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.

Iceland

Iceland

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.

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.

One of the most popular attractions is the striking Víkurkirkja Church, built in 1934 and perched high atop a hill overlooking the town.

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!

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17 comments

  1. Funny, wie got from a famous photographer the picture of Víkurkirkja in the mist as a gift. Romantic and clear graphics. We have been in Vik several times and stayed there a couple of dayss when driving around Iceland.
    Keep well
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Vik is so beautiful . I wish I had more time to just be there and explore. Walk around the beach and take in all her wild beauty.

      1. On our way to Greenland we always spend quite a while in Iceland. But we have finished this because there are tourists everywhere – actually in Greenland as well. We suppose that travelling is out for ecological reasons and it has lost its magic nowadays.
        Keep well
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      2. Yes that is what is hard. Protecting the planet and over tourism. Sometimes I like to just find a quiet place in my own hometown in the woods up north. Lots of beauty just outside my doorstep. 🙂

  2. Your pictures are gorgeous. The misty skies add to the mystique of the area. I’d love to visit Iceland, and it sounds like we should hurry before it becomes even busier with tourists. Maggie

    1. Thank you Maggie for the comment. I still do love Iceland just as I loved this place the first time I went back in 2007. There were times when we were driving and there was nothing at all for hours. We were in towns with no grocery stores for days. You can still get out there and explore the wild beauty of the place. 🙂

  3. I visited Iceland in 1990 and have wanted to return ever since. I fear I would feel the same as you from your description of it now being a mainstream tourist destination. I guess we both have to be grateful that we had the opportunity to see it before.

    1. Wow, I bet it was pretty amazing in 1990. I bet you can still find some really off the beaten path places just not all the places. When we did the Ring Road we still found some really remote spots and stayed at some really nice locally owned air b n bs. It was really nice. I really want to explore the West Fjords as I’ve heard that it is relatively tourist free and insanely beautiful. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

      1. I felt I was lucky when I went because in Reykjavik the b&B I had booked had no room for me when I arrived. She had organised that I stay at her mother’s house where she also had 4 Icelandic boarders. The five of them took me under their wings and I went places that I would not even known about had I stayed at the B&B. I just loved Iceland and have always wanted to go back. I enjoyed reliving it through your blog.

      2. That sounds like an amazing experience! Perhaps one of the best! When I travel again, I’d love to try to do some homestays. There are some smaller travel companies that offer then and I think it would be quite the experience to see a place and learn about the culture. Thanks for sharing that experience. Must have been pretty special!

    1. Thank you Alison! It has taken me some time to write these days. Been busy exploring my own state. I’ve been taking nordic ski lessons and found a new love! It is perfect for our winters here as we don’t have the big mountains that make downhill so fun. 🙂

  4. What a dream it must have been to have seen Iceland early on ~ and then to take this epic trip/drive around the country. My nephew and his girlfriend spent a couple weeks trekking around and vow to do it again. The photos you have throughout this post add to the beauty of your words ~ enchanting. You mention something that seems to be happening to many travel areas and that is the transformation of these places, especially the previously unknown areas such as Vik. The beauty is that there will always be the more out-of-the-way places and more difficult to trek to for the true diehard adventurers, but alas not much stopping beautiful places to become full-blown mainstream tourist destination. Great post ~ wishing you and your family well.

    1. Thanks so much! Yes isn’t it hard to see how tourism has exploded and in same cases really hurt places (like Venice). Very true that there still are those far to reach unknown places to be discovered. You just have to look for them! I know the Westfjords of Iceland is relatively unexplored and would love to see that. Also going off season to some places is fun too. I even look back and think of the places I went to years ago as a child and have returned to find their magic slightly erased. I think as I get to travel again down the road I am going to try to seek out more of these off the beaten path places and also try to do more community homestays so I can learn more about the locals, Not sure when that will be, but it is fun to dream! Thanks as always for your insightful comments and I see I have a post of yours awaiting to be enjoyed and read in my inbox! 🙂

      1. Off season is pretty interesting, I’ve done this a few times and overall excellent ~ but the more extreme conditions (heat or rainy season) did not bother me… But you are right about finding hidden jewels, in the US the big National Parks get a lot of traffic, but the smaller parks can be just as amazing with very little (if any) foot traffic. I think it is the same elsewhere too. Homestays with locals, that is cool and outside of China/Asia I have not done this but would love to… great idea and hopefully soon have the opportunity… 🙂

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