Popular attractions to see and explore in Vík í Mýrdal
Popular attractions to see in Vik: Vik’s a popular stop with those driving Route 1 along Iceland’s dramatic southern coast. It’s full name is Vík í Mýrdal, the largest settlement for miles and yet still a village with fewer than 300 inhabitants. It’s the southernmost village in the country and lies directly south of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Easy to spot, there are several must-see attractions that you should take a look at before continuing your journey. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss;
Begin with a visit to Vik’s church, perched in a lofty vantage point above the eastern end of the village. It was built in 1934 and with its white walls and russet roof, it’s a quintessentially Icelandic structure. The church is often open, and also has a small cemetery. From its steps there’s a fantastic panoramic view not only over the village but also the coast beyond. Look out for the recognisable shapes of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks just offshore. Katla Volcano is hidden underneath Mýrdalsjökull glacier. If she erupts, the resultant heat would melt the ice above, creating a flood. The church is thought to be high enough to be a safe haven and drills are practiced frequently so that Vik’s population can be prepared to get themselves out of danger.
The oldest house in Vik was, as its name suggests, constructed in 1895. In fact, the old storefront predates this time and before that was found in the Vestmann Islands where it had stood as Godthaabs-outlet for the previous 64 years. A successful Danish merchant by the name of Johan P.T. Bryde had it dismantled and shipped over to Vik, where he re-erected it on its present site in the western part of the village. It was one of several stores and warehouses in his portfolio. He ran it until 1914, when it changed hands and became Þorsteinn Þorsteinsson & Co. In 1926, it was sold again, trading as Kaupfélag Skaftfellinga until 1980. These days, it houses the Katla Geopark Information Centre and there’s also a small restaurant.
A century ago, a wooden ship was built from oak to carry cargoes of fish. Among its first voyages were trips to the Vestmann Islands and to Vik. After a couple of decades as a merchant ship, it saw service in World War Two. It was used in the rescue of a German submarine crew in 1942 and later shuttled between Iceland and the UK transporting supplies vital to the war effort. It returned to normal service after the war ended and was eventually decommissioned in 1974. Since 2001, its home has been in Vik, together with its engine and equipment. The museum not only tells the story of this important vessel. There are fascinating exhibits on 112 marine accidents that have happened in South Iceland. A small admission charge applies but it’s well worth the cost, and also makes a good stop when the weather’s inclement.
The German memorial on Víkurfjara
Waves have nothing to stop them travelling the many thousands of miles from Antarctica to Iceland’s wild southern coast, and as a result the coastline just south of Vik can be treacherous in stormy weather. Over the years, many fishermen have lost their lives in these Icelandic waters. To commemorate those lost, the Bremerhaven Naval Museum in northern Germany erected a memorial on the black sands of Víkurfjara beach. This simple stone structure also remembers the locals who risked their lives to try to save them from their watery fate.
The För Sculpture
The German memorial isn’t the only sculpture on Vikurfjara beach; you’ll also find the För Sculpture, positioned so that it looks out to sea. Its name means “Journeys” or “Voyages” and Reykjavik-based artist Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir created it. Well respected, she’s seen her work installed not only in Iceland, but outside the United Nations Building in New York as well. The British and Icelandic governments jointly commissioned the För Sculpture as a symbol of the long history of trade relations between the two nations. The androgynous statue that you see on Vik’s beach is the sister piece to that found in the Yorkshire city of Hull. At their unveiling, poets composed pieces for the occasion. In 2011, the Hull statue was stolen for scrap but was replaced after a successful insurance claim.
Vík Golf Course
Golfers will be delighted to discover this course, located on the edge of town near Vik’s Mýrdælingar campsite. This nine-hole course has one of the most spectacular settings in the country. It was laid out in 1992 and designed by Hannes Thorsteinsson, an Icelandic professional golf course designer. It boasts the only par six hole in the country and the route of the old highway bisects the course. If you are keen on the sport, you’ll enjoy playing here during your vacation. In summer, as the sun sets so late, you can play late into the evening under natural light – now you can’t do that at home, can you?
Vík Swimming Pool
If golf’s not your thing, why not make good use of your leisure time by taking a dip in Vik’s swimming pool? There’s a hot pool and sauna as well as a regular pool. It’s open weekday afternoons as well as weekends and is the perfect place to soothe those aching muscles after a challenging hike in the beautiful countryside surrounding Vik.
For more information about Vik, why not pop into the tourist information centre, Kötlusetur, while you’re there? There’s plenty of material about the accommodation, shops and other services that Vik offers, as well as more information about the places featured in this article.