The rain is increasing as we approach Dyrhólaey the most southerly point on mainland Iceland. The road is a slippery mess of clay and mud, catching out those who ignore the 4WD only signs and attempt it in a 2WD car. This is supposed to be a beautiful location. Views across Kirkjufjara Beach towards Vík, sea stacks and arches in the turquoise seas below the lighthouse and an endless black sand beach. Unfortunately we need imagination. A storm is settling in for the night and waves of fog engulf the lighthouse and the cliffs.
Despite the weather it is a stunning location. The massive black lava arch which gives the peninsula its name and stacks are visible through the fog and mist as the wind blows it through. Puffins mill around, hiding from the worst of the weather. Dyrhólaey literally means “Door Hill Island” and it describes this feature perfectly. Once an island known as Cape Portland it is now joined to the mainland. Mýrdalsjökull glacier that dominates the landscape is seen to the north each time the cloud clears and the black sand beach runs into the distance to the west.
Dyrhólaeyjarviti, a beautiful castle like lighthouse was established in 1910. The current tower was completed in 1927 and looks out over the lava arch and the wild Atlantic Ocean. It guides shipping around the coast with a single white light every 10 seconds.
Dyrhólaey provides plenty of options for photography. It is south facing and is perfect for sunrise and sunset. The night sky over the lighthouse is also fantastic if the weather is clear. The sea stacks closer to Vík provide the perfect backdrop for a warm sunset and the lighthouse and arches can be seen from the beach at Reynsfjara.
In good conditions the sea arches and the beaches are perfect for long exposure. However given the exposed nature of this location long exposure does not always work. The nearby stack at Kirkjufjara Beach is also perfect for long exposure in the right conditions. If you do go onto the beach then care should be taken as sneaker waves can be dangerous and appear from nowhere.
The cliffs are home to lots of wildlife in the summer months. Puffins nest in burrows along the cliffs and flowers thrive all along the headland. These are perfect subjects for photography beyond landscapes.
Getting to Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey can be reached by road from Route 1 before reaching Vík. Take road 218 past the small Loftsalahellir Cave and either turn right onto the 4WD road up to the lighthouse or continue to the large car park ar Kirkjufjara Beach.