The 2 days in South Iceland itinerary you’ll want to steal

Are you looking for the perfect 2 days in South Iceland itinerary? Here’s everything you can experience in just two days.

South Iceland

It’s no secret that South Iceland impressed me the most on my recent trip there. Its ever-changing landscape includes some of the country’s biggest volcanoes, glaciers and most iconic waterfalls. It’s simply out of this world!

We did a 4-day Iceland road trip, spending 1 day along The Golden Circle, 2 days on the South coast and the rest at the Blue Lagoon and in Reykjavik.

Here’s how you can do the same.

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2 days in South Iceland itinerary

First, let’s talk about safety

I wish it wasn’t necessary to include this section, but I feel I have to.

The thing is, as beautiful and extreme as Iceland is, as deadly it can be, so please be careful there. I’ve seen tourists jump on icebergs in Jökulsárlón, take selfies in front of raging waves or get dangerously close to the edge of a cliff.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve also been careless at Svínafellsjökull glacier when it was raining hard and I still wandered onto the slippery rocks to get a photo. Stupid, that’s what it was, and I shouldn’t have done it!

The danger lies in getting too close – to the waves, the icebergs or the edge.

A sudden change in the wind (and trust me, the wind can be extreme) or the so-called deadly sneaker waves can take you by surprise and sweep you out to sea or over the cliff. Even on a sunny, clear day.

Just two days before we went to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, a German mother of two was caught by the waves and drowned in front of her family. Unfortunately, this tragic accident is not an isolated event, so do take extra care.

TIPS – How to stay safe in Iceland

  • Don’t turn your back to the sea
  • Don’t get lost in taking that selfie
  • Stay off the ice at Jökulsárlón
  • Never underestimate how quickly the weather can turn (especially when hiking). Always bring warm clothes
  • Never go into an ice cave or hike on a glacier alone
  • Don’t ignore local advice or warning signs

Is 2 days in South Iceland enough?

So now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about your South Iceland itinerary.

If you visit in the winter season, especially in December and January, you have fewer hours of sunlight (5-6 hours) so ideally you’d want 3-4 days.

It is still possible to do this itinerary in 2 days though, you just have to plan your day. All other months of the year, 2 days is enough.

Miriam’s Tip:

Base yourself in Vik for a South Coast road trip. It’s the southernmost village in Iceland, located on the main ring road right between Reykjavik (starting point) and Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (ending point).

Best things to do in South Iceland

South Iceland itinerary

Here’s the most practical itinerary for 2 days in South Iceland, including how long I spent at each site.

Day 1 sights are located between Reykjavik and Vik (West of Vik). The sights on day 2 are all located between Vik and Jökulsárlón (East of Vik).

Day 1: 

  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Dyrhólaey Lighthouse (a couple of hours)
  • Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi Waterfalls (1-1,5 hours)
  • Skogafoss waterfall (30 minutes)
  • Sólheimasandur plane wreck (includes a 20-30 minute walk from the parking lot)

Day 2:

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon (0,5-1 hour)
  • Svínafellsjökull glacier (just a 15-minute stop)
  • Svartifoss waterfall (there’s a 2-hour hike to the waterfall and back)
  • Jökulsárlón and Diamond beach (a must-see! Spend at least 1,5-2 hours here)
South Iceland

How to get around

A self-drive tour is how I prefer to get around in Iceland because there’s so much to see off the path. You can rent a car in Reykjavik and other major cities in Iceland.

Read next: The ultimate guide to Iceland car rental in winter

Iceland car rental
Best Car Rental Company:

DISCOVER CARS

When booking your car rental online, I recommend Discover Cars. They compare prices at car rental agencies all over the country to get you the best deal.

Iceland South Coast itinerary

Day 1

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

You know that saying, “Timing is everything”?

At Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach it is.

Sure, you can visit in the afternoon or evening, but if you want those spectacular colors, make sure to be there at sunrise – which in the winter is at around 11.

South Iceland
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
South Iceland
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Dyrholaey

About 10-to 15-minute drive from Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach you’ll find Dyrhólaey Lighthouse.

The lighthouse itself is nothing spectacular, but the view – Oh. My. Gosh.

Make the trip to Dyrhólaey, you won’t regret it.

South Iceland
View from Dyrhólaey Lighthouse
Vik, Iceland
Another view from Dyrhólaey Lighthouse

Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Seljalandsfoss is another beautiful place to visit at sunrise, especially if you walk behind the waterfall and view the sunrise through the falling water.

