Last updated on December 5th, 2023 at 04:12 pm
Affiliate Disclosure: This Hotels Iceland South Coast guide contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are entirely my own.
I hope you are reading this because you have either decided to spend a few days exploring the South Coast of Iceland, or because you will be passing through the region as you circumnavigate the country on Iceland’s Ring Road.
I simply cannot underestimate just how much there is to see on the South Coast – from awe-inspiring waterfalls to majestic crystal ice caves. A day trip from Reykjavik just will not suffice (unless you want to be racing from attraction to attraction).
The experience is much more enjoyable if you can tuck into a lovely South Coast Iceland hotel at night to fully recharge your batteries for the following day’s adventures.
Please use the following the menu to find what you need quickly. In a hurry? Go straight to the hotel list.
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SOUTH COAST VS. SOUTH ICELAND
If you have not been to Iceland before, getting the lay of the land can be a little confusing. South Iceland or the Southern Region of Iceland, refers to quite a large area east of Keflavik International Airport (near Grindavik) and the country’s capital city of Reykjavik.
The South Coast of Iceland, with its abundance of amazing natural attractions, is just the southern border of this region. On the Google map below, it is the bottom section of the red dotted line, running roughly from Selfoss to Hof. (You can click on the image to get a closer look at the map.)
I mention this because if you do a Google search on Hotels in South Iceland, it will almost always return some results that are not close to South Coast Iceland attractions.
SOUTH COAST DESTINATION HOTELS
I also want to mention that some of the South Coast Iceland hotels on this list are so dreamy in terms of design, location and service that they can be a destination unto themselves. Several also have fabulous chefs that are worthy of the trip alone. (We recently had one of our best ever meals on the South Coast of Iceland at Umi Hotel.)
Almost all of the hotels on this list are free of light pollution, which is ideal for northern lights viewing. The one exception is the Westman Islands hotel (in town).
Note: While they can be present at any time of the year, the northern lights in Iceland are most visible from October – March. This timing coincides with those long, dark nights.
SOUTH COAST ICELAND HIGHLIGHTS
In case I haven’t convinced you yet, here are just a few of the attractions to see on Iceland’s south coast. I’ve listed them from west (closest to Keflavik airport and Reykjavik) to east, ending at the Vatnajökull Glacier.
- Marvel at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls – two of the most beautiful in all of Iceland. (In the summer months you can walk right behind Seljalandsfoss – you’ve probably seen the photos.)
- Take a day trip to Heimaey in the Westman islands – home to the Atlantic’s largest puffin colony. You can also visit the Beluga Sea Sanctuary where former captive whales Little Grey and Little White now get to live out their days.
- Venture out to a black sand beach to see the Solheimasandur plane wreck. (This navy DC plane crashed in 1973 – fortunately everyone survived.)
- Walk along the Dyrhólaey cliffs, a natural landmark known for its breathtaking views of the ocean, the lighthouse of the same name and the surrounding area.
- Visit the dramatic basalt columns and at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. (Watch out for dangerous “sneaker waves” though.)
- Discover the unique geological formations at the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks, formed by the erosion of volcanic rocks over time.
- Go horseback riding on the black sand beaches of Vík, where you can enjoy the rugged scenery on the back of a gentle Icelandic horse.
- See and feel the heat from real lava at the Vik Lava Show.
- Visit Diamond Beach where giant ice crystals from the nearby glacier decorate the sand.
- Explore the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where you can witness majestic icebergs breaking off from glaciers and floating in the tranquil water.
- Take a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull or Vatnajokull glaciers, where you can experience the stunning beauty of Iceland’s frozen landscapes.
ICELAND HOTELS THE NEED-TO-KNOW
Before you start perusing and booking hotels for your big adventure, there are a couple of things I would like to share with you about South Coast Iceland hotels.
1. THEY ARE EXPENSIVE
I’m sure you have already discovered this, but Iceland hotels are very pricey (as with almost all things in Iceland). There is very high demand for them so you will rarely find a deal. Furthermore, the hotels along the South Coast are largely independent so your Hilton Honors Diamond Status unfortunately isn’t going to be any help.
