Drive it yourself: A South Coast Adventure

A while ago I posted a Drive It Yourself guide to the Golden Circle. Obviously this was something that people needed, judging by the positive reaction to it, so I decided it would be the first post of a Drive-It-Yourself series where I will feature feasible day tours from Reykjavík.

Skógafoss - one of the places you might have to pay to see this summer.

Today we are going to focus on the south coast which is thought by many visitors one of the most beautiful areas in Iceland. And for a good reason: on this route you will see amazing  waterfalls,  majestic glaciers, black sand beaches and depending on the day some of the most gorgeous vistas you’ll ever encounter. What is good about the south coast is that once you get over Hellisheiði (a mountain close to Reykjavík where the weather can be troublesome) the road is pretty comfortable and easy to drive. The area is known for heavy winds though so make sure your check the weather forecast and the road conditions before you head out (you should always do that anyway), especially in winter.

If you are a solo traveler or you don’t feel comfortable with driving yourself you can always consider doing this bus tour of the south coast – it gets great reviews on Tripadvisor and is quite affordable. If you need a rental car for your trip you can also book it here on the blog.

Reykjavík to Vík

Windy day and huge waves at Reynisfjara beach

When we talk about the south coast we usually mean the drive between Reykjavík and the village of Vík, with some pretty fantastic stops along the way. Because there is a lot to see most people leave the Golden Circle for another day or combine the two into a two or three day adventure around the south of the country. This post will assume you are doing this as a day tour but if you have time you should definitely consider expanding your trip and include a glacier walk in Sólheimajökull or similar activities along the way.

Behind Seljalandsfoss

According to Google Maps the round trip to Vík and back is 391km which is about 5 hours and 10 minutes of driving. I’m pretty sure it takes me a little longer to drive that but I’ve never been good with distances. That of course excludes all the stops you will be doing on the way.

This is a full day tour so expect a long day. If you want to make a stop overnight in Vík I always enjoy the warm welcome at Vík hostel but there are also nice hotels in town that you might want to check out.

Adding Vestmannaeyjar (The Westman Islands)

Vestmannaeyjar (12)

It’s possible to add the Westman Islands to your day tour during the time of the year where we have more daylight. but I wouldn’t recommend this in winter. Both the south coast and the islands deserve a full day of their own but if you are pressed for time and you really want to check out the islands this is totally doable.

This summer the boyfriend and I, along with our good friends, did exactly this. We wanted to visit the Westman Islands and left Reykjavík early enough to catch the first ferry. We spent around 4 hours on the islands and then took the ferry back to land and carried on. We didn’t go all the way to Vík but we visited Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Seljavallalaug. You can read all about it in this post I wrote about our trip.

Vestmannaeyjar (3)

The ferry to the Westman Islands leaves from Landeyjahöfn and it takes around half an hour to get there. Sometimes the conditions in Landeyjahöfn (like right now when this post is written) prevent the ferry from leaving there so it goes from Þorlákshöfn instead (which is nowhere close). Make sure you check this before you leave.

Adding Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

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A lot of people ask me whether it’s doable to get all the way to Jökulsárlón and back to Reykjavík in a day and although the answer is yes, you can do this, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. First of all you will feel pressed for time the whole way. If you do plan to do it all in a day I would prioritize the stops because you’ll probably not be able to do everything you want to do. This is a much nicer trip if you stop somewhere along the way for the night but if you have limited time and you want to cram in as much as you can this is possible.

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According to Google Maps the drive from Vík to Jökulsárlón and back adds 385km to your trip or 4 hours and 22  minutes making the total driving time 9 and a half hours from Reykjavík and back. I did this in April 2012 and we were 18 hours on the road. We skipped a lot of great stops because we simply didn’t have time for them but we still had time for a zodiac boat tour on the lake and a hike to Svartifoss.

If the south shore is a full day tour then this is a fuller day tour – on steroids.

Instructions on how to use this map (viewing it larger is advised):

There are five layers on this map. To see all the layers click on the button in the top left corner. The first layers contains points of interest in the area. The second layer contains places, restaurants, pools and such that might be worth visiting in the area. The third layer iis points of interest further east.. The fourth layer is driving instructions for the south shore tour. The fifth and final layer is driving instructions from Vík to Jökulsárlón. To hide and show different layers click on the boxes next to the names of the layers (if they are visible there’s a little check mark in the box).

To make the map bigger click the bracket (next to your profile photo) in the top right corner of the map. 

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127 thoughts on “Drive it yourself: A South Coast Adventure”

  1. Baobab says:

    Hi, Auður, I have been following your website since last summer. It’s totally awesome and I find it very useful for my upcoming trip to Reykjavik (I’ll be there for the last week of February). I was planning to rent a car for 2 days: one day for the self-drive Golden Circle and another one for either visiting Vik or Westman Islands, but now reading your entry I don’t know anymore if that’s such a good idea. Should I discard the idea entirely due to the winter season? I would really love to see the Westman Islands though. Thank you so much for any further advice.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Right now the ferry is going from Þorlákshöfn so it’s not really doable to do both. I would choose one and given that the conditions can be difficult in winter (the ferry can sail sometimes) I would probably choose the south coast. Unless the islands are really high on your wishlist. In which case I would make sure you don’t do it on your last day in case the ferry can’t go.

  2. elizabeth says:

    What a perfect post & perfect timing! My husband and I are coming to Iceland mid October and have planned a 3 day driving trip of the South Coast. We’re in the middle of booking hotels and listing all the stops we want to make along the way. Can’t wait to come and explore Iceland!

    Love the blog 🙂

  3. Jakeob Bame says:

    I’d like to plan a 2 day trip along the south coast for a new year’s eve trip.. is this a good idea with only 5-6 hours of daylight during this time? Maybe stop for the night in Vik?


