Reykjanes Peninsula and the South Coast (with the Golden Circle)

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Reykjanes Peninsula and the South Coast (with the Golden Circle) - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Blue Lagoon

    This world-renowned therapeutic pool is now a sheltered site where man-made structures blend with natural geologic formations. A reception area includes food concessions and boutique shops where you can buy health products made from the lagoon's mineral-rich ingredients. Bathing suits are available to rent, and high-tech bracelets keep track of your locker code, any purchases, and the length of your visit. The lagoon is only 20 minutes from Keflavík Airport and 50 minutes from Reykjavík by car. Buses run from the BSÍ bus terminal in Reykjavík to the Blue Lagoon frequently. Booking in advance is essential. For a more personalized experience, you can also book a spa treatment at the lagoon's on-site Retreat Hotel, whether or not you're staying at there. This is a little-known way to have your own private lagoon experience.  The Blue Lagoon has been closed off and in early 2024 due to volcanic activity in the immediate vicinity, so be sure to verify its opening before planning a visit.

    Norðurljósavegur 9, Grindavík, Southern Peninsula, IS-240, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: ISK 11,990
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  • 2. Eldheimar

    In 1973, in the middle of the night, the Eldfell volcano on Vestmannaeyjar suddenly exploded, causing the immediate evacuation of more than 5,000 people. At this tech museum—built around the ruins of two houses that were buried by the lava—you can learn about the eruption. To call the museum entertaining would be an understatement as it's filled with video footage and interactive displays that truly underscore the awe-inspiring and destructive power of the earth.

    Gerðisbraut 10, South, 900, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: ISK 2,900
  • 3. Fagradalsfjall Volcano

    The Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption site—which began erupting once again in August 2022 after a year-long hiatus —is a must-visit in Iceland. Where else can you stand but feet away from newly-made continental crust? There are a few different paths to explore here, all varying in difficulty from easy to advanced, but hiking boots are strongly recommended no matter which path you take. Expect to spend around four to five hours actually hiking. The site itself is just an hour's drive from Reykjavík—take Highway 41 towards Keflavík and turn onto Highway 43 towards Grindavík, then follow Highway 427 until you see a plethora of parking lots. There are also numerous tour operators that offer various trips to the volcano via guided hikes, helicopter, or airplane, but don't be afraid to just go yourself and have a long picnic there. You'll want to stay for a while. Just note that if your visit coincides with an active period of the volcano, be sure to check in advance that the current hiking conditions are safe.

    Grindavík, Southern Peninsula, 241, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: ISK 1,000 parking fee
  • 4. Garðskagaviti

    Two lighthouses can be found on Garðskagi, and Garðskagaviti is the smaller and older of the two. It is also known as “the lighthouse of love”: wives of fishermen would take a stone from the black-sand beaches surrounding the town, go to the top of the lighthouse, and walk in circles and pray for their husbands out at sea. Nowadays, you won't find too many women roaming the stairs, but if the northern lights forecast looks good, this beach is a great place to watch them. You also might be rewarded with some prime bird-watching—species like gull-billed tern, American bittern, and purple gallinule can be spotted here.

    Skagabraut, Reykjanesbær, Southern Peninsula, 251 Suðurnesjabæ, Iceland
  • 5. Geysir

    The world-famous Geysir (from which all other geysers get their name), shoots boiling water and steam 100 feet in the air when it erupts every few months. From Þingvellir, the first stop in the Golden Circle, continue east on Route 36, turn left on Route 365, and turn left again on Route 37 at Laugarvatn. At the end of Route 37, turn left and take Route 35 northeast to Hótel Geysir, which is next to the hot springs. 

    Haukadalur, South, Iceland
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  • 6. Gullfoss

    Iceland's most famous waterfall is a truly spectacular scene. There used to be a modest visitor center named in memory of Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who fought against a hydroelectric reservoir scheme that would have flooded the falls in the early 20th century. Today it's a tour-booking center, a small shop, and a restaurant that prides itself on a warm and filling Icelandic meat soup. The center's bathrooms are free to use.

    Biskaupstungubraut, Selfoss, South, 801, Iceland
  • 7. Hellisgerði

    Tucked away from the main street in Hafnarfjörður, this local park is the perfect place to get lost. There, pathways wind between lava formations, a playground is hidden by towering spruces, and a mystical pond beckons you to stop and listen to the melodious birdsong. Hellisgerði is notoriously the home of huldufólk, or “hidden people”—if you stay long enough, maybe you'll meet one. The Hidden Worlds group stops here on its tour.

