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Vik - Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Iceland

Thursday, June 1, 2023 - 6:45pm by Lolo
21 miles and 0.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Dyrhólaey promontoryDyrhólaey promontoryBefore settling down for the night in a campground in the small village of Vik (population 750), we drove out to the end of the Dyrhólaey peninsula, near the southernmost point of Iceland.

Until 1918 the Dyrhólaey promontory actually was the southernmost point of mainland Iceland, but then the Katla volcano erupted creating the landmass of Kötlutangi which is now the southernmost point. As we would continue to learn, volcanic activity very much shaped the landscape of Iceland and continues to do so to this day.

ArnardrangurArnardrangurThe Dyrhólaey Reserve is split into two sections: Háey (“the high island”) and Lágey (“the low island”) that each offer different views and experiences.

The higher area is where the lighthouse is and the best views of the iconic rock arch. Unfortunately, this area is only reached by a rough 4WD or a hike from the lower area.

So instead, we stayed straight at the fork and parked in the lower area parking lot. From there we followed a gravel pathway in the direction of the water for only about 100 feet before reaching the first viewing area, where we looked out over a large volcanic rock, named Arnardrangur, rising from the sand.

View from DyrhólaeyView from DyrhólaeyDuring low tide you can walk right up to Arnardrangur, but waves were beginning to lap its base and we weren’t sure if the tide was going out or in, so not a good idea for today.

From there we continued up a small hill, from which there was a great view of Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and its iconic basalt sea stacks known as Reynisrangar. These sea stacks were featured in Season 7 of Game of Thrones. More about them a little later.

There was also a beautiful arch made of basalt.

Hálsanefshellir Cave on Reynisfjara BeachHálsanefshellir Cave on Reynisfjara BeachIt was too windy to walk to the lighthouse, so we drove over to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach to see the Reynisrangar sea stacks up close. The waves on this beach can be so powerful that they even post warning levels for the day as to how dangerous the waves are. Tourists have actually been swept out to sea. Today was yellow. However, a bigger problem was the wind which was blowing so hard that we were being pelted with the black sand.

I knew about the sea stacks on Reynisfjara Beach, but we were delighted to also find a beautiful basalt cave, known as Hálsanefshellir. This would be the first of many times that we would see basalt columns along our journey. After all, Iceland was created by volcanic activity.

Hálsanefshellir CaveHálsanefshellir CaveOutside the cave, lots of people (half my age) were climbing up and posing on the basalt columns. For some reason, I felt a need to do the same.

A little further down the beach we came close to the two iconic basalt sea stacks known as Reynisrangar.

Since this is Iceland, of course there is a legend explaining their creation. In fact, there are several versions, but all of them involve trolls.

Trolls are very much a part of Icelandic mythology, and many Icelanders still believe in, or at least don’t totally deny, their existence.

Climbing the basalt columns of ReynisfjaraClimbing the basalt columns of ReynisfjaraOne legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock. Trolls do not do well with sunlight.

Another more contemporary legend claims that these large basalt columns were once trolls that kidnapped a woman and killed her. The bereaved husband followed the trolls to Reynisfjara where he froze them, turning them into stone.

The wind was getting so bad that we decided to head back to the town of Vik and find the campsite.

Reynisrangar iconic basalt sea stacksReynisrangar iconic basalt sea stacksFrom there we walked to Restaurant Suður-Vík, which had a cozy, pub-like setting with good food. It seemed like there were a lot of locals there, which is always a good sign.

After dinner, we decided to walk to the Vík i Myrdal Lutheran Church, which we’ve seen in so many photos, most of them from atop a hill or with a field of lupine in the foreground - neither of which we could find.

We did find the church, however, and it is very beautiful, in a simple way, as most of the older churches in Iceland are.

It sits atop a prominent hill, visible from everywhere in the village, or at least when it’s not as foggy as it was tonight.

Vík i Myrdal Lutheran ChurchVík i Myrdal Lutheran ChurchBesides being a beautiful location for a church, it was placed here for a more ominous reason. The Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which lies on top of the Katla volcano, is directly north of Vik. It last erupted in 1918 and is thought to be overdue for another eruption. If it does, it could melt enough ice to trigger an enormous flash flood, wiping out the entire town. The church is believed to be the only building that could survive such a flood. The people of Vik even hold periodic drills and are trained to rush to the church at the first sign of an eruption.

We tried to take an interesting shortcut back to the campground, which required us to slip and slide a bit down a steep ravine. However, we made it back to our home for the night, tired and happy.

Vik - Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach location map in "high definition"

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