    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s doable with good planning, it’s probably good to check for sunrises and sunsets and try to plan around that. But people do it all the time.

  4. Hi Auður, I am looking at doing an ice cave tour at Jokulsarlon and want to know non stop driving how long do you think this may take? I’ve seen varied answers but don’t know how much longer driving it in the winter adds? Thanks if you can help answer this question for me.

    1. mm Auður says:

      It all depends on the weather but I think it’s safe to estimate that it will take you around 5 hours to drive (Google Maps says 4 hours 30 minutes) unless the conditions are really bad. Like I mention in this post Hellisheiði can be difficult when it snows so that can slow you down and then the South Coast can be really windy (like around Vík and under Eyjafjöll mountain range) which can also slow you down. If the weather is really bad it can take you much longer than that but then you should probably not be driving there anyway 🙂

    2. iLoveIceland says:

      Depends on the weather. If there is a storm then it will take a long time. However, if the winds are calm, it will be a lot faster. I recommend that you DO NOT go SELF-DRIVING. There are many things that tourists are unaware of (eg. how to read the boards that give info on wind speed, the roads are always open so the driver takes the risks in passing the road). I have also heard that the strongest storms in the world come from Iceland. So assume that it will take one of the longer period of time in travelling. In my experience hiwever, it was 6-7 hours from reykjavik. So just stop along the way to make time fly.

  5. annettek says:

    oh, this is wonderful. It would have been so helpful to have seen this before last July! At least, we were able to visit most of the places you mention. It did help that we had non-stop daylight to enjoy all the beautiful sights!

  6. leah says:

    Hi Au♁ur! South Iceland is one of the most awe inspiring places I’ve ever been. That beach is incredible, I think about it all the time. Don’t think I would have wanted to be driving this myself though, the weather got a little gnarly on the way back to the point where you almost couldn’t see at all and I was grateful to be in a 4wd with someone who knew the roads. The storm was so beautiful I could just relax and enjoy it. Some cars were stuck, but I was amazed to see tiny cars driving along just fine. Iceland is beyond words and the locals are wonderful too.

  7. Devin says:

    Hi Auður,

    Three of us are coming to Iceland in March for three nights en route to a longer European trip. We plan on staying in Reykjavik the first night, Vik the second and close to Keflavík for the third. We were hoping to go to Vik via the Golden Circle and route 30 on the second day, then get up really early the third day to drive to Jökulsárlón, then all the way back to Keflavík. I realize it’s a lot of driving, but we really want to see the glacier lagoon. Do you think this is reasonable? If not, what part would you give up?

    1. mm Auður says:

      This is a lot of driving and in March you won’t have the same amount of daylight as we get in the summer for example. I wouldn’t do it this way but I understand that you want to cram everything in. This weekend we drove from Vík to Jökulsárlón and back to Vík where we spent the night. We didn’t spend a lot of time in each place and couldn’t do all the hiking we had planned because of icy conditions but we still left Vík at 9 in the morning and returned around 17:30. We didn’t even make a real lunch stop for that matter.

      I can’t tell you what to skip since I don’t know what is important to you but I prefer traveling slower and really experience the area to what you are proposing. It’s doable though so if you don’t mind a lot of driving then go for it.

  8. Devin says:

    Thanks for the feedback! We have decided on the South Coast and the glacier lagoon, which sound absolutely breathtaking and more our speed in general.

  9. Dawn says:

    Hello, we are excited to explore the south coast! Do you have your (google maps) itinerary in pdf form, similar to your Golden Circle blog/itinerary? Thanks.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Dawn, it’s really not necessary because for the most part you just follow the ring road (No.1) and it’s very difficult to get lost on that road 🙂

  10. Sarah says:

    Hello Auður,

    Your site is amazing! I’ve learned more “real” information about Iceland in one night of reading your posts than through many nights of wading through random travel features.

    I have two questions for you:

    1) My boyfriend and I are planning our first trip to Iceland this summer. I’m trying to find a compromise time because I want to go in winter and he wants to go in summer. We live in California and he’s thin-skinned ; ) Do you think a 5-night trip in June is reasonable time to spend a night in Reykjavik, then drive the southern coast from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón and back, and also do a day trip into the highlands a bit? We’d like to explore the sights, hike a little bit, and hopefully get off the beaten path. We’re ok with marathon days as long as we’re not cooped up in the car the ENTIRE time. I’m hoping the long hours of daylight will work to our advantage! We wish we could stay longer but we have such limited vacation time. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    2) Do you host your home dinners in the summer? That sounds like so much fun!

    Thanks for creating this awesome site.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Sarah,

      I think you can do what you propose in 5 days – it’s probably better to have a little bit more time but if you don’t have it than you don’t have it.

      We will also have our dinners in Summer but we just can’t decide on dates just yet (since we don’t know our plans for the summer yet). But there will be at least two dinners each month throughout the year.

  11. James says:

    Just got back from doing this exact thing, drove both the Golden Circle and South Shore, as wells as driving to Snæfellsness and the Rekjanes peninsula. I would recommend 2 things:

    1) if you can afford it, rent a nice car, not because you need it, but you will appreciate it. If you are going to be driving almost 1000km in a week, having a nice car makes the adventure nicer for the driver (especially if your the only one licensed to drive like I was)

    2) Be prepare for road closures in the winter, as well as very bad weather – blowing snow sounds fun, but when it’s blowing at 15m/s (50 mph) not so fun. We couldn’t make it as far as Jokulsarlon not because we couldn’t get there but coming back in the dark in a blizzard was not the ideal option, so we opted to skip it to make sure we had plenty of time to get back to Reykjavik ahead of the weather.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Good points – I’ve touched on both these subjects in previous posts but it’s good to hear that from travelers as well 🙂

    2. Catherine says:

      My best friend and I are going to Iceland from February 28- March 6 and wanted to rent a car to drive to Hofn. Were the driving conditions terrible when you were there? I haven’t had a lot of experience with snow driving so I’m a bit concerned about roads being closed and such, but I have been reading online that snow doesn’t usually accumulate on the ground in the beginning of March. I’m not sure what to believe so any advice would be great! Thanks.

