Iceland’s Vík village and its surroundings: Your Guide

Find out why the coastal village of Vik should be on your list of places to visit on the south coast of Iceland.

January 9, 2023

Iceland’s Vík village and its surroundings: Your Guide

Find out why the coastal village of Vik should be on your list of places to visit on the south coast of Iceland.

January 9, 2023

Between the glaciers, waterfalls and black-sanded beaches of the south coast, you’ll find the tiny village of Vik. There’s plenty that makes this place stand out – the picture-perfect steepled church standing alone against the rugged landscape, the long stretch of black sand, and the striking sea stacks that appear to crumble into the Atlantic. Within the area you’ve got glacier hikes, snowmobiling and zip-lining on offer for those that seek adventure and museums, a lava experience, pubs, cafés and hotels within the village itself. Most south Iceland tours include a stop at Vik, whether it's to see the basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach or fuel up before continuing on to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here’s why Vik should be on your to-do list in Iceland.

The history of Vik village in Iceland

The southernmost village in Iceland, Vik village dates back to the 9th century, but permanent traders didn’t settle here until 1890 when southern merchants bedded in to sell flour, vegetables and meat. It’s the only southern village that doesn’t have a harbour, which may explain why it took so long for traders to settle here. Vik is a place steeped in myth and folklore, with tales of drowned sailors and trolls haunting its history. It is said that the striking sea stacks just off the coast of Vik are trolls turned to stone. Legend has it that the trolls were pulling a ship towards the land and were turned to stone as day broke.

Today, the population of Vik stands at around 320 (around 750 including the surrounding municipality of Mýrdalshreppur). It’s around 180 km (110 miles) from Reykjavik. Despite its small size, Vik is one of the biggest settlements in the area, and most south shore adventures include a stop at Vik.

Things to see and do in and around Vik

The only town within a 50km radius, there are plenty to see and do in and around the village of Vik. Here’s our pick of the highlights.

Víkurkirkja church

As soon as you spot the cluster of wood-clad houses by the sea that is Vik village, the traditional church, Víkurkirkja, is what draws the eye. Snow-white and with a red roof, this church has been the icon of Vik since it was built in the 1930s. From here, you can enjoy a pretty panorama of the village and, during opening hours, pop inside to admire the stained-glass windows.

Vik Swimming Pool

If you want to experience Iceland’s outdoor bathing culture, head to Vik’s swimming pool. Two heated outdoor pools are open year-round. Plus, there’s a cold plunge pool to rejuvenate after a hot sauna session. It’s family-friendly too with a slide and shallower pool for the kids.

Voyages Friendship Statue

At the edge of Vik’s black-sanded beach, standing against the craggy rocks, the Voyages friendship statue makes for a striking picture. It was made by sculpture Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, who was inspired by the hard life at sea and the families waiting at home for their loved ones to return safely.

Dyrhólaey Peninsula

At the other end of Reynisfjara beach from Vik, the Dýrhólaey peninsula juts out into the Atlantic and is a haven for birdlife. Those that want to spot Iceland’s puffins can observe the large colony of these colourful-faced birds that make Dýrhólaey their home. There’s also a dramatic rock arch that makes for beautiful photographs stretching out into the sea here.

Hálsanefshellir Cave

If you walk along the black sand of Reynisfjara from Vik, you’ll find the striking Hálsanefshellir Cave. Octagonal basalt columns create the mouth of the cave, making it look like it belongs on another planet or in a fantasy storybook. From inside, you can snap a perfectly-framed photograph of the wild Atlantic waves crashing against the shore.

Mýrdalsjökull Ice Cap

A short drive inland from Vik, Mýrdalsjökull is the closest glacier to the village. It’s Iceland’s fourth-largest ice cap and covers part of the Katla volcano system – the same volcano system that caused the famous Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. At Mýrdalsjökull you can simply admire the glacier from its base, head out onto its surface on a snowmobile, or explore the ice caves that lie beneath (in the winter season).

For more sights and activities along the southern shore, check out our South Iceland travel guide.

Reynisfjara black-sanded beach

Stretching for miles along the coastline from Vik, Reynisfjara often features on “best beaches in the world” lists every year. But it’s a far cry from the bone-white, caster sugar sand and turquoise water of other beaches on the list. The sand at Reynisfjara sparkles obsidian-black and the moody Atlantic is usually a steely grey. When Katla volcano erupted centuries ago, the molten lava combined with the freezing ocean water, creating black rock. Over time, the rock wore away and the south coast of Iceland was left with a huge sweep of jet-coloured sand.

