South Coast Tours

Best South Coast Tours in Iceland

Explore Iceland's biggest selection of South Coast tours. Visit waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, Reynisfjara black sand beach, and the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
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George Bradley

George Bradley

19/02/2024, 22:22
Review of Unforgettable 8-Day Northern Lights Winter Package of Iceland with Ice Caving & National Parks

This was a long-overdue bonding trip I took with my eldest son (in his 50s). He had on his bucket list seeing the Northern Lights, and I signed us up for this package. On our return, my son told me as we parted at Logan Airport in Boston that the trip had been so much more than he expected, and he was very glad that we had done it. So was I. We had three guides who led various portions of the trip, and they were all excellent. Franklin, a very large, musical, happy man in his twenties had us first, taking us up into some of the national parks and scenic areas inland east of Reykjavik, where we saw various waterfalls and geysers. After that, we went off on a two-day excursion along the south coast led by Maria, a very personable woman in her forties, who knew the area very, very well, and who coached everyone in the group to stay up long enough to catch a great Northern Lights show during our overnight in Hofr i Hornafiror, which she accurately referred to as "the middle of nowhere." Our final excursion went up the east coast and out around the peninsula with another of those Icelandic names too long to spell or remember, except for the spectacular scenery. Our tour leader for this outing was Eythor, a wonderful man in his early sixties, who has lived a fascinating and successful life dealing in music and real estate, who now leads groups like ours not out of any need for the money, but out of a genuine love of his country and all it has to offer. We were blessed throughout the week with unusually sunny weather and clear air, which allowed us to see much more than our guides thought was usual for this time of year (February), and with more opportunities to catch the Northern Lights. But the real highlights of the trip were not the lights, but were rather the people we got to know and the landmarks we got to see. It was a great time. My only caveat is about "Guide to Iceland." What it does is package tours for visitors, which are actually provided by other companies. Both Maria and Eythor work for Nice Tours, and I assume based on our experience, that their other guides and trip leaders are just about as good as they are, which was A+. My problem with "Guide to Iceland" was that the itinerary they provided us with was lacking numerous key details- name of company that would be picking us up for our excursions, time of pickup, exactly where to be. And it was mistaken about where we were to be staying on two of the nights. Regular phone calls to their office, manned 24-7, allowed those details to be quickly straightened out- but I would have much preferred to start with a detailed and accurate itinerary. The hotels were excellent, the food was great. It was time and money well spent.

What is the South Coast?

The South Coast of Iceland contains some of the country’s most beloved natural attraction, from Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls to Reynisfjara black sand beach and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.

The South Coast is also home to some of Iceland’s prettiest towns and villages. Directly beside Reynisfjara black sand beach is the village of Vík í Mýrdal, home to approximately 330 inhabitants. Vík is known for its reserved culture, as well as for it being the perfect spot to grab a bite a eat or do a little souvenir shopping.

Other towns along the South Coast worthy of a visit are Selfoss (the largest town in the region), Hveragerði, Flúðir, Hella and Hvolsvöllur.

While the South Coast boasts an untold number of major attractions, there are also great swaths of land that are hauntingly barren as a result of glacial flooding that has wreaked havoc on the area for centuries.

Sólheimasandur is one such area, a makeshift volcanic desert that sits between the South Coast’s ancient sea cliffs and today's shoreline. The DC plane wreck is, perhaps, what Sólheimasandur is most famous for, having crash-landed there in 1973.

In stark contrast, some of the areas are luscious and green, particularly its long stretches of farmland and Skaftafell Nature Reserve, found within the unique and awe-inspiring Vatnajökull National Park.

Those with an extended stay in Iceland have no reason not to explore this most majestic of regions, a stretch of shoreline as much characterised by its beautiful nature and settlements as it is by the breadth of opportunities available. Birdwatchers, culture fiends and photographers will find this area as special as glacier hikers, snowmobilers, cavers or even paragliders.

Frequently asked questions

What are the most popular attractions along the South Coast of Iceland?

The South of Iceland is best known for the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss; the glaciers Eyjafjallajokull, Myrdalsjokull, and Vatnajokull; the quaint village of Vik; the famous black sand beach Reynisfjara; the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon; the Skaftafell Nature Reserve; and numerous ice caves.

When can I see the ice caves on the South Coast of Iceland?

Because of the vulnerability of the ice caves during the summer months, most ice cave tours in Iceland are only available for visitors between November and March.

How far do day tours along the South Coast of Iceland take you?

