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Iceland has grown to become one of the world’s premiere adventure tourism destinations. If somehow you haven’t added this gem to your bucket list yet you’ll want to follow along and do so ASAP! But sometimes following the “tourist trail” is just too much. Once in a while, you’re searching for something less mainstream, more laidback, easy going and quaint.
Despite its small size, the sleepy village of Vík on Iceland’s South Coast can check all those boxes without lacking things to do!
6 Unique Things to do in Vik, Iceland
History of Vík
Less than 300 people call Vik home permanently, but amazingly it’s the biggest settlement for more than 70km. Driving into town from Reykjavik (a 2.5hour commute) you’re greeted by a shining church on the hillside overlooking the small town, something akin to a fairytale.
Interestingly, Vik is the only coastal community in Iceland without a harbor. Even so, before the ring road was established in 1939 the town’s only connection was by sea. Nowadays it sits as an important service stop along the south coast for tourists and is becoming a hub for adventure tourism in the area.
Located in the middle of the Katla UNESCO GLOBAL Geopark Vik is under constant threat from the Katla Volcano lying dormant 600m below the glaciers above town.
Things To Do in Vik, Iceland
Vik has grown steadily since my first visit to Iceland, luckily though it hasn’t succumbed to the tourist pressure. In fact there’s only one chain hotel in town and even that has only a handful of rooms. Vik has managed to stay true to itself while fostering a burgeoning adventure touring economy! Some of the best things to do in Vik are:
1. Go Horseback Riding
There’s no better place to enjoy strolling the beach in the shadow of a volcano than here in Vik. But better yet, galloping across the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara aboard one of Iceland’s finest for-legged inhabitants makes for a breathtaking adventure!
Icelanders are proud of their horses & rightfully so. Brought to the island more than 1,000 years ago by the Norse settlers they’ve been bred for friendliness & resilience ever since. You’ll find them surprisingly easy to ride & forgiving, even if you’re a beginner.
2. Explore The Ice Caves
If being horseback isn’t your thing Vik offers easy access to more than a few of Iceland’s famous glaciers. From glacier hikes to snowmobiling there’s something for everyone on these mountains of ice!
Exploring the glacier from inside is pure magic! Travelling down into the glacier surrounded by stunning blue ice was an experience I’ll never forget! Ice Cave tours are run from Vik in all but the hottest months of summer, a great getaway for the adventure seeker!
Iceland’s south coast is plagued by waterfalls, as if that was a bad thing! Luckily Vik is uniquely centered for access to more than a few of the most stunning waterfalls in Iceland! These thundering wonders rumble incessantly, almost to the point of being able to feel the waterfalls well before you can even see them.
It seems like Iceland has a never-ending inventory of waterfalls. A new one hiding around every bend in the road. During our road trip around the island I was pulling over nearly every 15 minutes to explore another.
Around Vik You’ll want to visit Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Skógafoss & Svartifoss!
4. Go Puffin Watching
If waterfalls aren’t your thing maybe birds could ruffle your feathers. Iceland is the world’s premier destination for bird watchers looking to spot puffins. These illusively solitary birds spend the vast majority of their year at sea. Spreading out over an area the size of the United States they’re very rarely spotted. However, Puffins become social & return to land to breed once a year sticking around for nearly 3 months.
Vik is the epicenter of Puffins in Iceland. Head to the sea cliffs close to Vik & Dyrholaey for the best chance of spotting these rare birds in the wild. Climbing the promontory at Dyrholaey lighthouse we were able to watch the birds, sometimes known as “Clowns of the Sea” for their coloring, interact with one another and even strike some poses for the camera!
5. Seek Out The Hotsprings
Hot pots and hot springs in Iceland are part of the national culture! There’s nowhere better to relax after a tough day exploring than a hot, natural spring! These natural wonders are scattered across the Icelandic landscape, some well publicized & others fiercely guarded secrets.
Getting your soak on at a hot pot in Iceland is an all season kind of activity that’s as good for the body as it is for the soul, but you’ll have to head out of Vik to find the closest ones. Chat up the locals and ask about Seljavellir, Landmannalaugar & Strútslaug in particular!
Slipping into the soothing waters of any of the hot springs on a clear, cool night, and watching as the sky dances with northern lights is a magical sight you’ll never forget!
6. Eat Local
While it hasn’t been known for it in the past Iceland has been developing quite a name for itself as a foodie destination. Prices in Iceland are outrageous and eating out can be quite expensive, but you only live once!
Meat Soup, the most succulent lamb you’ve ever eaten, fresh fish and even hotspring cooked breads are all on offer! Check out Restaurant Sudur Vik, Halldorskaffi & Strondin Bistro for some of the best eats in town!
The Take Away
Vik is the perfect spot to get away from it all when visiting Iceland. Here away from the tourist centric Reykjavik you can easily have an authentic Icelandic experience. Vik has everything a tourist needs without lacking amazing experiences and activities to keep you busy! If you have the chance to visit the land of fire and Ice I’d urge you to take it! Iceland quickly became one of my favorite destinations and somewhere I look forward to returning to again and again!
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Author: Patrick is an internationally published Canadian travel photographer and blogger from Adventographer.com who explores the world fuelled by culture, sunsets, street food and good coffee. He writes from a wealth of travel experiences both good and bad and endeavors to create & share amazing, inspiring content from around the world as a catalyst for change with the mantra Explore.Create.Educate.