Road Tripping South Iceland

Updated August 14, 2020.

It’s Throwback Thursday! This week we’re throwing it back to our exciting road trip across Iceland’s unique south coast. Good news: it is possible to do most of it in a day! I’ve got an itinerary for your own south coast road trip and some tips to help you out. If you’re starting from points near Reykjavik, follow this itinerary in order; if you’re starting from Vik or points east of Vik, follow it backwards! Let’s get going!

Itinerary from Keflavik (or Reykjavik) to Vik

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 11.06.49 AM
Suggested South Coast Route
More here: How to Plan a Road Trip

I highly suggest staying the night at Hotel Ranga in Hella (pronounced “Hekla”), right on the Ring Road, or Route 1. You will most likely fly into Keflavik International Airport, so start there and make your way to the Blue Lagoon!

Stop 1: Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is an excellent place to start upon landing in Iceland. It’s near Keflavik International Airport, and I don’t know about you, but I always want a shower and a way to relax after a flight. Check out my post all about the Blue Lagoon, including tips and all the essential information you need! ***I recommend booking your tickets at least two months in advance! 

Your drive from the Blue Lagoon to Hotel Ranga is approximately an hour and 45 minutes, but definitely feel free to take your time and stop for some epic pictures along the way! Just follow signs for Hringvegur, or Route 1, which is the Ring Road. Here is a glimpse of the scenery:

A rare bit of blue sky!
Read on: Your Ultimate Guide to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Stop 2: Hotel Ranga

I am not getting paid, nor did I stay here for free or at a discounted rate, but I highly recommend Hotel Ranga! We chose to stay here because it’s a good stopping point between Keflavik and Vik, and they are known for their Northern Lights package. Not only do they provide “bear suits” to keep you warm while you’re gazing at the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, they also provide a wake-up service! You can sleep in a warm, comfy bed, and when their Aurora watcher sees the Aurora in the sky, you will receive a wake-up call from the front desk so you don’t miss them. Breakfast is included, and there are hot tubs, a game room, and plenty of lounging areas for your comfort. Stay tuned for a post about the Aurora Borealis on coming soon right here on the blog!

We signed up first thing!
Bear Suit Modeling
The Aurora!
More here: Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Stop 3: Seljalandsfoss

We started our second day in Iceland with a delightful breakfast and set out on our road trip around 10:00am in search of waterfalls! “Foss” means waterfall, and Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular in Iceland! You can take a little hike all the way behind the waterfall (bring your rain coat), and then continue down the trail to see several other small waterfalls as well! This is the only site where we had to pay for parking, but it was only 700 ISK ($6.68 USD), and the site also has complimentary restrooms and shops. It was worth the cost of parking, especially since there was so much to see, and we stayed there over an hour.

The view behind the falls! Bring your rain gear!
Parking Pass to be left in your car.

On your way to the next site, make use of the pull-off area to your right as you pull out of the parking area. You might see some cute sheep and some pretty, lesser-known falls!

One of my favorite sites from the trip!
Read on: 10 Reasons to Visit South Iceland

Stop 4: Skogafoss

Lots of people want to visit the “go-behind” waterfall mentioned above, but this one was actually my favorite! Not only is it huge and beautiful, there is an incredible hike at the top where you can see even more waterfalls! The hike is gorgeous, and almost surreal. It was a definite highlight of our trip.

Skogafoss from a distance
Hiking on top of Skogafoss
Put yourself in your pictures for perspective!
Related: Epic Landscapes of the World

There is plenty of free parking here, as well as a couple of restaurants. You should plan to get lunch here after your hike! They have burgers, soups, and more to warm you up and keep you going the rest of the day! And your next stop is long hike.

Lamb and vegetable stew

Stop 5: DC-3 Plane Crash Site

Until recently, people could simply drive to this dramatic plane crash site, but the landowner has stopped that. I think you can take an ATV tour, but we chose to hike it. The parking lot is not marked, but it looks like a parking lot with no purpose–that’s how you know you’re in the right place! If you keepdriving and turn inland to start going up a mountain, you’ve gone too far.

The terrain is mostly flat, but sandy and with loose rocks, so it’s a little more difficult than walking on solid ground. It’s about 4 km (2.5 miles) one-way, so plan for that! There is literally nothing else around, and it’s a straight, clearly-marked path to the plane. Plan to spend about 2.5 hours here. That will give you plenty of time to hike out an back, and about 30 minutes or so at the crash site to take some epic shots! Be patient; there will probably be lots of people there also climbing on the plane for some shots.

Crashed DC-3 Plane Wreckage
See also: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places

Stop 6: Vik

Vik is an adorable little town on Iceland’s South Coast, and it can either be your last stop of the day if you are continuing around the rest of Iceland’s Ring Road, or if you’re like us, it’s your turn-around point on your way back to Hotel Ranga! Vik has the famous dark, black sand beaches, dramatic sea cliffs and rocks, and the cutest little church you’ve ever seen. There is also an Ice Wear warehouse here, where you can find reasonably-priced Icelandic wool goods. You will also find a grocery store, restaurant, and restrooms in the Ice Wear building, so make this your dinner stop as well if you like.

Vik Church
Dramatic Seascape
Black Sand, White Boots
Details here: What to Know Before You Visit Iceland

I hope you enjoyed your day on Iceland’s South Coast! There are more places to stop on this route, including the Lava Center near Hotel Ranga, the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano and Visitor Center (check their hours before you go), and the Solheimajokull glacier, which you can see from the Ring Road! Take your time, but check the sunrise and sunset times and keep an eye on the sun in the fall and winter!

Road Trip Tips

You can find many more tips in my Things to Know Before You Visit Iceland post, but for now, here are my top tips for your Icelandic road trip!

  • Do not stop in the middle of the road. Apparently this is a problem for tourists in Iceland, so the Icelanders have provided plenty of pull-off areas so you can safely enjoy the scenery.
  • Make sure your car rental reservation specifically states “automatic” unless you are comfortable driving a manual, or stick shift.
  • Close your car door. The Icelandic wind, especially on the South Coast, will literally rip off your car door. Close it when you get out, even just for a second!
  • Watch out for sheep, horses, and anything else that might find its way onto the road. The animals in Iceland simply roam, and sometimes that means they roam onto the road! Be on the lookout.
  • Your car will tell you what kind of fuel you need: gasoline or diesel.
Gasoline for us!
  • Do not be overwhelmed by the signage! Take a minute to get out and look at the signs like this one as needed:
Serious signage

Are you ready for your own Icelandic South Coast road trip? Do you have more questions? Let me know below! And check out my Iceland Page for more tips and recommendations!

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