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The Iceland South Coast is marked by some of the most incredible natural landscapes on the planet. Thundering waterfalls, picturesque villages, black sand beaches and massive glaciers are the top sights on an Iceland South Coast Tour. We joined a day trip to Vik from Reykjavik to explore some of the best sights in Iceland – and it did not disappoint!
Why Take a Day Trip to Vik, Iceland?
We had not originally planned to take a day trip to Vik during our long layover in Iceland – but that all changed after we got our first glimpse of the scenic Icelandic countryside.
On our first full day in Iceland, we toured the magnificent sights on the Golden Circle. We were blown away by the natural beauty of Iceland – and yet we were only seeing a small piece of it. By the end of our tour, we knew we had to experience more, even though our trip to Iceland was just a few days long.
Vik Tour Iceland
Intrigued by the vast, volcanic lands, our interests were piqued by the picturesque south coast of Iceland and the quaint town of Vik. At first, we considered taking a public bus to Vik, Iceland from Reykjavik – but quickly dismissed the thought. There are too many sights and things to do between Reykjavik and Vik that are not accessible by public transport. Instead, we scouted Vik tours from Reykjavik.
While riding the bus back to Reykjavik after our day on the Golden Circle, we used the on-board Wi-Fi to find the best Reykjavik to Vik South Iceland tours. We booked our Vik tour for the following day to explore Iceland’s South Coast.
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Iceland South Coast Tour
The tour itinerary for our trip to Iceland’s South Coast included four popular sights, plus one unexpected stop that wasn’t listed on the tour plan. Our day included seeing two waterfalls, hiking through snow to see a glacier, spending time in Vik (on two of Iceland’s black sand beaches) and visiting a folk museum.
Less popular with visitors than the Golden Circle, the Iceland South Coast sights do not have large welcome centers – but they weren’t so far off the trodden path that we needed any special gear, either. (More about what you will need for your day trip to the South Coast of Iceland at the end of the post…along with a helpful map link!)
The Start of Our Tour to the South Shore of Iceland
Many Iceland day tours to Vik and the South Shore of Iceland depart from the main BSI Terminal – as ours did. The company we booked with provided pick up locations throughout the Reykjavik city center, so all we had to do was walk to the meeting point from our Airbnb. We didn’t need to wait long for our ride to arrive and we were shuttled to the BSI Terminal.
Once there, we easily found the South Coast bus and were warmly greeted by our tour guide, Gus. Immediately, we knew our day would be an entertaining one. We find Icelandic people to be welcoming, humorous and sometimes downright quirky. Gus was all of those things – and we felt we definitely lucked out by having him as our South Coast Tour guide.
For example, Gus’s name isn’t really Gus. He has a much longer, difficult-to-say Icelandic name that he jokingly tried to get us to pronounce. Rather than strictly informing us the importance of staying on schedule, he let us know that anyone delaying the departure of the bus would be required to sing karaoke for the group. Throughout the day, he peppered the standard script with personal stories that gave more depth to the Iceland sights we visited. Having a fun and friendly Vik tour guide can make all of the difference!
Ring Road and Iceland Scenery
We left the bus terminal and headed for the Ring Road, Iceland’s Route 1 that circles the island and connects Reykjavik to South Iceland. Like a city’s outer belt freeway linking suburbs, the Ring Road connects the villages and towns around Iceland.
The interior of the Iceland, however, is vacant of people and is mostly open land consisting of lava fields and glaciers. Of the 330,000 Icelandic citizens, 75% live in the capital, Reykjavik. The remaining 25% reside is the villages and towns near the shore.
On our Iceland winter tour, the bus maneuvered flawlessly over the snowy road allowing us to sit back, relax and take in the incredible Icelandic scene outside our window.
South Coast Iceland Stop #1: Skogafoss Waterfall
The first stop on our tour is one of the top South Iceland points of interest: the Skogafoss Waterfall. The thundering Skogafoss is one of the biggest Iceland waterfalls and a must-see sight on the Iceland south shore. It has a width of 80 feet and falls 200 feet to the pools below, before continuing along the Skoga River to the coast.
From the top of the waterfall views stretch across the land to the sea. Our winter visit, however, kept us from climbing the stairs to the side to the viewing platform, as they were covered in a thick layer of slick ice. Instead, we marveled at the thousands of icicles clinging to the cliff wall, created by the Skogafoss Falls’ spray.
South Iceland Tour Stop #2: Solheimajokull Glacier
Our second stop in southern Iceland was at a famous glacier, Solheimajokull. We departed the bus and followed Gus for a half mile on a snow-packed trail. Gus, who wore winterized clothing, confidently led the group.
The valley spread out to our left; small hills rose to our right – and with the Icelandic landscape covered in white snow, it looked as barren as the moon. When Solheimajokull glacier was in sight, we gathered around Gus as he pointed out the glacier, which was necessary, as it was almost entirely covered in snow.