2. THEY BOOK UP REALLY EARLY
In peak season (June-Sept.) hotels along the South Coast of Iceland get booked up really early. I recently booked hotels for an August trip in February and encountered several sold out properties. (Some also get pre-booked by tour groups.)
I recommend making flexible bookings as early as you can and then refining where needed. Hotel sites like Booking.com typically offer a refundable booking option.
Note: Although I like the idea of booking directly with hotels, I usually find Booking.com easier to make changes on while I’m still working out my plans. Independent hotels often require an email exchange for cancellations and changes, which is just another thing for me to keep track of. On Booking.com, changes/cancellations typically can be done with mouse a click or two.
3. THEY ARE OFTEN ISOLATED
The south coast of Iceland in known to be a fabulous place to see the northern lights (most visible October through March). The reason for this is that hotels and small towns (the few there are) are usually quite spaced apart, with little light pollution.
For this reason, many guests dine at their own hotel. If your chosen hotel does not have a restaurant, you may want to research nearby options. Many establishments have limited space so if your preferred dining spot offers reservations – make one. You can always cancel it or change it.
Likewise, if you have decided on a self-catering property, check out the location of the nearest grocery store for provisions.
4. IS BREAKFAST INCLUDED?
Traditionally, most hotels in Iceland included breakfast in the price. Recently, however, I have noticed this creeping in as an extra charge at some properties.
Keep an eye out for a free breakfast when booking, especially if you are torn between two properties. The savings can really add up over the course of a trip.
5. FAMILY ROOMS ARE HARD TO FIND
I have often felt that hotels in Iceland are designed with only couples and single travelers in mind. Double rooms (sleeping 2) are ubiquitous, while family rooms in Iceland are quite rare. (I have a whole post on finding family hotels in Reykjavik on my other site for this reason.)
In the list of hotels below, I make note of ones with rooms suitable for a family. To save you time, however, I’ll tell you my favourite right now: the Magma Hotel. This sweet property has several units that can sleep up to a family of five.
DECIDING WHERE TO STAY
Deciding exactly where you want to stay on the South Coast of Iceland depend on a few factors.
- How many days you have to work with.
- The key attractions you wish to visit.
- Whether you want have just one hotel base or are willing to move hotels (to minimize daily travel time to attractions).
- Whether or not your are passing through the region (ex. traveling the Iceland Ring Road around the perimeter of the country), or are visiting the South Coast of Iceland and then returning back along the same route.
Keep reading and I will explain the different areas in detail.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED?
It really depends how much you want to see, but in my opinion, the absolute minimum is 2 days/1 night. This, however, would be very rushed.
In a perfect scenario, I would recommend at least 3 days, 2 nights to see the major attractions (Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach).
Keep in mind that if you also want to do a glacier walk or a blue ice caves tour, these are half to full day excursions.
If you would like to visit the island of Heimay in the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), this can be added on as a day trip or as an additional night.
The timing mentioned above is very suitable and feasible in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, however, things can be quite different as you have several unique factors to contend with.
- In the deep of winter, you have way less daylight hours in which to see the attractions (roughly 5 hrs. in December vs. 17 hrs. in June).
- Winter road conditions will have you traveling at much slower speeds.
- Winter storms can lead to closed roads and tour cancellations.
Note: On a recent February trip, my friend and I spent one whole day in our hotel room because a storm was raging. We had planned 4 nights on the South Coast of Iceland though, so we were still able to see everything on our list.
WHICH TOWN OR REGION TO STAY IN
On the Google map below, I have plotted all of my favourite South Iceland hotels as well as the top attractions in the region. You can click on the map to open up a larger view in another window. Sometimes a visual helps, right?
I’m also going to list some driving times below. Please note that these are driving times with good road conditions. On winter roads, multiply these times by at least 1.5.
Note: It took us 8 hours (nearly double!) to get from the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon (near Hof) back to Reykjavik on a particularly stormy day in February.
- Keflavik Airport to Selfoss: 1 hr, 2o min.
- Keflavik Airport to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: 5hrs
- Reykjavik to Selfoss: 1 hr
- Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: 4hrs, 40 min.
