Dyrholaey

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Dyrhˇlaey

This is a large rock cliff that used to be an island not too long ago before the ocean floor got lifted by some major tectonic activity. Now it is surrounded by the immense black sand beaches to the west and the marshland from a river coming down from the inland glaciers to the east. The rock has mostly vertical flanks bar a narrow section facing the river mouth. Access is via a narrow road running through the plains and climbing the rock via the mentioned less steep side. On the rock the road splits with one arm leading to a large parking at the east side of the rock and one leading up to the lighthouse at the south-western edge of the cliff.

Aside from the stunning landscape ensemble of the plains, the rock, the cliffs and some smaller offshore rocks, the major attraction of this place is the extensive wildlife – mostly birds – in the area during summer months. Then almost every niche of the cliffs is populated by various species of birds nesting here in clearly separated sections of the cliffs, according to the flight skills of the species. You might have seen some signs advertising puffin excursions in major tourist hubs on the island, but here you just have to park your car and walk a few meters to stand face to face with these funny looking birds. From that parking at the east side of the rock you have panoramic view on the cliff and can watch them taking off from their nets for fishing excursions and see them return with their catch day in day out.

From that eastern parking you can follow a path along the south facing cliffs leading up to the lighthouse. There are great views on the offshore islands from this path, but the hike isn┤t without danger, as Arctic Terns nesting close to the path regularly attack hikers passing their nets too close in the bird┤s opinion. The attacks of these beautiful birds can be frightening, and even grown-up men can be seen fleeing them in panic.

The view from up at the lighthouse is an amazing 360-degree panorama on the black sand beaches to the west, the inland mountain range and glacier to the north and the marshland and the evenly impressive Reynisdrangar ex-peninsula to the east with its strangely formed rock needles just offshore.

Dyrhˇlaey and its surrounding area are a real natural gem and one of the top tourist must-have-seen places for a reason. Expect plenty of other visitors and full parking lots during summer season.

For more visual impressions check this gallery.

Related stories: Episode 6 of the Iceland blog, Southbound

 

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