Rock Climbing in Vik, Iceland

When I first started trip planning for Iceland, I was using an app called Trover (find me: @sparkitysparkz), which is soooort of like Instagram + Yelp for travelers. Someone had posted a photo at the basalt rock columns in Vik, and I knew immediately I had to get there. But first … a little bit about Vik.

Vik is on the South East corner of Iceland and to say it is a small town would be an understatement. It’s also the only real “town” for a long while, so a lot of people use it as a pitstop and a night’s rest. The problem is, there are very few options in the area. I knew that when I hit the road. I found a couple of cute places on Air BnB, but by the time I got around to booking, those were long gone and the only options I had left was to fork over a few hundred a night to stay in a proper hotel or to stay at the Welcome Puffin Hostel. I chose the latter and it was a HUGE mistake. Look at Edwina’s confused face as she checks out the wallpaper.

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Go ahead and look up the Puffin Hostel on Trip Advisor or any other travel site. The reviews are horrendous, and they’re all 100% accurate. In fact, some of them are a little generous. The entire place reeked and I don’t think a single thing in there was less than 30 years old. The rooms were all cramped together and the floorboards creaked. The one and only thing it had going for it were the nice, hot showers that did not smell of sulfur, unlike every other shower I encountered. A family was staying in the room next to mine, so Aneka & Edwina shared the living room with them  while I got settled in.DSC_5492 (Small)

You’re actually in luck because initially I had only taken photos of my room with my now misplaced GoPro, because I just didn’t think a normal camera would have a wide enough angle to capture the whole room. But as I left, I snapped this quick shot with my phone. You’re looking at my entire room here. The door doesn’t open all the way because there’s a wall right behind it. I barely had any room for my stuff in there and ended up keeping my suitcase in the car. On top of that, the heater didn’t work and they didn’t provide any blankets or towels. It wasn’t a problem because I had my own, but I definitely had to layer to keep warm that night. Thank God I only needed to stay there one night. And, I kept thinking to myself … at least I’ve got a room.IMG_8137 (Small)

Now what I mean by that is … this is where the girls slept. You see that cozy little trailer in the middle of the pic? The one with no lock on the door and no bathroom? Yup. They slept there. You thought I was kidding when I said accommodations are scarce in Iceland, huh? Well I was serious. We drove through Vik and this was literally the only place left in town for rent. And it was a whopping 50 euro a night too!! Can you imagine? Honestly though, there was a part of me that was in my room wishing I was sleeping in that camper instead. At least it had heat.DSC_5547 (Small)

Needless to say, we wanted to spend as little time in our respective accommodations as possible, so we headed out to grab a bite to eat and catch the sunset at Vik’s famous black sand beach.DSC_5496 (Small)

We stopped at the only restaurant in town. Which is attached to the only convenience store in town. Which is next to the only gas station in town. The store, btw, ran out of water. I literally could not find a single bottle of water anywhere in Vik. “It must be a busy weekend,” the store clerk declared. If you take any single piece of advice of mine before heading to Iceland it’s this – pack snacks before you go. And if you don’t want to do that, at the very least, pack some snacks in Reykjavik. Food is really difficult to come by on the road and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d packed some trail mix, beef jerky, or pb & j sandwiches. I was in Philly before Iceland, so I stocked up on the good stuff at Trader Joe’s and we were happy campers.DSC_5500 (Small)

The famous church in Vik.DSC_5501 (Small)

Figured we might as well get some night shots in while we were there since we were stalling having to go back to our miserable accommodations. DSC_5518 (Small)

I’m pretty horrible with flash photography, so we just messed around for a bit.DSC_5533 (Small)

This pic just makes me so happy. I remember thinking at this moment, that I was SO GLAD I had met Aneka and Edwina and had the opportunity to share this adventure with them.DSC_5537 (Small)

The next morning, after equally horrible nights of sleep, we hit the road. We backtracked down to Dyrholaey to get to the rock climbing. DSC_5548 (Small)

On the drive down, we caught our first glimpse of the famous rock arch. DSC_5553 (Small)

You can drive up the cliff further down the road and get a better view of the arch from the other side, but I thought this view worked just fine.DSC_5555 (Small)

To the left f the beach is the famous basalt rock columns and more rock formations off the coast.