- Selfoss to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: 3hrs, 40 min.
In terms of deciding which area on the south coast of Iceland is the best area to stay in for your trip – please see my comments below.
Selfoss is a small town (pop. 8k) at the western border of the South Coast on the banks of the Ölfusá river. It is a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the Golden Circle as well as many South Coast attractions. A Selfoss hotel can be a great place to stay if:
- You want to start your Iceland trip on the South Coast of Iceland but have just come off a red-eye flight. Selfoss is only a short drive away. You could enjoy a leisurely morning at the Blue Lagoon, visit Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and then relax at your hotel.
- You want to visit both the South Coast and drive the Golden Circle (a day trip) from the same hotel base. Selfoss is a good starting point for both. While I have always done the Golden Circle drive by starting and finishing in Reykjavik – this could potentially free up your Reykjavik time to just do city attractions.
- You want to enjoy an Iceland small town experience. As you move further east, things get pretty sparse. (The population of the more eastern town of Vík, for example, is around 600 people.)
HELLA AND HVOLSVOLLUR HOTELS
While still quiet far west in comparison to most of the major South Coast Iceland attractions, a Hvolsvollur or Hella hotel can be a great choice if:
- Your hotel is a just a stopover as you head east to do the Ring Road (since you won’t need to backtrack on your journey).
- If you are not going as far as the Vatnajökull Glacier (Jökulsárlón Lagoon, Diamond Beach etc.) but want to see waterfalls, black sand beaches, and seasonly, the northern lights.
- If you are going as far as the Vatnajökull Glacier but will be moving on to a closer hotel. (Vatnajökull is just a really long day trip from Hella and Hvolsvollur.)
- If you will be doing a day trip to Heimaey in the Westman Islands. Hotels in Hvolsvollur and Hella are just a short drive to the ferry dock.
As mentioned before, Vík is a very small town. It does, however, have several attractions close by (Reynisjfara Beach, Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks, The Lava Show) and several restaurants to choose from.
(Personally,I think the more rural hotel settings are nicer in this region.)
How is that for a mouthful? I had to check the spelling several times! While Kirkjubaejarklaustur is quite rural, I like this area for the following reasons.
- It is perfect if you just want to stay in one spot and see all of the South Coast Iceland attractions from one location. It is almost equal distance to the Seljlandsfoss Waterfall in the west and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in the east.
- It is home to one of my favourite South Iceland Hotels (offering great value), The Magma Hotel! (Maybe I’m biased because we saw the northern lights from there on our most recent visit!)
To be clear, Hof is more of a Hamlet, than a town. Hotels near Hof, Iceland are your best option for one major reason:
- You wish to visit the sites around Vatnajokull Glacier. These include the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach and excursions out on to Vatnajokull Glacier (glacier walks, ice caves tours etc.).
Vatnajokull hotels are few and far between because the glacier is part of a national park. You need to look instead for hotels in Hof, Iceland (to the west) or Hofn, Iceland hotels (to the east)
Most tours in this area leave from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon parking lot. If your tour is in the morning, it’s nice to be close by. Otherwise, you may be looking at a drive of 90 minutes or more just to get there.
This proximity is even more important during the winter months. The road to the west of Hof may close not allowing you to reach your tour (although most companies will let you move your tour date/time if this happens).
Okay! I hope that helps! Now…here is what you have been waiting for.. your best south coast Iceland hotels list!
10 BEST HOTELS – SOUTH COAST ICELAND
360 HOTEL AND SPA
Selfoss, Iceland Hotel
The 13-room, luxury 360 Boutique Hotel and Spa is a true Iceland destination hotel. Set on 200 acres just outside of the small town of Selfoss, it is perfect for northern lights viewing, touring the Golden Circle and for exploring the wonders of Iceland’s southern coastline.
Rooms and suites feature floor to ceiling windows, tea/coffee station, wifi, minibar, safety deposit box, robes, slippers and blackout curtains. The hotel offers wakeup calls when then northern lights appear.
All rooms sleep 2 people, with either a king bed or 2 twin beds. A rollaway bed can be added to the deluxe room and junior suites for a child under 12. The deluxe suites include a sofabed that can sleep 2 children under 12.
