Slept until 8am, yay! We had a very leisurely morning enjoying the view out of the window of our room and not rushing anywhere. Around 10 or so we headed down to Reynisfjara to enjoy the black sand on the beach, the amazing basalt columns, and the views of the “troll rocks” or “sea stacks”, Reynisdrangar in Icelandic. It was still gray and cloudy but not windy, not cold, and not really raining. Lovely weather in fact! The black sand on the beach was even blacker and cooler looking than I thought it would be. And the basalt columns were amazing. The nice thing about renting a car and going your own pace is, of course, that you can spend as long as you like taking photos and enjoying the scenery. The other nice thing is that you can watch the tour buses come and go, and enjoy the 5 minutes in between when nobody else is there. We definitely took use of that strategy.
After a long time on the beach we stopped at a little church on the way back to town. It was labeled Reyniskirkja, but we couldn’t find much information about it. It looked smaller and older than the other church in town next to our hotel. We stopped and took photos and then moved on. One of the industries that started here in the 1800s was wool textiles. So we went to a store called Icewear which has an in house factory and we looked at all their wool clothing and outdoor gear, and peeked down into the factory. Right next to that is the local gas station which also houses a cafe called Víkursáli that came highly recommended. We popped in for lunch of a burger and fish and chips. Oddly, while we were eating the sun came out and blue skies appeared. After we finished we ran outside to take more pictures of the Reynisdrangar from the other side and with more sun.
The next plan was to hike up Hjörleifshöfdi. It’s about a 15-20 minute drive east of Vik, and is easily seen from the road (when it isn’t foggy). It’s a huge rock that shoots straight up from the ground. At the very top is the tomb of Hjörleifur Hródmarssonur who was an early Viking explorer to Iceland. He was killed by his own slaves and his brother, Ingólfur Arnarson, came back, killed the slaves, and buried his brother up there in about 875. Since then it has been used as farm land, and there is a private family burial plot at the top as well next to Hjörleifur. It is also said to be cursed and haunted. In any case it was a great hike and very neat to walk through the same places the Viking settlers walked. It did suddenly get thickly fogged in and start pouring rain right as we reached the highest point where the tomb is. Maybe he doesn’t like visitors. But we had no nice views of the landscapes and a very soggy hike down. Still worth it, though.
Back at the hotel we hung up our wet hiking clothes and warmed up in the shower. Then it was happy hour at the hotel so we went downstairs to the bar and were able to try some of the beers that we had wanted two night earlier at dinner that the restaurant had run out of. We enjoyed sitting in the bar drinking and relaxing for about an hour before heading back to Sudur-Vík for dinner again. This time we called and made a reservation which allowed us to be seated immediately while many others were getting the hour wait speech. Yet again that place was excellent, further showing how bad the other place was. We tried more different Icelandic beers and ordered fish and lamb instead of pizza for a third night. The food is so good, the staff very friendly even while working their butts off with all the people, and it’s such a cozy place. Couldn’t possibly recommend to anyone to eat anywhere else in this town.
After dinner the sun was down, but we thought we might be able to get some cool photos of the Reynisdrangar with a long exposure and a tripod. So we went back down to the lookout point behind the gas station where we had taken photos after lunch. It was cool being there alone in the dark and listening to the waves crash, and we got a couple cool night pictures. Finally it was time to head to the room and organize our bags to check out in the morning.
We napped for about 2 hours before getting up to see if any aurora activity was visible. This was our first potentially clear night. So at 1am we headed out and drove to a couple potential viewing spots. Unfortunately, despite high activity levels, we weren’t see anything. And eventually clouds were rolling through again. We decided to give up around 2am to try and get some sleep for the next days activities.