On the Road in Iceland

Part 2: Vík, Reynisfjara and Dyrhólaey

Vík

Vík, the southernmost village in Iceland, is on the Ring Road and sits below the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the Katla volcano. It has around 300 residents, a few restaurants and hotels, and one gas station/convenience store. (Our hotel’s guidebook said there was a golf course 300 meters from the hotel, but we never saw it.) There’s not much to do, but it’s a good base for exploring this part of the country, and the local scenery is stunning.

Vík with Reynisdrangar sea stacks in the background
Vík with Reynisdrangar sea stacks in the background

Vík’s most famous feature is Reynisdrangar, a set of basalt sea stacks just off the coast. According to legend, two trolls tried to drag a three-masted ship ashore, and they were turned to stone when the sunlight hit them at dawn.

Reynisdrangar seen from the beach in Vík
Reynisdrangar seen from the beach in Vík
The coastline near Vík
The coastline near Vík
Flood control wall extending into the Atlantic Ocean
Flood control wall extending into the Atlantic Ocean

The N1 gas station is the only place to buy anything in Vík. I’m not sure where or how often the residents of Vík, and especially the more remote areas, buy essentials like groceries. The nearest town that has anything larger than a convenience store is about 80 miles away.

Gas stations in Iceland are self-service, and you have to pay at the pump with a chip-and-PIN card. You have to authorize an amount on your card (in Icelandic krónur), and the pump will turn on. You can only pump up to the amount you authorized. At some stations, you pay directly at the pump. At others, there’s an automated pay station called an automat that controls multiple pumps.

At the N1 in Vík, there were four pumps but only one automat. We were buying gas on our last day in Vík, and I was waiting for a man to finish paying at the automat. He was clearly frustrated, because he turned to me and asked in a very thick accent, “You know how this thing works?” He was repeatedly inserting and removing his card, so I told him he had to enter his PIN and showed him which key was the Enter key (it’s actually in Icelandic, but I can’t remember the word). He said he entered his PIN, so I told him he needed to enter an amount. He said, “How am I supposed to know how much?” I told him I entered 10,000 ISK the previous day, and it was more than enough. He said, “Then I put 5,000.” (April found this whole exchange very entertaining, as she was sitting in the car laughing the whole time.)

N1 gas station
N1 gas station

The church in Vík sits above the town. It’s believed that if Katla erupts and melts the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, the town will be flooded with only the church surviving.

The church sits above the rest of the town
The church sits above the rest of the town

Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara, which is about 10 km from Vík, is probably the most famous beach in Iceland. Like the other beaches in the area, it’s called a black-sand beach, but it’s really pebbles. The basalt cliffs are, as far as I know, unique to Reynisfjara. During certain parts of the year, the cliffs serve as a nesting ground for puffins. (They weren’t nesting when we were there.) There are shallow caves in the cliffs, and you can also see the other side of Reynisdrangar as well as the Mýrdalsjökull glacier from the beach.

The basalt cliffs at Reynisfjara. Reynisdrangar is on the right.
The basalt cliffs at Reynisfjara. Reynisdrangar is on the right.
People climbing the cliffs at Reynisfjara People climbing the cliffs at Reynisfjara
People climbing the cliffs at Reynisfjara. (Click for a larger view.)
The "sand" at Reynisfjara
The "sand" at Reynisfjara
One of the caves in the cliffs
One of the caves in the cliffs
Inside one of the caves Inside one of the caves
Inside one of the caves. (Click for a larger view.)
As close as you can get to Reynisdrangar without getting in the water (which is strongly discouraged)
As close as you can get to Reynisdrangar without getting in the water (which is strongly discouraged)
The Mýrdalsjökull glacier seen from the beach
The Mýrdalsjökull glacier seen from the beach

Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey is an arch-shaped peninsula that, like most of Iceland’s geography, was formed by volcanic activity. It’s visible from Reynisfjara, but to reach it by car is actually a 19 km drive from Reynisfjara. To actually get the best view of it, you don’t go to Dyrhólaey itself but to a nearby beach called Kirkjufjara beach.

Dyrhólaey seen from Reynisfjara
Dyrhólaey seen from Reynisfjara

Looking back toward Reynisfjara, you can see a rock called Arnardrangur or Eagle Rock as well as Reynisdrangar in the distance.

Arnardrangur (Eagle Rock)
Arnardrangur (Eagle Rock)

The Mýrdalsjökull glacier is also visible from this location, although it’s a much different perspective that gives you a better idea of the enormous area that it covers.

The Mýrdalsjökull glacier
The Mýrdalsjökull glacier (Click for panoramic photo.)
A closer view of Dyrhólaey
A closer view of Dyrhólaey

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