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The columns are just wow.DSC_5566 (Small)

And there are caves off to either side of the columns.DSC_5568 (Small)

So if you can imagine this beach as a square, on one side there’s the basalt columns, caves, and pillars. On one side there’s an ocean. On another side there’s the sea arch of Dyrholaey. And then on the last side, there’s a glacier. Amazeballs.

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Oh and on top the cave, there are puffins. Tons and tons and tons of puffins. I thought we had missed puffin season because they are usually gone by August, but they were definitely still around. In droves. The Northern Lights were another thing. They typically don’t start until September, but they had already begun during our trip in mid-August.DSC_5592a (Small)

I didn’t bring my long telephoto (I was shooting with a 16-85) so I wasn’t able to get too close, but they were the cutest birds I’ve ever seen.DSC_5597 (Small)

I was like a kid in a candy store climbing up those rocks.DSC_5636 (Small)

This is the view from the top.DSC_5641 (Small)

This isn’t a puffin, but rather a kinda nasty looking angry bird.DSC_5644 (Small)

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The really great thing about Iceland is that no matter where you go, it really isn’t ever that crowded. If this were anywhere else in the world, there would have been a million people climbing all over it. Sure, while we were there, there were other people climbing. But there were also long stretches of time where we were the only ones on the rocks.DSC_5712 (Small)

throwin’ up the double shakesDSC_5714 (Small)

If you can see me in this pic, it should give you a scale for the rocks. They were TALL. And they were also a little tricky to navigate on the way down, so I don’t think it was for those afraid of heights. I was climbing up closer to the puffins to get a better look. Until I realized the birds were using me for target practice, that is.DSC_5810 (Small)

Edwina collects pebbles, and this entire beach is made up of soft round black pebbles. So she was in high heaven on the beach as I continued to climb.

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The Malta girls got in on the climbing action as well.

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Where else in the world do you get this view?DSC_5931 (Small)

The cool part about the cave is that it’s formed from the bottom of the hexagonal columns, so as you can imagine, it’s really textured on the inside.DSC_5940 (Small)

Me up top, Aneka on the bottom. I had to take my sweater off because it was actually getting hot. That is how nice the weather was for us.DSC_6003 (Small)

This place, like many others in Iceland, had such a cool, chill vibe to it. I could imagine sitting there for hours not doing anything or talking to anyone.DSC_6005 (Small)

But we didn’t have all that time, so we opted for cave selfies instead.DSC_6012 (Small)

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From inside the cave …DSC_6044a (Small)

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If I was a puffin, I’d live here too.DSC_6070a (Small)

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No sand. Just pebbles.DSC_6114 (Small)

And a bunch of mossy rock.DSC_6119 (Small)

There’s a little cafe near the parking lot. It feels a little out of place, but coffee and a bathroom are a good addition to this spot since it’s so well frequented.DSC_6120 (Small)

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I did a time lapse sequence of myself climbing all over this mountain and had planned to stitch it together when I got back. Unfortunately now that will never happen, but I did manage to pull one pic from the sequence. Can you spot me??DCIM101GOPRO

This is an utterly horrible pic of myself, but it’s one of a handful that were salvaged from the GoPro before it was eaten by the glacier, so I’ll post it. Man, whoever finds that thing is going to get some pretty epic pics.DCIM101GOPRO

This is another one I managed to swipe off the GoPro as well. It kind of sums up our Vik day quite nicely. If you’re into geology, or if you happen to be heading southeast on the ring road, I highly recommend this spot. DCIM101GOPRO



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