iceland south west gullfoss summer view istk
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South West Iceland Holidays

Most first-timers to Iceland choose to explore this region partly because it is where both the international airport at Keflavik and the capital city are located, but also because there is so much stunning scenery to explore, including the sights on the famed Golden Circle route.

Encompassing the rugged Reykjanes Peninsula and extending along the south shore to Vik, the south west of Iceland offers a diversity of experiences. Visit volcanoes and glaciers, marvel at thundering waterfalls and witness geysers erupt into the air amidst natural hot springs. Take in the culture and vibrancy of Reykjavik, relax in the naturally heated waters of the world-renowned Blue Lagoon and head out whale watching. In the winter months you can add the thrill of chasing the aurora to the mix.

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This is a region perfectly suited to short breaks, both independent and in small groups with an expert guide and like-minded people. But such is the wealth of places to see and activities to enjoy that staying longer comes highly recommended, exploring at your own pace on a self drive holiday.

Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon

Explore fantastic lavascapes and have a dip in the milky-blue waters of the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Visit the hot springs at Krisuvik or walk the ‘Bridge between Continents’ where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are pulling apart. Watch the surf, sunset and thousands of birds, even whales, at Gardar, whose two lighthouses are among eleven that grace this rocky coastline.

iceland blue lagoon silica face masks

Golden Circle

Thingvellir national park is excellent for birds and wildflowers. An area of exceptional geological and historical interest; visit the ‘lawrock’ where the ancient parliament or ‘Althing’ met to make laws and settle disputes.

The geysir area of geothermal activity gives its name to other such waterspouts around the world – see Strokkur regularly erupt to around 30m. Walking trails are marked out among scalding hot pools and trickling streams.

Forming the final piece of the Golden Circle trio of natural wonders along with Geysir and Thingvellir, is Gullfoss, these rainbow misted double falls drop around 33m then plunge into a mile long gorge. An awesome sight at any time of year and in winter, they have been known to freeze over.

iceland south west strokkur geysir rth


Due to the amount of geothermal activity in the area, this is also known as the ‘greenhouse’ village. Since a small earthquake there in 2008, the hot springs in nearby Reykjadalur have livened up – worth the two hour round-trip (on foot).


Further south Seljalandsfoss is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland. The water cascades over a former sea-cliff, allowing visitors to walk behind it – a remarkable experience for the sure-footed.

iceland south west seljalandsfoss lone person sunburst istk


Yet another magnificent waterfall. Walk up to the wide, thundering curtain of water, 60m high and soak up the sight and sound. Perhaps climb the path to the top of the falls for a different perspective. Nearby is the little Skogar Museum with its turf houses and pretty church.


‘Thor’s Wood’ is almost completely surrounded by mountains between which three glaciers spill down, one creating a glacial lagoon. The valley floor is criss-crossed with streams which at certain times of the year become raging rivers. An area hugely popular with walkers, hike to the lookout above the picnic area and enjoy panoramic views. Due to the rough terrain, travellers can either explore by superjeep excursion or hire their own high-clearance 4WD vehicle.

iceland thorsmork mountains reflected in river istk

Mount Hekla

This active volcano sits brooding behind fields of lava from past eruptions. Hekla is actually a ridge rather than a single cone and at 1488m high, it attracts many a hiker. The nearby Thjorsa Valley includes Haifoss(Iceland’s second highest waterfall) and Hjalparfoss. Take a stroll through the Gjain gorge and see the Viking farm Stong.

Westman Islands

A group of 15 volcanic islands, famous for their puffin population. Heimaey, the largest island, has a thriving fishing town, partly destroyed during the 1973 eruption that thrust up a new volcano. Get there by air taxi from Bakki and from July 2010 by the new 30-minute ferry service.


Pounding waves have eroded a natural rock arch here through the headland (best viewed from the black sand beach below) and the bumpy drive to the top is worth the effort for some stunning views. It is also a great place to observe puffins, arctic terns and guillemots except for 6 weeks during May/June when the area is closed for the nesting season.


This small coastal town has a tiny hilltop church. Have a pit stop for food and fuel, visit the wool shop for local crafts or stroll along the black sand beach – the view across to the headland and its distinctive sea stacks, Reynisdrangur, is one you’ll see on many a postcard. Nearby is Myrdalsjokull, where snowmobiling trips are available on the glacier.

south iceland vik church and reynisdrangar sea stacks sunny day istk