Some tours will take you all the way to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, whereas others will turn back at the village of Vik or the black sand beach Reynisfjara. Private tours may have more flexibility. However, most small group tours operate on a stricter schedule.

How long does it take to travel Iceland's South Coast?

Reaching the black sand beaches near Vik from Reykjavik takes about three hours. A return journey would thus require six hours of driving. Although it is possible to make this journey in a day, breaking the trip up over two days is advisable, allowing you to take your time enjoying the sights. Many people will start their trip by spending a day exploring the Golden Circle and then continuing their journey along the South Coast of Iceland. Multi-day tours starting in Reykjavik may also follow this format.

Where can I stay along Iceland's South Coast?

There are many options available, particularly around the small towns of Hella and Hvolsvollur, the village of Vik, and the town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur.

Is Iceland's South Coast crowded?

In summer, the most popular sites on the South Coast of Iceland—including Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the village of Vik, and Reynisfjara black sand beach—will undoubtedly have crowds. Crowds can be avoided by traveling outside of the peak season or taking advantage of the summer's longer daylight hours to visit these sites in the evening.

Are there any active volcanoes on the South Coast of Iceland?

Yes, there are. The most notable of these are Katla, which last erupted in 1918, and the famous Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which last erupted in 2010 and caused air travel disruptions worldwide. These volcanoes are well monitored by geologists and currently pose little to no risk to travelers.

Is Reynisfjara black sand beach at Vik dangerous?

The most dangerous part of Iceland's South Coast is Reynisfjara black sand beach, due to unpredictable sneaker waves. When visiting the beach, be sure to take note of all posted warnings and maintain a safe and responsible distance from the waves. Don't put yourself and others at risk for the sake of a photograph. Otherwise, the South Coast of Iceland is a very safe region.

Do I need a 4WD to drive along the South Coast of Iceland?

The famous Route 1, the Ring Road, goes along the South Coast and is paved and well-maintained. However during the winter season, it is highly recommended that you rent a four-wheel drive vehicle as the roads can be snowy or icy, and the winds tend to be stronger. The 4x4 will grant you better stability on the roads and allow you greater freedom.

What is South Iceland known for?

It is known for its beautiful waterfalls, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, and its extensive black sand beaches. It's also known for its geothermal activity, making it popular for growing vegetables in greenhouses, and it's also the center of Iceland's dairy production.

What should I wear on a tour to the South Coast?

It is important to dress appropriately for the weather, which can be unpredictable in Iceland. Wear warm layers and waterproof clothing, as well as sturdy shoes for walking on uneven terrain. Some tours may provide specialized gear such as crampons or helmets for glacier hikes.

How long does a typical South Coast tour last?

A typical South Coast tour from Reykjavik lasts approximately 10-12 hours, depending on the itinerary and stops along the way.

Are South Coast tours in Iceland suitable for children?

Many South Coast tours are family-friendly and suitable for children. Still, it is important to check the age restrictions and physical requirements of the specific tour you are interested in. Some tours may have age or height restrictions, and certain activities, such as glacier hikes, may not be suitable for younger children.

What is the best time of year to visit the South Coast?

The South Coast can be visited year-round, but the summer months of June to August offer the best weather and longer daylight hours. However, winter also offers the chance to see the northern lights and snow-capped landscapes.

Are there any hiking trails on the South Coast?

Yes, the Skaftafell nature reserve offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to more challenging climbs. The Fimmvorduhals hike is a popular two-day trek that takes you through some of Iceland's most breathtaking landscapes.

Can I go ice climbing on a South Coast tour?

Yes, there are guided tours that offer ice climbing opportunities on some of the glaciers along the South Coast, such as this Skaftafell ice climbing tour.

Are there any restaurants or cafes on the South Coast?

Yes, there are several restaurants and cafes in the towns and villages along the South Coast, such as Vik and Hofn. However, it's also a good idea to bring snacks and drinks with you, especially if you're going on a longer tour.

Are there any cultural attractions on the South Coast?

Yes, the Skogar Museum offers a glimpse into Iceland's history and culture, with displays of traditional artifacts and exhibits on the country's folklore and way of life. The museum's location is walkable from the magnificent Skogafoss waterfall.

Can I book a private South Coast tour?

Yes, private South Coast tours are available for groups or individuals who prefer a more personalized experience. This 10-hour customizable Super Jeep tour of the South Coast allows you to explore this beautiful region at your own pace with an expert guide.
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