      1. mm Auður says:

        There might be a lot of snow or there might not be any snow at all – and there’s no way to know until you get here.

        Here’s a post about snow in Reykjavík:

        The weather can be quite different outside of Reykjavík but it does snow less in the south and the south east than the north for example.

    3. S., Clare says:


      How many days were you in Iceland? I am in the midst of planning a trip and have the same locations picked out, that you mentioned. Could you tell me how much time you spend in the different locations and where you spent the nights?
      Any info is greatly appreciated!

  12. Liana says:

    Hello! Thank you for your blog, it has been a great help while planning our trip! We are stopping over in Iceland in September and cannot wait! We land at 6:15 am and only have 3 days so we are thinking of heading straight to Vik from the airport and seeing the South Coast before heading up to Reykjavik where we are staying. Can you recommend anywhere to stop for breakfast along the way? Are we better off grabbing something at the airport? Any suggestions on what to hit on the way to Vik vs. the way back to Reykjavik?

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can either grab something quick at the airport or you can go to the Icelandair Hotel in Keflavík and pay for the breakfast buffet there. I also think Subway is open 24/7 in Keflavík.

  13. Karen says:

    Hi Auður, long time fan of your blog! We are visiting in November, driving from the airport to Stokkseyri for the first night (as I didnt want to drive too much in the dark after a long day of travelling), then we have 2 nights in Vik (before heading to Reykjavik) with plans to check out Jokulsarlon (if the weather permits) one of those. Would the Westman Islands also be feasible do you think? (we’ve already seen the golden circle in winter so not planning that into our trip this time)

    Also can’t believe I needed to use a calculator to post this 🙂

  14. Gladys says:

    Hi Auður, wonderful blog! I was wondering if you can describe Hellisheidi mountain pass in more detail. I will be driving a small rental car in July (in 2 weeks!) to explore the South from Reykjavik to Vik. Is the mountain area generally safe and easy to drive? Are there railings? Is it windy that you could fall off a cliff? Is there an alternate route around the mountain? Thank you in advance.

    1. mm Auður says:

      You will hardly feel that you are going over a mountain when you drive there – it’s nothing to worry about. There are no cliffs and if it’s too windy to drive there (which doesn’t happen often or at all in summer) they will close the road. You only have to worry about this particular road in winter when the weather is bad.

  15. julianna says:

    Audur, thank you! thank you! for your drive it yourself guide! My husband and I did a two day driving trip from Jokulsarlon back to Reykjavik and your maps and insights were invaluable! We even found the plane crash site!! We loved the pool at Selljavallalaug! We were in Iceland from June 19-25, 2015 and a lot of our activities were inspired by your amazing blog!! We even did the crazy cold snorkeling thing! Keep up the amazing work! You are awesome! Ok, now I sound like a total fan girl! But I’m a big fan of Iceland now!! Thanks again! Can’t wait to go back and head out from Reykjavik in another direction!!

  16. Andy Irwin says:

    Thanks for the great advice 🙂
    On the tours it is possible to walk up to and touch the glaciers tongue at Solheimajokull. In a non 4WD car can you get near enough to do this? Is it straightforward as a walk from a car park?



    1. mm Auður says:

      Not really, I haven’t been up there in a while but last winter the glacier tongue changed a little bit which changed the way it you approach it and now you have to walk for a while to get to it.

  17. Bill says:

    Numerous pictures on your website show the tourists wearing down jackets but it does not tell which month the pictures were taken. Would a “puffy” jacket be necessary for our trip in early September? Or just a shell with a sweater?

    1. mm Auður says:

      It really depends on you. In September I usually wear a woolen layer underneath my rainproof jacket and maybe a light fleece if it’s extra cold. I didn’t use my primaloft or parka until much later in the year last year. But I have people wearing primaloft jackets on my tours in summer 🙂

    2. James says:

      Depends how much you like the cold, I’ve been twice in January / February and only worn a fleece and tshirt for most of the time, if it rains or snows, I’ll throw a light rain jacket over the top to stop getting wet.

      Last time I went, it was cold enough for icicles to form in my beard whilst walking about, even in Reykjavik, so September should be relatively balmy 😀

  18. Virginia says:

    Hi Auður!

    I’ve been reading all the great things on your site in preparation for my trip to Iceland this week – my boyfriend and I are flying in early Friday morning, spending two days in Reykjavik, and then heading to Þórsmörk to hike the Laugavegur (we’re doing the hike “backwards”). When we return, we’re hoping to rent a car from early Friday morning through Saturday (returning the car first thing Sunday morning) – my boyfriend would like to go up north, and visit Snæfellsjökull National Park, while I would like to venture south to Reynisfjara beach. I’d also LOVE to get to Svartifoss waterfall, or either of the glacier lagoons. My questions are:

    1) is the trip south doable in one days? we have a place to stay in Reykjavik for the duration of our trip post-hike, and had planned on doing all our sleeping there (although we’re open to something else)
    2) will we need 4 wheel drive for visiting those places?
    3) is the glacier tongue an “okay alternative” if getting to the glacier lagoons isn’t feasible in that time frame?

    Thanks so much! any other tips or advice you could offer me would be very much appreciated 🙂


  19. Harry says:

    We are planning a stopover in Iceland in late November. Will the weather be okay to drive the Golden Circle? Would we be able to see the Northern Lights? Also, are there Christmas markets?

