South Coast day tour | Waterfalls, glacier hiking, and ice climbing
Jump aboard, for an immersive day tour of Iceland’s incredible South Coast. Combine sightseeing, waterfalls, glacier hiking and ice climbing for a trip that you won’t forget.
You will be picked up from Reykjavík, and make your way immediately along the south shore of Iceland. This is one of the country’s most popular routes, and for a good reason; there are a huge wealth of landmarks right beside the road. You will make stops at two of these before reaching the glacier, the first of which is Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
This is a beautiful feature in the landscape. Plummeting in a thin stream from a concave cliff, there is a path you can take that entirely encircles the falls. This gives you some incredibly unique views of the water, particularly when you are directly behind it and looking out across grassy green fields to the ocean.
The next stop you will make is another waterfall, Skógafoss. This fall is mightily impressive, cascading from the cliffs with enormous power and throwing up plumes of spray as it crashes to the ground. While you cannot walk around this one, you can approach it very closely, and ascend a staircase to its side for some excellent views.
After enjoying these falls, you will continue to Sólheimajökull where you will be partaking in your glacier hike. En route, it is worth looking over to the left, for a glimpse of the notorious Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in 2010, and to the right, where you can spot the Westman Islands across the sea in clear weather.
Once you reach Sólheimajökull, you will be introduced to your equipment. When your helmet and crampons are strapped on, and you have your ice axe in hand, you can follow your guide up onto the ice.
The world atop a glacier is fascinating and ethereal. Gleaming white snow, bands of black ash from centuries-old eruptions, and electric blue ice colour the ridges, crevasses, and strange formations surrounding you. Be sure to keep your camera on hand throughout, as you will want a physical memory of the incredible views of and from the ice cap.
Your guide will escort you to a sturdy wall on the glacier for you to partake in an ice climb. One by one, your group will be attached to ropes, and you will be able to have a shot at using the axes and crampons to scale the ice. Ensure your boots are sturdy, to make this as fun and easy as possible for yourself. Once you have reached the top of the wall (or decided you are high enough), you’ll be assisted in an abseil back down.
After enjoying the glacier, you’ll return to your vehicle for a leisurely and scenic ride back to Reykjavík.
Do not miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the South Coast, and to explore an incredible glacier. Check availability by choosing a date
- Available: All year
- Duration: 12 hours
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Ice Climbing, Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum age: 14 years old
- Languages: English
From Reykjanesta and the next 100 km onwards, the south shore is characterized by lava formations constantly battered by the wild ocean waves (‘brim’ in Icelandic). For the next 300 km after that the shore consists of sands with hardly any harbours.
Along with the powerful brakers, there is rich birdlife in the lava shore area. As for the sand shores, despite the lack of harbours, people would set off for fishing there anyway, at tremendous risk and this would indeed often result in great losses of life.
The Westman Islands have the largest nest of Puffins in the world and you may see many whales around the island. Heimaey is the only one that is inhabited.
In 1973 the islands gained international attention with the eruption of Eldfell volcano in Heimaey, which destroyed many buildings, and forced a months-long evacuation of the entire population to the mainland. In an eruption at the seafloor in 1963 a new island was formed, Surtsey.
The ferry Herjolfur sails to the Westman Islands from the town of Thorlakshofn, on the south shore of Iceland and from Landeyjahofn harbour. The latter is located south of the small town of Hvolsvollur. The harbour was built in 2010 and remains at an experimental stage, its future useage as of yet unclear. Fares are lower on this route and the route itself is faster, as a one way trip from the harbour takes about 30 minutes, but this is entirely dependant on favourable weather- and harbour conditions. Otherwise the Thorlakshofn harbour will be used. There are also flights to the islands.
Skogafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the island with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland for travellers to visit. It is located in South Iceland, not far from Skogar, which itself features a highly interesting regional museum. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall often produces a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.
The glacier volcano of Eyjafjallajokull (1651 m) is located at the borders of the South Icelandic highlands. It featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe.
An ice cap of about 100 km with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull that stands at the height of 1651 meters. The diamaeter of its highest crater is around 3-4 km2 wide and the rim has several peaks.
Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano lies north of Skogar, and to the west of Myrdalsjokull glacier and the massive volcano there; Katla.
