Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Coastal Town of Vik, Iceland


The Ring Road around Iceland, although shown to be 'skirting' the coast on a map, is in reality quite a distance from the actual coast line.  While driving the southern portion of the Ring Road (Route 1 if you want to be formal) from the capital city of Reykjavik, my husband and I first glimpsed the ocean from the road as we neared the town of Vik.

coastal town of Vik Iceland bird's eye view
The town of Vik, Iceland, shrouded in mist.

Vik is a charming town.  Other than the larger town of Selfoss, located about 45 minutes away from Reykjavik's city limits, there are no other major stops along the southern Ring Road for groceries, hotels, or other amenities until you reach Vik.  After camping in Iceland's unseasonably chilly weather, we were happy to chug into Vik and find ourselves a warm room for the night.  Using our wonderful GPS system, we mapped out the various hotels in town and starting checking them out.  As I have said before, hotels in Iceland are expensive, and Vik is no exception.  After getting quoted over $200 per night at a couple of different inns, we found Hotel Lunda and agreed to stay in their hostel portion for about $110 per night - the cheapest place we could find other than the campground. (It was supposed to pour buckets that evening, so we did not feel like camping again.)

Once settled in our room in the hostel, we decided to explore Vik for the rest of the afternoon.  Joey found a golf course that wrapped around the black sand coastline, and so he opted to golf for the remainder of the afternoon while the weather was still holding.  He golfed 9 holes for about an hour and a half for $40 CDN and had a wonderful time - he would like me to add in this post that he highly recommends it for any avid golfers out there that read my blog.

black sand beach Vik Iceland
Exploring the black sand beaches of Vik, Iceland.

While my hubby golfed, I decided to explore what the town of Vik had to offer.  First, I drove up to the cute church that overlooks both town and ocean from atop a windy bluff.  Known as Flatanger Church (or simply as Vik Kirke) this building is situated perfectly with an amazing vista.  It was closed when I arrived, but I sat happily on its front stoop, munching on a granola bar, and just enjoyed the incredible view of the ocean and the fascinating peaked rocks jutting from the surf.

Flatanger Church Vik Iceland
Flatanger Church in Vik, Iceland.

After staring longingly at the beautiful and mysterious-looking beach, I decided that was my next stop.  Down the hill I puttered, and maneuvered my rental SUV to one of the sandy parking lots that dot the Vik beach.  Made of the same glittering, black lava sand we found at Jokulsarlon, the beach looked strangely desolate and haunting, but at the same time very beautiful.  The looming Reynisdranger rocks - known as the "Sea Stacks" - speckle the horizon, sprouting from the sea like giant trolls.  Indeed, the legend is that three giant trolls found a three-masted ship and decided to haul it to shore, but instead were caught by the rising sun and turned to figures of stone where they stood.

The sea stacks of Vik, Iceland.  Image via pinterest.com

The next day, we back-tracked a little bit down the Ring Road to the Dyrholaey Nature Preserve.  This national treasure is home to many thousands of nesting puffins and other sea birds.  I had never seen a puffin before, so this was a very exciting morning for me.  Pathways line the coastal cliffs, and it is strictly forbidden to walk off the paths as the entire area is a nesting ground for puffins, and has been for years and years.  There is no cost associated with visiting the Dyrholaey Nature Preserve, but visitors are asked to respect the natural area in return for Iceland's generosity.

puffins Dyrholaey Nature Preserve Vik Iceland
Puffins line the cliff at Dyrholaey Nature Preserve near Vik, Iceland.

It was spitting a misty rain during our stay at the Nature Preserve, but we didn't mind.  The rain encouraged the puffins to zip to and fro from their cliffside nests, out to the ocean where they fished for dinner and then returned with their prizes to their homes. Puffins look round and awkward when roosting in the grass, but they fly with a surprising amount of grace.

puffins Dyrholaey Nature Preserve Vik Iceland
Puffins, puffins everywhere!  I loved them - they were so cute!

Besides ogling the cutie-pie puffins, we also had the chance to hike around the rocky outcroppings that separate the nesting areas from the black, pebbled peach.  I had read about the natural formation nicknamed the "Arch of Dyrholaey" that I wanted to find - but then we found two naturally ocean-carved arches, and were unsure which was the true 'Arch of Dyrholaey'.  Later on, back at our hotel, we were able to distinguish between the two.

