Dyrhólaey (Portland) is 120m high and the southernmost point of Iceland and is heavily eroded submarine volcano of the Surtseyan type. The main part of Dyrhólaey is buildt of well-bedded tuff formed by hydromagmatic explosions , and it represents the remains of a larger tuff cone.
Due to the breathtaking view from the headland and rich birdlife Dyrhólaey is a very popular destination on the south coast of Iceland. From the cape you have view on a good day out to Westman Island and even Surtsey in the south and over towards Eyjafjallajökull in the west and Mýrdalsjökull in the North. On the east side you have Reynisfjara black sand beach, Mt. Reynisfjall and Reynisdrangar.
Because of the increase in visitors to Dyrholaey the Island was declared a protected site in 1978 so that the access to the headland could be restricted during breeding season and birdlife, especially the puffins, could be protected. Dyrhólaey is very popular amongst photographers for Atlantic puffin photography.
Dyrhólaey in direct translation is doorway Island or Portland and despite being called an Island it is more a cape than an Island as it is connected to the mainland. . The Island is divided in two parts. To the west is Háey (High Island) and to the east is Lágey(Low Island)
Dyrhólaey is an unusual feature of the region around Mýrdalur just like the mountains Pétursey and Hjörleifshöfði. They stand as isolated crags in a sea of sand a good distance inland from the current coastline adding perplexity to its name giving, even though the explanation is relatively simple. Now on dry land these structures are remnants of emergent submarine volcanoes formed when these low-lying coastal plains where fully submerged. Since then the rivers have transported enough debris to raise the area our of the sea and link the former islands with the main landmass of Iceland
According to a local farmer Einar Einarsson from Skammhóll who studied the geology formation of Dyrhólaey and published his theory in 1968, the Island was formed in two separate eruptions. The first eruption occurred along a fissure where, Skorpunef,is on the east end of Dyrhólaey. An other eruptive fissure is in the western part, but that has mostly been eroded away. Einar thought that most of the island was formed in an eruption from the west fissure. North of Dyrhólaey you will find crater remnants named Hildardrangur and a bit to the south is Mávadrangur, the southernmost part of the fissure.
On the eastern flank of Dyrhólaey where the sea stacks Stampur and Sker are, the tuff sequence is capped by compound pahoe lava, which in places exhibits cube jointing, indicating water-enhanced cooling of the lava. The lava flow represents the sub-aerialphase of the eruption when the tuff cone had grown large enough to prevent seawater from accessing the vent. Flowing away from the vent the lavare-entered the sea and cooled rapidly to form the cube jointed lobes. The Dyrhólaey sequence is typical for Surtseyjan eruption.
Dyrhólaey was probably formed some time before the last glaciation and might have been at its maximum level about 25.000 years ago when the sea level was similar to now but after its formation, glaciers most likely grew over it and eroded the Island. Since the melting of the glacier the ocean has been pounding on the island and shaped it as well as the famous arch-way, Tóin and will keep on doing so as it is estimated that the area of Dyrhólaey is only quarter of its origin today. In May 2012, a large part of the island broke of. An estimated area of four to five meters wide and 100 meters long fell down the cliffs that at that point are 20 – 30 m high. For some strange unexplainable reason two travellers that where standing on the edge, fell down with it and escaped with relatively minor injuries. In 2015 there where again two more large rock falls from the cliffs of Dyrhólaey.
The Lighthouse of Dyrhólaey
On top of Dyrhólaey stands Dyrhólaeyjarviti, a beautiful old lighthouse that consists of a white, square concrete tower. The original design was by former state architecht Guðjón Samúelsson but later changes made by engineers Benedikt Jónasson and Thorvald Krabbe. The first lighthouse in the area was built in 1910 and was the firs steel based light house in Iceland. The current construction was completed in 1927. It is a Lighthouse built of concrete with very strong gas lights that threw its beams far out on to the ocean. The lens in use is a 1000mm rotating lens and the most powerful such in Iceland. The gas lights where in the lighthouse from 1927 until 1964 when electricity took over. It has the strongest lights of any lighthouse in Iceland. As well as the lighthouse there was a radio station on the second and third floor until well over the end of the second world war. This was the first radio-lighthouse in Iceland. Visitors here will be able to see the lighthouse flicking out beams of white light to sea every ten seconds. The lighthouse houses today a guest suite with three rooms of luxury type. There is no restaurant at the lighthouse but if you stay a night there you can arange for a private chef from Vík.