WE ARRIVE IN VÍK PAST NOON and head to a gasoline station diner to refuel our stomachs. The diner offers pretty standard fare with burgers, hotdogs, and traditional Icelandic grub dominating the menu, all at steep prices averaging around USD 17 per dish. But the building itself is located in a pretty setting, with the black-sand beach and the pillars of the Reynisdrangar visible in the distance.
Vík (officially Vík í Mýrdal) is the southernmost town in Iceland, and is actually the first one we see after driving for half a day from Reykjavik. It’s not a large town, with just around 400 inhabitants, but its natural scenery combined with its accessibility to the sites and starting points for treks in the region make it an important hub.
Tummy grumbles fixed, we backtrack a bit and head 10 kilometers west to Reynisfjara, a black-sand beach whose most famous feature is a stack of basalt columns that look like a church organ. The cliffs in the area are also pitted with caves formed from twisted basalt. The beach strange’s beauty has prompted Game of Thrones producers to shoot a few scenes here. It even prompted a couple to do their engagement photos here, unnerved by the strong winds that send the Atlantic waves roaring and crashing to the shore.
Local legend has it that the large columns were trolls who were pulling ships from the ocean to shore. But these trolls didn’t have the good sense not to do this too close to dawn, and when the sun rose and the light touched these trolls’ skin, they turned into stone.
We return to Vík in the evening and settle in the charming Guesthouse Carina, a hotel located in a picturesque corner just outside of the town proper and with rooms that provide spectacular views of the countryside.
After settling in our bedroom, I go out and take a walk around town, doing a short trek to Reyniskirkja church on top of the hill and enjoy the panoramic view of the town below. Walking further uphill and I am alone with nature. I watch as the sun dips into the mountains in the distance, with just the tall grass swaying in the wind as my companions.