How To Get The Most Out Of 3 Days In Iceland

23. January 2020 —
Shape Bjorgvin Hilmarsson
Skógafoss Waterfall

If you have 3 days to spend in Iceland you can get a great feel for the landscape, natural attractions and culture by sticking to Iceland’s diverse south coast and charming capital city. Below are all of the south coast and Reykjavík´s most beloved sites as well as a 3 day itinerary so that you can fit them all in!

It is possible to join a south coast tour if you prefer to go with a group instead of self driving or are worried about driving in Iceland in the winter. This is also a great option for those who don’t have a valid driver’s license or are looking to meet fellow travellers along the way.

Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrabúi

You will start your journey by heading east on road 1 (the Ring Road) towards the south coast. The first stop is at Seljalandsfoss waterfall which has a magnificent 60m (197ft) drop. The Seljalands river which feeds Seljalandsfoss originates from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier which lies further east. You may recognize this famous waterfall from Justin Bieber’s ‘I'll Show You’ music video where he is seen running on the path behind the waterfall.

Shape Jean Cristophe Béchet
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

If you continue on the walking path west of Seljalandsfoss you will find a hidden waterfall called Gljúfrabúi. To access the falls you will walk over the stones in the river going into the canyon - waterproof shoes are a must!

Eyjafjallajökull & Seljavallalaug

Eyjafjallajökull is the famous tongue twister volcano that erupted in 2010 stopping air traffic in Europe for a number of days while the ash cleared. The word may sound intimidating but it actually consists of 3 words: eyja (island) - fjalla (mountain) - jökull (glacier). While driving Road 1 east you will see the Eyjafjallajökull museum (now closed) on the right hand side of the road and on the left is a place to pull over if you want to jump out and get a picture. 

Shape Gudrun Johannsdottir

The oldest swimming pool, Seljavallalaug, built in 1923 lies east of Seljalandsfoss waterfall and south of Eyjafjallajökull. The walk from the car park takes about 15-20 minutes. It is quite a large pool but it is not very warm: the temperature is usually around 30°C (86°F). There is a small communal changing room on site but no shower or washroom facilities.

Skógafoss & Kvernufoss

Skógafoss waterfall is surrounded by lush green farmland and towering mountains. Take the staircase up the side of the waterfall for excellent aerial views of the area and a look at the famous Fimmvörðuháls walking trail. You can stretch your legs by walking just a portion of this trail before turning back. This way you can also get a better look at the winding Skaftá river complete with many smaller waterfalls along the path. 

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
Skógafoss waterfall

To access Kvernufoss waterfall you drive towards the Skógar museum and then walk over the sheep fence and into the canyon where you will finally come to Kvernufoss waterfall. This is an excellent photo spot as you can actually walk behind the waterfall. We recommend visiting only in summertime and remaining on the path at all times as the area is sensitive to damage from foot traffic.

Sólheimajökull Glacier

´Home of the sun´ glacier is an outlet glacier stemming from the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The best way to experience this glacier is by going with an experienced guide onto the ice and getting a fantastic view over the entire surrounding mountain range. Here is a guide for activities in the area if you wish to spend a little extra time in this fascinating region.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
Sólheimajökull glacier in South Iceland

Sólheimasandur DC Plane Wreck

In 1973 a United States navy DC plane crash landed on Sólheimassandur beach - thankfully no one was injured! Today we can see the abandoned plane wreck looking very ominous against the black sand background. You can access the plane wreck by walking for about 40 minutes but if you want to save time you can take the plane wreck shuttle. 

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
The DC3 Plane Wreck

Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey is a small promontory known for its diverse bird life, stunning cliffs and large rock arch. The area is closed from mid May to mid June to protect nesting birds. You can get a fantastic aerial view of the black sand beach, Reynisfjara. This is an excellent place to see puffins during the summer time when they come to land to nest.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson

Reynisfjara Beach

This Black Sand Beach is famous for its stunning basalt columns and gigantic waves. The tall sea stacks in the water are called Reynisdrangar which are said to be a group of unlucky trolls who were frozen in place. At Reynisfjara sneaker waves often catch visitors by surprise. These sneaker waves come on suddenly and are significantly larger and stronger than the previous ones.The strong undertow at the beach makes it very difficult to get out of the water once you are in. Make sure to stay well back from the waves at all times and keep a close eye on children.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur is a stunning 2km (1.3m) long canyon. This 100m (328ft) deep canyon winds around the Fjaðrá river presenting incredible views from above and below. This is another site made popular by Justin Bieber´s ´I´ll Show You´ music video.

Skaftafell

Skaftafell is located inside Vatnajökull National Park (Vatnajökull is Europe's largest glacier). There are a number of beautiful natural attractions inside the park including: Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull glacier, Svartifoss waterfall, and Iceland's tallest peak: Hvannadalshnúkur.

Shape Arinbjörn Hauksson

The views in the park are absolutely breathtaking and we recommend budgeting a good amount of time in the park to go on a glacier walk tour and to visit Svartifoss waterfall which is famous for its basaltic rock formations. Skaftafell has a very well equipped campsite if you are feeling adventurous. With the Skaftafell Guide you can find more information about planning your trip in the area.

Shape Michael Howard
Blue Dragon Ice Cave

During the wintertime temperatures drop and ice caves form on the glacier so that you can walk inside. In Skaftafell there are 2 ice cave possibilities; the first ice cave is on Falljökull glacier where we can walk on the ice to access it. The second is a crystal ice cave on Skeiðarájökull and is only accessible by a short helicopter flight from the airport by Skaftafell.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & The Diamond Beach

Jökulsárlón is an 18 km² (7miles²) and 248 m (814 ft) deep glacial lagoon where massive icebergs can be seen floating in the water. The lagoon formed in 1935 as melt water from Vatnajökull glacier (Europe’s largest glacier) started to accumulate in the area. The icebergs floating in the water are pieces of the glacier that have broken off. Keep an eye out for seals swimming in the water! The ever growing lagoon serves as a reminder of the changes taking place in our climate.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson

Across from the lagoon is the Diamond Beach where large pieces of ice from the glacial lagoon wash up on the shore. Do not climb on the icebergs as can easily wash away with you on top of them.

If you have some time to spend in Reykjavík on your way back in town check out these popular sites:

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Harpa Concert Hall

Grótta Lighthouse

3 Day Summer Itinerary

Day 1

  • Seljalandsfoss / Gljúfrabúi
  • Skógafoss / Kvernufoss
  • Seljavallalaug pool
  • Sólheimajökull glacier walk
  • Reynisfjara
  • Spend the night in Vík

Day 2

  • Fjaðrágljúfur Canyon
  • Skaftafell Glacier Walk Tour
  • Svartifoss Hike
  • Spend the night in Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Day 3

  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
  • Plane Wreck / ATV Tour
  • Dyrhólaey
  • Explore Reykjavík (optional if you have some extra time)

Road & Weather Conditions

In December and January you can expect about 4-5 hours of daylight which means you may have to trim your plan our recommended plan a bit and focus on the sites that appeal to you the most. Weather and road conditions should also be considered when making travel plans. Check safetravel.is daily for weather and travel condition warnings. Storms can occur even in summer so it's important to check weather regardless of the season.

About the Author

IMG Staff Writer

An anonymous but well informed member of our team that enjoys sharing their knowledge of Iceland & Greenland’s stunning nature.

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