Eyjafjallajokull is thought to be related geologically to Katla in Myrdalsjokull and eruptions in the former have often been followed by eruptions in the latter.
The 2010 eruptions
The end of 2010 saw some small seismic activity that gradually increased and resulted in a small eruption in March of 2010, characterized by a flow of alkani-olivine basalt lava.
This first stage lasted until April 12th and created the volcanic craters Magni and Modi at the Fimmvorduhals trail. They are so far Iceland's newest vocanic craters, and still eminate steam with lava glowing under the surface.
However it was the second phase of the eruption that started on April 14th that created the huge ash cloud that rose about 9 km into the skies.
This eruption halted air traffic in Europe for days, and its estimated that as many as 107.000 flights may have been cancelled during the week it lasted.
The ejected tephra measured around 250 million cubic meters. This ash cloud lasted for six days and some more localized disruption continued into May. The eruption was officially declared to be over in October 2010, as the snow on the glacier had ceased to melt.
Future volcanic developments?
Eyjafjallajokull erupted in years 920, 1612 and again 1821-1823.
Its latest eruptions were the two that occurred in 2010.
Future volcanic developments remain unclear. The area is still highly active and can be quite unpredictable. It continues, however, to be closely monitored by The Icelandic Meterological Office.
Solheimajokull is a beautiful outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull icecap.
Solheimajokull is a rugged glacial tounge riddled with crevasses and spectacular ever-changing ice formations, jagged ridges and sinkholes and is popular for hiking and ice climbing.
The glacier river Jokulsa a Solheimasandur has its source at the glacier, flowing over the sand plain of Solheimasandur towards the sea.
Myrdalsjokull is a glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands. It is the country's fourth largest glacier, covering nearly 600 km2. It's highest peak reaches around 1500 meters. Under the icecap is the volcano Katla.
Katla is active and has had at least 16 eruptions since the year 936, usually erupting every 40-80 years. It's latest eruption was in 1918. Myrdalsjokull is to the north of the village Vik and east of the famous Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano. The popular Fimmvorduhals trail lies between the two glaciers. Due to Eyjafjallajokull's eruption in 2010 the area is closely monitored.
The South Coast of Iceland is the country's most visited sightseeing route, along with the Golden Circle.
The famed South Coast shoreline stretches from the greater Reykjavík area and is dotted with natural wonders such as cascading waterfalls, volcanoes both active and dormant, black sand beaches and glacier lagoons.
Geography, Nature & Wildlife
Iceland is divided into eight geographical regions. Out of these, the Southern Region is the largest, as it spans over 24.000 square kilometres with its administrative centre in the municipality of Selfoss.
What is known as the South Coast embodies the shoreline of this particular region. The area consists of a lowland that is mostly composed of marshlands, bays and cultivated pastures that are met by a series of black beaches where the estuaries to the east and west of the district close off the coastal body.
Underneath the soil rests a vast lava field, known as Þjórsárhraun. Its edges reach several hundred metres offshore where the ocean waves crash upon them, thereby protecting the lowland from the invasion of the sea. This results in the South Coast being unusually lacking in the deep fjords that so distinctly characterise the rest of Iceland's shore line.
The region boasts vibrant bird life during all seasons. It is not only rich with both marshland birds and seabirds but also migrating birds such as the North Atlantic puffin. Some species stay throughout the harsh Icelandic winter, including the northern diver, the loom and various species of gulls and ducks.
Highlights of the South Coast
The South Coast offers an unprecedented array of natural wonders that draw thousands of visitors each day. When driving the route from Reykjavík City, the highlights in their correct order are:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Vestmannaeyjar; The Westman Islands
- Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Volcano
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Dyrhólaey Peninsula
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
- Coastal Village Vík í Mýrdal
- Skeiðarársandur Glacial Sand Plain
- Vatnajökull National Park
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
These attractions count for but a fraction of what the South Coast has to offer. The vast sand plains of Sólheimasandur are home to a crashed DC-3 Plane Wreck, and close to Seljavellir by the Skógar Village there's Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland.
- Explore the many wonders of the area on these South Coast Tours
Starting time : 08:30
What to bring:
Sturdy hiking boots and rain gear.