Solheimajokull, which translates to Home of the Sun Glacier, is about 8.5 miles long. The size of the glacier, which has been measured regularly since the 1930s, varies with the climate. It can grow and shrink in the same year. Since 1995, however, it has been shrinking more than growing and it is believed that at the current rate of melting ice, in 100-200 years’ time there will no longer be any glaciers on Iceland.
Combine Your South Shore Iceland Tour with Glacier Climbing
A glacier hiking group passed us, complete with helmets and crampons for the walk. With already numb toes, we were all too happy to be heading back to the warmth of the bus, but – in better weather – we think Glacier Hiking in Iceland would be an awesome experience. Find out more about the combo Iceland South Shore Tour with Glacier Hiking – and book it here!
Iceland South Coast Tour Stop #3: Black Sand Beaches at Vik
The next stop on our tour was Vik and the Black Sand Beach. As one of the top South Iceland attractions, we were allotted ample time to explore the village and Icelandic coast.
Vik, which is about 110 miles from Reykjavik and has a population of around 300 residents, is the southernmost village in Iceland. Interestingly, however, it is the only Iceland coastal village without a fishing port. Instead, it is known for its black sand beaches and basalt rock sea stacks that sit just offshore.
Things To Do in Vik, Iceland
For our tour, Vik was not only an attraction, but also the lunch stop. The small town boasts a handful of places to eat, a stunning black sand beach that fronts the village, a historic church and more gorgeous Iceland landscapes.
Lunch in Vik, Iceland
The small recommended Vik restaurant (not included in the tour) was warm and inviting, but we had brought along a picnic lunch in order to have more time on the beach. That’s correct; we planned to have a picnic lunch on the beach in Iceland in January!
Vik Black Sand Beach Iceland
When we climbed over the dunes to the Vik beach, we were in awe. The powder-fine, charcoal black beach was half covered in a fresh dusting of snow, creating a striking contrast. We found a perch along the rocky breakwater where we could eat as we took in the amazing Southern Iceland scenery.
Reynisdrangar Rock Formation
From the Vik Black Sand Beach, there is an incredible view of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. The surf pounded the shoreline and the rock formations looked like frozen figurines.
How these famous rocks in Iceland came to stand in the ocean off the tip of the peninsula is shrouded in folklore. One legend is that trolls tried to drag a 3-masted ship onto the beach at Vik, but the ship turned to rock before they accomplished their task. Another tale is that a woman was kidnapped by two trolls who took her out to sea; when her husband found out, they solidified and still stand there today.
Vikurkirkja: Vik I Myrdal Church
Topping a hill and overlooking the village is the Vik I Myrdal Church, Vikurkirkja (also called Reyniskirkja). The small white wooden church was built in the 1930s. In the wintertime, it nearly blended in with the blanket of snow, made visible only by its rising red steeple and rooftop.
Reynisfjara Black Beach Iceland
After the rest of our group finished lunch in the restaurant, we boarded the tour bus and made our way to the west side of the peninsula. There the Reynisdrangar rocks stand on the famous Iceland black sand Reynisfjara Beach.
The small black sand beach provides an even better view of Reynisdrangar. On the tip of the point, columns of basalt rock rise in a cliff and provide a home to a variety of Iceland sea birds. At the base, visitors can wander inside an enormous cliffside cave. In ideal weather, adventurous travelers can hike to the top of the cliff for a stunning viewpoint across Southern Iceland.
Being such a narrow beach makes the powerful waves dangerous – and we were warned of their unpredictability. The waves travel a long distance across the Atlantic Ocean, uninterrupted – and have the ability to quickly sneak up on unsuspecting tourists and drag them out to sea.
While I was captivated at capturing the incredible scene through my camera lens, Kris started shouting my name, warning me of an approaching wave. I clumsily tried to avoid it, falling face-forward onto the beach and was rewarded with a mouthful of black Icelandic sand. Fortunately, I escaped with nothing more than wet feet, a heaping dose of embarrassment and a terrible picture.
Although the Vik village and it’s black sand beaches were a highlight of the tour, there’s still a few more things to do in South Iceland as we made our way back from Vik to Reykjavik.
South Coast Iceland Tour Stop #4: Skogar Museum
When we learned that a museum was on the itinerary for Iceland’s South Coast, we were less than enthusiastic about our visit. It’s not that we didn’t want to see the museum, there are just so many South Iceland attractions that are outside – and we were most interested the natural wonderlands of Iceland.
Once we arrived at the Skogar Museum, however, we quickly changed our minds – as it was far from an ordinary museum. Not stuffy or formal, Skogar Museum is packed with 15,000 historical artifacts from around Iceland.
Resembling a treasure trove, the museum was started more than 80 years ago when a local 14-year-old boy began collecting things that other people were throwing away. His collection grew and he turned his assemblage into one of the most interesting museums in Iceland. Everything on-site was acquired through family, friends or friends-of-friends, guaranteeing the authenticity.
