If you left for a day trip from Reykjavík along the south coast you probably know about the obligatory stops at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Sam went on a tour along the south coast some time ago and here is his day tour suggestion.
But wait! There is more! There is much more to discover along the south coast. So it would definitely be wise to take your time. For example you could relax at the oldest pool in Iceland – Seljavallalaug, which you find between Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Or when in Skógar, go and visit Kvernufoss. Further down the Road 1 to Vík you’ll find the Sólheima glacier and just before Vík you could turn and visit the southernmost part of Iceland – Dyrhólaey.
Dyrhólaey is a 120m high promontory and it name means “the door hole island”. And this is also how it looks like. The promontory got its name from the massive stone arch that the sea has eroded from the headland. And this arch is visible from as far away as Skógar. From on top of Skógafoss you can get a beautiful view of the arch – on a clear day that is.
How to get there?
Continue on the main road (N1) from Skógar to Vík. To get to Dyrhólaey you take a right turn about 15 km before Vík (watch the signs). Follow the road and it will lead you to a parking lot about 6km from the main road. From here you are free to explore the surroundings of the promontory.
Dyrhólaey is supposed to have been created during an interglacial period late in the Ice Age by a submarine volcanic eruption. The cliffs are a beautiful assembly of basalt columns; forming arches, stairs, towers – whatever you can imagine – and they rise over a long expanse of black sand to the north and south.
The western part of the promontory is names Háey (High Island) and the part in the east is often referred to as Lágey (Low Island). Yes, Icelanders like to give very descriptive place names. (Just look at Skógar.) While in the past farmers often went fishing around Dyrhólaey, today they have developed a nesting site for eider ducks for the gathering of down. But also loads of other birds find a home here. Therefore all the cliffs, rocks, etc. are protected area and Dyrhólaey has been a natural reserve since 1978. Hence it can also happen that the access to the promontory is closed during nesting season in spring. Check their homepage beforehand.
So be careful when wandering around. Don’t disturb the birds or damage the vegetation. And DON’T go too close to the edge of the cliffs, trying to take that perfect picture! Just a few months ago a land slide occurred. A part of the cliff broke off with two tourists on top. They survived the 40 m deep fall with bad injuries and broken bones. Yes, nature in Iceland is unpredictable so better be safe than sorry.
To the lighthouse
A short walk uphill from the parking lot on top of the hill is an old lighthouse. I definitely recommend walking up here although it must be one of the windiest spots ever. We really had to fight our way up and down hill as the wind was so strong. Once we got up there we took shelter, staying close to the lighthouse walls. The very first lighthouse was built in 1910 and the one you see nowadays was built in 1927. There are also a sheepcote and a barn not far from the lighthouse. These were for the first lighthouse keeper.
From on top of the hill you get the best view of the massive stone arch. When the sea is calm, boats can sail through it and once upon a time a stunt pilot is said to have flown through it as well.
Looking north you can see the whole western coastline – on a clear day as far as to the Vestmannaeyar. To the east the big glacier Mýrdalsjökull is visible. It reaches a height of almost 1450 m. And north east you can also spot the mountains and glacier Eyjafallajökull.