    1. mm Auður says:

      The weather could be OK and it could be terrible – we never know. It’s usually not too bad around that time. If you are lucky with the conditions you could see them but there’s always the possibility that the stars just won’t align for you. The Christmas markets are not very interesting in my opinion – nothing like you know from elsewhere at least.

  20. Christine Cating says:

    I have booked a trip to Iceland from Dec. 9 (am arrival) to Dec. 12 (leave in the evening). I am coming to see the Northern Lights and those dates are the dark of the moon.

    Would Vik be a good place to stay? Is it dark enough?

    Also, I will be turning 70 on this trip and would like to drive as little as possible.


    1. mm Auður says:

      Vík is as good a place as any I think. It’s just as dark there as anywhere else.

  21. Theresa says:

    Hi Auður! Thanks for all this helpful information! My boyfriend and I will be in Iceland for 5 nights in mid-November. We are planning on spending our first 2 nights in Reykjavik and then renting a car to do some touring outside the city. We would have 3 full days and 2 nights with the rental car, and were planning to do an extended Golden Circle drive, but now I’m wondering if it’s feasible to tack on a drive along the south coast to Vik. Would this be doable in that amount of time? If so, in what order would you suggest doing the drive? Thank you in advance for any advice and suggestions you can provide!

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can do both the south coast and Golden Circle in 3 days/2 nights. You can for example start with the golden circle, stay around there the 1 night, take in the sights on the way to Vík the second day and stay there for 1 night and then maybe do a glacier hiking tour on the way back on the 3rd day:

      But that’s only one way to do this.

  22. Damon says:

    Hey Auður

    Awesome blog, that has completely changed my mind on doing guided tours, given that I will be doing a lot of photography, the extra time I can spend places will be invaluable!

    Would you mind sharing your opinion on my current thoughts?
    Day 1: Reykjavik to Vik with all of the stops in between
    Day 2: Vik to Glacier Lagoon and back to Vik with all of the stops in between
    Day 3: Vik to Blue Lagoon

    We will be travelling from the 2nd-7th of April this year on our honeymoon from Australia 🙂

    Many thanks

    1. mm Auður says:

      Sounds like a good but busy plan to me.

  23. Laura says:

    Hello, I am going to Iceland Feb 14th and want to hire a car from the airport and drive to Reykjavik, is this drive ok?
    Also I want to drive to the Blue lagoon and back in a day which I understand will be fine?
    Drive the Goldern Circle one day.
    Drive to Jökulsárlón and back another day.Will these drives be ok in Feb if I check the weather first?
    Also to see the Northern lights should we just drive to a dark area and wait it out or do you recommend doing a ‘tour’?
    Many Thanks in advance

    1. mm Auður says:

      This all sounds fine to me except the driving to Jökulsárlón in a day and back in February. You should take out two days for that.

      1. Laura says:

        Will I need studded tyres driving in February?

        1. mm Auður says:

          Good winter tires should be enough but if you are renting with a good reputable company the tires will most likely be studded.

  24. Andrea says:

    Hi There- Thanks for your blogs! They are a huge help. I am going to Iceland next week and we have a rental car for a couple of days. I want to do the South Coast in one day. What stops do you suggest that will fit into a day? Could we make it all the way to Vik and back to Reykjavik? We will also be doing your Gold Coast self drive as well on a different day. Any tips and information would be great!! Thank you again 🙂

    1. Andrea says:

      *Golden Circle

  25. Rúna Van Beeck says:

    Hæ Auður,

    just one question, around what area would you recommend stopping if you do this in 2 days? And how would you divide it?
    I am also doing Jökulsárlón, so that’s why i wanted to do it in 2 days instead of cramming it all together 😀

    Takk fyrir þessi frábært blog 😀 mér finnst það alltaf svo gaman að lesa allt um ísland 😀
    ( trying my best icelandic here 😉 )

    till heyrumst Rúna

    1. mm Auður says:

      People either stay somewhere around Jökulasárlón usually or they stay somewhere around Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

  26. Ellen says:

    Hi there, my sister and I were thinking about renting a car from Reykjavik to Vik for a day in end of May or beginning of June, will the weather be ok? She will be the only driving and I am worried about the weather conditions then.

    Thank you!

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s not way to tell what the weather will be like but the end of May is almost summer so it should be fine.

  27. Posts like this are the stuff that great blogs are made of! Thank you so much for the roadmap and suggestions. Many of the stops are on my list, but it’s so nice to see everything laid out. We are going to use the map on our we toward the east coast as part of our road trip. I’ll send some photos when we get back. Thanks again!

  28. brittany says:

    Hi Auður,
    I am so glad I came across this blog! I bought my parents a trip to Iceland for Christmas and we will be traveling the ring road in September. I would love feedback on the route we have planned so far…

    Day 1: arrive into KEF at 7am – drive Golden Circle and then head to Hvoll/Vik area for night
    Day 2: Hvoll/Vik area to Hofn
    Day 3: Hofn to Seyðisfjörður
    Day 4: Seyðisfjörður to Akureyi
    Day 5: Akureyi
    Day 6: Akureyi to Reykjavik
    Day 7: Reykjavik

    My concerns are:

    *Are we trying to accomplish too much on the first day? would it make more sense to do the Golden Circle on Day 7 when we are in Reykjavik for the day?

    *We have traced our family roots back to Iceland and know distant relatives and a family farm still exist in the Kopasker/As area that we would like to see – would it be best to take this detour on Day 4 after we leave Seyðisfjörður?

    *We currently have two nights in Akureyi – I am concerned that the second night, the evening of Day 5 needs to be located closer to the Westfjords to break up the drive to Reykjavik? I am also thinking that if we want to do the detour to see family, we do not even stay in Akureyi but rather spend the night of Day 4 in Northern Husavik area and night of Day 5 in Westfjords?

