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Top Attractions in South Iceland

By: | May 4th, 2017 | 2 Comments

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If you’ve been following our blog you know by now that we are huge fans of Iceland after our visit this winter. We spent 5 days in South Iceland and fell head over heels in love with the island. There are so many beautiful places to see and amazingly most of it is free to visit. Lagoons, waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches and more are just waiting for you to discover them. Here are the highlights of our trip and the top attractions in South Iceland. We hope you visit some of these best things to see and do in Iceland. We think you will love this stunning country as much as we do!

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland and is the reason many people are dying to visit. It is the top bucket list item for millennials these days. The hot milky blue water makes for an unforgettable spa experience, one you cannot miss while in Iceland. Yes, it is touristy but don’t let that scare you away. The lagoon is big enough that you can wander off to have some privacy and enjoy the romantic environment. It ended up being my (Alexis’s) 2nd favorite thing to do in Iceland (1st was seeing a glacier). I love a relaxing spa day. We even got silky smooth skin from the silica mud mask, which is included in the admission ticket.

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Getting beautified with the silica mud mask at Blue Lagoon Iceland

Did you know that the Blue Lagoon’s geothermal water is actually white but looks blue because of the way silica reflects sunlight? Interestingly, the lagoon is man-made and is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant. I know it sounds dangerous or toxic but it is actually healing and medicinal. Here’s how it happens- a mixture of freshwater and seawater combines 2000 meters below the surface near a lava flow and picks up minerals and silica on its way up. The super hot water runs turbines to generate electricity and then the water is fed into the lagoon. It emerges between 37-40 degrees Celsius (98-104 F) which makes it heavenly to soak in during a cold winter day. While we were there it snowed on us, which made it more fun! Rain, snow, or sunshine- the blue lagoon is perfect anytime.

It makes sense to start or end (or both if you really like it) your vacation in Iceland at the Blue Lagoon because it is located near Keflavik airport. Don’t make the same mistake that we did and make sure to book it several days in advance in order to get the time you need. We spent several hours there soaking in the hot geothermal water, drinking prosecco, and slathering our faces in the silica and algae masks to rejuvenate our skin.

Make sure to drench your hair in conditioner because the water will dry it out really bad! I wasn’t planning on getting my hair wet after hearing horror stories from other travelers. However, I got carried away in the moment and just had to stand under the waterfall. It felt incredible on my neck and shoulders- one heck of a hydromassage – but it wreaked havoc on my hair. If you aren’t worried about how it looks, you may want to wear a swim cap to protect your hair if you decide to go under the waterfall.

Next to the waterfall is also a steam room and sauna for relaxing as well. We enjoyed it all and then ended our evening with champagne and langoustine soup at the Lava restaurant, which has a really nice ambience (you will pay for it though). Entrance fees for the Blue Lagoon start at about $50 per person for the basic package and go up depending on if you want a towel, sandals, robe, and a drink from the swim-up bar. We selected the premium package which included all the above but you can also bring your own towels and sandals to save some money. Definitely make this a stop on your Iceland itinerary!

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Mountain views, steaming milky blue water and a swim-up bar make the Blue Lagoon an unforgettable spa experience in Iceland

Golden Circle Tour

The Golden Circle is a driving route in South Iceland that includes 3 main attractions in one loop. We started the Golden Circle from Reykjavik and enjoyed the scenic drive. It took us about 4 hours but could take an entire day depending on how long you stay at each stop. We also made some extra stops for petting Icelandic horses (aka ponies because of their small size), another must-do in Iceland. Did you know that Icelandic horses have been bred pure in Iceland for more than 1000 years? If an Icelandic horse is taken off the island for a competition, it is not allowed back. These beauties will run over to the fence to greet you and are eager for some attention. They are so adorable and lovable!

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Stop and pet Icelandic horses when driving Iceland’s Golden Circle

Thingvellir National Park

The first main stop on the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park, a site of historical, cultural, and geological significance. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is known for Althing, the site of Iceland’s first parliament in 930 AD. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can scuba dive between two tectonic plates here at Silfra, which has crystal clear water. Although this sounds pretty darn cool, the idea of getting into ice cold water in Iceland in the winter didn’t appeal to us. Despite having on drysuits, we heard the gasps of the divers as they entered the icy water and decided this may be something we’d try on a return visit in the summer. Thingvellir National Park also has hiking trails, horseback riding trails, camping, and fishing (seasonally). The Visitor Center and Information Center provide history, maps, and information about the area.

