A Few Days á Suðurlandi: Roadtrip Day 2 (Part 2)

In the event that you are tired of reading election predictions, let me take you back with me to the South of Iceland, where when we last left off–back before music festivals took over my posts here–we were reciting epic dialog behind Seljalandsfoss and getting ready to move on to the black beaches at Vík.

We had booked a room at the Hotel Dyrhólaey, named after the nearby Dyrhólaey nature preserve, which I am willing to bet is one of the most hotel-y hotels within 100+ miles and which wins the prize, currently, for most beautiful view-over-valley-from-a-mountain that I’ve had in a hotel room. Since we weren’t quite sure where the hotel was located, we decided to find it first (our rented GPS, heretofore unused, served its purpose, albeit briefly) before heading into Vík proper and taking our walk along the beach. Since we weren’t quite sure where we were going, we meandered slowly through the Mýrdalur valley, which is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve been thus far in Iceland. Then, after checking in at the hotel and being warned that that evening’s dinner was being catered to the large school group visiting (burritos, ice cream), decided that we’d plan to find our dinner somewhere around town.

As we drove into Vík, the bright sunny weather we had been enjoying earlier on in our travels gave way to a less cheery, but far more atmospheric, overcast and misty afternoon. It was as though there was a storm cloud that had just settled itself right over Vík, and this continued to be true for the next couple of days. You could actually see a sharp line where sunny weather became cloudy right over Vík. As I said, though, this was incredibly atmospheric and made for a rather romantic (I mean this in the medieval/knightly sense) walk along the beach.

After a brief detour at the Vík Wool Factory where I tried on the same multi-patterned drapey cape that tempted me the last time I was there, we headed down to the beach. The beach at Vík is stunning, both for its famous black sand and for its view of Reynisdrangar, the four basalt pillars that stand just off shore. According to legend, the rocks were once three trolls who were busy pulling a masted ship into the nearby cliffs when they were, luckily for the ship, turned to stone by the rising sun. I, like many visitors before and after me, took tons of pictures of these formations–it’s pretty much impossible not to get a good shot of them, and they are really a hugely arresting sight from the shore. There is also a really wonderful sculpture called “För,” or “Journey” which I don’t remember being there the last time I was in Vík. This statue was co-commissioned by the Icelandic and English governments, in recognition of fishing partnerships between the two nations and “in memory of local trawlermen who lost their lives at sea.” (A matching statue stood on a pier in Hull, England, before it was stolen last year.)

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After getting our fill of waves, and black sand, and erstwhile trolls, however, we headed up into Vík itself to walk around a bit just as night was falling. (Tourist tip of note: Vík has basically the only Vínbuðin within 50 miles in either direction on the South Coast–not counting the one on the Vestmann Islands–and, at least in the winter, after it closes on Friday, it doesn’t open again until Monday afternoon. So if you are, hypothetically, planning on getting a bottle of wine or some beer to enjoy after a long hike, you should probably do that before you leave Reykjavík.)

For such a popular tourist destination, Vík is a tiny town–only 300 people total–and the residential areas are divided in between a few streets along the coast and a few more up on the mountainside looking over the ocean. As in pretty much every Icelandic village, there is a public pool (this one faces the sea), and there is also a soccer field that is situated in an almost absurdly picturesque spot next to the beach. I have a very hard time believing that anyone can pay attetion to a match when sitting in those stands. There are one or two cafes, although only one of them–the restaurant attached to Hotel Lundi–was open when we were there, it already being the “winter season” in October.

After our walk around town, we decided to have dinner at a hotel just outside of Vík–Hotel Höfðabrekka, where my mom and I actually stayed on our trip just this last April. I’ve read that Höfðabrekka is haunted by a famous local ghost (some sources say that she haunts the hotel’s kitchen), but our experience at the restaurant was purely cozy. After enjoying some spiced popcorn that the waitress brought to the table for us, we had a very tasty soup followed by fish and lamb dishes. Afterwards, the waitress let us take a beer into the sitting area with overstuffed leather couches and just sit and sip for awhile. Then we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the luxury of (British) cable television and get a good night’s sleep for our hike over Skogafoss the next day. (Next post: the hike with a hundred waterfalls.)

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