Amenities at this hotel include an outdoor and indoor pool with warm geothermal water, a cold water pool, a sauna room, and a massage room.
The 360 Boutique Hotel offers an airport shuttle. They are also able to arrange excursions on Iceland’s south coast for you through their front desk. If you are not interested in renting a car in Iceland, this hotel could be a great option.
A stay includes a daily gourmet breakfast. The hotel is also very well regarded for their New Icelandic Cuisine which can be experienced through their set-menu dinners.
See more Selfoss, Iceland hotels on Booking.com.
Hella, Iceland Hotel
This 25-room, family run hotel is set in the countryside with Icelandic horses grazing nearby and beautiful views of Hekla volcano. The town of Hella (pop. 865) is a 10 min. drive away.
Also within a short drive (30-60 minutes), you can reach Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, the Skógafoss Waterfall, the Sólheimasandur plane wreck site and the ferry dock to the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar).
Rooms at Hotel Lækur are bright and modern – each featuring a tv, free Wi-Fi, complimentary coffee/tea and access to the hot tub and sauna. Some rooms also have either a terrace or balcony.
Hotel Laekur offers single, double, triple, and quadruple rooms. Their 6 person cottages (4 adults + 2 children) can also be a great choice if you are looking for South Coast Iceland family hotels.
Hella, Iceland Hotel
Hotel Rangá is one of Iceland top luxury hotels – appearing on almost every best hotel in Iceland list. It is perfect for the well-heeled traveler who wants to have a grand adventure without giving up any creature comforts.
The Hotel Ranga is decorated in a luxurious hunting lodge style. (I specifically chose the photo above because the aesthetic is not for everyone.) Rooms include unique touches such as hand painted wall murals. The property also offers 7 luxurious themed suites – one for each continent.
Standard room features include complimentary coffee and tea, a flat-screen TV, robes and slippers. and free wifi. Some rooms also have a jacuzzi tub.
This special property has an amazing rooftop observatory for stargazing and northern lights viewing (in-residence astronomer included). The hotel also offers a wakeup call service if the Northern Lights are present.
The property has 3 beautiful geothermal hot tubs in a riverside setting. Popular adventures from the hotel include “Super Jeep” day trips to explore South Coast Iceland attractions.
Dining is also an adventure at Hotel Ranga as they serve up creative, farm-to-table delights in their beautiful dining room looking over the Rangá River and the Eyjafjallajökull glacier-volcano.
Hella, Iceland Hotel
Hotel Vos is a cozy, 18-room family run establishment located on a beautiful south coast farm with grazing Icelandic horses.
Rooms features include free wifi, complimentary toiletries, a hair dryer, and a flat screen TV (with streaming).
This hotel property has a lovely outdoor hot tub and an on-site restaurant. Reservations are recommended for dinner. A boxed lunch can also be purchase for your adventure-filled days.
See more Hella hotels on Booking.com.
Heimaey, Westman Icelands Hotel
Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), is often visited as a day trip. It is, however, well worthy of an overnight stay so you can visit all the island’s attractions including Elephant Rock, the award winning Eldheimar Museum, the largest puffin colony in the Atlantic, and the Beluga Sanctuary (home to the recently re-homed Little White and Little Grey).
While there are not a ton of accommodations offered on the island, the Hotel Vestmannaeyjar is a really nice option. It is conveniently located right in town, not far from the ferry dock.
The cozy rooms at the Hotel Vestmannaeyjar feature free wifi, a tv, a hairdryer and a small desk. Some also have a seating area and a bathtub (as well as a shower, of course).
The hotel has a well-regarded restaurant (Einsi Kaldi) as well as a spa with 2 hot tubs and a sauna.
In the busy month, be sure to book your ferry to Vestmannaeyjar way ahead of time as it does sell out. See: https://herjolfur.is/en/.
See more Vestmannaeyjar hotels on Booking.com.
Hvolsvöllur, Iceland Hotel
Located just 1km from Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, in Hvolsvöllur, Seljalandsfoss Horizons self-catering, luxury cottages are perfect for 2 couples of a family of up to 4.
