingly more expensive. A double room for the night set us back 138 EUR. It's important to plan your driving time in this area wisely, as there are no towns for miles sometimes, and keep in mind that once it get's dark - there's no such thing as lit roads!
That tops off Part 1 of our 8 day itinerary and our list of recommended places to see in southern Iceland. Part 2 with glaciers, the Blue Lagoon and volcanic crater lakes is coming next week.
To see more from our Iceland series, here's our 9 tips for Iceland travel that we learned the hard way, or follow Often Out of Office on social media to be the first one's to know about our new destinations!
Our whole 8 day road trip itinerary