Because yes, you can walk behind this unique waterfall.

Me and my pregnant body decided that it was a bad idea to get up on those ice-slippery stone steps, but that shouldn’t stop you.

You will get wet (possibly drenched) also in summer, but if you’re wearing a raincoat or cape and some sturdy shoes, you should be fine.

South Iceland

Seljalandsfoss is 60 meters high with a footpath behind it at the bottom of the cliff.

But what many visitors don’t know is that there’s another and equally stunning waterfall very close.

This waterfall is called Gljúfrabúi, which means “Dweller of the Gorge”, and it’s hidden away.

South Iceland
If you look closely you can see people walking behind the waterfall
South Iceland

Gljufrabui Waterfall

Gljúfrabúi is 40 meters high and in front of it is a big rock almost covering it.

You can wade through the gorge and climb up the rock in front of the waterfall (it’s a killer photo!).

I only made it halfway into the gorge because there was so much water, but if you bring rain boots or visit when there’s less water in the river, definitely go in!

South Iceland
Entrance to Gljúfrabúi waterfall – one of the coolest waterfalls I’ve seen

Skogafoss Waterfall

Just 20 minutes from Seljalandsfoss, you’ll find Skogafoss.

Oh, I forgot to mention that both of these waterfalls are located just by the road and they’re only a minute walk from the parking lot (parking is free).

Skogafoss is pretty spectacular.

And not just because it’s 25 meters wide with a drop of 60 meters, although that is rather cool in itself. No, this waterfall is unique because of its magnitude and sheer power.

It’s simply overwhelming to stand next to it, and you can get super close although not without getting soaked (speaking from bitter experience).

Icey2
Like a postcard, right?
Iceland
South Iceland

Sólheimasandur – the plane wreck

The last sight on day one is Sólheimasandur plane wreck.

This US Navy plane crash-landed in Sólheimasandur in the 1970s and has been abandoned since.

It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the plane wreck, but the photo opportunities make it well worth it.

iceland southern coast itinerary

Day 2

Fjadrarglufur Canyon

So, day 2 will be a little busier than the first day so leave your hotel early.

The first stop is Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon where you’ll easily spend around 1-1,5 hours – unless you’re hiking because then you need more time.

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon has been formed by thousands of years of erosion, caused by the melting glaciers.

Today, 2 kilometers long and up to 100 meters deep, it’s still being carved by the Fjaðrá river. 

Aside from the fact that it’s often referred to as the most beautiful canyon in the world, Fjaðrárgljúfur is a great place for hiking and beautiful photos!

Svinafellsjokull Glacier

You can see Svínafellsjökull glacier from the road (on your left coming from Vik).

On our way to Jökulsárlón, I suddenly spotted something blue in the distance between the hills.

Just 5 minutes later we were at the parking lot in pouring rain to get a closer look at the blue thing that turned out to be Svínafellsjökull glacier.

Pro tip:

If you sit or stand there for a while and listen, you can actually hear creaking which is the ice dropping into the water.

South Iceland
South Iceland

Although we couldn’t get up close to the glacier, because that’s unsafe, we still had a good view from where we stood.

Just at the entrance to Svínafellsjökull, there was a memorial stone to two German hikers who went out on the glacier alone a few years ago and never returned.

If you want to hike a glacier (I know I do), hire a private guide or join a tour. Anything else is dangerous.

Book your tour here – Skaftafell Ice Climbing & Glacier Hike

South Iceland
South Iceland

Svartifoss Waterfall

Svartifoss waterfall is another stunner in South Iceland, famous for its basalt rocks. 

It’s situated in Skaftafell, which is part of Vatnajökull National Park.

If you visit Svartifoss, be aware that you have a 5.5 km round-trip walk ahead of you from the parking lot, which will take around 2 hours in total + time spent at the waterfall.

The walk is easy though, and the trail is well indicated.

Read next: How to drive the Iceland Ring Road in 5 days

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Ah, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon – the highlight of South Iceland.

I had never seen an iceberg before, not to mention a whole beach filled with diamond-shaped ice blocks. So yeah, I was pretty blown away.

Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lagoon that stems down from Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull.

The lagoon is estimated to be around 25 km2 and it’s constantly getting larger as ice breaks off the glacier every year.

Jökulsárlón and Diamond beach, Iceland
South Iceland

Diamond Beach

Just on the other side of the road is a black sand beach, but not everyone knows it’s there.

It’s called Diamond Beach (or Breiðamerkursandur) because it has ice blocks in all sizes and shapes glistening on the black beach. 