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Scuba dive between 2 tectonic plates at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park

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Thingvellir National Park offers great views from the Visitor Center area

Geysir

The second stop on the Golden Circle is Geysir. The area is a geothermal park sitting on top of a boiling cauldron. It is very similar to Yellowstone National Park, but smaller. The Great Geysir was one of the greatest natural attractions in Iceland before it became dormant in 1916. Strokkur is the largest erupting geyser in this area now and shoots boiling water as high as 30 meters into the air every 10 minutes or so. Have your camera ready for the eruption. It’s interesting to walk along the path and see hissing steam vents, belching sulphurous mud pots, and hot and cold springs.

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Steaming geyser with beautiful turquoise water

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss Waterfall is the third stop on the Golden Circle and was our favorite stop. It means “Golden Falls” because on a sunny day the water appears golden as it tumbles down. This is Iceland’s most popular and one of its most beautiful waterfalls. It is massive and very impressive. Stand here and marvel at its wonder and beauty for as long as you like, which will energize and uplift you.

A little history is that this waterfall was going to be destroyed to harness electricity by foreign investors in the early 20th century. Thankfully the daughter of the man who owned the waterfall protested by walking barefoot to Reykjavik and threatened to throw herself into the waterfall. They took her threat seriously and did not build a power plant there. It is hard to imagine destroying such a majestic natural wonder for electricity, so thank goodness for the woman who saved it. We can all appreciate its magnificence now.

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Gulfoss Waterfall is Iceland’s most popular waterfall

Lake Kleifarvatn

Lake Kleifarvatn is the largest lake in the Reykjanes peninsula and is worth a visit. It is about a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik. This area was recommended as a great spot for trying to spot the Northern Lights because it is so dark at night. We would have never seen its beauty by day if I had not lost my iPhone there the night before. We returned the next day to look for it and marveled at this gorgeous lake basking in the glorious sun.

I did not find my iPhone, but we got some beautiful photos and drone shots at this location. We also spotted the filming crew for the British TV series Black Mirror. While there, check out the nearby Krysuvik geothermal area. Its hot springs, sulphur springs, and boiling mud pots are fascinating. There’s a wooden boardwalk to walk amongst the area. Use common sense and stay on the path or you could get scalded by geothermal water.

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Lake Kleifarvatn glittering in the sun on a glorious day

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is off Ring Road on the route from Reykjavik to Vik. It is over 60 meters high and is surrounded by cliffs. You can see it from the road but make sure to stop and get a closer look. You can walk behind the waterfall, but be warned, you will get wet. There’s another hidden waterfall at this stop if you keep walking down the path to the left. You access it by walking through a cave and can take some really cool photos inside. Make sure you have on waterproof shoes because your feet will get wet.

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Seljalandsfoss Waterfall from a drone’s perspective

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Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is a popular tourist spot in Iceland

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Hidden waterfall next to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

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Inside the cave of the hidden waterfall by Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Skogafoss Waterfall

The next major waterfall you will pass on the Ring Road is Skogafoss. It is even more spectacular than Seljalandsfoss and tumbles 60 meters from the cliffs by Skogar. Black pebbles at its base and a vivid rainbow that arches across it when the sun is just right make it a beautiful spot for photos. Legend has it that a settler buried his chest of gold underneath Skogafoss waterfall. Take the path leading to the top of the waterfall, which continues to follow the river upstream and is a great hike with more dramatic waterfalls. Bertaut had fun flying his drone here too and captured a pretty blue sky before the blizzard began a few minutes later.

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Skogafoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls

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Romance may sweep you off your feet at Skogafoss Waterfall

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We caught a quick glimpse of a rainbow at Skogafoss Waterfall

Solheimasandur Plane Crash Site

Just a few minutes drive from here toward Vik is Solheimansandur beach, the site of the plane wreck in 1973. A U.S. Navy airplane was forced to land on the black sand beach due to severe icing, and the fuselage was abandoned. It makes for some epic photos, if you are willing to make the 4km hike out to see it. In the past cars were able to drive to the site, but that has been banned recently.

We unfortunately did not get to see it this visit because a blizzard was pelting our faces with ice on the walk to the site. We ended up turning around because we were freezing and miserable and then didn’t have time to stop on our way back. It’s another popular attraction in South Iceland that you will want to check out if you have time to make the trek out there and the weather allows it. Here’s a photo from Guide to Iceland of the wreck. It’s pretty cool and we want to check it out when we return to Iceland, hopefully soon!

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How epic is this plane wreck on a black sand beach? Image source: ©Jorunnsjofn Photography/Guide to Iceland

Dyrholaey Peninsula

Another highlight just off the Ring Road is Dyrholaey Peninsula. This headland rises 120 meters out of the sea with a giant natural arch of lava. It is a great spot for viewing the Reynisdrangar sea stacks and the Reynisfjara black sand beach. We stopped here twice because we loved it so much. The first time it was snowing hard and we stared out at the black sand beach being covered with fresh snow as giant waves crashed onto the rocks. We returned at sunrise on a clear day and were in awe of the beauty of this spot. Definitely come here for a dramatic sunrise! Check out our drone videos of Dyrholaey on our YouTube channel.

