South Iceland is probably the treasure chest of the land of ice and fire – filled with many beautiful attractions that are just waiting to get explored by tourists. Needless to say, there are many extremely popular, probably some of the most popular places in the country, that are located on the south coast for example the Diamond beach, Skógafoss waterfall, the Vik village, Reynisfjara black sand beach etc. But, apart from these tens of gorgeous locations, many secret ones lie hidden deep in the lesser-known locations of the south coast. When it comes to experiencing the new, it all comes down to the places which are yet to be explored and seen by many people aka the hidden spots. Let’s face it, the real thrill lies in “going where not everyone else is going”, right?
Inspired by the same logic, what we have here is a list of the secret locations from the most-visited part of Iceland – the south coast. There are many reasons for the south coast to be the most visited part of the country including the easy accessibility from the capital city of Reykjavik, the unbelievably beautiful places, natural phenomena that you never get to see anywhere else, access to almost every activity that Iceland offers and small, beautiful towns that are a hoot. You would think that for a place that gets so many visitors during the year, it is next to impossible to have any secret locations hidden from the eyes of the curious travelers but that is not the case. Since most tourists like to travel the country on specially guided tours, they do not get to walk around and explore things and places that are not on the travel schedule.
Hidden Gems Along the South Coast
As evident, there are several places on the south coast of Iceland that have remained hidden over the years, known by a few and visited by even fewer. These beautiful places include something and other of most kinds of geological formations that you get to see in Iceland including waterfalls, caves, lagoons, and canyons. Without further ado, let us know more about these secret locations of the south coast of Iceland.
If you have seen any fiction movies which involves gorgeous destinations and believable graphics then you must remember one or two scenes involving a mythical looking place that looks no less than heaven itself. This is something that Gljúfrabúi waterfall looks like. When you look upwards standing down in the gorge, you find yourself in between two cliffs that seem to touch each other but don’t, by a tiny little margin. The water cascades down in the front into the almost closed off gorge and falls on the moss-covered rocks creating scenery that looks like the living quarters of elves.
Gljúfrabúi waterfall is located at Hamragarðar, near the infamous Seljalandsfoss waterfall which is often seen as its counterpart given the fact that Seljalandsfoss also happens to have a cave hidden behind its cascading waters. Gljúfrabúi is hidden cleverly behind two cliffs that face the south coast of Iceland. It about 40 meters tall and has quite an interesting passageway that leads to the main thing. The cliffs that hide the waterfall have a small cleft between them from where the water from the waterfall crawls outside. This small cleft is the place from where one can reach the waterfall. You first reach the cleft by traveling from the shore and then walk through the water of the stream. After walking a few meters, the small space suddenly converts into a large opening where you will find your hidden waterfall. There is a huge boulder in the middle of this space that can be climbed easily for a better look or photography purposes.
Needless to say, Gljúfrabúi is one of the most popular places when it comes to photographing the hidden gems of Iceland. Not only, that, but couples who are planning to have their honeymoon, or the wedding itself, in Iceland also make this an exclusive place for their pre-wedding and wedding photography or the post-wedding shoots, given that either the couple or the photographers are aware of the place. Nonetheless, the location is perfect for something like wedding photography given the mystical charm of the waterfall and the secretive location.
Another overlooked gem in the southern part of the country is Kvernufoss waterfall, a counterpart of the Skógafoss and its neighbor as well. Located right beside Skógafoss on the east side, this small waterfall is right off the ring road but almost always goes unnoticed by the visitors that come to Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Kvernufoss waterfall is about 30 meters high and looks almost exactly like Skógafoss waterfall, so much so that one may even confuse the two if they stumble upon Kvernufoss first when looking for Skógafoss. The stairs that lead to the top of the waterfall and the almost permanent rainbow in the are probably the only distinct thing that distinguishes Skógafoss from Kvernufoss.
Hiking into the gorge is possible when visiting Kvernufoss but precautions should be taken at all times. The hike is quite easy though – there are only a few stones and rocks that you will have to climb but there are a few places where the soil and gravel are loose. Upon reaching the gorge you will find yourself surrounded by beautiful dark-colored rocks with a straight, narrow stream of water falling down from the height of about 30 meters. Kvernufoss gorge is also known as the largest concert hall of the elves. Even though there is no cave behind this waterfall-like Seljalandsfoss but you can still walk behind the cascading water of Kvernufoss. Bring a raincoat separately or wear waterproof clothing so that you are safe from the splashes when walking behind the waters.
Íráfoss waterfall is not visited by a lot of people, even lesser than the other hidden waterfalls of the south coast which can be because of the fact that it is located on privately owned land. The waterfall is almost 135 feet high. It falls in the gorge that has several round rocks at the bottom. So, the water falls down on these rocks and makes the water splash in an outward direction. When looked upon from afar, the waterfall almost looks like a crystal white skirt with a beautiful twirl in the end. The rocks around the waterfall are made with basalt columns which creates a beautiful contrast with the white waters of the waterfall.
It can be quite tiresome to reach this waterfall because almost next to nothing is available in terms of guidance about the directions. Since the fall is hidden, it is not visible from the ring road either, much like other waterfalls of the south coast. The easiest way to reach this waterfall is by following route 1 and then taking route 246 that leads towards the north. It circles back to rout 1 after a few kilometers. You will have to follow the same route 246 for a few more kilometers before you stumble upon the stream of the waterfall.
To make your travel easier, here are the coordinates of the waterfall – 63.578217, -19.826193
Loftsalahellir Cave is a small turf cave that is located very close to the south coast of the country and significantly closer to many other, more popular locations of the south coast like the Dyrhólaey arch and the Reynisfjara black sand beach. The cave itself is located on the southern side of Geitafell Mountain, which has an impressive selection of basalt formations and lush green vegetation and is hidden when looked at from a general angle or the main road. Most nature photographers are aware of this place as it gets great lighting and the view of the south coast is incredible from inside the cave.
