Everything You Need To Know About Vík in South Iceland

Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Why do people like Vík? What is Vík known for? Do people actually live there? Is Vík worth visiting and is there a volcano in Vík? Read on to find out.

Table of Contents

Small group sightseeing and glacier hiking
Photo: Small-Group Sightseeing in South Iceland with Glacier Hiking

The tiny village of Vík might be small in size, but it attracts a big crowd. The reason for Vík´s popularity is its surrounding natural beauty of jet-black beaches and geometric cliffs. Vík also serves as a great pit stop for those on a road trip around South Iceland.

Vík translates to “Bay”, and you can find the word in many other place names in Iceland, such as Reykjavík (“Smokey Bay”) and Húsavík (“Bay of Houses”). However, the official name of the town is Vík í Mýrdal, which simply means “Vík in Mýrdalur Valley”. 

The population of Vík, according to the Icelandic Statistic Office, was 601 in January of 2022. That only includes the village itself and not the surrounding farms. Mýrdalur County has a population of just over 750. That´s a small settlement, even for Iceland.

How far is it from Reykjavík to Vík?

A road in Iceland with mountains in the backround

Vík is a popular rest stop for those travelling in South Iceland. It is located almost midway between Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, and the beautiful Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. 

Between Reykjavík and Vík are some of the country’s most popular attractions, such as the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. And between Vík and Jökulárlón are great hidden gems such as Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and Hjörleifshöfði Cape.

The distance between Reykjavík and Vík is around 187 km (116 miles). Therefore, driving there in the summer would take about 2 ½  to 3 hours without stopping. However, we highly recommend stopping to explore some of South Iceland’s spectacular nature. In the winter, the roads might be snowy, so make sure to estimate that in your travel itinerary.

The Weather in Vík in Iceland

View of Vík Church in South Iceland with blue lupin flowers in the foreground.
Photo: 8-Day Ring Road Campervan Holiday with Glacier Hike, Snorkelling & Horse Riding

Vík is the southernmost settlement in Iceland, where the weather is relatively mild. However, the climate here is subpolar oceanic, with cold winters and rather cool summers. 

The warmest month in Vík is July, with the average high temperature at 10.5°C (50.9°F). On the other hand, the average low temperature is 7.8°C (46.1°F), making the median average temperature in Vík 9.3 °C (48.7°F). Conversely, February’s coldest month, with the average median temperature of -0.2°C (31.7°F).

A table showing the average weather temperature in Vík, Iceland

Winter in Vík is from November to March and is cold, cloudy, windy, and dark. But that’s how the winter is in all of Iceland. In fact, the winters in Vík are actually slightly milder than in the rest of the country.

The year’s shortest day is December 21st when the sun rises at around 11:00 AM and sets around 3:30 PM. However, the sun will begin to show its face more often from that day on. In mid-February, for example, it rises at 9:10 AM and sets at 5:50, and in March, sunrise is at 7:30 AM, and sunset is at 7:20 PM.

The longest day in Vík is June 21st when sunrise is at 3:00 AM and sunset is at 11:35 PM. However, the sun’s rays are still somewhat visible throughout the night from late April, and the night won’t become completely dark until mid-August. 

A table showing average rainfall per month in Vík, Iceland

Vík is located by a beach near some of Iceland’s largest glaciers. Warm currents from the South Atlantic Ocean come in from the sea, but when they reach the cold air from the glaciers, it causes rain or snowfall. This means that you should expect rain or even snow when visiting. Vík sees between 13 and 16 days of precipitation each month. So, remember your umbrella!

Where to Eat in Vík

Home made hamburger with french fries

Here is the list of restaurants, cafés, and bistros in Vík (updated in April, 2022):

Other Services in Vík

Areal photo of Vik Village in South Iceland
Vík Village from above. Photo: Kasa Fue, Wikimedia C.C

Though the population of Vík is low, with only about 600 inhabitants as of January 1st, 2022 (Iceland Statistic), you can find almost everything you need for your road trip here. Useful services in Vík include supermarkets, gas stations, hotels, ATMs, and liquor stores. 

You can also find museums, tourist information, and tour operators here. There is even a small shopping centre in the middle of town, with a clothing shop, supermarket, restaurant, and a cafe. 

Where to stay in Vík

A woman looking over a black sand beach near Vík Village, South Iceland

Since Vík is conveniently located midway between West and East Iceland, it is a good rest stop for those on a road trip around the country. Vík has plenty of hotels and guesthouses but since this is a popular rest stop, the rooms tend to fill up fast. So, make sure you book ahead, preferably well in advance.

There is also a campsite a short distance from Vík Village. It accommodates up to 250 people in tents, cars, and caravans. Amenities on the campsite include electricity, toilets, hot and cold water, shower, dining facilities, and WiFi. 

