Local Guide

Local Guide

Vik is a small village east of Reynisfjall mountain (pop. 300). The distance from Reykjavik is 186 km (115 miles) on the main road and from Skogar 33km (20 miles). Vik is a service centre for the farming community in the district and visiting tourists. Light industry such as woollen goods is another factor. A large number of British and American forces were stationed here during WW II. A Loran station (Long Range Navigation) was operated on top of Reynisfjall mountain. This mountain is also popular with ornithologist. Many species of birds can be seen here during the summer such as Arctic Terns, Auks and especially Puffins. Puffins can also be observed at Dyrholaey a few kilometers away to the west. The village is directly below the great Myrdalsjokull. The glacier covers the volcano Katla. Katla is an active volcano and overdue. It has been on a 40 to 80 year schedule in the past but has not erupted since 1918. The people at Vik practice periodic evacuation drills as a precaution.

Major Points of Interest

Myrdalsjokull

Myrdalsjokull sits above the village of Vik and is about 595 sq. km in size. It is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. Many glacier tongues run from Myrdalsjokull. The largest is Solheimajokull in the south and Kotlujokull in the east. Kotlujokull is named after the great volcano Katla under the glacier (see below). The caldera in Katla is 83.7 sq. km and incidentally the same size as Lake Thingvallavatn. There appears to be a connection between the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and Katla in Myrdalsjökull. The distance between the main craters is short and the direction of the rifts is the same. Glaciers cover about 12% of Iceland. Vatnajokull is the largest (8300 km2), then comes Langjokull (950km2), Hofsjokull is third (925km2), and the fourth is Myrdalsjokull.

Myrdalsjokull

Volcano Katla

The volcano is below the Myrdalsjökull glacier and has a large ice-filled caldera. This is the famous Kotlugja (Katla´s fissure). It is named after the housekeeper at the Thykkvibaer monastery. The volcano has erupted on a 40 – 80 year schedule and is now overdue. When it erupts it gushes out with great power, melts the glacier, and send a humongous water flow and icebergs out on the sands. The water flow is the size of the Amazon River at its highest water level. It is believed that Katla has erupted 20 times since settlement. In 894 six farms were demolished and in 1311 other farms were destroyed. This eruption has been named the Sturla-eruption because everyone in the district drowned except this fellow Sturla and a baby. Apparently, Sturla got hold of a baby in a crib, climbed upon an iceberg from the glacier and floated out to sea. The iceberg drifted back to shore later with Sturla and the baby on it. Both were saved. The last eruption was on November 17th 1918 with a tremendous jokulhlaup (melt-water burst). The shepherds on the sands escaped miraculously from the flood but their sheep did not make it. According to the shepherds, the sheep couldn’t help stopping and looking back towards the wave of floodwater. Some of the icebergs were 70 m (230 feet high).

Volcano Katla

Reynisfjall

Reynisfjall is a mountain (340 m) west of the village Vik. The south and west side of the mountain features fascinating columnar basalt and two caves. The plant Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica) grows in the steep cliffs. The road up the mountain is one of the steepest in Iceland. Please do not stay too close to the cliffs down below because of falling rocks. Numerous Puffins and Fulmars breed here.

Reynisfjall

Reynisdrangar

Reynisdrangar are 66 meters high rock pillars that jot out of the ocean south of Mt. Reynisfjall. The pillars are best viewed from Vik, but it is also possible to view them from the west site. The driving distance from Vik around the mountain Reynisfjall to the west is about 10km (6 miles). An Icelandic folk tale tells us that two trolls that lived in the mountain, one night tried to pull in a big ship from the sea, but the seamen repelled with so much force that the trolls spent the whole night in a tug of war, wounding up being exposed to the sun at dawn and turning into stones. On the way to the beach on the west side you will pass the farm Reynir which is mentioned in the thousand-year-old Icelandic Book of Settlement. The folk tale: The Church-Builder at Reynir is an interesting story. Be extremely careful at the beach on both sides of Reynisfjall mountain. The undertow is very strong.

Reynisdrangar

Myrdalssandur

Myrdalssandur is flat east of the village is one of many great plains along the south coast and it is about 700 sq. km. This sand has been created by many melt water bursts (jokulhlaup) from the Katla volcano underneath Myrdalsjokull. Old sagas tell us about wooded areas on the south side of cape Hjorleifshofdi where there was considerable population with woodlands and grass. Place names like Dynskogar (Noisy Woods) and Laufskali (Leafy Lodge) are evidence of this. Now there is nothing here but barren sands.

Myrdalssandur

Diversions off the Beaten Track and Perfect Stops for Picnics

Dyrholaey, Kerlingadalur and Hafursey

Dyrholaey is a peninsula west of Mt. Reynisfjall, which stands partially out in the sea. Its distinction is a hole right through it, large enough for big boats to sail through. In fact, a small plane was once flown through the hole, just above sea level. The view from the top of Dyrholaey is both beautiful and panoramic. One can drive up to a lighthouse on the peninsula, look across the sea or peek down on the powerful surge beneath. A diverse world of flora and fauna can be found on Dyrholaey. Drive for about 5 km (3miles) east of Vik to the farm Hofdabrekka and turn left on road 214 towards Kerlingadalur (Valley of the Old Maids). The farm Hofdabrekka was swept away in the Katla eruption 1660 and a new one was built higher on the heath. It was not moved downhill again until 1964. The most notorious ghost in the area, Hofdabrekku-Joka, is here. She is a mean one and there are many stories about her. Continue on the (difficult) road through Kerlingadalur up on the heath and you will discover Thakgil with many caves. Some have been prepared for picnics. This is a very picturesque and popular area.