The pieces tell the story of the Icelandic people and how they survived in a world without the most typical resources like metal, wood and clay, instead using materials that were abundant, like fish bones and wool. Some of the more notable items are a first-edition Icelandic bible printed in 1584 and a large restored Icelandic fishing boat.
South Coast Tour Iceland Stop #5: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
The winter sun had already set by the time we made it to the last stop: Seljalandsfoss, one of the most famous South Iceland waterfalls.
The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall streams over the edge of a cliff in front of a cave. The cave makes it possible to walk behind the waterfall for a unique look at the natural sight. However, again, the icy conditions made it impossible to take the path into the cave. Instead, we settled for the striking view of Seljalandsfoss from the front.
Our late afternoon arrival meant that it was already getting dark (the official sunset was at 5pm – but because it sits so low in the sky, it starts to get dark around 3:30pm). Much to our surprise, beams of light illuminate Seljalandsfoss, giving us a unique perspective against the darkening skies.
Seljalandsfoss is about the same height as Skogafoss, falling 200 feet, but isn’t nearly as wide. Rather than the water roaring down, it seemed to drop in long, sheer ribbons and collected in pools of deep blue. Watching the falls as the winter sky turned moody was an incredible way to end our day touring Iceland’s South Coast!
Book your Iceland South Coast Tour here!
South Iceland Map Of Attractions
On this map, we indicate the sights we visited on our South Shore Tour of Iceland. Use this link to Google Maps to view our Iceland South Coast Tour Map.
Vik Iceland Bus Tour vs Iceland Self Drive Tour
Rather than sorting the details of planning our own South Iceland Itinerary, we were content joining a tour to see the Iceland south coast sights. Our day was stress-free, incredibly entertaining and included all of the attractions we wanted to see.
However, DIY travelers can plan their own South Iceland adventure by renting a car and making the trip on their own. Before setting off on a drive from Reykjavik to Vik, we have a few tips.
How far is Vik from Reykjavik?
The distance from Reykjavik to Vik is about 190km (about 110 miles) one way on the Iceland south ring road. From point-to-point, it takes about 2.5 hours – but a Self-Drive Iceland Southern Coast Tour will surely include many more stops along the way.
Map of Southern Iceland
Although we have provided an online South Iceland Attractions Map (above), we highly recommend purchasing a good driving map for your South Iceland tour from Reykjavik. This map gets good ratings by fellow travelers to Iceland.
As we previously mentioned, it is possible to visit South Iceland via public bus, but it is not ideal for tourists, unless the village of Vik is the only sight you want to see on your Reykjavik to Vik tour. The public buses do not make stops at Iceland South Coast waterfalls or other attractions.
Iceland South Coast Attractions Tour: What You Will Need
Whether you decide to join a Reykjavik South Coast Tour or plan your own Self-Drive Iceland South Coast Itinerary, there are a few things you will want to make sure you have for your trip!
Waterproof Shoes and Weather Gear
On our Iceland South Coast Day Tour, I wore my everyday slip on Skechers, which in hindsight, was a huge mistake. While fine for city walking, they proved to be inadequate for wintertime South Coast Iceland weather. A pair of weatherproof boots would have been a better option, perhaps even in summertime. The weather can change quickly, so we recommend wearing layers and a weather-resistant coat or at least bringing a packable raincoat.
Travel Camera with Zoom Lens
The Iceland southern coast is simply astounding! Rather than using a phone camera to capture the sights, we recommend upgrading to an actual camera with a good lens. On our Southern Iceland day tour, we used our Canon Rebel (our go-to travel camera) with an everyday 18-135mm lens.
Travel insurance can protect you in the event of flight cancellations or lost luggage, and could be helpful for travelers who get ill or injured abroad. Check rates and consider coverage from a reliable company.
On our South of Iceland Tour, lunch was not included. As mentioned, we were in Vik at lunchtime – and our Iceland tour guide gave recommendations for the best restaurants in Vik. However, we couldn’t imagine sitting inside to eat in such a beautiful place! Instead, we were prepared with a simple picnic lunch that we ate on the Vik black sand beach.
More Iceland Day Tours
Searching for other Iceland 1-day tours? Take a look at these popular Reykjavik day trips. You can also read about our Northern Lights Tour experience!
Whale Watching Iceland
Hop aboard a ship for a 3-hour expedition from Reykjavik in search of whales, dolphins and porpoises. During this popular Iceland tour, learn about the marine wildlife and marvel at the scenic landscapes. Get the details!
Iceland Glacier Tour & South Coast
Take in the sights of the Southern Coast Iceland Tour and visit the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where floating icebergs add to the dramatic Icelandic scenery. The top-rated 14-hour tour from Reykjavik also includes waterfalls and visiting Vik. Find out more!
We want to know: Have you been on a Iceland South Coast Tour? What was your favorite part about the day trip from Vik to Reykjavik? Tell us in the comments!
Need help creating your Iceland trip plan? Use our detailed day-by-day Iceland Itinerary!
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