Vik (vík í mýrdal) is the southernmost village in Iceland settled at the south coast Iceland, surrounded by glaciers, soaring cliffs, and black sand beaches. With a local population of around 600, according to the Icelandic Statistic Office, this small village brings in a ton of visitors each year thanks to the many Icelandic attractions that are nearby.
In this comprehensive guide, we will answer any questions that you might have while planning a trip to Vik, Iceland, including the history of Vik, where it’s located, transportation options, top attractions, accommodation choices, and essential tips for exploring the region.
Table of content
- A Brief History of The Town vík í mýrdal
- Where is Vik Iceland? with route map
- How to get to Vik?
- Top Attractions: What to See in Vik Iceland?
- Black Sand Beach
- Vik Church
- Sólheimajökull Plane Wreck
- Top Activities: What to Do in Vik Iceland?
- 1. Visit the Katla Ice Cave
- 2. See the Lava Show
- 3. Try Glacier Hiking
- Where to stay in Vik Iceland? The Top Overnight Options
- Driving to Vik: Top Tips and Recommendations
What Does Vik Mean in Icelandic? A Brief History of The Town
Vik means “bay” in Icelandic, and being a former major trade route, many other towns have the suffix “vik” in their names as well, including Reykjavik (smoky bay) and Husavik (bay of houses).
Given its name, Vik has been a popular route for traders traversing through Iceland since the 9th century but was not a settlement until as recently as 1890. The local population has nearly doubled since 2016 but still sits at around 600 people. But with the volume of tourists that come through Vik as they travel the Iceland Ring Road, you’ll still find plenty of food and accommodation options there.
Where is Vik Iceland?
Driving to Vik from the airport in Reykjavík takes between 2 to 2 and a half hours, if you don’t make any stops along the way. There are tons of things to see between the two towns, so we would highly recommend planning to spend the entire day making your way to Vik in order to fully appreciate the beauty of this section of the Ring Road.
How to get to Vik?
Since local transportation networks in Iceland are tailored towards workers in the country, so visitors might find it difficult to explore cities with the local buses. For tourists, there are two main options to conveniently reach Vik.
- Learn more about tourist transportation options by reading Self-drive vs. Guided Tours: What is the best way to travel in Iceland?
The first is guided tours, which explore the sites and attractions of the Ring Road, including the popular points of Vik Iceland. However, keep in mind that if you do choose a tour, you will not be able to adapt the itinerary or stop off at any places of interest that aren’t part of the tour.
The second and more popular option is with a rental car, which allows you to curate your own experience and visit some hidden gems of Vik that may not be included in tour packages.
With a rental car, you can go anywhere at any time you wish and spend as much time as you want in each major or minor attraction. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself, then taking a tour is always an option. However, this would be a more expensive option as you may need to combine multiple guided tours to see all that Vik has to offer.
Top Attractions: What to See in Vik Iceland?
While other parts of Iceland, like the Golden Circle route or Northern Iceland, regularly receive a lot of buzz due to their popular attractions, Vik also has several sites that are sure to leave you in awe when you visit. There is something in Vik for all types of visitors, from incredible adventures and breathtaking hikes to wonderful wildlife and cultural sites.
Black Sand Beach
We highly recommend visiting the iconic Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, renowned for its striking basalt columns, basalt rock and powerful waves. The black sand beach, formed over centuries by lava deposits, is a captivating stretch of shoreline where visitors can view the Reynisdrangar sea stacks that rise from the ocean and explore nearby caves.
However, it’s crucial to respect warning signs about the strong currents and waves, which can be deceptively strong and pose a danger to unsuspecting swimmers. It is strongly advised that you do not swim in the water at Reynisfjara.
Another fantastic spot to visit is the picturesque Vik Church, a prominent landmark overlooking the village, which was built in 1934. The iconic church, also known as Víkurkirkja, is a charming white building perched on a hill. Its picturesque location and elegant architecture make it a popular photo spot and the symbol of Vik.
Another increasingly popular place to visit is Dyrhólaey. Dyrhólaey is a natural arch and a small peninsula where you can enjoy the incredible panoramic views of the surrounding coastline. The area is a designated nature reserve as it is home to diverse birdlife like razorbills, gannets, and fulmars. At the top of the peninsula formation, visitors can stop by the historic Dyrhólaey Lighthouse, built in 1927, and also see the black sand beaches, cliffs, and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
Sólheimajökull Plane Wreck
Visiting Vik can also be educational, as you can learn about the history behind the Sólheimajökull plane wreck and take advantage of its unique photography opportunities.
The Sólheimajökull Glacier, an outlet glacier from the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, is home to this haunting scene where the wreckage of a US Navy DC-3, that crashed here in 1973 can be seen.
From early May to the end of summer in August in Iceland, the cliffs surrounding Vik Iceland become a nesting ground for adorable Iceland puffins. These charming birds with distinctive orange beaks and black and white plumage are one of Iceland’s biggest draws, attracting birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Several viewpoints around Vik offer excellent opportunities to observe these seabirds in their natural habitat.
Top Activities: What to Do in Vik Iceland?
In addition to seeing the sites while in Vik, you can enjoy many of the city’s fun and engaging activities and tours.
1. Visit the Katla Ice Cave
The Katla Ice Cave offers an opportunity to embark on a mesmerizing journey into a natural Iceland ice cave beneath the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. It is located in the Kötlujökull Glacier, which is an outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and sits on top of the Katla Volcano.
