A Few Days á Suðarlandi: Dyrhólæy

So, happy post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas, everyone! As we enter that time of year in which everything becomes an extended blur, I think it is only fitting that I take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee in the light of the newly-risen sun (it’s almost 11 AM, y’all, and we still have pink, streaky sunrise clouds outside) and avoid studying for my finals for just a little longer so that I can tell you about the last day of our now epically-extended Southern roadtrip. Following our awesome and literally rainbow-filled hike in Skógar, Mark and I had no fewer adventures on our way home. We decided to take a meandering route back to Reykjavík, following promising detours and possibly taking a short walk or two, but we had two definite stops in mind: the Dyrhólæy Nature Preserve and the colorful fishing village of Eyrarbakki, where we planned to have a nice seafood dinner at the well-known Rauða Húsið restaurant. Anything else would be (and was) gravy.

I was going to compress the full day into one last post, but no such luck for all of you. It’s just Dyrhólæy today, or I won’t get any studying done at all.

As with my last post, I have chosen some of the best photos to post below, but if you want the full experience (and to skip ahead to the end of the journey), you can take a look at all of the photos, which I posted here.

Dyrhólæy–thought to have been created in a volcanic eruption 80 thousand years ago–is a lovely spot for a bit of surf-and-bird watching just outside of Vík.

I think the website describes it quite nicely:

Dyrhólaey is a promontory reaching out into the ocean on the south coast of Iceland. It is the southernmost part of the country and is around 120 m high.  Off Dyrhólaey, there are rock pillars, that are unique natural formations. The roaring Atlantic and its foamy waves wash the black sands at the foot of Dyrhólaey. From there you can enjoy the sight of the varied and fantastic scenery of the Mýrdalur valley, fresh green fields and pastures. Above them, moors and tuff mountains of different shapes, and the mountains of the highland pastures, high and awesome, cut by deep ravines and gorges.

There are a few main vantage points that you can stand at when you first drive up the hill to Dyrhólæy, all of which are equally beautiful. If you have a little more time, there are also some walking paths, but at various times of the year, these will be closed to protect the bird life, as Dyrhólæy also functions as something of a bird preserve, and is home to “Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet, Puffin and various types of seagulls,” as well as eider ducks whose down is meticulously (and ethically) harvested by local farmers. There is also a really steep walking path up to the lighthouse, which can also be reached by a much gentler road which is accessible to car traffic (Mark and I didn’t find this road until we had hiked, breathlessly, up the sheer path). But wherever your vantage point at Dyrhólæy, your view will indeed be “high and awesome,”  and will frame some amazing rock formations.

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View from the Lighthouse at Dyrhólæy

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Standing on one of the more prominent outcroppings, you can look down to the waves below, which at high tide are huge, and make incredible, almost scary crashing noises which echo all along the shoreline. When the waves hit the cliffs, they also pull back the black sand on the shore, which makes a gravelly, metallic, hollow noise that reminded me of huge rain sticks (if you don’t remember that instrument from music class, click here–this guy has three). It’s pretty hypnotic to listen to and watch, and the sort of spectacle that lends itself to snapping photo after photo after photo. But for every amazing photo I have of a surging wave, there were about four other doubly epic ones that I missed. Partly because it is hard to take digital photos of waves (there’s always a shutter delay) and partly because I realized somewhere in the midst of all this, that there are certain things you just can’t capture in photographs. Luckily, even modest approximations look amazing:

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At Dyrhólæy

You can also walk down toward the black sand shoreline…

…but small signs along the way suggest that you bear the proper respect toward nature and don’t do something stupid along the way (fall off a cliff, get sucked into the undertow) and get yourself killed:

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Hint: Don’t Die.

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So that is a quick look at beautiful Dyrhólæy. Back again soon to finally wrap up this road trip!

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