The property offers 8 independent, 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom cottages in a beautiful rural setting. Features include a flat-screen TV, a dining area, a mini kitchenette (incl. fridge and microwave), free toiletries and a hairdryer.
The Seljalandsfoss Horizons cottages are well located with the following attractions nearby: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Eyjafjöll volcano, Reynisfjara Beach and the town of Vík. The property is also less than a 15 minute drive to the ferry departure point for the Westman Islands.
Please note that this property does charge a 65 euro final cleaning fee so multiple night stays will be more economical. While there is no restaurant, a breakfast basket can be added to your reservation.
Hvolsvöllur, Iceland Hotel
The Umi Hotel is another South Coast Iceland hotel that is almost a destination unto itself. It is beautifully designed and decorated and has a wonderful lounge and restaurant
Guest rooms at the Umi Hotel feature free wifi, a flat-screen TV (with satellite channels), bathrobes, complimentary toiletries, tea/coffee and a small desk. A fabulous breakfast is included with your stay. The lounge offers daily happy hour specials.
The Umi Hotel is in a great spot from which to explore the Iceland South Coast. It has many attractions all within a one hours’ drive, including Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, the town of Vík, the ferry to the Westman Islands and more!
Guests should not miss the 20 minute walk to the deserted black sand beach. It is absolutely spectacular!
See a little more in this Umi Hotel IG reel.
See more Hvollsvöllur hotels on Booking.com.
Vík, Iceland Hotel
If you are looking to spend a few night on the south coast of Iceland but don’t want to feel too isolated, the Hotel Kria (opened July 2018) is a great option. While not a sprawling metropolis (pop. = just over 600), Vík has several restaurants and some fantastic attractions close by. These include Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks, Dyrhólaey Cliffs and the Vík Lava Show.
The rooms at Hotel Kria are very modern, featuring complimentary wifi, satellite TV, a small desk, a hairdryer, a clothing rack, and tea/coffee making facilities. For a small up-charge, guests can choose a mountain view room. I would highly recommend this as the other rooms look onto the main road.
Hotel Kria has an in-house cocktail bar and restaurant (Dranger). A daily breakfast (hot and cold buffet) is included with your stay.
See more Vík hotels on Booking.com.
Kirkjubaejarklaustur, Iceland Hotel
The Magma Hotel stole my heart on my second trip to Iceland. I fell even more in love with it on my most recent trip when I saw the northern lights (for the very first time) outside my bedroom window! This 25-room property is a true South Coast Iceland hotel gem.
Standard room features at the Magma include free high speed wifi, complimentary toiletries, tea and coffee making facilities, a mini fridge, a bluetooth speaker, a 49″ flat screen TV with Netflix, in-floor heating and a small desk.
Room options at the Magma Hotel include king or double twin bed configurations. There are also several family rooms that can sleep up to 2 adults and 3 children.
The Hotel Magma has an on-site restaurant. A hot and cold buffet breakfast is included with a stay. Reservations are recommended for dinner. While the food is very nice at this property, it is also a great choice because there are few other options nearby.
See more Kirkjubaejarklaustur, Iceland hotels on Booking.com
FOSSHOTEL GLACIER LAGOON
Hof, Iceland Hotel
The Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a lovely hotel by any stretch of the imagination but there is also another really good reason to stay there. Of the few Hof, Iceland hotels, this one is the closest the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach and the Vatnajokull Glacier.
This proximity can really be an asset if you have an early more tour in this area (many leave from the Glacier Lagoon parking lot). This proximity can also be a real advantage in the winter months when driving can be difficult and hours of daylight few. In bad weather, the roads to the west of Hof can sometimes close.
Rooms at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon feature king or double twin beds. There are also a few triple rooms with an extra single bed.
Room features include free wifi, satellite TV, a mini fridge, hair dryer, coffee/tea making facilities and a safety deposit box. The property has a lounge, restaurant, hot tubs, sauna and gym.
See more Hof, Iceland hotels on Booking.com
QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS
My goal has always been to help my fellow adventurers have amazing trips. I hope I have answered most of your questions in this post, but if not, or if you have a comment or suggestion, reach out.