Exploring Vik & Dyrhólaey: Black Sand Beaches, Cliffs & Puffins

Two of my favorite stops on our 5-day south coast road trip in Iceland were also the most picturesque: Vik for its famous black sand beach guarded by towering basalt columns & Dyrhólaey for its stunning views & an up-close look at some of its most famous residents – puffins.

Vik

Located about two hours from Reykjavik, the small town of Vik (population: 291 – a bit smaller than we expected) is a great pit stop for petrol, snacks & a stroll along the beautiful black sand beach, under some of the country’s most beautiful basalt columns. The columns on the side of the Reynisfjall mountain were formed millions of years ago as seawater met basaltic lava &, as the lava cooled, these soaring columns & a beautiful cave were left behind. Sadly, the area has become famous in recent years due to a number of drownings & near-drownings of visitors being washed out to sea from unexpectedly powerful waves. Luckily, the day we visited, the sea was incredibly calm & we were able to explore deep into the cave.

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(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

columns climbing

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

columns

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

columns2

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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inside the cave
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Just off the coast are the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, which according to legend, were formed when two giants tried to tow a three-sailed ship to the shore. Daylight broke before they could reach the shore & they were turned to stone. These impressive rocks can be seen from miles down the coast.

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Reynisdrangar
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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view of Reynisdrangar from Dyrhólaey
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dyrhólaey

Tucked away down a little side street off the main road, Dyrhólaey (like many places in Iceland) would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. But what a shame it would be to skip this detour off the main route. Home to hundreds of nesting puffins & sweeping views of the south coast, these seaside cliffs are easily accessible & incredibly impressive. The lower area is where you’ll see puffins & after a short drive up a steep hill of switchbacks to the lighthouse, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the south coast which seems to stretch all the way to Reykjavik.

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(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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Dyrhólaey’s namesake (literally: arch with the hole), as seen from the lighthouse
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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puffin!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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another puffin!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dyv

(l) gorgeous sweeping coastline; (r) Dyrhólaey
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

4 Responses to Exploring Vik & Dyrhólaey: Black Sand Beaches, Cliffs & Puffins

  1. Tag Along Deb September 18, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    This was one of my favourite spots in Iceland when we visited a few years ago. We ran along the beach and it felt like we were part of some kind of lunar landscape. Such an incredibly beautiful, austere place.

    • christina September 18, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

      Isn’t it amazing?! The landscape is just otherworldly – of course, I feel like I said that about a lot of Iceland :)

  2. Rhonda March 19, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    We are visiting Iceland in July and are so excited about our trip! At Dyrholaey can you drive up the hill to the lighthouse in a regular car or do you need a 4WD vehicle?

    • christina March 22, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

      You’re going to love your trip! I think you could do it in a regular car, you’d just need to take it slow. It’s steep and gravel, but doable. It’s well worth a stop!

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