Arch of Dyrholaey Vik Iceland Nature Preserve
Is this the Arch of Dyrholaey at Vik, Iceland? Nope...
Arch of Dyrholaey Vik Iceland Nature Preserve
The real Arch of Dyrholaey. Photo via because mine is blurry and gloomy from the rain.

The gloomy day and heavy fog made it difficult to take really stunning pictures of the views or truly capture the beauty of the area.  We did our best, though, and enjoyed hiking through along the beach, exploring all the nooks and crannies in the rocks carved out by centuries of waves.  Eventually, the misty rain permeated our clothing and we had to escape to the confines of our warm SUV.

Dyrholaey Nature Preserve rock formation Vik Iceland
More strange rock formations at Dyrholaey Nature Preserve near Vik, Iceland.



map Dyrholaey Nature Preserve Vik Iceland
Driving directions from Vik (A) to Dyrholaey Nature Reserve (B) - thanks to Google Maps!
I really do wish we'd had better weather with which to explore the area of Vik.  There were so many other places that I wanted to explore, but due to the rain and heavy fog, locals advised us to just save our gasoline as we wouldn't be able to really see anything.  Places we missed that were on my list included the beach at Reynisfjall, which features some really stunning basalt rock formations, and the Myrdalsjokull glacier, which features somewhere under its depths the active volcano Katla (set to explode 'any day now' according to scientists - in fact, the townspeople of Vik practice regular volcano-related evacuation drills. A little freaky if you ask me).

basalt rock formation Reynisfjall Vik Iceland
The basalt rocks at Reynisfjall, which I didn't get to see.  Image via

Vik was definitely a lovely stop on our Iceland tour - I wish we'd been able to see more but I'm very happy with what we did manage to take in! What else did I miss in Vik?  If you've been there or know someone who has, let me know what else this enchanting town has to offer in the comments section below! :)

7 comments:

  1. I really wish we'd made it to Vik, your photos are beautiful. We tried to get there but it's deceptively far from Reykjavik isn't it?! We set off and had to turn back. Your photos have made me even more determined to get there at some point soon!

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    1. I agree - on the map Vik doesn't look that far away (while planning my first itinerary, Vik was where we had planned to stop and rest the FIRST night of our road trip! I'm so glad we changed our minds, as we probably would have strangled each other by that point, being in the car together for so long!) The Ring Road is pretty, but very twisty and narrow, and the speed limit much lower than we are used to here in North America. If you ever get the chance to go back, do it! I just hope for your sake you get better weather than we had! :)

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  2. Thanks for your article! we are heading to explore Vik in less than a month and thanks to you we will include Dyrholaey :)

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    1. Excellent! Enjoy your trip! And say "Hi" to the puffins for me! Glad to be of any help. :)

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    2. Natalia, can I ask you about Vik when you get back? Id love to know how to contact the church and if you see anything on the door etc, that would be awesome!!

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  3. Gorgeous!!! Can I ask, why the big round about from Vik to Dyrholaey, is in that the peninsula doesnt have a road and you have to go all the way around? (One of your last photos , the map showed A to B and went from about "5 o clock" on a circular area to about 7 o clock, but counter clockwise... Im hoping to get there to Vik too... is it possible by bus? Ive only taken a bus from Keflavik to Reykjavik last summer but never out as far as Vik... also, last question, do you have any idea how to reach the local church for a wedding or other events? Ive googled lots of things and it only comes up as a historical building or an evacuation area for Vik in case of flooding (just a high ground area) --ok, thanks and love your post and photos!!!

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    1. Hi Lauren. Love that you are so excited about Vik! It is really pretty and worth the trip (have you seen that movie Noah? They filmed half of it in Vik and I only know that because I totally recognized the beach! Anyway...) The drive to the nature reserve is indeed that big loop. I imagine there's no road or bridge over the peninsula because that would encroach on the nature preserve itself. It honestly wasn't a long drive. The park is small, the parking lot is small and there's only one way in and out, so it isn't a big production. I am not sure about the bus but I can't imagine why not. Maybe when you go you can ask at the grocery store or a cafe. It is the biggest "town" in that area so bussing should be available. As for the church, it was locked up tight when I was there. It isn't big by any means so if you are allowed to have a wedding there, I'd suggest keeping it small! (If you can't go in, get married on the front steps! There is an amazing view of Vik from there!)

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