Apart from the black sand, the ethereal rock formations also attract visitors to Reynisfjara beach. On the beach itself, you can see octagonal basalt pillars twisting together to create a cave. While out at sea, the Reynisdrangar Cliffs are marooned off the coast. These sea stacks are particularly photogenic at sunset.

There are a few ways to experience Reynisfjara for yourself. Simply stroll along the sand from Vik, or drive to the carpark which is free of charge. You can stay as long as you want during the day, but parking overnight is not permitted. Those that enjoy life in the fast lane can embark on an ATV adventure at Reynisfjara, powering across the sand and ending with a stop at the wreck of a DC-3 aircraft.

It’s important to note that conditions at Reynisfjara beach can be dangerous, especially during the wilder weather. Big swells have been known to catch tourists unaware and unfortunately some people have been swept out to sea. To stay safe, keep well back from the water’s edge and avoid climbing on the rocks anywhere near the sea. As of 13th December 2022, local police have a live video feed of the beach and there are lots of warning signs and live updates of wave status. For more information about Iceland’s iconic black-sanded beach, read our comprehensive guide to Reynisfjara.


Learn about the volcanic activity that bubbles beneath Iceland’s surface at the Icelandic Lava Show


vik 7

In the heart of Vik village, the Icelandic Lava Show is an interactive experience embracing that “fire” part of the Land of Ice and Fire. Nearby Katla is the star of the show and visitors are transported back to 1918 when this volcano erupted, causing chaos and catastrophe.


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Vik pretty much marks the half-way point between Reykjavik and Jökulsárlón glacier lake. If you carry on driving along the south coast from Vik, you will reach this natural wonder in around two and a half hours.

Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in Iceland, but that’s not what attracts visitors here. Huge floating blocks of ice from Vatnajökull glacier, glowing blue and shimmering in the sun create a typical Arctic-looking scene. You can get up close and personal with the icebergs on a glacier tour to Jökulsárlón. The lagoon itself only started to appear in the 1930s and over the last fifty years, it has quadrupled in size. This natural wonder is actually a testament to a warming world. If you head out onto Jökulsárlón by boat, you may even hear the crack of thousands-of-years-old ice crashing into the water. Check out our Jökulsárlón travel guide for all the details about this natural phenomenon.


Watch the sunlight catch on the crystal orbs of ice on Iceland’s Diamond Beach


vik 3

Just across the road from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the Diamond Beach is a black-sanded beach unlike any other on the island. Shimmering orbs of ice look like crystals washed up on the shore and glow golden at sunset. Find out how to experience it yourself with our guide to the Diamond Beach.


Glacier adventures around Vik

You’ll find Iceland’s biggest glaciers on the south coast, not too far from Vik. Those that want to embark on a glacier hike should head to the south coast where you can don a pair of crampons and explore the frozen expanse of Mýrdalsjökull (the closest ice cap to Vik), Sólheimajökull or Vatnajökull. Or, take it up a notch and ride across the icy surface of a glacier on a snowmobile tour.

Apart from hiking and snowmobiling, there are plenty of other ways to experience Iceland’s glaciers. Walking through ice caves, checking out ice sculptures or perhaps climbing to the top of Iceland’s highest peak. However you want to embark on your glacier adventure, there’s an option for you.


Get a bird’s eye view of south Iceland’s wild scenery with the thrill of a zip-line experience


dt 5

Vik is home to Iceland’s only zip-lining adventure course where you can fly high above rivers and ravines. Zip-lining in Vik gives you a new perspective on Iceland’s unique landscape while satisfying your adventurous side.


Waterfalls in South Iceland

Chasing waterfalls is practically a national past-time in Iceland. There are over 10,000 waterfalls across the island and the south coast around Vik is no exception. Driving from Reykjavik to Vik, you pass some of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, like Seljalandsfoss where you can actually walk behind the cascade (remember to pack a waterproof bag to protect you from the spray!) and Skogafoss whose mist creates rainbows floating in the air. Reykjavik Excursions’ south shore tour stops at both waterfalls. For a more in-depth look at the sights and scenery of the south coast, perhaps take our six-day south Iceland trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s plenty to learn about Vik, so we’ve rounded up the frequently asked questions to help you decide if you want to stop at this pretty little village.

Is Vik in Iceland a real place?

Although it might seem like a fairytale with its black-sanded beach and picturesque church spire jutting against the rugged landscape, Vik village is very real. It dates back to the 9th century, and saw permanent traders settle in 1890.

Is Vik Iceland worth visiting?

The only town within a 50km radius, it’s hard to visit the south coast and not stop at Vik. Once you’re in Vik, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, from the Icelandic Lava Show to the pretty view from Víkurkirkja and the huge stretch of black-sanded beach at Reynisfjara. There are also a few hotels, pubs and cafés should you wish to stay overnight.