Katla: The Icelandic Volcano near Vík

View of Solheimajokull glacier, iced mountain covered with snow, beautiful winter landscape, Myrdalsjokull, Iceland.

You may have heard that Vík is located close to the volcano Katla. And you might be wondering why people aren’t more nervous about that fact. 

Katla is a large and active volcano located under the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. It is also very active. Since the settlement of Iceland, twenty eruptions have been documented; the first one in 930

However, the volcano hasn’t officially erupted for over 100 years. There may have been small eruptions that didn’t break through the glacier ice, including one in 2011, but nothing major has happened since 1918.

Katla Volcano erupting
The 1918 eruption of Katla Volcano. Photo: Wikimedia CC

In the wake of the 2010 eruption of the nearby Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, volcanologists have kept a very close eye on Katla, and every seismic movement is carefully monitored. In addition, they work closely with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and have come up with a detailed evacuation plan in case of any major seismic events. 

The main danger lies in a flash flood that could occur if the magma melts the glacier ice. In case of a flood, the safest place in Vík is believed to be the town’s church, located on a big hill. In the event of an eruption, all cell phones in the region will receive a message with detailed instructions on how to evacuate to the nearest safe place.

Katla Netflix TV Show

But what would happen if Katla erupted? Well, you can watch the Icelandic mystery-drama series on Netflix to find out. 

Katla is a television show created by Baltasar Kormákur and Sigurjón Kjartansson and takes place in Vík after a catastrophic eruption of Katla. When the glacier melted in the eruption, mysteries emerged from the ice. 

The spooky, atmospheric series is a great mixture of science fiction and Icelandic folklore. It was shot near Vík and features plenty of shots of the area’s epic landscapes.

Top 5 Things to See in Vík

Basalt rock formations on a black sand beach in South Iceland.
Reynisdrangar Rocks

There are countless beautiful natural attractions located around Vík. 

West of Vík, you will find the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and the glaciers Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull. In the East, there is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and The Diamond Beach.

However, there are also plenty of exciting sights closer to the village. Below is a list of the Top things you can See in Vík:

1. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Sunset at Reynsfjara Black Sand Beach in Vik, Iceland


Perhaps the most famous natural attraction linked to Vík is Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. It is located only around 10 km (6.2 mi) from the village and is maybe one of the most recognisable landmarks of Iceland.

Unlike other beaches around the world, the sand at Reynisfjara is not white or golden; it is jet black. The reason for the black sand in Reynisfjara lies in the area’s volcanic history. Aeons ago, lava from nearby volcanic eruptions came into contact with the ocean, where it cooled down, hardened and turned black. Over time, the hard lava eroded into small pebbles and sand, giving Reynisfjara its unique colour.

Reynisfjara is also known for its strange rock formations. These include cliffs made of geometric columns called Garðar. The strange shape is also a result of a volcanic eruption when lava cools quickly. 

Adult man in yellow jacket standing on basalt columns on Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland

Another unusual rock formation is the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks. Though modern scientists will explain their existence by saying they were once part of the nearby Mt. Reynisfjall that eroded over time, Icelandic folklore has another explanation. These odd structures are actually petrified trolls who tried to drag a ship to the shore. Unfortunately, the trolls lost track of time and got caught in the sunlight, which — as we all know — turns trolls into stone.

Visitors need to be careful when visiting Reynisfjara. The waves can be hazardous; they often appear with no warning after long periods of quiet surf, luring people too close with a false sense of security. There is no landmass between Reynsifjara and the Antarctic, so the current has plenty of time and space to gather strength. 

2. Dyrhólaey Promontory & Lighthouse

A white lighthouse against blue sky at Dyrholaey in Vik, Iceland
Photo: Shutter Runner via Flickr

Only about a 20-minute drive from Vík is Dyrhólaey Promontory and lighthouse. This strangely-shaped cape is visible from Reynisfjara Beach and the Ring Road — Iceland’s main road that encircles the country. It is a popular stop for those looking for spectacular views and to observe Iceland’s birdlife.

Dyrhólaey got its name from a rock arch that eroded from the headland. Its name translates to “Door Hill Island”. The “door” part is quite apparent; the giant hole in the headland is large enough for ships to sail through when the weather is calm. The “island” part is because Dyrhólaey was an island until sediment from a massive flood connected it to the mainland.

Cape Dyrholaey at southern Iceland.

When visiting Dyrhólaey, you get spectacular panoramic views if the weather is clear. You’ll see the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean to the South, the giant Mýrdalsjökull Glacier in the North, the black lava columns of Reynisdrangar protruding out of the sea in the East, and to the West, the whole southern coastline. 

A white, square lighthouse stands on Dyrhólaey. It was built in 1927 and marks the southernmost point of mainland Iceland.