    Thank you so very much – I know I wrote a lot and I truly appreciate any advice you have. We cannot wait to visit Iceland!
    – Brittany

  29. Kirstie says:

    Hello 🙂
    Me and my boyfriend are going to Reykjavik at the end of May and are renting a small car, are hoping to visit the blue lagoon on the way from the airport to Reykjavik (early morning) get the room sorted then do the golden this too much in one day? We have experience of driving lots and cramming things in without worrying about time! Then take a leisurely drive to Jökulsárlón taking in all the possible stops, stay the night somewhere near here then head back to Reykjavik sometime the next day and spend a relaxing night there, does this sound okay especially as we will be in a small car? Obviously we will keep an eye on weather/road conditions:)
    How frequent are petrol/gas stations along this route will we be ok for fuel etc?
    Thanks ever so much for your blogs learning lots! 😀

    1. mm Auður says:

      I would say you are trying to cram too much into the first day – especially if you are flying from the US. Even if you are not – you’re always a bit tired after a flight and you probably shouldn’t be driving for a long time on roads you don’t know when you’re that tired.

  30. Naomi says:

    Great blog posts. Tons of useful information!
    Could you give me a ballpark idea of what it would cost to drive it yourself? The 14 hour south coast tour I’m looking at is 25,500 Krona (or about 205 USD).
    Is it cheaper to rent a car and do it on your own, or pay for the tour?
    Thanks so much!

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can do south coast tours for as little as 13.900 ISK which is probably cheaper than renting a car (depending on the car of course)

      If it’s two people the price of renting a car is probably lower. You can find into about car rental here: and about gas prices here:

      1. Naomi says:

        Thanks so much!

  31. Jess says:

    Hi Auður,

    I have been researching Iceland for 6 months now planning my trip and your blog is the best thing i have stumbled across! Thank you!! I have written down many of your suggested tours. You may have already answered this type of question, I have had a quick read through a handful of your millions of questions, but I am coming to Iceland the first week of January and am mainly booking guided tours, but the south route seems a bit easier to drive than the rest and I desperately trying to keep costs down. So I am thinking of hiring a car for a couple of days. Do you think the south route from Reykjavík in January is ok to drive? I am planning on stopping at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls as well as a glacier or ice caving. I have also read in your blogs that you can stop at a volcano, is it difficult to self drive to?

    Kind Regards

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Jess,

      I hope you consider booking the tours you’ve written down through me too since the blog has been helpful to you 🙂

      The south route doesn’t have any mountain roads (except for Hellisheiði) so it is easier that way. However, there are a few areas on the south coast that are known for being very windy and January usually has plenty of winter storms (and a bunch of snow for the last couple of years). It’s not a terrible idea to drive it – you just have to be very careful about ice on the road and wind and such and you must adhere to the weather warnings.


  32. Karen says:

    Hi Auður,

    Thank you so much for writing this blog as it has helped me a lot with planning my Iceland trip for Feb next year. I have 2 questions:
    Is it possible to drive from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon (over 2 days – stopover in Vik) in winter?
    Will a Renault Clio with studded tires be sufficient? or do I need a 4×4?

    Thank you!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Karen,

      Yes, you can do that in winter and you don’t need a 4×4 necessarily but I would probably go one class up from a Renault Clio.

  33. Steph says:

    Hi Auour
    I love your website! Thanks for the friendly, helpful intel (-: However, I cannot seem to see or open your awesome-sounding layered maps at the end of a few of your blogs (eg. touring he South, and Golden Circle). I use a Mac….I wonder if it only works on a PC? Is it possible to send me the link some other way?
    We leave for Iceland on Thursday for one week….first time…can’t wait! We’ve already booked your Walking Tour for the 29th (my birthday…how fun!).
    Cheers from Canada

  34. Justine says:

    I stumbled upon your website and I have to say WOW!!!!! I am very impressed, the multi layer map is such a cool function to view areas of interest. I was planning a 2 night trip along the southcoast because I am dying to get to Stokksness and this has been incredibly helpful.We are thinking of going somewhere around august 20th, a friend and I want to camp. We are both experienced outdoors people, but any advice for the area?

    1. mm Auður says:

      I thought I kind of was giving advice for this area in this post 🙂

  35. Jessica says:

    This was such a great post that inspired me and my husband to add a rental car to our itinerary for our trip this past spring. It kinda made me wish I would’ve just got a car and driven the full circle of the island instead of staying in Reykjavik- but since it was our honeymoon perhaps that was still more fitting. Anyway, the map was so incredibly helpful (as was this site for all the other information I used in planning our trip). Wanted to say thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  36. Debbie says:

    Your blog is AMAZING. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it’s been for us planning our first trip to Iceland…. I’ve been doing a fair bit of research and it’s by far the best, most comprehensive and easy to follow site on what to do and where to go. Thank you SO much for sharing your expertise on all things Iceland – there are now two Scots who are very excited about their adventure to the land of fire and ice later this month!

    Debs X

    1. mm Auður says:

      Glad I could help, Debbie 🙂 Maybe in return you’ll consider renting a car using the offer through the blog or book your tours through us since we get a small commission if you do 🙂

  37. Agate says:

    Hey Auður,

    Thank you for writting this page, it have been really helpful in planing my trip to Iceland.

    We are planning to go to Iceland in October- November, rent a car and to do the full cirkle. We are planning to start our 2nd day next to Pingvallavatn lake, north west of the lake, see the Golden Cirkle attractions and go south and catch the last ferry to Vestmannaeyjar. But I am not sure if it not too much for one. Maybe it is better to stay in Hella and go to Island the next morning.