What is Vík in Iceland known for?

Search for Vik and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be bombarded with images of the Reynisdrangar Cliffs – towering sea stacks that appear to float out on the wild Atlantic Sea. There’s no doubt these craggy towers are photogenic, but there are a few other stand-out features at Vik like the basalt columned cave at Reynisfjara beach and the stretch of black sand itself. Of course, the pretty red-roofed church of Víkurkirkja comes to mind, perched on a hill and looking like a tourist board advertisement for Iceland.

What does Vik mean in Icelandic?

“Vik'' simply means “bay” in terms of Icelandic place names. Sitting right on the south coast alongside a vast curve of sand, it makes sense that Vik is simply called “bay”. You can see the term “vik” in various other place names in Iceland, like Reykjavik (meaning smokey bay) and Husavik (meaning bay of houses).

How long should I stay in Vik?

Most people stop in Vik on a day trip and spend around half an hour at Reynisfjara beach. If you’re visiting the Icelandic Lava Show, you’ll need to stay longer as this experience takes around fifty minutes, or if you’re zip-lining at Vik you’ll need to allow an hour and a half for the experience. There are also a few hotels in Vik, so some people choose to spend the night here if they’re taking a road trip around the island or along the south coast. There’s plenty to do nearby afterall – glacier hikes, snowmobiling, puffin spotting at Dýrhólaey or simply strolling along the beach.

Overall, if you’re taking a journey along the south coast of Iceland from Reykjavik, it’s likely you’ll stop at Vik. Tours to Vík in Iceland could mean exploring the black-sanded beach at Reynisfjara, embarking on a zip-lining adventure or heading the nearby glaciers for hiking or snowmobiling. It's a pretty church, sitting against the untamed scenery feels like an advert for Iceland and speaks of the success of settlers in the face of such a wild environment. You could spend half an hour on the beach here, a couple of hours adventuring or even spend the night and still find plenty to do.

SOUTH SHORE BLOG

Your Ultimate Guide to the South Coast of Iceland

There’s so much to see in this astonishing, magical place. But what should you know before heading out on your adventure? In this post, we’ll share everything you need to get inspired—including all of the sites you really shouldn’t miss.

Iceland’s Vík village and its surroundings: Your Guide

Find out why the coastal village of Vik should be on your list of places to visit on the south coast of Iceland.

January 9, 2023

Iceland’s Vík village and its surroundings: Your Guide

Find out why the coastal village of Vik should be on your list of places to visit on the south coast of Iceland.

January 9, 2023

Between the glaciers, waterfalls and black-sanded beaches of the south coast, you’ll find the tiny village of Vik. There’s plenty that makes this place stand out – the picture-perfect steepled church standing alone against the rugged landscape, the long stretch of black sand, and the striking sea stacks that appear to crumble into the Atlantic. Within the area you’ve got glacier hikes, snowmobiling and zip-lining on offer for those that seek adventure and museums, a lava experience, pubs, cafés and hotels within the village itself. Most south Iceland tours include a stop at Vik, whether it's to see the basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach or fuel up before continuing on to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here’s why Vik should be on your to-do list in Iceland.

The history of Vik village in Iceland

The southernmost village in Iceland, Vik village dates back to the 9th century, but permanent traders didn’t settle here until 1890 when southern merchants bedded in to sell flour, vegetables and meat. It’s the only southern village that doesn’t have a harbour, which may explain why it took so long for traders to settle here. Vik is a place steeped in myth and folklore, with tales of drowned sailors and trolls haunting its history. It is said that the striking sea stacks just off the coast of Vik are trolls turned to stone. Legend has it that the trolls were pulling a ship towards the land and were turned to stone as day broke.

Today, the population of Vik stands at around 320 (around 750 including the surrounding municipality of Mýrdalshreppur). It’s around 180 km (110 miles) from Reykjavik. Despite its small size, Vik is one of the biggest settlements in the area, and most south shore adventures include a stop at Vik.

Things to see and do in and around Vik

The only town within a 50km radius, there are plenty to see and do in and around the village of Vik. Here’s our pick of the highlights.

Víkurkirkja church

As soon as you spot the cluster of wood-clad houses by the sea that is Vik village, the traditional church, Víkurkirkja, is what draws the eye. Snow-white and with a red roof, this church has been the icon of Vik since it was built in the 1930s. From here, you can enjoy a pretty panorama of the village and, during opening hours, pop inside to admire the stained-glass windows.

