At the southern tip of Iceland, only a few short hours drive from Reykjavik lies the lovely, quaint coastal village of Vik. This mystical seaside town is a beautiful place surrounded by long black sand beaches, craggy green mountains, and sharp sea cliffs. The trademark Vik is most known for is Reynisdrangar, a row of pointed basalt sea stacks that raise up to 217 feet/66 m into the air and have long been used as a landmark and navigational point for sailors. Local lore believes that they were formed when two trolls were unable to find land and turned into stone at sunrise.
I had been to Vik thirteen years ago on my first trip to Iceland and quite honestly was astounded by how much it had grown and changed in such a short time. When we had first went there in 2007 it felt like we were traveling almost on another planet with barely another car in sight and only the crossing sheep to keep us company on the road. The town was only a few homes surrounding Route 1 with not much else except endless nature. Thirteen years later and I was stunned by how much Vik has changed. The once sleepy coastal village of roughly 300 souls has grown into one of Iceland’s premier tourist towns with rows of newly built lodging, hip restaurants and a large grocery store (which if you are traveling around the Ring Road in Iceland, you will instantly realize what a pleasant surprise and rare find a grocery store is!).
To me, the transformation of Vik foreshadows the transformation of Iceland itself. The country immersed from a rather off the wall place to visit for only the true diehard adventurers into a full-blown mainstream tourist destination. With such incredible growth in tourism comes growing pains and perhaps some unwanted changes. There have often been arguments that there are more tourists than Icelanders in Iceland during the main tourist season of summer. Furthermore, you no longer have famous spots and destinations all to yourself like I did 13 years ago when we went to Jökulsárlón (how disappointing it was to hardly be able to find a parking spot this time!). But if you get off the beaten path enough and are mindful of where you go and stay, you are certain to meet Icelanders and learn a bit about their fascinating culture, history and Icelandic pride. It just takes some research and wanderlust.
As we set off along the Ring Road, I continued to be in awe by the divine beauty and diverse landscape. There were endless craggy, lush green mountains followed by miles of countless, barren land left over from volcanic activity resembling what one would except to find on the moon. To this day, I have yet to see another landscape as diverse and fascinating as in Iceland.
The town of Vík is the southernmost sea front village in Iceland. Located roughly 100 miles from Reykjavik, along the main Ring Road, it is easy to get to as a day trip but once you are there, you will surely want more time. It is painstakingly beautiful and like most places in Iceland, there is a potpourri of amazing, adventures to be had including ice-hiking and walking across the tops of the Myrdalsjökull Glacier, exploring the coastal walk along shores of Vik, and if you are truly an adventurous soul, journeying inward into some of the most rugged, remote landscape of Iceland.
Since we were doing the entire Ring Road drive around Iceland, we only had time for one night before we had to set off once again along Route 1. Had we had more vacation time and money, we would have chosen to do the Ring Road trip over the course of two weeks not seven days. But it was a long held dream of mine to do the drive ever since I first laid eyes on Iceland and I’m glad we did it. I found even more that I love and want to explore so I guess I will have to go back once again someday.
Iceland is famous for its puffins, a lovely species of seabirds with white and black fluffy plumage and a brightly colored orange beak. In fact, Iceland is fortunate to claim ownership of breeding to over half the world’s population of Atlantic Puffins in her lush, fertile lands and once of their favorite breeding grounds is along the Reynisfjall cliffs. The total population of puffins in Iceland has been estimated between 8 and 10 million birds. You can do a beautiful hike up to the top of the Reynisfjall cliffs, however, be careful as it is not recommended to go during breeding time.
Besides hiking up to the cliffs, a hike along the stunning Reynisfjara black beach and a stop to view Reynisdrangar is a must. Despite the heavy clouds, it was absolutely sensational! Just don’t get to close to the water as there are warnings posted about the dangerous rip tides that can in an instant pull you out to sea if you aren’t careful. Not a good way to go.
An interesting fact I learned is that Vik is the only seaside town in Iceland without a harbor. As a result, Vik was not inhabited until the 1890s when it became a meeting point for southern traders and farmers. Today, it is one of the leading tourist destinations in Iceland and given its immense beauty and natural wonders, it is no surprise at all. Often I get nostalgic about the days before a place becomes known to the outside world. While tourism brings in much needed revenue, it also damages the very places we try so hard to protect. Hopefully the future development will be mindful and respectful of such a unique ecosystem and culturally magical place. Only time will tell.
Want to learn more about my trip around Iceland? Check out these posts!
- Ring Road Trip Around Iceland: Hike to Skaftafell Glacier
- Travel During the Pandemic: A Visit to Jökulsárlón
- A Stay in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
- Iceland: Two days in Mývatn and Krafla, Iceland
- A Hike up to Iceland’s Newest Volcano: Fagradalsfjall
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