3. Vík Church

Splendid view of Vikurkirkja church in South Iceland in blooming lupine flowers.
Víkurkirkja Church

Víkurkirkja Church stands on a hilltop overlooking Vík village and its black sand beaches. With large hills, cliffs, glaciers, and a volcano in the background, this white building with its bright red roof serves as a classic example of an Icelandic church. 

In fact, the Víkurkirkja’s look is so common that there is another church nearby, Reyniskirkja, that looks almost exactly like it. This has led to some confusion about the name of the church in Vík, and some writers have often referred to Víkurkirkja as Reyniskirkja in articles.

Reyniskirkja church and cemetery near Vik in South Iceland.
Reyniskirkja Church. Photo: Tory Doughty on Unsplash

Reyniskirkja is a little wooden church that dates back to 1929. It is situated on the other side of Víkurheiði Heath, about 3.5 km (2.1 mi) away from Víkurkirkja. Reyniskirkja, Reynisfjara Beach, and Mt. Reynisfjall are named after Reyni-Björn, a Viking who settled the area in 870-930. 

Víkurkirkja, on the other hand, was built between the years 1932 and 1934. It is a stone church designed by famed Icelandic architect Guðjón Samúelsson who is also responsible for Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, the Church of Akureyri, and the National Museum. Inside, you’ll find a locally made organ and beautiful stained glass windows. 

A comparison photo of Reyniskirkja Church and Vikurkirkja Church in South Iceland
Reyniskirkja on the left and Víkurkirkja on the right

Víkurkirkja stands on top of a tall hill and is considered the safest place in Vík in case of glacial floods from a volcanic eruption in Katla Volcano. 

4. Puffins in Vík

Three Atlantic Puffins on grass.

Iceland is home to around 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffin population, with approximately 8-10 million birds nesting here during the summer. Though the largest colony is in the Westman Islands, which are located just off the south coast, you can still find smaller colonies all around the country, even near Vík.

Puffins are a migratory bird in Iceland and usually arrive in the country in April and stay until late August or early September. They make nests on clifftops near the ocean, such as on Mt. Reynisfjall or the nearby Dyrhólaey Promontory. 

Puffin colony in Vík, Iceland, near Reynisfjara Beach.

The 5 km (3.1 mi) long, 340 metre (0.2 mi) high Mt. Reynisfjall extends into the sea, separating Vík from Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. On its southern side are cliffs made of natural columns that form geometric patterns. Amidst the strangely shaped cliffs, thousands of Atlantic Puffins have set up their temporary burrows, and summer visitors to the beach can often spot them.

Even more puffins nest in the cliffs around Dyrhólaey Promontory. But because of that, the area is considered a nature reserve, so care must be taken when visiting. For example, during the puffins’ breeding season (May to late June), Dyrhólaey is often closed between 7 PM and 9 AM so as not to disturb the little pufflings at night (‘pufflings’ is the actual term for baby puffins). 

5. Voyages Friendship Statue 

Statue of a man against a blue sky in Vik, Iceland
Photo: Steve Batch via Flickr

Visitors to Vík often overlook the unassuming Voyages Friendship Statue. It stands at 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) on the edge of Víkurfjara Beach, not that far from Vík’s Swimming Pool. The lone statue looks hauntingly beautiful on the dark sand, with the dramatic Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks in the background. 

The statue was created by Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir. Her inspiration came from the people who make their living at sea and their families who fear they will never return. It depicts an androgynous human figure, made out of aluminium, that gazes out onto the ocean. 

Statue of a man in Vik, Iceland with mountains in the background
Photo: Steve Batch via Flickr

‘Voyages’ is actually a two-part sculpture commissioned by the British and Icelandic governments. Its sister statue is located in the fishing town of Hull, England, and is identical to this one, except it is made of bronze.

Iceland and England have a long history of fishing and trade, spanning over 1000 years. However, that relationship soured in the 1950s and 1970s by the Cod Wars, a series of disputes over fishing rights in the North Atlantic

Fortunately, the nations reached an agreement, and today the statues serve as a beautiful symbol of the friendship between the two countries. 

Top 5 Tours from Vík

Katla Ice Cave tour Iceland
Photo: Katla Ice Cave Tour from Vik | Available All Year Round

Vík is not only a great rest stop for those on a road trip and a fantastic spot for sightseeing, but it is also an amazing place for adventure. 

There are several tours and trips you can take from Vík where you´ll discover the wonders of Iceland. So, what are the best tours you can take in Vík? Below are my 5 favourites.

1. Visit the Katla Ice Caves

Katla Ice Cave tour Iceland
Photo: Katla Ice Cave Tour from Vik | Available All Year Round

Perhaps one of the most popular tours in Vík is a visit to the Katla Ice Caves.