    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t know when the last ferry leaves but this might be doable. Just beware that sometimes the ferry doesn’t leave from Landeyjahöfn but Þorlákshöfn which is way off and it makes the journey three hours and not 30 minutes.

  38. amy says:

    this is a great blog and thanks for all the info you are giving- so helpful!

    we will be coming to iceland for 7 days mid-to late october, a family of three 🙂

    planned a car and spending the first day and a half in reykjavik- then we have rented a lovely little house in Laugarvatn for 4 days as a base for exploring the area around. we left the last day/night open- to go some place where we can enjoy a real nice time, not too too far from the airport, but we have a later flight so we can be flexible- any ideas?we like everything, of course are hoping to be lucky with the northern lights in Laugarvatn but are really interested in being in unusual places and keflavik doesn’t appear too exciting to us for that- but who knows? any suggestions? thanks so much for any info 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      Laugarvatn and Reykjavíka are both not that far from the airport – there aren’t really any “unusual” places closer to the airport.

  39. Vicky says:

    Thanks so much for the wealth of information provided in your blog. We are visiting iceland in mid November and are keen to see as much as possible so are tentatively looking at the following:
    Day 1. Reykjavik to Vik (stay overnight in Vik)
    Day 2. Vik to Jokulsalon then drive back towards reykjavik (stay enroute)
    Day 3. Golden circle
    Day 4. Reykjavik

    My question to you would be a) is this feasible? And b) where would you advise staying enroute between jokulsolon and the GC tour (which we would be doing backwards essentially).

    Many thanks in advance, and don’t worry we will be booking via your links 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes, thus plan seems feasible to me. You probably want to stay somewhere close to Vík again on the way back. This will be a long day.

  40. Anna says:

    I am planning our trip to Iceland for next month. I have looked at the charts which say we will only have about 6 hours of daylight during our time there. I would like to do a Golden circle drive in 1 day followed by the south coast drive over 2 days. That being said should we return back to Raykjavik after the Golden circle or just go straight for the south coast with a stay somewhere in between or on the coast instead if so where would be your suggested stopping point?

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are going to the south coast anyway I would stay over night after the golden circle if I were you.

  41. JC says:

    Hi, My family and I are coming to Iceland in mid-March. We are thinking about adding either the Arbaer museum or the Skogar museum that you recommend on this post. I read somewhere that people dress in costume at the Arbaer museum. Do they do that during the 1 hour tour in winter? Which museum is better in your opinion? Thanks, JC

    1. mm Auður says:

      Árbær museum isn’t really open in winter, they only have guided tours, so just because of that I would recommend Skógar museum. They are quite different though, of course.

  42. Victoria says:

    Is it advisable to hire a car and do a self drive trip in mid November? Or are the roads likely to be bad? Would you advise a 4×4? Thajks

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are a confident driver and used to icy conditions then you could rent a car and drive yourself. The conditions can become bad quickly though, if the weather changes for the worse, so if you do decided on that you have to check the weather forecast and conditions every morning before you head out.

  43. Calla says:

    This was a helpful article! thank you!
    I am planning to rent a car for a week in mid January. We plan to go as far as Jökulsárlón and stay near Kalfafel for one night, but the majority of the stay will be day trips out of Reykjavik on the golden circle. Is 4 wheel drive a must for my trip? Or would I be okay with winter tyres?
    (I am from Canada and used to snow)

    1. mm Auður says:

      You shouldn’t need 4×4 if you are just following the ring road on the south coast. If you are going to drive off it you might need it though but it completely depends on what kind of weather we’ll get in January next year.

  44. Jess says:

    Hi again, your site still remains the most useful tool in planning a trip to Iceland. I am so excited and already booked two tours through your site.
    Two of us are visiting in the first week of January and want to visit the following places along the south coast; Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Gljufrabui Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall and the plane crash site in Solheimasandlur. I can’t find a tour that will take us to all these places so thinking of hiring a car.
    a) can we do this in one day with the limited daylight hours? If so, what time do you recommend leaving in the morning?
    b) do you think the roads to these places will be ok in a normal car or is it best to get a 4×4?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Jess,

      Yes you can do this in one day but it might be a long day. The walk to the plane crash, for example, is about an hour and hour back. It would probably be good to leave around 9.

      It should be ok for normal cars but it’s impossible to say.

  45. Praveen says:

    Hi Auður,
    That’s an immense pool of knowledge and speaks volume about your experience, Thanks a lot for taking time to pen it down.
    I would be visiting Iceland from 23-30 March 2017. As there are plethora of places of visit, i want to take my time.
    We want to cover all these places through a road trip as it’s always exciting so renting a car would be on top of our mind. Would the roads be okay to drive on? is it necessary to go with 4×4? I would be renting with bonus most probably as you adviced. Tours would be the last option, but first for Northern Lights.
    I have researched a lot and have put up a high-level itinerary below, and would be grateful if you could provide your inputs on this.
    Day 1: Arrival at 5 AM and Reykjavik City + NL Night tour
    Day 2: Golden Circle (Geysir – Gullfoss) and back to Reykjavik
    Day 3 & 4: South Coast – Drive to Vik (stay overnight) and then to Jokulsarlon – Visit Vik village, Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Reynisfjara beach, Svartifoss, Skaftafell Lagoon, Jokulsarlon Glacier, Ice caving and Aurora (if possible)
    Day 5: Drive back to Reykjavik city, Pingvellir NP, Silfra Diving
    Day 6: Hraenfossar Waterfalls
    Day 7: Buffer day


    1. Man Yinn Chow says:

      Wow this is itinerary would be really similar to my trip in January.
      Appreciate if there’s someone that would give some feedback on this. Would be great if there are some more recommendations on where to go as well!


      1. Praveen says:

        Hey Man! Do share your experience. Safe travels!


