In 1991, the American journal Islands Magazine counted the black sand beach of Vik, Iceland as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches on Earth. It’s easy to see why! Vik is Iceland’s southernmost village and faces the open Atlantic Ocean, framed by a long black volcanic sand beach. Nearby the spindly Reynisdrangar rock formations stick out of the sea, and as the legend goes, were formed when trolls attempted to drag three ships ashore.
The mountains of Pétursey, Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey stand towering over the village of just 450. Beautiful, but dangerous. Vik lies directly under the Myrdalsjokull glacier, which itself sits atop the volcano Katla. Katla last erupted in 1918 and speculation is that a big eruption is brewing, which would be way more powerful than the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. The eruption could melt enough of the glacier to trigger a flash flood, obliterating the village. The village church, high up on a hill, is believed to be the only building that would survive the flood.
We stopped briefly in Vik on the first leg of our drive around Iceland’s Ring Road on our way from Reykjavik to Hornafjörður. (It’s one of the few service stations between Skógar and Skaftafell.) The sun had just come up as it rises quite late in winter and the entire island seemed to be asleep after New Year’s Eve festivities the night before. Tim was snapping away as the sea of blue, pink, orange, and purple swirled in the sky above the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Black and gray oval rocks dotted the black sand beach and I picked one up, sketching out Jdomb’s Travels in the sand just a few feet above where the frothy water ran ashore.
Tim had just snapped a few pictures of my sand sketch when I heard him shout “Run!” The waves had suddenly become more powerful and I laughed as I tried to sprint out of the crashing waves and foamy water. Tim laughed too, snapping pictures as I made my narrow escape from being soaked! (And in case you’re wondering, my Moon Boots proved to be waterproof.)
Know Before You Go
- Vik is the last service station between Skógar and Skaftafell, so stop for gas here. The gas station is a self-service pump that accepts credit cards only and a Pin is required.
- There is also a small tourist information center and cafe. An Icelandic hot dog is a great snack if the cafe is open!
- The Wool Center is worth a visit and features a second level balcony where you can see women hand-knitting Icelandic sweaters.
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