Located along Road number 1, about 1,180 km east of Reykjavik, the village of Vík í Myrdal (Vik) is known for the surrounding Myrdalsjökull glacier, the famous Katla volcano, and the black sand beaches of the south coast.
Vík í Myrdal, which literally means “Swamp Valley Bay”, is located in the Myrdal region and is more commonly known simply as “Vik”.
This village is a popular destination for visitors traveling along the south coast, and it's hot hard to see why: Vik has a range of sights worth seeing and is much more than a stopover village.
You should know that Vik is the southernmost village in Iceland and is known for being one of the rainiest in the country. The village itself has only 300 inhabitants and is completely isolated from the other towns in the area, the closest being at least 70 kilometers away.
Reyniskirkja, the church in Vik
Due to its geographical location, Vik has had to deal with Icelandic volcanoes up close, with Katla of course, and more recently in 2010 the famous Eyjafjallajökull, which covered Vik in ash for several weeks and left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. Also the church of Vik, which overlooks the village, is considered to be the safest place in town should the violent Katla volcano erupt again.
The Katla eruption of 1918 caused considerable damage in the region and terrified locals when a gigantic jökulhlaup, a meltwater flood which swept away everything in its path.
Vik's first constructions were established in 1890, shops selling fruit, vegetables, sugar, and salt, and it was only recently, in 1934, that the famous Reyniskirkja church was built. Due to its remote location on the south coast such, with the closest towns being in fact very far away, such as Kirkjubaejarklaustur to the west, or Selfoss, Hvolsvollur and Hella to the east, the prices charged here are very high compared to the average.
The Reynisdrangar seen from Vik Beach
Reaching Vik is very simple since the village is located along the Road number 1, about 80 kilometers or a 1-hour drive from Hvolsvöllur in the west and 71 kilometers or roughly 1 hour from Kirkjubaejarklaustur in the east. You don't need a 4×4 to get to Vik, a simple passenger vehicle is sufficient.
For those who travel by bus, line 51 leads directly into the village. Learn more about Iceland's bus lines.
The Vik region and its beaches are renowned for their winter panoramas, and the Northern Lights in this area are particularly beautiful. The sunsets in the region, in Vik and nearby Reynisfjara, are also stunning and tourists enjoy spending their evenings on the beaches watching the midnight sun in summer.
The main attraction is of course Reyniskirkja, the small church overlooking the town. It's well worth a visit the view from up top is extraordinary. The red roof tiles provide a stark and beautiful contrasts with the landscape colours: the black sand of the beaches, the green mosses on the south coast, the blue lupins near the church, and the superb local nightshade variety that blankets patches in yellow flowers. The fantastic panorama encompasses the Reynisfjall, the imposing cliff next to the village, the superb black sand beaches, and the famed rocky peaks off the coast.
According to local legend, these rocks that rise into the sea, known as the Reynisdrangar, stand guard like sentinels over the coast. When a 3-mast sailing ran aground here, two trolls worked tirelessly to drag it back to the beach before sunrise. Too slow, they were petrified in the early morning when touched by the first rays of the sun.
The black sand beaches of Vík are probably the most famous beaches in the country, and even considered among the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world! Take a moment to wander the beaches to admire the sand and the black pebbles with the stunning basalt organs of Reynisfjall rising in the background.
The city center boasts a range of shops in addition to the tourist office. The place is famous for its wool fabrics, and you can find all sorts of wooly sweaters and Icelandic hats bearing the stamp of the famous “Vik Wool” factories. This is the perfect souvenir to bring back from Iceland.
Volcanism is of course a major topic here and you can visit the Icelandic Lava Show if you wish to see running molten lava in the very heart of the city. The experience is absolutely unforgettable and a great activity on rainy days. Additional information and reservations are available directly on the site.
Two restaurants stand out from the rest in the village and we highly recommend them:
The first is located in the same establishment as the Icelandic Lava Show and offers delicious homemade soups, including “volcano soup.” Smidjan Brugghus, on the other hand, offers some of the best homemade burgers in Iceland. A true delight! And the cherry on top: the establishment brews its own beer and offers excellent beer tastings.
There is a campsite in Vik with a fairly good reputation, located just 1 km from the village. It can accommodate up to 250 people in tents or chalets.
Guesthouses and other chalets are easy to find in and around the village, but as the area is very remote, you'll need to book very well in advance to find available accommodation in Vik. The Dyrholaey Hotel, the Puffin Hotel, the Icelandair Hotel, and the Black Beach Suites just outside the city have an excellent reputation. Staying overnight here means you are ideally located between the fantastic Reynisfjara Beach and the village of Vik.
For smaller budgets, the Puffin Hotel has great value and is located right in the center of the village.
If you are lucky enough to sleep in Vík, there are some excellent options for evening walks whether on the beaches or on the imposing Reynisfjall.
You can get to the summit via 4x4 (exclusively!!) but the climb can be messy depending on the condition of the narrow path that gets you to the top. Many visitors hike up there for the absolutely incredible panorama you can enjoy from the top.
One cannot talk about Vik without mentioning puffins. High up on the cliffs, from June to mid-August, you will likely find thousands of puffins and other Arctic terns congregating on the cliffs, the site being one of the best known places to observe these beautiful birds. They are not shy and you can get quite close to take photos. Other local wildlife include herring gulls and golden plovers.
Hiking enthusiasts won't be disappointed either. Not far from Vík you can hike up the Myrdalsjokull glacier which is located inland to the north of the village.
Another hiking trail worthy of note, only recently opened and already very popular, is located less than 10 kilometers from Vik. At the foot of Hjörleifshöfði, a huge rocky promontory that you can get to from the car park in 2 hours, is a cave that looks a lot like the one Master Yoda trained Luke in, hence the name “Yoda Cave”.
Nearby, road 215 leads to the famous Reynisfjara beach and 3 kilometers further you will reach Road 218 that leads to Cape Dyrholaey, and in one fell swoop you can catch two of the top attractions on the south coast.
The village of Vik is in a region brimming with some of the best sights on the south coast and clearly deserves at full day to visit.