Vík í Mýrdal, the southernmost town in Iceland, is a two-and-a-half or three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Reykjavík, depending on how often you get out of the car, and so for many people it’s the natural end point of a day trip taking in the waterfalls and glacial tongues of the South Coast—or else a refueling/recharging station before motoring on to points east. With a population of just over 300 people, it’s essentially a regional service hub—the Vínbúð is open six afternoons a week—in a breathtaking location. A majestic mountain pass, with grazing sheep and wheeling birds on the crags overhead, leads you down to a tiny walkable settlement spread out intimately on either side of the Ring Road, hemmed in by high cliffs and crashing waves, and overlooked by an iconic church.
Stay: Vík Hostel
The conjoined IcelandAir Hotels and Hotel Edda chains have massive beach-facing complexes including cabins and luxury rooms, but the town’s affordable and Hosteling International-affiliated guesthouse also features impressive views, set back as it is from the town and overlooking the ocean.
Eat: Eat: Víkurskáli & Halldórskaffi
Maybe you have a romantic idea of what constitutes an “authentic” meal in an Icelandic coastal village, and maybe it doesn’t involve eating a fish burger and fries at a gas station. But maybe… get over yourself? The grill in back of the N1 convenience store does a Filet-O-Fish style sandwich, with crunchy fresh veg and fries begging for a heavy dose of kartöflukrydd. It’s satisfying in a primal way, and the dining room’s view of the town’s black sand beach, and the towering sides of Reynisfjall, is casually beautiful in a way that will make you feel gratitude. If you’re in town for a couple of days, the nearby Halldórskaffi is a nice sit-down place, too.
See: Black Sand Beaches
Before the road into town is the turnoff for Reynisfjara, an incredibly Instagram-friendly spot backed by sheer yet scalable white basalt columns. The sea arch at the Dyrhólaey bird preserve is off to the east, and right offshore are the Reynisdrangar sea stacks (by legend, a troll that was caught out in the sun attempting to drag a ship back to its cave). These loom in the distance from the beach in town, beyond an evocative waste of dune grass, where frothy and bitterly cold waves slam down on the volcanic sand.
At the massive-for-the-Icelandic-countryside Vík Wool outlet, you can kit yourself out in familiar Nordic outerwear, and find traces of the more ramshackle operation that occupied this space up until a few years ago. When you sift through the hand-made lopapeysur, check for the card identifying who knitted the sweater, and where; and when you go up to the balcony, have a look down into the factory where the scratchy magic happens.
A half-hour away via the 51 bus that runs twice daily across South Iceland (it stops at the N1) is the even tinier village of Skógar, known for the majestic 200-foot Skógafoss waterfall. At the top of the falls, a trail follows the Skóga river upstream towards its glacial source, passing waterfall after waterfall. This is the bottom leg of the famed 25 km Fimmvörðuháls hike leading up to Þórsmörk in the Highlands, but it’s also a perfect out-and-back for day-trippers of all abilities.
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