While it has become quite a popular spot for photoshoots and nature photography now, it used to be a place for farmers to gather and have meetings. Some records show that the cave was used as an execution place for criminals and convicts but there is little proof of the same. When looked from outside, the cave doesn’t really look like a giant boulder with a small entrance at the bottom. There is a small house near the cave and the surrounding area is filled with lush, green grass and water from the ocean in the distance. The turf rock out is generally covered with moss which gives it a new and unique look. It can be hard to find the cave, especially if you do not have the coordinates with you. To make your job easier, the coordinates to Loftsalahellir cave are 63.421975, -19.151886
A perfect palace for all the Star Wars fans, Hjörleifshöfði cave is a small cave that is located in the Hjörleifshöfði mountain and is also known as the Yoda Cave. The new name of the cave came to light and became famous after a scene from Star Wars Rouge was filmed here. While it is no secret that there are many unique caves all around the country, Hjörleifshöfði holds a special place due to its unique shape and size. Hjörleifshöfði was formed in giant rock during the ice age when the volcanic eruptions were making their way through Iceland.
The cave itself is quite peculiar in its entirety. The mouth of the cave is divided into two parts – one is a bigger hole from where people can enter the cave while the other one is right above the main one which just serves the function of being a decorative piece. The rock in which the cave is located is often covered with moss which contrasts ideally with the dark color of the rocks. It is believed that Hjörleifur, the first settler of Iceland is buried on the top of Hjörleifshöfði cave who was betrayed and killed by his own slaves when his ship reached the shores of Iceland and dropped anchor. His brother, who was traveling with him but got separated for a while avenged him and then buried him in the said place. With an interesting history and spectacular visuals, this cave makes a pretty great place for photoshoot and travel.
The iron in the soil here made this waterfall a lot more enticing than nature probably wanted it to be in the first place. Sometimes known as the bridal veil waterfall, the Rauðárfoss waterfall is about 20 meters high, located close to Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the south of Iceland. The fall has a cluster of rocks near the gorge which are quite scattered in their placement. The scattered rocks at the bottom make the cascading waters look like a beautiful veil of a bride which explains why it is called the bridal veil waterfall.
The name Rauðárfoss means Red River Falls which is because of the red soil and rocks that lie beneath the blanket of water. The redness of the soil is due to the excess presence of iron in the soil. There was a time in the recent past when the waterfall almost dried up. That was the time when the beautiful and unique red color of the soil popped up. While the drying up of the waterfall was very unfortunate, it definitely brought up the beauty of the soil.
Stjórnarfoss is a cute little waterfall located close to Kirkjubæjarklaustur town. The surrounding area is perfect for people who would like to spend some time in peace and quiet with themselves, their family, or the friends, ideally on a picnic or a small outside brunch. The waterfall has two beautiful drops which are approximately 15 meters high. The scenery over here near the waterfall is quite scenic. The surrounding rocks, like most other waterfalls in the south, are covered with moss. The place is not only great for picnics, but it is also great location for camping. Kleifar Campsite is located next to the waterfall and is by far one of our favorite campsites in Iceland. Simply set up the tent at the campsite that is located a couple of meters from the waterfall and stay overnight to spend some time with nature and nothing else. To reach the waterfall, you take the ring road and get to the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Take the roundabout from there that leads to the north and drive until you reach road number 203. Only two kilometers down this road is the precious waterfall that you are looking for.
There is no shortage of beautiful views in Iceland with every other one being better than the previous one. One such spot is the Múlagljúfur canyon which is located in the southeast part of Iceland. Located a little of the beaten track, this canyon is probably one of the most gorgeous sights you will get to see in the land of ice and fire. The canyon also has two fabulous waterfalls that fall into the river Múlaá that flows in the canyon down below. The river is fed by glacial waters that come from Öræfajökull glacier, a glacial tongue of Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in the whole of Europe. Apart from that, the simple sight of the canyon is enough to get anyone mesmerized. The rocks are covered in green grass and listening moss.
When you are atop the canyon, you can look down on the beautiful sights of the canyon as well as the nearby glaciers and the glacial lagoons. To get to this canyon, you will have to go a few extra miles. It is located between the village of Hof and Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon. Drive west from Fjallsárlón for about 3-4 kilometers on the access road and then get off to the branched gravel road. After driving for about 2 kilometers, you will reach a parking area that is for the canyon itself. There are no signs that mark the presence of the canyon so it can be hard to find. A short hike from the parking lot will take you to the canyon. Considering the way and the kind of travels you will have to do in order to get to the canyon, it is going to be a ride to remember for the lover of adventures.
Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Consider this one a sister lagoon of the infamous Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon since both these lagoons originate from the Vatnajökull glacier. Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon is located on the southern end of the glacier and originates from a glacial outlet of the Vatnajökull glacier – Fjallsjökull. It is considered a close second to the Jokulsarlon lagoon with hundreds of icebergs floating around in it just like its famous counterpart. The fact that Jokulsarlon is located so close to Fjallsárlón is probably the reason that it goes unnoticed by the tourists as it gets overshadowed. One can go boating on the Fjallsárlón lagoon and see the icebergs from up close. The boat tour lasts for about 1 hour. There is a cute little bistro near the lagoon as well where you get some very cozy warm drinks. If you are lucky, you may also get to see some Skuas and seals in the summer months. So, ensure that you tread carefully around the lagoon so as to not disturb the wildlife in their natural habitat.