  46. Damon says:

    Well you’ve basically written my itinerary for me on my trip to Iceland next week ??

    One question and apologies if it’s already been asked. I’m driving a Hyundai i30 from Budget rentals. It’s not 4×4 but I take it that should suffice for driving the main ring road along the south coast and Reykjavik ????

    1. mm Auður says:

      It should be fine if there’s not that much more snow. At the moment we have none here in Reykjavík.

  47. Ashley Polito says:

    My husband will be in Iceland in February. We were planning on driving from reykholt to jokulsarlon in a day mid February. We were hoping to take the 30 there. Then take two days to end up back in Keflavik on the one. Do you think this is too hurried with the weather? Thank you so much for this post. It is so useful. I read your blog often.

    1. mm Auður says:

      First of all, just so you know, we never talk about the road numbers here in Iceland so I had to Google what “the 30” was 🙂

      So if I understand you correctly you’ll have 3 days and 2 nights? I would say that’s manageable but unfortunately I can’t tell you about the weather – who knows that that is going to do 🙂

      1. Ashley Polito says:

        Sorry I was unclear. I was asking if the drive from Reykholt to Jokulsarlon in a day would be doable. I called it the thirty because that is the number I saw on the map and I didn’t know what else to call it. Sorry about that.

  48. Elizabeth Hartman says:

    Can you make this drive in May, or will it still be icy? I noticed the buses don’t start the southern tour route until June but I will be in Reykjavik May 1st-May 9th and would love to see the black sand beaches, glaciers, and waterfalls found on the gorgeous southern coast.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Buses do this route year round on tours like this one for example:

      If everything is normal you can more or less count on these roads to be clear in May.

  49. Catherine says:

    Hi, this blog is amazing and so helpful. Myself and my husband are coming to Iceland in April for 5 nights. Out plan is to drive to vik on the first day and stay overnight then on day 2 head up to hofn for the night, I am undecided where to stay on night 3 and am looking for any suggestions as we plan to drive back to reykjavik for the last 2 nights for the golden circle and blue lagoon. Should we stay in hofn for 2 nights or is it worth stopping over somewhere else?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Since the drive back from Höfn is quite long I would probably try to stop somewhere on the way to Reykjavík rather than staying there for 2 nights.

  50. aislingpatrice says:

    My partner and I are going to Iceland May 4-7th. We land in Reykjavik at 5am May 4th (Thursday). We are planning to spend the day in Reykjavik and go to blue lagoon and adjust to time difference. Then we have Friday and Saturday to explore the golden circle and the south coast and we leave at 6am Sunday May 7th. We are renting a car!

    Do you think it is manageable to do some of the golden circle and drive to Vik in one day and then explore the southern coast and drive back to Reykjavik the next day? Is that too much? Is there a better way? I think we want to stay in/near Reykjavik or the airport our last night because our flight is so early.

    Thank you so much for your amazing blog posts and help 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      Your plan should be manageable in my view. You may arrive a little late to Vík but the next day will be easier if you do it this way.

    2. anjali modi says:

      We are planning the same trip. Wondering what was your experience?

  51. Erin Hemphill says:

    Hello – my boyfriend and I will be traveling to Iceland in April staying for 2 nights in Eyrarbakki before moving on to Reykjavik. Will this be doable in one day in April from there to Jökulsárlón with the stops? We can make 2 days work but ideally would want to try to fit it. Also I assume the weather is unpredictable still in April? I am hoping less snow than other winter months however? Thanks so much for this blog it definitely added to our list of must see destinations in the South coast. I will be printing your maps for the trip!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I would always recommend you spend 2 days going to Jökulsárlón, you will enjoy your time much more that way. But if you have to do it in one day you can, but you can’t make all the stops on the way.

  52. Vero says:

    Hello, my friends and I are traveling from Costa Rica to Iceland this summer, we want to go alone (without a tour) and we are looking for more information of the routes in your blog, mainly the cost for the places’ entry.
    We only have 2-3 days to travel. Thanks a lot for your advice.

    1. mm Auður says:

      There is usually no cost of entry but some places are implementing a parking fee. The fee tends to be 500 ISK.

  53. Amanda Rodriguez says:

    Hello! What an amazing blog! I apologize if my question was asked before. My husband and I were thinking of doing a two day trip to Iceland in November. I’m trying to do the golden circle and trip to Vik see the beaches and a few other sites along there. Would that be possible in two days? Should I book a tour company or would we be able to drive?

    I was thinking :
    Day 1 arrive drive to Vik
    Day 2 golden circle then late flight home? Or should I do the opposite?
    Thank you so much!!!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      This is possible and you can do either driving or a tour. In November the weather is often not great and if you are not used to driving in extreme winter conditions I would recommend you do a tour instead. It doesn’t really matter which you do first.

  54. Nasir says:

    Great work! Helped us a lot in planning our trip.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Glad to hear it

  55. Shauna S says:

    Thanks for all of this great information! My husband and I will be in Iceland Dec 26-Jan 2. We’re planning to be in Reykavik for most of the time but would love to get to Jokulsarlon if the weather is good enough. If it’s not we’re considering your suggestions of Thorsmork or Solheimajokull as more accessible Plan B. Maybe we will reserve one tour to Jokulsarlon and one to Thorsmork, and then decide based on the weather? Is there a better way that you’d recommend, that doesn’t end up with us paying for two tours and cancelling one?

    1. mm Hrannar - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Shauna

      This time of year is really busy here in Iceland, specially on the south coast. I would choose one over the other. Þórsmörk in a gorgeous place behind mountains and glaciers but Jökulsárlón and that area is also unique.
      My recommendation would be Þórsmörk. Shorter day your and much more of an adventure.
      If you send us a message, through the message form here on the site, we can help you find the perfect tour for you, take care of your bookings and make sure that your adventure in Iceland will be a memorable one.

