Last Updated on April 24, 2019 by Suzy
During our 5 night stay in Iceland, we spent one of our days there touring around the south of the country. There are some lovely places to see and some great things to do. Most of which can easily be done in one day. The thing about Iceland is it is vast and it can take a while to get anywhere, especially as you can’t drive anywhere faster than 90km per hour. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a focus for each day and include as much as you can in that area.
I have put together a one-day itinerary of the top things to see and do in southern Iceland. Visiting these places can, of course, depend on where you are staying in Iceland itself. We were approximately halfway between Reykjavik and the most southerly town of Vik.
Vik is doable from Reykjavik in one day but you may only want to consider it if you are staying south of Iceland’s capital or you can include stops along the way and back again. Make sure you keep your eye out for geese and ponies. We saw fields upon fields of geese.
One Day Itinerary for South Iceland – Family-Friendly
Drive time – Approximately 2 hours from Reykjavik. We stayed further south at Hotel Ranga. The time taken for us was around 1 hour.
Cost – Currently free to park and visit.
What is Skogafoss Waterfall – You can just about make out this waterfall from the main road if you are arriving from the north. It is set a little way back from the road but just a short drive on a gravel road from the main road. It is set in a stunning backdrop of high hills.
There’s plenty of spaces to park at the base of the waterfall. We parked further back than we needed to as we wanted to enjoy the waterfall as much as possible on our walk up to it. There are also some very steep steps next to the waterfall which you can walk up if you are up to it. You can just about make out the people walking up in my photo below.
We loved standing at the base of the waterfall and on a sunny day we were treated to some lovely rainbows – ones we could almost touch. Watch out if the wind changes as you could get soaked. The sound of the water cascading over the top is one we won’t forget in a hurry.
The site is open all year and there are no facilities. There is a cafe and hotel over the road and if you wish to purchase a meal or a drink you will then be able to use their facilities. They are expensive but that’s Iceland for you.
Skogar Folk Museum
We didn’t manage to visit here as we were on a tight schedule. Skogar Folk Museum is near to Skogafoss waterfall and is worth a visit if you have the time. They have a collection of 15,000 regional artefacts in 6 historical buildings and museums. Entrance costs can be found on their website.
Drive time – If you are staying in Reykjavik it can take 2 hours and 30 minutes to drive from Reykjavik down to Vik. This is why we recommend a visit to Skogafoss on your way down.
Cost – Vik is a town where people live so it is free to visit.
What is Vik – Vik was one of those places that wasn’t anything like I was expecting it to be. The most famous thing about Vik is its stunning volcanic backdrop and wooden church from 1929. It is also by the sea and you can visit the beach there which has black sand because of the volcano. It looks a lot prettier in photos than it did to us in real life. We struggled to see the picturesque photos that we’d seen ‘showing off’ Vik.
The church is gorgeous and the beach is lovely with its three steeples of stone rising out of the sea. But we couldn’t go in the church and the winds were unbelievably strong which put us off getting out at the beach. The drive there did provide us with some stunning scenery and it’s a visit we won’t forget in a hurry. We had some fabulous doughnuts at the large modern shopping complex in the town.
We passed Seljalandsfoss waterfall on our way down to Skogafoss and Vik. If you only have time for one waterfall on your route I recommend visiting Skogafoss, however, if you have the time this waterfall is also worth a visit.
Drive time – A quick visit here can help to break up your journey. It is approx. 1 hour 45-minute drive from Reykjavik.
Cost – There is now a parking fee to visit this waterfall. We did not pay as we simply pulled up in the car park to take a photo. Which I can’t download for some reason so I have had to use someone else’s photo. They plan to use this money to improve the toilets and other facilities at the site.
What is Seljalandsfoss waterfall – This waterfall can easily be spotted from the main road. If you want to walk behind a waterfall then this is the one for you as there is a path that runs behind it. Although you will get soaked do visit prepared for this. It is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland and stands 65 metres tall. It is higher than Skogafoss but not as wide.
Keldur – Old Farmstead
Keldur is somewhere that I fell completely head over heels in love with during our visit to Iceland. If you don’t have time for the Folk Museum at Skogar then please do make sure you have time to visit Keldur.
Drive time – The drive time for us to Keldur was short as the turning was located over the road from our hotel, Hotel Ranga. It is approx 7km from the main road but at least half of that is a gravel road which is hard going and not easy to drive fast on. I recommend you only visit if you are in a 4×4. It is approx. 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Reykjavik.
Cost – Over the winter it is free to visit Keldur. You are welcome to walk around but you can’t look into any of the buildings. It seems to be open in the summer months and children under 12 are free. The cost for an adult was around 1000 ISK
What is Keldur – At Keldur there is one of only a few preserved turf-houses in south Iceland. The farmstead, church, graveyard and other buildings are literally like stepping back in time. It is located right next to the newer farm and at first, we felt like we were trespassing but the farmer was keen to make sure we could get through the gate OK and wander around.
The backdrop is as stunning as the old buildings. Without a dedicated website, it is hard to share opening times and prices. If you do visit and the buildings are shut you can still look around for free.
The Lava tunnel at Raufarhólshellir is the fourth-largest lava tube in Iceland. A lot of the caves and lava tunnels in Iceland looked a bit extreme for my 5-year-old and my Mum.
Drive time – Just 30 minutes from Reykjavik and a perfect final stop on your southern one-day itinerary.
Cost – You can pay on arrival however I recommend you book your time slot in advance so that you can benefit from a small saving online. I paid 6,400 ISK for an adult (an approx. staggering £40). Children aged 0-11 are free and children aged 12-15 are 3,200 ISK (approx. £20).
What is the Lava Tunnel – This Lava Tunnel boasts to be easily accessed all year round and the standard tour is quoted as being easily accessible for everyone. This I would have to disagree with. You have to be very able-bodied and stable especially when visiting over winter.
We visited in early April and it had recently only just stopped snowing. I was a little surprised to be handed crampons and offered walking sticks when we arrived. The walk for half of the tunnel was icy, snow-covered and slippery in many parts. I worried a lot about my Mum as she has two false hips. My 5-year-old also fell and a couple of other children were struggling with the walk.
All that being said we loved it. What an experience, one we wouldn’t have missed for the world. At the time of year, we visited there were ice mounds, icicles and snow piles that were simply stunning. The lava tunnel itself was also very picturesque and the standard tour took around one hour. Some of the path is via a footbridge, some of it craggy rocks.
There is a minimum age of 3 years old for this tour. We were all very proud of our achievements and pushing our boundaries and limits on this tour. Yes, it was a little scary in places and very expensive but it was an experience we will never forget. Make sure you book on a late tour (around 5-6 p.m.) so that you can fit everything into one day.