In Vík, participants meet a guide who will take them in a super jeep to Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. A super jeep is a specialised vehicle built to handle the rough terrain near the glacier. Though the main attraction is the ice caves, riding in a super jeep is an adventure in itself. 

Mýrdalsjökull is Iceland’s fourth largest glacier, and it covers the active Katla Volcano, hence the name of the ice caves. Once at the root of the glacier, participants get crampons, a helmet, and other glacier gear needed to explore the caves. 

The guide will lead the group into the ice caves, where they can see the sparkling blue ice, which is streaked with black ash from past volcanic eruptions. 

Katla Ice Cave opening
Photo: Katla Ice Cave Tour from Vik | Available All Year Round

What makes the Katla Ice Caves so unique is that they are open year-round. Other ice caves, such as those in Vatnajökull Glacier, are only accessible from November to March. This means that summer visitors to Iceland won’t have to miss out on the sensational experience of stepping into a natural ice cave on their visit. 

2. Take a Zip Line Tour

A person on a zip line going over a canyon in south Iceland
Photo: Zipline & Hiking Adventure in Vík in South Iceland

If you are looking to experience the beauty of Vík’s surroundings in a unique and adrenaline-fuelled way, you might want to consider a Zip Line Tour. 

On a Zip Line Tour, you’ll meet your guide in Vík. They will then take you on a short drive out of town, where you’ll hike between a few zip lines while enjoying and learning about Iceland’s unique landscapes. 

The zip lines have names like “Gentle Giant” and “Big Rush”, so you are sure to feel your heart pumping as you whizz over creeks, canyons, and even a small waterfall. 

3. See Molten Lava at the Lava Show

Entry to the Icelandic Lava Show in Vik Village | Including Real Molten Lava
Photo: Entry to the Icelandic Lava Show in Vik Village

If you want to learn more about Katla and other volcanoes, then a visit to the Lava Show in Vík is perfect for you. 

Here, you can learn all about volcanic eruptions, from the ancient ones that helped shape Iceland’s environment to the more recent eruption of Fagradansfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula. 

The tour starts with an educational (but fun!) video on volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Afterwards, the real spectacle begins. The curator will dim the lights, and you’ll witness bright-red, glowing lava flowing into the showroom. 

Entry to the Icelandic Lava Show in Vik Village | Including Real Molten Lava
Photo: Entry to the Icelandic Lava Show in Vik Village

You will see the lava move, hear it sizzle, smell the melting minerals, and feel the intense heat it emits. Finally, you will see how the hot magma interacts with ice as it would in nature if a volcano (such as Katla) erupts under a glacier. 

It is a fantastic experience no one should miss.

4. Go Horse Riding on a Black Sand Beach

People riding the Icelandic horse on a black sand beach near Vík in South Iceland
Photo: Horse Riding Tour on a Black Sand Beach

The Icelandic horse is a special breed unique to this country. It is smaller than horses in other parts of the world, though technically not a pony (but pony-sized). It is also very gentle, friendly and intelligent, making it a fantastic companion for both new and experienced riders. 

There are a few completely Icelandic experiences one can have in Iceland, and riding the Icelandic horse is definitely one of them. In Vík, however, you can make this experience even more unique and Icelandic by riding the horse on a black sand beach

On a riding tour in Vík, you’ll explore the nearby Víkurströnd Beach on the back of a horse while the stunning Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks look on from a distance. If all in your group are new riders, you’ll go on a comfortable walking tour. But if the group is comfortable riding, then you might try out tölt, a special gait unique to the Icelandic horse.

5. Paragliding in Vík

Paragliding Tour from Vík in South Iceland
Photo: Paragliding Tour from Vík in South Iceland

Those looking for thrills combined with spectacular nature can do no better than a paragliding tour in Vík.

The feeling of soaring through the air like a bird and witnessing black sand beaches, majestic mountains, green farmlands, and the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean is almost indescribable.

As the pilot straps you in the flying gear, your heart pumps with fear and excitement. However, once your feet are off the ground, that fear turns into pure joy, and you can enjoy the beauty of Iceland and the silence the altitude brings.

Paragliding in Vík is done in tandem with experienced and licensed pilots, so no prior flying experience is needed.

Summary

Sunset on a black sand beach in Vik, South Iceland

Though Vík is a small town of only 600 people, it offers a variety of services and tours. Nearby attractions include Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Dyrhólaey Promontory, and it’s a popular pit stop for those travelling Iceland’s south coast. 

Several fantastic tours depart from Vík, including a visit to the Katla Ice Caves (only natural ice caves open year round) and a super jeep tour to the DC Plane Wreck.

The weather is mild in Vík, but it is one of the rainiest places in Iceland. So bring an umbrella when visiting!

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