Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey: It’s Amazing What Water and Time Can Do to Rocks


Vík (pronounced veek) is just one of many literally-named bays in Iceland. Pay attention to town names, and you’ll often see it at the end, such as Reykjavík. While it’s a remote fishing village, this most-popular stand-alone-named Vík has the full name Vík í Mýrdal. It’s located right on Route 1, between Skógafoss and Jökulsárlón. Population ~400, it has basic amenities and is a popular stopping point in addition to the natural areas near it. There’s gas, a Vínbúðin (state-run alcohol store), and a newer facility catering to tourists with a range of souvenirs and better bathrooms than the stand-alone gas stations with plenty of parking.

In the Town of Vík

The craggy rocks of Reynisfjara, as seen from the beach at Vík (looking west).

This parking lot is a good place to leave the car and stroll to the beach, made of black sand and pebbles and featuring a long wave break that careful goat-impersonators can traverse on a day (not recommended in strong winds). It begins as a nice easy walk, but the tempting end is build of large, uneven boulders. While it’s nothing like its famous black beach neighbor to the immediate west, Reynisfjara, it’s worth a visit on a nice day as it’s much less crowded.


Just to the west of Vík, those coming from that direction will have a turn onto road 218 toward Reynisfjara, the famous black sand beach (while there are plenty of great black sand/pebble beaches around Iceland, this one does have great hexagonal basalt features), and Dyrhólaey, stunning rock formations. There is a small café and bathrooms at Reynisfjara, but nothing at Dyrhólaey (if the area is even open).


The hexagonal columns of basalt (dark gray volcanic rock) forming the cave here are the result of rapid cooling. You can see columnar basalt in similar locations, such as the northern coasts of Ireland and Scotland. (Side recommendation for a tour of the Northern Irish coast and a stop at the Giant’s Causeway!) You can also see some fascinating formations on the hike from Hellnar to Arnarstapi, on the south edge of west Iceland’s Snaefellsnes peninsula (2-2.5 hours north of Reykjavík). There’s even a Facebook account dedicated to the stuff.

The cave, columns, and the sharp rocks rising dramatically from the sea (visible from Vík’s beach around the corner) are hauntingly beautiful in any weather. Be careful of the sea – waves are strong and not always predictable here, and several tourists have been swept away when turning their backs for a picture. Don’t be one of them.


This is the most southern point of the mainland. In 2015, I was able to drive an old Subaru to the top-most point up a rough gravel track at Dyrhólaey, however, nearly the entire area was closed in summer 2018 due to erosion. If it’s open, this top area offers great views, but down near the parking area, there’s various other-worldly rock formations to explore. You can also get a boat tour that will take you under the bridge-like formations and closer to the sharp, vertical rocks–though I haven’t done this myself, I know it does come at a premium $$$ but is likely stunning.