Watch an audio slideshow about a daytrip to Vík, the southernmost village of the Icelandic mainland. The landscape along the way is incredibly diverse, ranging from steaming geothermal fields to roaring waterfalls, mystical lava fields to peaceful grassy lowlands, black sand beaches to shimmering white glaciers.
Photos by Jennifer Zoltek and Swantje Cichowlas. Narration by Zoltek.
Arriving from the west, you can spot the thin white line of the waterfall Seljalandsfoss from a distance. It is not a large or powerful waterfall, but definitely one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It is located just a stone’s throw away from the Ring Road, Iceland’s highway number one, between Hvolsvöllur and Skógar.
Seljalandsfoss becomes more impressive the closer you get. Gradually you register how the river Seljalandsá tumbles over a rocky edge at a height of 62 meters into a green pool.
The most exciting thing about Seljalandsfoss is that you can walk behind it. It is an intense and wet experience, walking on a narrow and slippery trail behind the curtain of water.
Once you’ve reached the cave-like balcony behind the waterfall, shielded from the water by pendent rocks, a flat plain opens up in front of you with the ocean to the right and the Eyjafjöll mountain range to the left, which mark the old coastline.
Continuing towards Vík, another waterfall quickly catches your attention. Skógafoss is probably the best known waterfall in this region and is only about 30 kilometers away from Seljalandfoss, next to the small village of Skógar.
Skógafoss is the first in a row of a series of waterfalls located along a popular 30-kilometer-long hiking trail. It leads you across Fimmvörduháls mountain pass up to a height of 1,100 meters above sea level and then to the green valley of Thórsmörk.
Southwards bound, the Ring Road leads you into the sleepy seaside village of Vík í Mýrdal. Some of the houses are scattered around soft green hillocks, others are located down by the black beach. Vík, which is the southernmost village of the Icelandic mainland, prides itself of a mild climate, diverse bird life and rich vegetation.
The distinctive basalt rocks of Reynisdrangar, rising from the sea off the coast, can be admired from the beach. According to a folktale, these rocks are the remains of two trolls who tried to tow a ship to land, but where caught by daylight and turned to stone.
There are good conditions for bird watching in the area and an attentive observer of nature has a lot to explore.
Hiking trails lead up Mount Reynisfjall, rewarding each mountaineer with a spectacular view, weather depending, of course. Vík is the village with the most annual rainfall in Iceland.
You can get a closer look at Reynisdrangar from the hamlet of Reynishverfi—which in reality is more like three farms and a barn—situated on the other side of Reynisfjall.
It boasts a larger beach than Vík, called Reynisfjara, which also leads you to the Dyrhólaey promontory and the famous cave Hálsanefshellir. The outside of the cave is decorated with columnar basalt, which looks like a church organ.
The information board on Reynisfjara advises visitors to stay away from the cave at high tide. In 2007 a tourist drowned there when a rogue wave pulled her out to sea. The sea in this area is particularly hazardous and there are no natural harbors in the whole region.
Before you leave the area, enjoy a cup of coffee at the café Halldórskaffi in Vík, which also houses the local tourist information.
You can sit outside in the sun and enjoy the view of the mountains and the colorful houses of Vík. The building that houses the café and tourist information was actually brought to Vík from Westman Islands in 1895.
If you want to experience the diversity of Iceland, you should travel to the south. The landscape transforms with almost every driven kilometer and in Vík, the view is different every way you look.
It is easily possible to drive the 186 kilometers from Reykjavík to Vík and back in one day with plenty of time to stop here and there to enjoy the different sightseeing spots.
This multimedia was originally published in June 2009.