A few hours from Reykjavik is the southernmost town of the Iceland known as Vik. We found ourselves here on a stormy day. The wind was pelting us from all directions and the fog was so thick, it hampered our view of the iconic rock formation known as Reynisdrangar. This famous cluster of Basalt Rocks may be one of Iceland's most recognizable sights and there was no way we were going to miss it. Legend has it that this group of stone spires are actually trolls turned to stone by the sun. As they tried to pull their three masted ship to shore, time ran out and the sun came up. According to folklore, once an Icelandic troll is caught in the sun, it turns to stone.
Instead of hanging our heads about not being able to see the Trolls of Vik, we hopped in our car to explore more of the Southern Iceland region with our heat blasting as loud as the tunes. Our luck had been low when it came to weather in Iceland and we weren't thrilled with our experiences at the waterfalls the day earlier so while we waited for the weather to clear in Vik, we backtracked to pick up some sights that we missed.
Skógafoss is one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls, and the parking lot filled with tour buses proved that to be true. How on earth could we get the magical pictures that Dave always dreamed of getting here with the massive crowd flocking to see the water obstructing our view? Well, being on a self drive tour has it's advantages. The tour buses have a limited time here, and as they all crowded in, we waited patiently inside our car eating peanut butter sandwiches and sipping hot tea. The rain was coming down hard, and within minutes everyone was back on their bus driving off to the next stop. Just as they all left, the heavens opened up letting the sun shine through treating us to a vision of a double rainbow!
We explored the falls in relative solitude, and even the temperature lifted to warm our bones.
The weather didn't last long though. As quickly as the skies opened before, the dark clouds swallowed up the sun again. The rain and cold came back in full fury as we ran back to our car making it just in time before the brutal downpour began. Waiting out the rain, we ate some more snacks that we picked up in Reykjavik before leaving on our road trip.
It wasn't long before the rain let up again and we made our way back towards Vik hoping for a second look at Reynisdrangar. Driving counter clockwise along the ring road from Reykjavik, there are two stops that are worth checking out before reaching the small town of Vik. Our first was a right hand turn on to 218 where we had the chance to explore Dyrhólaey. Declared a nature preserve in 1978, this rocky outcrop offers stunning views of the ocean and a close up view of the Arch of Dyrhólaey. On a calm day boats can sail right through the arch, but with the fury of the Atlantic today, we couldn't imagine anyone ever getting through.
It was here, from the most southern point of Iceland, that we also spied our first good view of the black rocks of Reynisdrangar. Looking back towards the shore, we could see the four sails jutting out from the raging sea that was doing its best to topple the petrified trolls.
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Once again, the wind was ferocious as we explored the old lighthouse and rock formations Dyrhólaey. It is a bird sanctuary here, but today, no birds were in sight. The North Atlantic Ocean has no mercy here, and the waves crashed relentlessly on the black rocks and the wind whipped sand particles around our heads. It's no wonder the formations and landscape are so unique. The wind and ocean have carved out an awesome display over the ages.
There was yet another window of sun shine, so we decided to set off to find a better view of Reynisdrangar.
We turned back on to Highway 1 towards Vik, and took the next turn off at 215. This turn took us to Reynisfjara Beach. The black volcanic sand was littered with lava rocks leading towards the ominous sea cave of Halsanefsheller. The day was dark and we were completely alone on this beach as the waves pounded the shore. The frozen black trolls stood guard around the corner with just a spire or two in sight as the stormy Atlantic did her best to bury them. We looked on in awe as we witnessed the fury and beauty of Mother Nature doing her most ferocious work and wondered how Vikings managed to settle and survive on this unforgiving land?
It was now time to finish off at Vik Beach to witness the iconic view of the rocks from Vik itself. Vik Beach was voted one of the world's most beautiful beaches but it was difficult to imagine beauty today. Instead it felt ominous. The black volcanic sand blew relentlessly as the dark ocean pounded steadily. Off shore, the menacing rocks looked foreboding out to sea as we were pelted by sand particles coming from every direction. It all seemed grey and gloomy. Vik is one of the wettest places on earth and it wasn't difficult to believe during our time there.
The strangest thing about Iceland weather is that it can change in an instant. One minute the rain is pouring down buckets and the next the sun in shining. One minute the wind is ripping you apart, and the next it's calm and relaxed. We didn't understand at first when someone said to us “If you don't like the weather in Iceland, just wait a minute.” But after our roller coaster day in Southern Iceland, we understood exactly what they meant. It's not the weather that's bad in Iceland, it's just the clothing you choose.
Luckily, we were prepared with our r and Waterproof clothing. We kept our layers at arms reach and peeled them on and off throughout each day. The moment we stepped out of the car, we never knew what to expect, but having a variety of gear made for a pleasant experience. So when traveling to Iceland, make sure to pack gear for any condition, you never know what you'll get, but if you are prepared, you can enjoy it to the fullest.
More on Iceland
- Iceland's Blue Lagoon, is it worth it?
- Icebergs and Volcanic Sand at the stunning Jökulsárlón glacier
- The Icelandic Horse, Pure Beauty
- Iceland Waterfall in Black and White
Our tour through Iceland was courtesy of Iceland Travel. self drive tour around the ring road gives the traveler freedom to explore on their own while staying in comfort at hotels and B&B's.