Vik Swimming Pool

If you want to experience Iceland’s outdoor bathing culture, head to Vik’s swimming pool. Two heated outdoor pools are open year-round. Plus, there’s a cold plunge pool to rejuvenate after a hot sauna session. It’s family-friendly too with a slide and shallower pool for the kids.

Voyages Friendship Statue

At the edge of Vik’s black-sanded beach, standing against the craggy rocks, the Voyages friendship statue makes for a striking picture. It was made by sculpture Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, who was inspired by the hard life at sea and the families waiting at home for their loved ones to return safely.

Dyrhólaey Peninsula

At the other end of Reynisfjara beach from Vik, the Dýrhólaey peninsula juts out into the Atlantic and is a haven for birdlife. Those that want to spot Iceland’s puffins can observe the large colony of these colourful-faced birds that make Dýrhólaey their home. There’s also a dramatic rock arch that makes for beautiful photographs stretching out into the sea here.

Hálsanefshellir Cave

If you walk along the black sand of Reynisfjara from Vik, you’ll find the striking Hálsanefshellir Cave. Octagonal basalt columns create the mouth of the cave, making it look like it belongs on another planet or in a fantasy storybook. From inside, you can snap a perfectly-framed photograph of the wild Atlantic waves crashing against the shore.

Mýrdalsjökull Ice Cap

A short drive inland from Vik, Mýrdalsjökull is the closest glacier to the village. It’s Iceland’s fourth-largest ice cap and covers part of the Katla volcano system – the same volcano system that caused the famous Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. At Mýrdalsjökull you can simply admire the glacier from its base, head out onto its surface on a snowmobile, or explore the ice caves that lie beneath (in the winter season).

For more sights and activities along the southern shore, check out our South Iceland travel guide.

Reynisfjara black-sanded beach

Stretching for miles along the coastline from Vik, Reynisfjara often features on “best beaches in the world” lists every year. But it’s a far cry from the bone-white, caster sugar sand and turquoise water of other beaches on the list. The sand at Reynisfjara sparkles obsidian-black and the moody Atlantic is usually a steely grey. When Katla volcano erupted centuries ago, the molten lava combined with the freezing ocean water, creating black rock. Over time, the rock wore away and the south coast of Iceland was left with a huge sweep of jet-coloured sand.

Apart from the black sand, the ethereal rock formations also attract visitors to Reynisfjara beach. On the beach itself, you can see octagonal basalt pillars twisting together to create a cave. While out at sea, the Reynisdrangar Cliffs are marooned off the coast. These sea stacks are particularly photogenic at sunset.

There are a few ways to experience Reynisfjara for yourself. Simply stroll along the sand from Vik, or drive to the carpark which is free of charge. You can stay as long as you want during the day, but parking overnight is not permitted. Those that enjoy life in the fast lane can embark on an ATV adventure at Reynisfjara, powering across the sand and ending with a stop at the wreck of a DC-3 aircraft.

It’s important to note that conditions at Reynisfjara beach can be dangerous, especially during the wilder weather. Big swells have been known to catch tourists unaware and unfortunately some people have been swept out to sea. To stay safe, keep well back from the water’s edge and avoid climbing on the rocks anywhere near the sea. As of 13th December 2022, local police have a live video feed of the beach and there are lots of warning signs and live updates of wave status. For more information about Iceland’s iconic black-sanded beach, read our comprehensive guide to Reynisfjara.


Learn about the volcanic activity that bubbles beneath Iceland’s surface at the Icelandic Lava Show


vik 7

In the heart of Vik village, the Icelandic Lava Show is an interactive experience embracing that “fire” part of the Land of Ice and Fire. Nearby Katla is the star of the show and visitors are transported back to 1918 when this volcano erupted, causing chaos and catastrophe.


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Vik pretty much marks the half-way point between Reykjavik and Jökulsárlón glacier lake. If you carry on driving along the south coast from Vik, you will reach this natural wonder in around two and a half hours.

Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in Iceland, but that’s not what attracts visitors here. Huge floating blocks of ice from Vatnajökull glacier, glowing blue and shimmering in the sun create a typical Arctic-looking scene. You can get up close and personal with the icebergs on a glacier tour to Jökulsárlón. The lagoon itself only started to appear in the 1930s and over the last fifty years, it has quadrupled in size. This natural wonder is actually a testament to a warming world. If you head out onto Jökulsárlón by boat, you may even hear the crack of thousands-of-years-old ice crashing into the water. Check out our Jökulsárlón travel guide for all the details about this natural phenomenon.


