You can circumnavigate the entire country of Iceland in less than a day of driving.. 16 hours to be exact. You would get to experience the countless varied landscapes and how it miraculously resembles our imagination of different planets. It is much better taken slower! Soak in the mesmerising beauty of Iceland. Having only had six days, we kept ourselves to the southern side of Iceland, soaking in the endless natural phenomenons and thus experiencing the best of southern Iceland.
Vast volcanic black sand deserts cut open by crystal blue glacier fed rivers. Oddly lumped lava fields buried under fluorescent green moss. Rolling yellow mountains, capped by white snow covered glaciers pouring boundless waterfalls down their face. These are just some of the incredible landscapes of Iceland.
Bellow is a map of the route we took, beginning by having our first night in Reykjavik then heading east to where we travelled the furtherest to Jökulsárlón. Our route was perhaps not the most efficient, as we made spit decisions based on the weather in order to see some landmark in sunshine. Highlighted with the golden stars are what we felt were the most incredible destinations and the best of southern Iceland.
The Best of Southern Iceland
One of, if not the most known landmark in Iceland. The blue lagoon is a heavily developed thermal spring area known for its crazy blue water which is a result of the natural silica found in the water. While it is not naturally formed like many other thermal areas in Iceland and the crowds are insane, it is definitely worth seeing! Entrance costs are 45€+ depending on the package you choose and is open from 8am to 12am in peak season.
Tip: Book online! (well in advanced for the peak season). Save some money and take your own towel and food.
This well known water fall is tucked neatly just off the main highway 1 heading south east. It has an constant impressive amount of water plummeting from an overhanging ledge 60m above into a small circular pool. It is well known for the shallow cave behind the falls which you can walk into.
Tip: As it is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland and relatively close to Reykjavik, try and see it for sunrise or set to avoid crowds. Wear a raincoat when walking behind the falls!
Built on a farmers property, this peaceful, unspoilt geothermal pool was originally built for personal use. Sadly, now it is beginning to become popular as its secret is out. It is an average house sized pool tucked delicately beside a river, a 25 minute walk into a mountain canyon. It has next to no facilities, only a small two roomed brick change house beside the pool. Because of its non commercialisation, we strongly recommend to respect its unspoilt character. There are no bins so take/leave no rubbish and respect the land.
Tip: Try and get this peaceful sanctuary to yourself! We slept in our van nearby and made it to the pool for sunrise. Sharing it with the emptiness of the rolling mountains and running river. Take warm clothes as changing afterwards can be nippy and don’t expect a boiling bath. It varies in temperature however is generally only warm.
Is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and rightfully popular. It can be viewed from right up to where it torrents into the flat basin bellow, depending how wet you want to get, and from the top where a long staircase take you 60 meters to a platform looking over the falls.
Tip: On sunny days, the spray from the falls create one or two rainbows in the basin. You can jump the fence at the top lookout and walk further up the river to where another long cascade of waterfalls are.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
While not natural, this site is well worth the one way, entirely flat 5km trek. The U.S place crashed in 1973 after the pilot ran out of fuel (don’t worry, nobody died) and fortunately found a bazar expansive area of black volcanic sand. The walk out feels unworldly as it feels endless without changing. Eventually though you will notice a small white dot in the distance and as you get closer to the complete hull, although torn to shreds, you sigh for joy. At the sight you can climb through the wreck and even get on top.
Tip: Take appropriate clothing as Iceland’s weather is super unpredictable and the walk can take up to an 2 hours.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Located just before the southern town of Vik, Reynisfjara is a 2km volcanic black sand beach situated between two towering headlands. At the eastern end where the carpark is, an unusual basalt rock sea stack formation is situated under the mountain Reynisfjall which is very unique. A large shallow cave is also engraved into the mountain side.
Tip: A nice day goes a long way at the beach but that can be a lot to ask in Iceland. If you are up to it, walk up Reynisfjall and look down over the beach and the swarms of tourists.
Contrary to its name, this stretch of interesting landscape is not green flowing lava however an old lava field which has been overgrown by fluorescent green moss. It is on each side of highway 1 when heading north east and is impossible to miss. There is a small carpark with a lookout but simply driving through the odd area is enough to take it in.
Tip: Find a spot to pull over and simply walk until you can’t see the road. You will feel as though on a different planet. Ensure your shoes are waterproof though!
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
An incredible lagoon which as you may have guessed, is filled with detached glacier icebergs. It is a 5 hour drive from Reykjavik however definitely worth it. Dependant on the tide and forever changing in appearance, the iceberg brake off from the glacier and hit into each other, slowly making their way out to sea.
Tip: If you have a van, you can sleep in the car park outside of peak season and witness the sun set and rise, casting brilliant reflective patterns over the lagoon. Another bonus, and this may not sound all that peaceful, but we assure you, falling to sleep listening to the gentle crashes of icebergs colliding is somewhat soothing.
Just a few hundred meters from Jökulsárlón, this beach is ridden with icebergs which had drifted out to sea then been stranded on the beach from the tide. It is also forever changing but is always a sight to see. It can have towering large icebergs or scattered broken shards.
Tip: If you managed to stay at Jökulsárlón and have woken to a clear sunrise, quickly make your way over to Diamond Beach and see the early sun rays reflect off the beached icebergs.
Is a monstrous waterfall 1.5hours drive inland from Reykjavik and because of this extremely popular. It is only a short boardwalk stroll from the carpark, where a tourist cafe and shop are also. The amount of water plummets 11m then 22m destructively down a shelf which cuts low into the earth.
Tip: If you plan on getting close, definitely take a raincoat!
Perhaps you have heard or seen this natural phenomenon. Perhaps not.. But anyhow, it is a very active, however safe geothermal field. Driving towards its direction, an almost eery mist covers the area. This is created from the steam pilling forth from the many boiling geothermal pool. Mid way into the site there is a large pool where 1-2km bellow, boiling water rushes to the surface and expels sometimes 25m into the sky. Sounds dangerous? It is! Except sticking to the paths keep the crazy amount of tourists safe.
Tip: There is a nice camping area beside the Geysir which when staying at, can allow you at see the site at not so busy times.
Is situated in Þingvellir National Park and boasts as its main attraction. The waterfall itself is not as impressive as many other popular waterfalls in Iceland however makes up for it with the surrounding rugged volcanic landscape.
Tip: Park at the Öxanafoss Parking Trailhead off highway 36 and walk from there. It takes you from the ground above the waterfall and down through a straight lined canyon as if chiseled away by man.
Secret geothermal hot pool
This hidden gem is a man made jacuzzi size pool fed simply from a plastic pipe driven into the ground. It is far away from the usual crowd of tourists, camouflaged on a timeless headlands beach. That is all we will give away for this wonders location, although our map will give you a indication of its whereabouts. If you go there, keep in mind it is on private property there for parking must be done on the highway and with no facilities, leave nothing but your footsteps!
Tip: Sunrise, sunset, or of a matter anytime, there is a good possibility you will get this peaceful spot to yourself. Take a bottle of wine or even a book, just don’t forget to take your rubbish.. and if there are people as everywhere in Iceland is getting discovered, prepare to be friendly 🙂
Iceland is a country everybody should visit at least once in their lifetime. Its raw, natural beauty is close to unmatched. Get out there and see it! Just don’t forget to take waterproof clothing.
Plan on hiring a van to travel Iceland and want the cheapest/comfiest option? We used, and strongly recommend KuKu Campers! Click on their name to check out their website!