Drive to the east from Vik and cross the river Mulakvisl about 10 km (6miles) turn left towards Hafursey. It is a hyaloclastite mountain 582m. Here you will find rich bird life. The area was wooded at one time but now there is only low growth on the mountain side. The farmers at Hjorleifshofdi kept the sheep out here all year around. There were six men attending sheep here and cutting wood when Katla erupted in 1755. They stayed here in a cave for six days until they could be saved. One of them carved their initials on the cave walls, which can still be seen today. A rescue hut is on the east side.

Dyrholaey, Kerlingadalur and Hafursey

Hjorleifshofdi

Hjorleifshofdi is a cape out on Myrdalssandur about 11 km from Vik. The farm was abandoned in 1937. This is an interesting place to visit and you can have a picnic in the cave on the south side. Hjorleifshofdi was at one time a cape in a lagoon called Kerlingafjordur. The volcano Katla has spread sand over the entire area during many eruptions through the centuries and formed Kotlutangi (Katla´s spit). The cape was also the first camp of Hjorleifur the foster brother of the first settler Ingolfur Arnarson. Hjorleifur´s slaves killed him and fled to islands off the shore with the women. When Ingolfur discovered this he went after the slaves and killed them all but saved the women. He named the islands after them and called them Westman Islands. All people living west of Norway were called West-men. The staff at Hotel Edda and Vikurprjon will be pleased to give you further information and instructions regarding visits to the above areas and other locations.

Hjorleifshofdi

Other Activities

Vikurprjon, hiking trails, Golf Course and more

Vikurprjon Take a walk across the road to Vikurprjon in the afternoon. This is one of the oldest knitwear producers in Iceland. The owner Thorir Kjartansson is there every day. The products include all kinds of clothing made from Icelandic wool. Traditional methods are used with many national patterns. You can watch the work going on from a viewing platform upstairs. Take an evening walk down to the beach but do not go too close to the water. The undertow is very strong. The American journal Islands Magazines counted this beach as one of the ten most beautiful beaches on Earth. There are many hiking trails around Vik, both specially marked and unmarked but they're all worth the effort. One of the most spectacular ones is the hike up on Reynisfjall, along the road to the Southernmost tip of the mountain. There is The Loran station(long-range navigation) also, on the South side of the mountain is one of the largest Puffin colonies in the world where you can stand very close to those amazing birds and their burrows. The Golf Course is known as one of the best outside the Reykjavík area. It's a 9 hole course which is around 2.200 m long; with three holes par 3, four holes par 4 and two holes par 5. The fee is 1.500 ISK, paid at the golf hut. The swimming pool in Vik is fairly new and suitable for all ages. The main pool is not enormous though but there's also a paddling pool for children as well as a hot tub. There's a massage machine in the hot tub and a children's slide in the main pool. There's also a sauna, sunbed and a small gym. The sports venue outside was renovated and extended in 2005 so don't hesitate to use it and do a few laps there! Gallery Leirbrot og Gler (Clay and Glass) Gudrun Sigurdardottir is an amazing artist who fairly recently discovered her love of clay and glass and pursued a new career as an artist. In the last few years her reputation has spread around Iceland as well as overseas because of her uniquely designed pieces. It is well worth taking a walk up to her house to at least have a look - although the prices are so moderate that very few leave without purchasing a little something!

Leisure Around Vik

A drive to cape Hjörleifshöfði is ideal. Park the car just below the cape and take a look at the hut, then take a short hike up on the west side of the cap, upon to its summit where the mountain view is spectacular and you can see wide and far over the sand and sea. Thakgil canyon was a well kept secret amongst the mountains up from the heath by farm Höfðabrekka. Today there's a camping place in the canyon and the guards there know everything about the hiking trails in the area, some of which can be a bit hazardous.

Fishing at Hofdabrekka

The lakes are excellent, quiet fishing area, yet very close to the main road.

Icehiking in Hofdabrekka Glacier - Myrdalsjokull

Take a ride with a special jeep around the Glacier and take an ice walk in this beautiful and mysterius landscape under the famus volcano Katla. The jeep can take you where ever you wish.

Have a guided ATV ride here around our beautiful area.  Some tours are only half an hour while others are a few hours long. some are easy and others more demanding. The choice is yours but they are certainly fantastic tours that you should not miss.

Reynisfjara

Beach Reynisfjara is no less spectacular than the beach in Vik, offering a view of the Reynisdrangar columns from another angle. Dyrholaey rises from the sea to the west and a famous cave, Halsanefshellir - formed by columnar basalt - lurks by the seashore.

Dyrholaey

Dyrholaey is one of the world's greatest wonders; a peninsula with grassy slopes and diverse range of wild life. On one side is the Dyrholaos, a calm sea, while on the other side, the sea rushes in with vigour. The bird life is very diverse; the rare Puffin, the Fulmar which is everywhere in the area, the Kittiwake, the Black Guillemot, the Razorbill and so on. This truly is a treasure that nobody should miss. Nothing compares to sailing around Dyrholaey, experience the scenery from the sea and watching the spectacular bird life in Dyrholaey.

Horse rental

Horse rental at Vellir - Getting to know the Icelandic horse out in the Icelandic wilderness is but a sheer adventure.

Dogsleds

Riding a dog sled is a unique experience for everyone. At the end of the trip passengers can personally thank the enthusiastic dogs for their hard work.

Snow mobiles

What a great sense of freedom to speed around the glacier on a snow mobile and feel the wind in your face. Horse rental at Skogar - A great scenery for horse riding.