You can take a guided Katla ice cave tour through ice formations, revealing the beauty and uniqueness of Iceland’s ice caves. The cave’s ever-changing landscape and bright blue hues create an otherworldly experience. Remember to take safety precautions when hiking through the caves, and you will need to have an experienced guide take you through.
2. See the Lava Show:
Imagine seeing a live show of one of the most captivating geological wonders in the world. That is what you’ll experience at Vik’s live Lava Show. The show features molten lava being poured, showcasing the raw power of nature.
This immersive experience combines entertainment and education, offering insight into the geological forces that shape the Icelandic landscape. The Vik Iceland Lava Show is the only one of its kind in the world and truly gives meaning to Iceland’s “land of ice and fire” name.
3. Try Glacier Hiking
Explore the majestic Sólheimajökull Glacier through guided glacier hiking tours. Guided tours lead you across the glacier’s icy terrain, providing a hands-on experience of Iceland’s unique glacial landscapes. It’s an opportunity to witness crevasses, ice formations, and learn about the dynamic natural of the glaciers in Iceland from your tour guide.
Where to stay in Vik Iceland? The Top Overnight Options
There are various accommodation options to choose from when you visit Vik Iceland, depending on your budget and what you want to experience on your tour. You can curate your own stay-over experience with these different options across different price ranges.
Hotels are generally considered the luxury option, and with good reason. Although more expensive than other options, staying in a hotel will offer the most comfortable stay in Vik. Here are some of the top hotel options in Vik:
- Hotel Katla: Experience comfort and style at Hotel Katla, with modern amenities and stunning views. This hotel offers a comfortable and stylish retreat, making it an ideal choice for travelers seeking both luxury and convenience.
- Hótel Kría: Hotel Kria features a modern design, with sleek and minimalist architecture and floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the beautiful views, and Drangar Restaurant onsite.
- Guesthouse Carina: For a cozy and personalized experience, consider Guesthouse Carina. This guesthouse provides a warm atmosphere and a chance to connect with local hosts.
Photo from Hotel Katla
Hostels are an affordable option compared to hotels and also offer a shared space that fosters interaction among travelers. Here are some of the top options:
- The Barn Hostel: For a more social atmosphere and budget-friendly lodging, The Barn Hostel offers cost-effective accommodation that meets a communal vibe. It’s an excellent choice for solo travelers and those looking to connect with fellow adventurers.
- Vik Hostel: Vik Hostel is equally affordable and has shared spaces and a welcoming environment, making it another great option for budget-conscious visitors who want to make friends.
Campsites are great for adventurers who prefer the great outdoors and want to see Iceland uniquely. Camping in Iceland is a great way to travel the country, but there are certain precautions to consider when camping. Summer is the best time for camping as the weather in Iceland is at its mildest.
It is important to note that camping outside designated campsites is illegal even if you rent a campervan, but the good news is that there are dozens of campsites in the Vik area, and you will never have to go too far to find one. Some recommended campsites include:
- Vík tjaldsvæði: Embrace nature at Vík tjaldsvæði campsite, where camping enthusiasts can enjoy the outdoors surrounded by stunning Icelandic landscapes.
- Þakgil: Þakgil campsite is nestled in a serene and quiet location. This campsite offers a peaceful retreat for those seeking a more secluded camping experience.
- Vik Cabins: You could also opt for the charm of Vik Cabins for a unique stay. These cabins provide a charming and intimate accommodation option, perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in the local ambiance.
Driving to Vik: Tips and Recommendations
The best time to visit Vik Iceland largely depends on what you hope to see and do on your trip, but it is worth noting that there will always be an attraction or two to keep you intrigued regardless of the season.
The large Iceland summer crowd is often attracted by the chance to go hiking across Icelandic landscapes as well as the chance to see the country’s incredible wildlife, including the majestic puffins that grace the Vik area.
In the winter season in Iceland, Vik is also a popular destination thanks to the ability to hike on and under the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, explore the ice caves of Katla, and the chance to see one of Iceland’s biggest attractions, the Northern Lights.
Regardless of the season, the best way to get to Vik is through the popular Ring Road, also known as Route 1, which allows you to see many of Iceland’s other major attractions, including the Thingvellir National Park, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls in Iceland, and many Iceland hot springs.
The entire Ring Road is also paved, making it an easy route to drive in Iceland, devoid of the hassle of gravel or off-roads, which are often closed during winter months. Despite the safety that the paved highways of the Ring Road provide, it’s still wise to keep an eye on weather conditions regardless of season, as traffic and road safety can be affected by quickly shifting conditions.
If you are not used to driving in snow, then it would be best not to drive in Iceland during the winter season, as the roads can be quite tricky at that time of the year. There are several Icelandic driving customs that are specific to the country, including seasonal road closures, forbidden roads, care for crossing wildlife, and rules for camping, so be sure to read up on the rules guiding driving in Iceland before making your trip.
Get Ready to Explore Vik Iceland
As you prepare to embark on your Vik Iceland adventure, consider the range of attractions, activities, and accommodation options that await you there in order to plan your Iceland itinerary. Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, or cultural enthusiast, Vik Iceland promises a diverse and unforgettable experience.
Start planning your journey today, and let the beauty of Vik unfold before you! Remember, early planning can save you both money and stress, plus it can also help you avoid missing out on opportunities. Make sure to book your rental car online and in advance with Hertz Iceland. While there are no Hertz offices directly in Vik at the moment, there are locations in neighboring towns, Bakki and Hofn, along with a pick-up location directly in the arrivals hall of Keflavik Airport (KEF).