The Dyrhólaey Peninsula is a 120-metre promenade famed for its staggering views of Iceland’s South Coast, as well as its historic lighthouse and wealth of birdlife. It is home to a rock arch of the same name.
Due to its convenient location, it is a feature on South Coast day tours, and many vacation packages, such as this 10-Day Self-Drive around the island. Those who rent a car can drive to it year-round.
Dyrhólaey, which translates to Door Hill Island, is of volcanic origin and was once an island before joining up to the Icelandic mainland. In ancient times, passing sailors used to refer to Dyrhólaey as ‘Cape Portland’.
Dyrhólaey’s most instantly recognisable attraction is the promenade’s massive rock arch, a result of centuries of erosion. As a result, its name is in direct reference to this enormous arch. In fact, this natural feature is so large and dramatic that one daredevil pilot even flew through it, back in 1993. Boats can easily cruise through its opening.
Dyrhólaey has an abundance of birdlife, the most common year-round being Eider Ducks. Iceland’s favourite winged resident, the migratory Atlantic Puffin, can be found here from May to September.
While watching puffins, it is striking how little they seem to fear people, as they allow you to get very close. Be aware, however, they do not like to be touched, and if one flies off in a panic, the whole flock might follow it, so be respectful.
From your position atop the promenade of Dyrhólaey, you can enjoy staggering views over Iceland’s black sand beaches, complemented by the glittering waves of the Atlantic on one side, and distant mountainscapes to the other.
The most notable stretch of coast here is called Reynisfjara, renowned for its incredible geology, with the sea-stacks of Reynisdrangar jutting up out to sea. If you visit this beach while seeing Dyrhólaey as part of a South Coast adventure, be sure to follow the warning signs and stay away from the water as dangerous sneaker waves here are commonplace.
To the north, you will also able to see the creeping glacier, Mýrdalsjökull. This amazing ice cap conceals a secret; beneath its surface is one of the most explosive and notorious volcanoes in all of Iceland, Katla. Long overdue, experts say that it is a matter of when - not if - it will erupt over the coming years.
On top of Dyrhólaey stands Dyrhólaeyjarviti, a beautiful old lighthouse that consists of a white, square concrete tower. The first lighthouse in the area was built in 1919; the current construction was completed in 1927. Visitors here will be able to see the lighthouse flicking out beams of white light to sea every ten seconds.