Iceland. The small town of Vík í Mýdral, in the very south of Iceland, is famous for its black beach Reynisfjara. The offshore rock formation was created long ago out of careless trolls, and the basalt columns are among the favorite motifs of many travelers. In the following article, you will learn where the most beautiful black beaches and rock formations near Vik are, where you can see puffins, and what else there is to discover.
Unassigned, unpaid advertising. The article contains affiliate links.
Vík í Mýdral - the "Bay at the swampy Valley"
Vík í Mýdral (translated as "Bay by the Swampy Valley") is the southernmost village on the Icelandic mainland and is located 186 kilometers from the capital Reykjavík. The village, which has only 318 inhabitants, is a perfect starting point for tours in the south. In addition to a campground, there are accommodations in various price ranges. It's best to book as early as possible, otherwise, it will be expensive! There is a gas station, a large supermarket, an outdoor outfitter, and of course a souvenir store with Icelandic sweaters and everything you can imagine.
Not far from Vík is the volcano Katla, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Iceland. When it erupts, the residents of Vík have to evacuate to safety in a very short time. The evacuation is practiced regularly. The elevated wooden church Reyniskirkja (1929) is considered a safe assembly point where all inhabitants should seek shelter from the lava, especially glacier flows.
Tip: You should plan a little more time for the drive to Vik because you will pass the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss on the way.
Reynisdrangar - Trolls or just a great Rock Formation?
Directly in front of the village of Vík, you will find the first black beach. From here you have a beautiful view of the rock needles Reynisdrangar, which rise about 66 meters high from the sea. But since we are in Iceland, these are not normal rocks. According to the legend, two trolls tried to drag a three-master to the shore at night. But trolls are known to be a bit bad at timing: they were surprised by the morning sun and in a split second, they and the ship turned to stone.
More about trolls and elves in Iceland...
...can be found in the following books*:
Reynisfjall - Tuff mountain with puffins
Reynisfjall is a 340 m high tuff mountain that separates the village of Vík from the beach Reynisfjara. It was formed in the penultimate ice age by a volcanic eruption under the ice. A hiking trail leads from Vík up to a viewpoint at 150 meters above sea level. There and back it is about seven kilometers. Along the way, you can see seabirds during the breeding season, and with luck, puffins.
On the other side of the mountain, at Reynisfjara beach, you will find the famous basalt columns and two caves. The beach is only about three kilometers from Vík as the crow flies. But the mountain Reynisfjall blocks the direct way and must be either hiked or driven around (about 16 kilometers).
Reynisfjara Beach - Basalt Columns, Caves, and Monster Waves
Next to the parking lot, various warning signs attract full attention: sneaker waves can suddenly and unexpectedly wash over the beach here and, in the worst case, cause an unwanted swim in the North Atlantic. This has cost some travelers their lives. Therefore, you should always keep an eye on the water and keep plenty of distance from the water line. Even if the sea looks quite calm and peaceful.
Basalt columns are formed by the slow cooling of the basalt lava. After the solidification of the lava flow and cooling of the surface, the first stress cracks appear here. With increasing cooling, the stress cracks continue to grow downwards and the typical hexagonal columns are formed.
Tip: If you stay overnight in Vík, visit Reynisfjara Beach before the tour buses from Reykjavik arrive. Or in the evening, when most of the visitors are already on their way home.
Dyrhólaey Peninsula - the "Door Hill Island
From Cape Dyrhólaey you have a breathtaking view of the south coast of Iceland. You will see the black beaches from above, rock formations, and puffins and you can hike to a historic lighthouse. Especially impressive is the rock arch, which is also called Dyrhólaey. From above, the arch doesn't look that big. But the opening is enough that in 1993 a daredevil pilot flew through the arch.
Cape Dyrhólaey is a volcanic island that was once off the coast. It was formed about 80,000 years ago by a submarine volcanic eruption. Through further volcanic eruptions in the last millennia, the island was connected to the main island by the advancing outwash plains. Today the cape is connected to the mainland and the peninsula is the southernmost part of the Icelandic mainland.
Also the volcanic islands of Hjörleifshöfdi (12 km east of Vík and also a very worthwhile destination) and the rocky cliffs of Ingólfshöfdi were connected to the main island by expanding sandur areas.
What else is there to discover nearby?
If you are in Vík, then besides Reynisfjara beach, Dyrholaey and Reynisdrangar it is worth making a detour to the airplane wreck of Sólheimasandur and a hike to Hjörleifshöfði. From this island mountain, you have a great view over a wide offshore beach and up to the white cap of the Myrdalsjökull.
Book Recommendations for Iceland
Do you want to know where the journey is going? Then I can recommend this travel guides* to you.
You can order the travel guides on Amazon by clicking on the pictures. If you buy a product via an affiliate link, I get a small commission and you help me to keep filling Fernweh-Motive with interesting articles. This does not make the product more expensive for you.
Do you know the south of Iceland and Reynisfjara beach near Vík? How did you like it? Do you have any questions or suggestions for my article? If yes, then write me a comment!
Recommendations for further Reading
Do you love peculiar rock formations as much as I do? Then you might also be interested in my articles about the "Old Man of Hoy" - a sea stack on the Orkneys about the Rock Formations at Mono Lake in California.