The Black Sand Beaches of Vik and Dyrhólæy

Location Map I’m not entirely sure why the black sand beaches around Vik are so famous. So much of Iceland is covered in black sand and so many places in the world have cliff stacks carved by wind and sea. In any case I was in Vik and I wanted to see my rock.

Getting in and where I camped

I arrived in Vik the night before after hitchhiking to the campsite from Skogár and the end of the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Treks. The campsite is across from the N1 petrol station.

The Skogár campsite looked crap, but the Vik Campsite was crap. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, and perhaps it was just the horrible weather, but the showers were few and filthy so that’s enough to put you off any place. You can definitely get better for 1,700ISK at other campsites in Iceland. Maybe skip paying 300ISK for the shower because it doesn’t have geothermal heated water anyway and the hot water runs out..

Black sand, cliffs and puffins

Vik means “bay” which is why there are many towns ending in -vik around Iceland. It’s a relatively big town compared to Skogár, but still quite small. There’s a good Kjarval supermarket down the road parallel to the big cliffs. Walk west up Highway 1 and take a left.

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The church above the Vik township is actually quite picturesque

If you just want to see black sand, go to Vik beach and you can also see the rock stacks that are so “incredible”. Reynisfjara beach is just a disgusting tourist trap with a restaurant. One of the many such shops that have popped up to exploit package tourists in the last few years. WTF Iceland… What are you doing?…

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The view from Vik beach just around the corner

Public buses run from Reykjavik via the Reynisfjara black sand beach and then to Vik, but don’t stop there in the opposite direction. So I figured I could walk / hitchhike the 10km there and take the bus coming from Reykjavik back at 12.30pm. In theory at least, it looks possible to do the cliff walk and navigate your way down the turf on the other side, but it was horribly windy and rainy that day.

I walked about 200m along Highway 1 and got a lift from a Swiss couple to the F road turn off and then got another lift shortly after from some Belgian lady. She kept telling me she was an artist because she stayed with families from Greenland and Iceland. I couldn’t understand how that was art, but I was thankful for the lift.

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View of Reynisfjara beach from Dyrhólæy

Old Chinese ladies were being blown around the beach and were struggling to keep their visors on. Yep, looks exactly the same as Vik right? Only it has my rock!

The story behind the rock is that before I knew there was black sand everywhere, I saw a cool photo of this rock and the beach and wanted to try to reproduce it. I do that a bit, I see inspiring photos and just have to go there myself to see if I can take a better photo.

I walked from Reynisfjara to the cliffs of Dyrhólæy. About 20 mins with the wind at my back, then 40 mins to return with the wind in my face. The wind brought the sands alive like dunes in the desert and sand snaked it’s way across the beach.

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Streaming sands were a little hard to capture

Unfortunately today I would not take a great picture of my rock. The weather was shite, the tide was in and the inlet cut me off.

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My rock on Reynisfjara beach

The good news though was that I found the puffins that we couldn’t find last time we were at Dyrhólæy! Hundreds of them nested in the cliffs next to my rock.

I’d describe them like “penguins that could some how fly”. Their tiny wings don’t seem proportional to their body, at least not like other seabirds and they look so uncoordinated. Not an ounce of grace in their bones, but they are cute just like penguins too.

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Puffins nesting in the cliffs would 'fall with style' out to the ocean to fish

Last time we had a car and better weather so we were able to head up onto the cliffs. There’s a lighthouse and a few things to see, but I think it’s mainly about the bird watching. In fact, I realised this time that Iceland is full of bird life.

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Dyrhólæy lighthouse on the cliffs

–Commence rant–

Sadly though, unless the Icelandic government gets its shit sorted that won’t last forever. I swear tourist numbers had at least tripled since I was there 4 years ago. Everywhere you go there are dozens of tour buses and new tourist shops. I find it a bit disgusting in a place that I had considered a bit of a sanctuary for nature and beauty on this planet. I’m not saying people can’t come, just stop building so many facilities, paving all the roads and making it so accessible. That might at least cut the number of idiots who just want to rock up and take a selfie to post on Instagram and say “hey look I’m doing stuff”.

–End rant–

Anyhoo, with the ridiculously strong winds, I walked at a 45 degree angle like Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal back across the beach. It seriously took almost twice the time.

I took the bus back and had some lunch, but by that time I’d missed all the buses for the day going east. So again, I tried hitching a ride with success. The abysmal weather worked in my favour earning some pity from a small tour group who kindly took me for free. I even got the tour commentary out of it! The guide was a really cool Irish geologist who managed to jag a job in Iceland doing all the famous sites for free. Lucky guy!

The guide, Bill, dropped me right at the campsite in Kirkjubæjarklaustur where I really needed to dry my clothes.

To see the rest of my July 2016 trip to Iceland click here.

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