Visitors flock to the South of Iceland for the picturesque landscapes. In fact, one of the most sought after “must see” attractions are the basalt sea stacks named, Reynisdrangar. There is a sense of mystery and awe that comes alongside seeing them in person for the first time. Will they on your South Iceland self drive itinerary?
History of Reynisdrangar
Thousands of years ago, Reynisdrangar was created by volcanic activity. As the years have passed, wind, rain, and the waves have slowly eaten away at the mountain Reynisfjall leaving the sea stacks on their own. Reynisfjall Mountain stands tall at 1,115 feet and the basalt stacks tower 216 feet high out of the North Atlantic Ocean. History of the mountain and sea stacks bring it back to the penultimate Ice Age (which was 135,000-194,000 years ago). Crazy to think how old Reynisdrangar could be!
Reynisdrangar View Points:
Did you know that you can see Iceland’s basalt sea stacks, Reynisdrangar from 4 different places? Firstly, the furthest away spot you can see them from is the top of the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse and from lower viewpoint. Secondly, the most popular and touristy would be Reynisfjara Black Beach.
Although it is very touristy, it’s worth the stop and we elaborate on why below. Thirdly, Vik Beach which can be found within the town of Vik. Fourthly, by hiking to the top of Reynisfjall Mountain (hike begins from the base of the town). Lastly, you can see them as you drive towards the town of Vik from either direction.
How to get to Iceland’s Basalt Sea Stacks
Finding your way to Reynisdrangar is easy if you’re exploring in the South of Iceland! As a matter of fact, it the points are all accessible from Route 1 (the ring road). To illustrate, you can plug in your starting point on Google Maps to begin your drive to the most popular viewpoint, Reynisfjara. Further, here are some drive times from towns to give you a better idea on what to expect…
- From the KEF International Airport: 2 hours 55 minutes.
- From downtown Reykjavik: 2 hours 30 minutes.
- From the village of Selfoss: 1 hour 40 minutes.
- From the town of Hella: 1 hour 12 minutes.
- From the village of Hvolsvöllur: 1 hour.
- From the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur: 1 hour 5 minutes.
- From the village of Höfn: 3 hours 20 minutes.
Reynisfjara Black Beach & Cave
Over the last 22+ years magazines and organizations have deemed Reynisfjara Beach in the top 10 beaches in the world. So even though it is touristy, it is well worth the stop for the following reasons:
- Unobstructed close viewing of Reynisdrangar.
- Hexagonal basalt columns you can climb on.
- Hálsanefshellir Cave and other small caves.
- The beach is made from black volcanic sand.
- View of Dyrhólaey Sea Arch in the distance.
- Black Beach Restaurant
* Special Note: The waves at Reynisfjara Beach are dangerous (rip tides / sneaker waves), stay very far away from the water. *
Reynisdrangar Folklore Stories
All sides of Reynisdrangar are riddled with interesting folklore stories my wife and I love retelling. In fact, the other day as we were preparing to break ground on our Vik Dream House, she reminded me of her favorite…
Vik Beach Folktale
The tale begins on the cliffs our house will overlook on Vik Beach. And legend says that if you take a walk on the beach at night close to the cliffs and beach you hear sounds. What kind? Honestly, it sounds like a huge party with laughter, dishes clanking, etc. My wife has heard it with her own ears multiple times and has been shocked… Sounds like elves are partying!!
Folklore Story of the Seal People
Have you ever heard of seal people? Totally a thing here in Southern Iceland and specifically the shores in and around Vik. My favorite folklore story of the seal people begins with a farmer who wanted to see if they were real. Apparently one night a month the seal people would rise from the ocean to part on the beaches near Reynisdrangar.
Meanwhile, the farmer saw that night as his opportunity and he was not disappointed. There he saw skins shed all along the beach and naked people dancing and partying. Being in disbelief and wanting to prove their existence to his friends and towns people he took one of the skins. However when he went near to the beach the next day he found a naked woman hiding in a cave crying…
He went to her and asked what was wrong. Immediately she admitted she was part of the seal people and had lost her skin. Therefore, she could not return to the sea without it. Although he knew he had taken it and locked it away in a chest, he offered to help her look for it. But not finding it he also invited her to come live with him. As they years went on, they made a family together. Each night though she would be haunted with the memories of her child at sea so she would wake up screaming…
“How can I be, how can I be? I have 4 children on land and 4 at sea!”
The dreams increased and became more stressful to her. So she began to think the man may have her skin somewhere. After all, he did where the key to chest she was never allowed to know what was inside. One evening she made him his favorite dinner and got him super drunk. He passed out and she took the key from his neck. Upon opening the chest she saw her seal skin. Without even thinking about it, she kissed her children goodbye and ran to the ocean to be reunited with her seal children.
Overtime, the farmer admitted to his children who their mother was and what he has done. As the children grew up and took trips to the ocean they always saw a happy seal that would come to them. Often the seal would throw up fish or colorful shells for the children to eat or play with. Maybe it was her way of staying connected with them, who knows!
The Basalt Stacks Reynisdrangar Folktale
Certainly the most told story in Vik and likely the entire South of Iceland is the story of how some believe the Reynisdrangar basalt stacks were “really” created… Long ago when trolls were still outwardly roaming the world, there were two who left Norway. They were in hopes of building a better life and a family together.
However, they found themselves in the dangerous position of being in unknown lands and not knowing the sunrise time. You see, trolls turn to stone when the sunrises, if their not hiding. So there they were minutes before sunrise, the troll wife and husband were rushing to get themselves and their ship to the cave they saw from afar. But they unfortunately didn’t make it in time.
Now they stand frozen in time as a reminder to other trolls to be careful. Therefore, when you look at the basalt stacks you can see the wife as the skinny formation, the husband as the short fatter one and behind him he pulls their 3-mast ship.
Private Expeditions in Vik
Now that you know all about Reynisdrangar… Likely you’re curious to discover or exciting areas in and around Vik Iceland? Maybe head into the highlands to hike for hours or days, cross country ski around crazy shaped mountains, or what about SUP on a glacier lagoon?! Lastly, the options are endless and Vik Expeditions would love to craft a custom adventure for you. Feel free to contact us to get that journey started!
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