    Hellisgata 3, Hafnarfjörður, Capital Region, 220, Iceland
  • 8. Raufarhólshellir

    At 1,360 meters, the Lava Tunnel is the fourth-longest lava cave discovered in Iceland. The cave is remarkably spacious—from 10 to 30 meters wide and up to 10 meters tall—making it quite easy and accessible for most people. Walking along the lava's 5,200-year-old path is a humbling experience in itself, and the views of the geological formations and spectacular colors are extraordinary. In winter, big crystal-like ice sculptures form inside the cave entrance. The standard Lava Tunnel tour takes about an hour.

    Þorlákshafnarvegur, Eyrarbakki, South, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: ISK 7,400
  • 9. Reynisfjara

    Take route 215 for 5 km (3 miles) to reach the popular black sand beach, Reynisfjara, located on the western side of Reynisfjall. The surrounding cliffs are the home to thousands of puffins in the summer, as well as arctic terns and fulmars. The dramatic splattering of the explosive waves on the obsidian black beach is a thrill to watch, but for safety reasons visitors must stay far from the edge of the water. The waves off Reynisfjara can rise quickly, sweeping people up in seconds, which has resulted in many accidents and even deaths. Offshore are the towering basalt sea stacks, Reynisdrangar. Their silhouette is seen from both Vík and Reynisfara.

    Route 215, Vík, South, Iceland
  • 10. Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary

    Little White and Little Grey are two of the cutest residents of Iceland. Originally from a Shanghai water park, the belugas found sanctuary in 2019 at this specially built facility, which helps the marine mammals reacclimatize to a more natural environment and also works as a puffin rehabilitation center. The sanctuary offers daily tours of their facilities, where you can learn more about the whales and get up-close-and-personal with some puffins. They also offer boat tours of the bay where Little White and Little Grey will live out their lives.  

    Ægisgata 2, South, 900, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Admission ISK 3,050; boat tour ISK 16,900, Closed Nov.–May
  • 11. Secret Lagoon

    Taking a dip in a natural hot spring surrounded by green fields and a tiny geyser sounds great, but when you add in showers and cold drinks, it's almost too good to be true. Locals have left this lagoon largely untouched but have set up new facilities. It's even more magical during winter when people sit in the warm water with steam rising all around them. If you're lucky, the northern lights will put on a show across the sky while you're there.

    Hvammsvegur, South, 845, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: ISK 3,000
  • 12. Seljalandsfoss

    This waterfall is situated right off the ring road, so anyone who drives by can’t help but marvel at its majesty. Seljalandsfoss is 65 meters tall and its special trait is that you can walk behind it. Be ready to be heavily drizzled by the fresh mountain water but be careful because the steps can be slippery. Bathroom facilities and a small coffee shop can be found by the parking lot. There are also lots of beautiful short walking paths all around the waterfall that can easily add to this unique experience.

    Þórsmerkurvegur, Hvolsvöllur, South, Iceland
  • 13. Seltún

    This colorful geothermal area, with raw bubbling mud pots and steam and hot little rivers emerging from the earth, is one of the gems of the Reykjanes peninsula. Located on the scenic Krýsuvík road (Route 42)—which passes volcanic sandstone cliffs, lakes with black-sand beaches, and outlandish lava formations—this stop is a must along the interesting drive. The minerals spewed from the ground at unbelievable temperatures stain the rocks in blood reds, deep blues, beige yellows, and neon greens. The nicely restored walking paths and spacious parking lot make it easily accessible for most visitors. There are also bathrooms available. 

    Seltún, Hafnarfjörður, Capital Region, 221, Iceland
  • 14. Silfra

    Most people visit Þingvellir for its historical and geological significance, but in this same place another perspective awaits those who don’t mind trading their walking boots and windbreaker for a dry suit and flippers. Named one of the top three freshwater dives on the planet, at Silfra you can snorkel on the surface of crystal clear water or dive to depths up to 30 meters. Exploring these underwater cracks is like entering another world: the silence is striking—a perfect companion to the vision of muted blues, bejeweled with silver globules of gas mushrooming to the surface from the divers below. An adventure in this underwater wonderland between the continents of North America and Europe leaves you with vivid images but no words. For tours with knowledgeable instructors, book with, Tröll Expeditions, or Arctic Adventures.