Many of the icebergs have a bright blue color and you can actually follow them from the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon and down to the beach. If it hadn’t been raining so much, I could have spent hours walking up and down Diamond Beach.

It’s that amazing!

If you only have a few days to spend in Iceland, do go to South Iceland. I promise you, it’s out of this world.

South Iceland

FAQ – 2 days in South Iceland itinerary

How many days do you need in South Iceland?

Two days in South Iceland is enough for a quick trip.

Day one, cover the Golden Circle. On day two, visit Seljalandsfoss and other nearby waterfalls. It’s fast-paced but doable. Good for short breaks and family trips.

Is it worth going to Iceland for 2 days?

Absolutely, a 2-day trip to Iceland is worth it.

You can cover the Golden Circle, see stunning waterfalls, and even dip into the Blue Lagoon. It’s a short but packed adventure that gives you a taste of Iceland’s natural beauty. Ideal for quick getaways.

How long is the South Coast tour in Iceland?

A typical South Coast day tour in Iceland lasts about 10-12 hours. You can also do multi-day tours for a more in-depth experience.

How many days do you need for the Golden Circle?

One day is enough for the Golden Circle in Iceland.

You can see Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall all in a day. It’s a popular route that’s easily doable within 6-8 hours, including travel time.

Great if you’re on a tight schedule.

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The ever-changing landscape of Iceland's south coast includes some of the country's biggest volcanoes, glaciers and most iconic waterfalls. Here's how to spend 2 days in South Iceland, including what to see, where to stay and much more.

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31 Comments

  1. All these Iceland posts are coming at the perfect time for us as we’re headed to Iceland next month. Your posts and pictures are vastly increasing my eagerness to get there!

  2. This was a fascinating read as we went to Iceland but didn’t get to see any of these places, we were near the Golden Circle. I didn’t realize that the sea could be so dangerous, it’s good that you’ve put a warning to be careful. The glacier lagoon looks stunning

    1. Oh yeah, I’d say spring is one of the best times to visit. You’ll have longer days, good weather and possibly a little snow here and there. Plus, it’s not high season so everything is a little cheaper.

  3. We used this post as a guide for our adventures in South Iceland this week. Had a blast! Thanks for providing us tips that we found nowhere else! We highly recommend a visit to Iceland and would recommend the itinerary on this post for South Iceland.

  4. Heading to Iceland the end of this month….we only have 2 1/2 days to explore. I wanted to rent a car and do this on my own with my daughter…good idea? Doable? Will I be able to navigate and find all of these wonderful spots on my own? Do you have a mapped route I can steal?

    Thanks for all of your help. I think we will do South Iceland rather than the Golden Circle…good idea or no?

    Jessica

    1. Yes, absolutely! Do South Iceland rather than the Golden Circle. There’s a mapped route at the beginning of this article. The sites are very easy to find because they’re located along the Ring Road.

      Have an amazing trip, and do go to Jokularsalon – it’s breathtaking!

    1. Hi Vanessa,
      Unfortunately not. You won’t see many houses on the Ring Road so best stop by a tank station (they are far between, too) or buy some groceries & snacks and bring them along.

  5. Great post to help plan a 3 night layover in Iceland. We land in Reykjavik on a Wednesday at 4:00 pm and leave from Reykjavik on Saturday at 5:00 pm. I’m trying to make this itinerary work because it looks AMAZING, but I think this leaves us on Friday end of day 5 hours from the airport?

    Any tips on strategy? (should we take a flight west and drive back east? What about the golden circle sights? Blue Lagoon?) So much to see!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      First of all – South Iceland trumps the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon by a long shot. So, if you have just 3 days, stick to South Iceland, that’s my advice.

      This itinerary is possible to do in 2 days so if you drive straight from the airport towards Vik and see some of the sights on your way there (spend the night in Vik), you can make it. If you’re traveling in the summer period, you’ll have long days, it’s even bright outside at midnight! So that gives you plenty of time to see everything. If you follow my itinerary, most of the sights on the first day are placed right next to each other. On the second day, leave Vik early and drive straight to Fjaðrárgljúfur and then the other sights. You can either spend the night around Jokulsarlon or drive back to Reykjavik (5 hour drive).

      Have a great trip!