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Dyrholaey on a dark and stormy day in Iceland

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Dyrholaey Peninsula from a drone’s perspective just after sunrise

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Black sand beach seen from Dyrholaey Peninsula near Vik, Iceland

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Waves crashing onto the beach at Dyrholaey

Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara Beach was another one of our favorite places in Iceland. I know I keep saying that, but honestly, everything in Iceland is amazing so its hard to pick a favorite. We had seen photos of the basalt columns at this black sand beach and couldn’t wait to climb on ourselves. They are formed as lava cools into long geometric columns of basalt. It’s one of many fascinating natural wonders in Iceland. It’s definitely a fun spot for photos. A nearby cave on the beach is cool to explore and you may be lucky enough to spot some birds. We found a guillemot, who looks similar to a puffin but has a different beak.

Reynisfjara Beach is another beautiful spot for capturing sunrise, as we did one splendid morning. The black sand beach is so peaceful and calming. Sit on the basalt columns and watch the giant waves crash onto the shore, but watch out for dangerous sneaker waves. While we visited Reynisfjara, we spotted a Russian popstar filming his next music video. He was so kind to take a photo with us. Have you heard of Dima Bilan? He won Eurovision’s song contest in 2008 with his song “Believe”. Somehow we keep running into famous people on our vacations, which has been fun!

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Russian Popstar Dima Bilan was filming his new music video at Reynisfjara Beach

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Basalt columns being pelted with snow at Reynisfjara Beach near Vik

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King of the basalt columns!

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Sunrise at Reynisfjara Beach is a must-see in Iceland!

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Sun rising on the black sand beach Reynisfjara and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks

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Guillemot resting in the basalt cave at Reynisfjara Beach

Svinafellsjokull Glacier

Svinafellsjokull Glacier was an unplanned stop on our way to the glacier lagoon. We saw the icy blue glacier from the road and decided to check it out, and we are so glad we did! It ended up being our favorite place in Iceland and Bertaut had a blast flying his drone there.

Unlike many of the popular waterfalls that are packed with tourists, this spot was a hidden gem that we had all to ourselves for quite awhile. We couldn’t believe that we could drive our car up so close to a glacier and just walk around and check it out on our own. No entrance fee, no barriers blocking your view. Just pure unadulterated glacier for your pleasure. We were in awe! We sat there for awhile just taking in the breathtaking view. I snapped tons of photos because I’ve never seen a glacier before and it was freaking incredible!

Check out our drone footage from this phenomenal glacier on our YouTube channel. Make sure you don’t go onto the glacier without a guide though because it is very dangerous.

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Svinafellsjokull Glacier was one of our favorite stops along the Ring Road in South Iceland

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Svinafellsjokull Glacier seen from Ring Road

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Peering down into the icy blue crevices of Svinafellsjokull Glacier with our drone

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon was our most anticipated attraction in Iceland. We had seen some amazing photos of the glacier lagoon and could not wait to experience it for ourselves. We were not disappointed. It was every bit as cool as we had imagined. Where else can you see floating chunks of glacier drift by you, some of them close enough to touch or even stand on. Use caution though, you don’t want to fall into that freezing cold water. Huge chunks of ice sit on the black sand and melt under the sun. Keep an eye out for seals that hang out here. Stick around for sunset to capture surreal photos. Check out our drone video from Jokulsarlon for more!

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Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon seen from above with our drone

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Standing on a piece of glacier at Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

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Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is a must-see in Iceland as the sun goes down

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Admiring the beauty of a melting chunk of glacier

Iceland is a country of phenomenal natural beauty. We barely scratched the surface in 5 days there but managed to see some incredible sights that have us wanting to come back for more soon. If you want to see more photos that will inspire you to visit Iceland, check out our best drone shots and dreamy winter landscapes in Iceland. If you are planning a trip there, check out our tips for visiting Iceland in the winter and how to spend a day in Reykjavik.

We are certain that you will be blown away by the sheer beauty of this amazing country. Let us know in the comments what your favorite attraction in Iceland is and what else we should check out when we return. If you liked this post, please share it and pin it for later. Sign up for our email newsletter for more travel tips and inspiration to travel the world.

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Top attractions South Iceland

About Bertaut & Alexis

Top Attractions in South Iceland
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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    • BAT

      Thank you very much. We are glad to read that!