    National Park Þingvellir, Þingvellir, South, IS-101, Iceland
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  • 15. Skógafoss

    Farther east, about 25 minutes away from Seljalandsfoss, you will find another falling beauty, framed in by green hills in the summer and ice during winter. The waterfall Skógafoss is located at Skógar, a small Icelandic village, south of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Skógafoss is around 60 meters high, 25 meters wide, and is square in shape. A steep staircase leads up to the top of the hill above the falls, and on the way up you will often see a rainbow.

    Hvolsvöllur, South, Iceland
  • 16. Strokkur

    This highly popular active geyser is located in the Geysir Geothermal area, and is also along the Golden Circle. Though not as powerful as the Great Geysir, it does erupt much more frequently.

    Haukadalur, South, Iceland
  • 17. The Bridge Between Continents

    Across a wide tension crack that opened due to the divergent movements of the North American and Eurasian plates is a narrow footbridge built as a symbol for the connection between Europe and North America. You can (symbolically) walk from one continent to another in seconds, marveling at the tectonic forces at work on this island; the average rifting of the plates amounts to about 2 cm per year. The bridge is just off Route 425, and there's plenty of information on-site as well as some classic photo ops (many visitors pretend to hold the bridge up).

    Skógarbraut 945, Reykjanesbær, Southern Peninsula, Iceland
  • 18. Valahnúkur

    This mountain was formed in a single geologic event, and while exploring this magical stretch of coastline, you can see evidence of the different phases of the eruption. Tuff forms during an explosive eruption, and pillow lava forms when lava flows underwater. Out on the sea, you can see majestic black cliffs that serve as castles for birds. A bit farther out you can see the famous Eldey Island, where the great auk (a now-extinct species of bird) used to live. The auks survived the longest in Iceland, but the last great auk was killed on June 3, 1844 for a Danish natural history collector. Eldey is now a bird sanctuary. To reach Valhnúkur, take the road that leads off Route 425 through lava fields. Turn right (the turn is marked, "Reykjanesviti"), at the T-intersection, and then go 900 meters on an unpaved road, past the impressive Reykjanesviti lighthouse. On the way back, take the left branch at the T-intersection, and in 500 meters you'll reach Gunnuhver, Iceland's biggest mud pool.

    Efstahraun 9, Grindavík, Southern Peninsula, Iceland
  • 19. Þingvellir National Park

    Located at the northern end of Þingvallavatn—Iceland's largest lake—Þingvellir National Park is a powerful symbol of Icelandic heritage. Many national celebrations are held here, and it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Besides its historical interest, Þingvellir holds a special appeal for naturalists: it is the geologic meeting point of two continents. At Almannagjá, on the west side of the plain, is the easternmost edge of the North American tectonic plate, otherwise submerged in the Atlantic Ocean. Over on the plain's east side, at the Heiðargjá Gorge, you are at the westernmost edge of the Eurasian plate. A path down into Almannagjá from the top of the gorge overlooking Þingvellir leads straight to the high rock wall of Lögberg (Law Rock), where the person once chosen as guardian of the Icelandic laws would recite them from memory. At the far end of the gorge is the Öxarárfoss (Öxará Waterfall); beautiful, peaceful picnic spots sit just beyond it. Behind Lögberg the river cascades down and forms the forbidding Drekkingarhylur pool.

    Þingvellir, South, Iceland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; parking ISK 750
  • 20. Þórsmörk

    Sheltered between three towering glaciers (Tindfjallajökull, Eyjafjallajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull) and surrounded by three rivers (Krossá, Þröngá, and Markarfljót), is the Þórsmörk nature reserve. Named after the hammer-wielding Norse god Þór, it is among the most popular hiking destinations in Iceland. At Þórsmörk you will find snow-capped mountain ridges, twisted gorges, moss-covered caves, and hidden waterfalls. The area has scenic surprises around every corner, making it a true hiker’s paradise. The views are especially dramatic in the fall when the whole valley turns into a spectacle of colors, from oranges, yellows, and reds to the ever-present lava black of the rock beneath. It can be hard to get to—effectively unreachable during winter—but it is worth the hassle. Þórsmörk cannot be reached in a regular car or even regular 4WDs. You will need to take an amphibious bus or travel with a guide in a Superjeep to cross the unpredictable and dangerous rivers that close off the valley to the south.

    Hvolsvöllur, South, Iceland

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