      1. And if you’re super ambitious, you can even squeeze in a visit to the Blue Lagoon on the day you fly out. That’s what I would do 🙂

  6. Hi Miriam,
    Plan to visit South Coast of Iceland on 27-29 Dec. Would it be too ambitious if I drive directly from the airport at 8 pm to Hella to stay overnight and continue in early morning to catch the sunrise at Jokulsarlon and stop by other sights on my way back to Reykjavik? Should I rent 4×4 car? As I heard driving in the South coast is quite a challenge especially in the winter time.

    1. Hi Fred,
      Well, since the sun rises late in the winter, this should be possible. However, you just never know about the weather in Iceland – it might snow or be stormy so you can’t drive or at least it will slow you. Spending the night in Vik would probably be easier for you since it’s on the ring road and the road is bigger and easier to follow (it’s just straight ahead).

      I would definitely recommend renting a 4×4 – that’s what we did. It can take you through (almost) any weather Iceland has to offer.

      I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      Yes, you can. If you travel in the winter months, just be aware that there’s only 5-6 hours of sunlight. So you need to get up early and be at your first stop when the sun gets up (at 11).

  7. Hi Mirian,
    I’m planning to follow your 2-day itinerary for South Coast in July 2019. Would i need a 4×4 vehicle for this?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Ruben, a 2WD should be fine during summer, if you only visit the places on this list. The Ring road is in excellent condition, but if you plan on going off-road, I recommend a 4×4.

      Should you come across a road that says F (followed by a number), you absolutely cannot go on that road with your two wheel drive car. F roads are only for 4×4 because they might have potholes and rivers running through them.

  8. hi Miriam
    ur blogs are extremely helpful. want suggestion from you. planning a short trip to Reykjavik on July 1st week. will be there 4 just 3 days. as it is very short for a country like Iceland am very confused as what to see and what to leave. can you suggest the best possible itinerary for three complete days there. ( reaching on 2nd July night and leaving on 6th morning.)

    1. Thanks, Bhaskar.

      Well, the best thing to see in Iceland is the south coast, which I’ve covered in this post. For the 3rd day, you can visit the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. With this itinerary, you’ll get to see a lot of what Iceland has to offer!

  9. Hi Miriam,
    My kids and I are visiting Iceland in August for six days. Love the pictures, suggestions and itinerary you have posted here. I am looking forward to follow it to see South Iceland from Reykjavik.

    I would appreciate if you could address some of my concerns.
    – renting a car versus using public transportation or taxi.
    – do I need to book tickets for any other place in advance?
    – Best places to see in other parts of Iceland besides South Iceland

    1. Hi Keisha,
      Thanks for reaching out!

      To answer your questions:
      – This very much depends on how you prefer to travel. I wouldn’t recommend taxi, because it’s too far between the sights and therefore too expensive. You can take an organised tour, but personally I recommend renting a car. This gives you total freedom – and it’s easy to drive in Iceland.
      – The only place you need to book a ticket in advance is for the Blue Lagoon. Everything else in Iceland is pretty much free to visit because it’s part of nature (waterfalls, etc.).
      – I’ve written another post about how to plan a road trip in Iceland. I’ve also included other great sights around the island: https://adventurousmiriam.com/iceland-road-trip-in-winter/

      Have a wonderful trip with your kids 🙂

  10. Concerned that when we visit end of March that the roads will be dangerous to drive as my husband is worried about snow.

    1. Well, the weather is quite unpredictable in Iceland, so it’s difficult to say anything for certain. However, if you stick to the main roads (the Ring Road), you will be fine. The road is in very good condition and safe to drive no matter the weather. I would recommend getting a 4×4 just to be on the safe side. That’s what we did.

  11. Hello Miriam! Thank you for the detailed 2 days itinerary, its very helpful.
    I am planning this road trip from Reykjavik to South Coast. In your itinerary – the order seems a little different. You have listed following order:
    Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Dyrhólaey Lighthouse (a couple of hours)
    Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi Waterfalls (1-1,5 hours)
    Skogafoss waterfall (30 minutes)
    Sólheimasandur plane wreck (includes a 20-30 minute walk from the parking lot)

    But If I am driving from Raykjavik, wouldn’t I hit the location in this order?
    starting the drive from Raykjavik –
    1. SELJALANDSFOSS AND GLJUFRABUI WATERFALLS
    2. SKOGAFOSS WATERFALL
    3. SóLHEIMASANDUR – THE PLANE WRECK and then reach
    4. REYNISFJARA BLACK SAND BEACH AND DYRHOLAEY

    Is there a reason why you covered starting Black sand Beach?

    Again thank you for all your help and guidance.

    Regards,
    Sej

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