Where Volcanoes meet the Ocean
Dreaming yourself away on Mýrdalur’s black shores
There is hardly a place in Iceland that offers more dramatic scenery than Mýrdalur, the southernmost district of the island. Formed by the enormous powers of glacial ice, volcanic impacts and the eternal movements of the North Atlantic Ocean, and protected from the fierce north winds by its mountain ridges, Mýrdalur is a kind of oasis of supernatural beauty, perfect for a day trip away from the busy capital but you could easily spend many days in that area.
My neighbour, the volcano
Approaching Mýrdalur on the smooth ring road is an adventure all its own, as it seems to be absolutely necessary to make a stop after each bend of the road. The contrasting landscape is breath-taking and more so when you realize where you are in fact travelling: Mýrdalur’s colourful heaths and lush green pastures are the results of eruptions from the two volcanoes that are located just behind the area: Katla, under the icecap of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and the famous Eyjafjallajökull.
The 300 inhabitants of Vík, Mýrdalur’s cultural and economic centre, appear pretty calm about their cantankerous volcanic neighbours, that statistically raise their voices every 42 years, usually sending floods of melted ice down to the sea. Vast sand deserts east of Vík tell stories about floods of the past and, as Katla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, the area is closely monitored.
Charm and good life
The charming village of Vík (‘bay’) was founded around the year 1900 and offers all the services of a country town. Accommodation ranges from hotel and guesthouse to the Þakgil campsite in a remote canyon between Mýrdalsjökull and the deserts of Mýrdalssandur. Brýdebúð, one of Vík’s oldest buildings, houses the tourist information office and Kötlusetur, with exhibitions on nature and birdlife, and, of course, the volcanoes’ history.
Restaurants and cafés offer the best quality local food, and you can be sure to find some delicious Icelandic cake with cream, while preparing for a hiking trip into the steep mountains behind the village, or maybe a guided tour to Sólheimajökull, the glacier accessible west of Vík.
Drama and romance: Vík’s black shores
Turn your back on the mountains and you will experience seaside scenery that has attracted Vikings, poets and film directors. Vík’s vast black shores are world-famous for their mighty waves, ramatically hitting Mount Reynisfjall and the caves of Hálsanefshellir and for the rocky pillars of Reynisdrangar, mystically rising out of the sea next to Reynisfjall. Theses bizarre rocks, surrounded by golden waves during sunset, with seabirds floating in the pink night sky will make any photographer’s dream come true.
And if the wind is getting too cold during a romantic midnight date on Reynisfjara beach, or on the birds’ island of Dyrhólaey, you might just drop in at Víkurprjón, Vík’s knitting shop that is open day and night. Get yourself one of those warm sweaters made from Icelandic wool and produced in the house workshop and, heading back to the shore, feel like a real Viking, ready to brave the wild elements.
Víkurbraut 28 • 870 Vík
+354 487 1395 [email protected]