      Cancellation policy for most of our tours is if you cancel with more than 24 hours notice you get 90% refund. With less than 24 hours there is no refund.


  56. Leeny Lawlor says:

    Hello 🙂

    Me and 3 friends are visiting Iceland 27th Feb – 3rd March next year. We are hiring a 4×4 so would like to do a self drive.
    We would like to spend 2 days and 1 night doing the Golden Circle and then the South Coast (Vik to Reykjavik)
    Is there a suitable point on the Golden Circle to leave and drive to Vik? Ideally we would depart from Reykjavik on the first day, complete most of the Golden Circle but instead of heading back to Reykjavik drive to Vik. Spend the night there then drive back to Reykjavik the 2nd day.
    Does this sound feasible? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find anyone who has done similar.

    Many thanks in advance for your help 🙂

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Leeny,

      Your plan makes perfect sense and is a good way of doing the Golden Circle and the South Coast. You could for example end your first day by visiting the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir, and then stay anywhere between there and Vík.
      Happy travel planning!

      1. Leeny Lawlor says:

        Hi Asta,
        Thank you so much for your reply!
        We’ve ended up deciding to spend 3 days and 2 nights doing the Golden Circle and South Coast.
        Would you be able to recommend a plan on which overnight stops to take for me? We will depart Reykjavik early on the 1st day and then need to be back at the airport for 5.30 on the 3rd day.
        So many thanks,

  57. Sarah says:

    Hi! We’re planning a trip to Reykjavik and have four nights the first week of October. We are planning on staying in the city the first night, then a night in Vik, then Hof/Jokulsarlon area and then outside of the city on the last night. We are planning on renting a car on our own. Self drive totally doable at this time? And, are we okay with a non 4×4 since it’s the very beginning of winter? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      It’s impossible to say now what the conditions will be like but most years self-drive in October should be fine and you shouldn’t need a 4×4.

  58. anjali modi says:

    This is such an amazing blog and travel advise page. I’ve learnt so much reading this! I’m planning a 3 night trip to Iceland between May 26-29 2018. I plan to rent a car. We land at the international airport but the budget car rental is at the domestic terminal- how would one get there?
    Also planning
    Day 1- blue lagoon/Reykjavík
    Day 2- golden circle ( stay at ion hotel)
    Day 3-4 – vik and back to Reykjavík
    What do you think- any recs?
    Would love to book through your site as many things as I can as a token of appreciation.
    Thanks so much!

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Anjali,

      Your plan makes sense – and Budget also have a booth at the international airport, so you should be able to pick your car up there. I really like the Secret Lagoon, so you could look into if you want to add that to your Golden Circle tour, and then the drive-it-yourself posts on the blog might be useful.

      1. anjali modi says:

        Great! This is very helpful. I ended up booking one night in Reykjavik. Between Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel and Skolavordustigur Apartments- do you prefer one over the other? Plan to spend the day in Reykjavik.
        Then drive the golden circle and stay two nights at the black beach suites to do the south coast. Also have an option to stay at Mid Hvoll Cottages. Any preference between the two?
        Thanks again for all the help!

  59. Lisa says:

    OMG! This is awesome, especially for an OCD person like myself. The map is so well organized! Quick question, if we wanted to rent a car for just a day from the city, are there places to do that? We land on Monday and probably wouldn’t need a car until Wed or Thurs and just for a day or two. We are renting an apartment about 10 min away from the airport (according to google maps). Thanks, Lisa

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Many car rental agencies will have a pickup location in town too. If you book with Budget, for example, they have a shuttle that will come and pick you up from your hotel.

      Keep in mind though which airport you’re close to – if you’re close to Keflavík Airport you are actually not in the city.

  60. Jamie Kim says:


    I am debating between doing a minibus tour to the South Coast or driving with my friends to Vik from Reykjavik in a day in mid February. I did a little research and there are some mix reviews on driving in the winter but at the same time people seem to recommend self drive tours over doing a tour on a bus. We are all decent drivers but I would really appreciate your advice because safety is obviously my priority and I want to be realistic but I was hoping that you would provide your thoughts as well. Thanks!

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Jamie,

      We never know what the weather is going to be like, so it might be easy driving conditions, but it might also be icy and stormy and not easy at all. If you are flexible and not in a hurry, and OK with driving in winter conditions, then renting a car with friends can be good fun. If you want the safety and peace of mind of having a local do the driving and interpreting the weather forecast and the conditions, then tours are the way to go. So it’s pretty hard to tell, but thank you for being responsible and considering the options and I hope you have a great time!

  61. Cerenity says:

    Hello! Your blogs have been so helpful! We are planning an Iceland trip Aug 25-Sept 1. We plan to drive the Ring Road. I read your blog on the driving the Golden Circle and South Iceland. My question is, Is it doable to drive the Golden Circle and continue to Vik (stopping along: Selfoss Waterfall-, Seljalandsfoss , Skogafoss , Solheimasandur, Black Sand Beach). We are staying in Vik for the night.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      This is possible but it’s a very long and hectic day.

  62. Stephanie Friedman says:

    What a great site! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. We are a family of 4 and are just starting to plan a quick visit to Iceland in early August. We will spend the first day in Reykjavik, drive to Vik on the 2nd day and stay there. Third day would be Jokulsarlon and then stay again that night in Vik, heading back to Reykjavik on the 4th day. Given that we don’t want to drive more than a couple of hours per day, should we go to Jokulsarlon? Or go from Vik to explore the Golden Circle and keep our driving time more limited? Thanks again.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      If you want to only drive a couple of hours a day you shouldn’t go further than Vík. Just the Golden Circle is 4-5 hours of driving for example.

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