Congratulations! You are thinking about embarking on one of the greatest road trips in the world: traversing Iceland’s picturesque Ring Road route. The iconic route circumnavigates the entire island of Iceland, and you will see a handful of our breathtaking and unforgettable landscapes. But, where do you go? What should you see? If you are taking the most common path, south from Reykjavik then east from the coast, you have a lot of options for scenic stops and campsites. If you are unsure as which ones are the must-sees, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Here are the must-see attractions in Southern Iceland when driving the Ring Road.
Seljalandsfoss: Majestic Photo Opportunity
The first stop on your Icelandic Ring Road journey should be at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This 65-meter (213-foot) waterfall is both majestic and powerful. Water careens out of a craggy cul-de-sac of stones and empties into a basin of water below. The pool of water at the bottom is encircled by vibrant green moss on all sides. It is indeed a spectacle to behold.
My favorite aspect of this particular waterfall is that you can take pictures from behind the waterfall itself. There is an alcove that goes back behind the base of the waterfall, and you can grab the perfect photo of yourself enjoying your incredible Icelandic adventure.
The falls are relatively close to Reykjavik, so if nature is calling you, this also doubles as a great pitstop. If you are traveling the Ring Road during the winter, there is the added bonus that the falls are illuminated with lights.
Skógafoss Falls: Rainbows and Hidden Treasure
Only about 30 minutes away from Seljalandsfoss lies one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. Skógafoss falls have been captivating the minds of Icelanders and tourists for years. If you like rainbows, then you came to the right place. Due to the power of the falls, it isn’t uncommon for visitors to see not only rainbows but double rainbows (if you haven’t seen the YouTube video of the man losing his mind over witnessing a double rainbow, stop what you are doing and check it out).
The Skógafoss falls were originally home to some of Iceland’s most beautiful coastline, but the ocean has since receded back into the sea. The peak of the rapids are accessible on either side and like Seljalandsfoss (and much of Iceland) there are seemingly endless fields of emerald moss surrounding it. This was also one of the filming locations for the Marvel movie Thor: The Dark World. However, Skógafoss also holds a special place in Icelandic lore.
It is said that one of the forerunners of Vikings to settle this area hid a great deal of treasure in a secret location behind the roaring rapids. For hundreds of years, Icelanders and treasure hunters searched for it, to no avail. Apparently, a group of thrill seekers found it but lost grip on the chest, and it was lost forever. The ring they were holding onto was all that remained. I wish I had some treasure, don’t you?
DC-3 Plane Wreck: Haunting and Beautiful
A quick 13-minute drive from Skógafoss lies one of Iceland’s most iconic attractions. Quietly resting on the black sand beaches of southern Iceland lay the hulking remains of a United States Military Aircraft. Strange, right? How’d it get there?
In the early 1970s, the United States was flying over Iceland when they incurred a major malfunction with their plane, which forced them to make a crash landing on a local beach. And it has remained right where it crashed since that day. This is a must-see location. The combination of the black sand, the foggy coastline, and the incredibly out of place rusting fuselage make for a spectacular sight. Make sure your phone is charged because you aren’t going to want to miss this photo opportunity.
The owners of the land in recent years have become concerned with people driving directly up to the crash site, so they have decided that you have to walk from the road to the site. It is a 4km (2.5 mile) walk, but it is totally worth it!
Attractions on the Ring Road in Southern Iceland: Part One
These incredible locations are but a fraction of a small percent that Iceland has to offer. The three sites listed in this article, part 1 of this series, are in very close proximity to each other. You can quickly reach all of them within half a day. I am excited and jealous that you are planning your Icelandic Ring Road adventure. Hopefully, these recommendations will help you cut down on logistics, and let you focus on the big picture: getting excited about your upcoming Ring Road trip! Check back on Monday for the second installment of the best locations to visit off the Ring Road in southern Iceland. See you soon!