Watch the sunlight catch on the crystal orbs of ice on Iceland’s Diamond Beach


vik 3

Just across the road from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the Diamond Beach is a black-sanded beach unlike any other on the island. Shimmering orbs of ice look like crystals washed up on the shore and glow golden at sunset. Find out how to experience it yourself with our guide to the Diamond Beach.


Glacier adventures around Vik

You’ll find Iceland’s biggest glaciers on the south coast, not too far from Vik. Those that want to embark on a glacier hike should head to the south coast where you can don a pair of crampons and explore the frozen expanse of Mýrdalsjökull (the closest ice cap to Vik), Sólheimajökull or Vatnajökull. Or, take it up a notch and ride across the icy surface of a glacier on a snowmobile tour.

Apart from hiking and snowmobiling, there are plenty of other ways to experience Iceland’s glaciers. Walking through ice caves, checking out ice sculptures or perhaps climbing to the top of Iceland’s highest peak. However you want to embark on your glacier adventure, there’s an option for you.


Get a bird’s eye view of south Iceland’s wild scenery with the thrill of a zip-line experience


dt 5

Vik is home to Iceland’s only zip-lining adventure course where you can fly high above rivers and ravines. Zip-lining in Vik gives you a new perspective on Iceland’s unique landscape while satisfying your adventurous side.


Waterfalls in South Iceland

Chasing waterfalls is practically a national past-time in Iceland. There are over 10,000 waterfalls across the island and the south coast around Vik is no exception. Driving from Reykjavik to Vik, you pass some of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, like Seljalandsfoss where you can actually walk behind the cascade (remember to pack a waterproof bag to protect you from the spray!) and Skogafoss whose mist creates rainbows floating in the air. Reykjavik Excursions’ south shore tour stops at both waterfalls. For a more in-depth look at the sights and scenery of the south coast, perhaps take our six-day south Iceland trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s plenty to learn about Vik, so we’ve rounded up the frequently asked questions to help you decide if you want to stop at this pretty little village.

Is Vik in Iceland a real place?

Although it might seem like a fairytale with its black-sanded beach and picturesque church spire jutting against the rugged landscape, Vik village is very real. It dates back to the 9th century, and saw permanent traders settle in 1890.

Is Vik Iceland worth visiting?

The only town within a 50km radius, it’s hard to visit the south coast and not stop at Vik. Once you’re in Vik, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, from the Icelandic Lava Show to the pretty view from Víkurkirkja and the huge stretch of black-sanded beach at Reynisfjara. There are also a few hotels, pubs and cafés should you wish to stay overnight.

What is Vík in Iceland known for?

Search for Vik and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be bombarded with images of the Reynisdrangar Cliffs – towering sea stacks that appear to float out on the wild Atlantic Sea. There’s no doubt these craggy towers are photogenic, but there are a few other stand-out features at Vik like the basalt columned cave at Reynisfjara beach and the stretch of black sand itself. Of course, the pretty red-roofed church of Víkurkirkja comes to mind, perched on a hill and looking like a tourist board advertisement for Iceland.

What does Vik mean in Icelandic?

“Vik'' simply means “bay” in terms of Icelandic place names. Sitting right on the south coast alongside a vast curve of sand, it makes sense that Vik is simply called “bay”. You can see the term “vik” in various other place names in Iceland, like Reykjavik (meaning smokey bay) and Husavik (meaning bay of houses).

How long should I stay in Vik?

Most people stop in Vik on a day trip and spend around half an hour at Reynisfjara beach. If you’re visiting the Icelandic Lava Show, you’ll need to stay longer as this experience takes around fifty minutes, or if you’re zip-lining at Vik you’ll need to allow an hour and a half for the experience. There are also a few hotels in Vik, so some people choose to spend the night here if they’re taking a road trip around the island or along the south coast. There’s plenty to do nearby afterall – glacier hikes, snowmobiling, puffin spotting at Dýrhólaey or simply strolling along the beach.

Overall, if you’re taking a journey along the south coast of Iceland from Reykjavik, it’s likely you’ll stop at Vik. Tours to Vík in Iceland could mean exploring the black-sanded beach at Reynisfjara, embarking on a zip-lining adventure or heading the nearby glaciers for hiking or snowmobiling. It's a pretty church, sitting against the untamed scenery feels like an advert for Iceland and speaks of the success of settlers in the face of such a wild environment. You could spend half an hour on the beach here, a couple of hours adventuring or even spend the night and still find plenty to do.

SOUTH SHORE BLOG

Your Ultimate Guide to the South Coast of Iceland

There’s so much to see in this astonishing, magical place. But what should you know before heading out on your adventure? In this post, we’ll share everything you need to get inspired—including all of the sites you really shouldn’t miss.