Reynisfjara is a volcanic black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. It is one of the most scenic spots in a country famed for its natural beauty.
We’ve been to a lot of beaches in the world, but you probably wouldn’t believe us if we told you one of the best is in Iceland. The beach has massive basalt stacks, a wild Atlantic ocean, and stunning landscape. This black sand beach in Iceland is one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen.
Reynisfjara is 180km from Reykjavik – or a two and half hour drive. It’s easy to access via car and many tourists choose to add it to their tour of Southern Iceland or stop along the Ring Road. We made the stop as part of ring road tour in a camper van and found the beach to be more than we had hoped for!
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is Lava!
Okay, it’s not exactly the sand as it’s more of a mix of small black stones. These stones were created when lava collided with the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a really stunning place on earth and each stone is cold, smooth, and has a shine to it. Sunsets on Reynisfjara are also out of this world as the black sand twinkles in the warm light.
There is a cave nearby
Hálsanefshellir is a basalt cave nearby. You’ll find it right behind Reynisfjell. It’s really cool and unreal so naturally, I had to go take a photo in it. However after Googling it later, I found out this cave actually collapsed in 2013, thankfully no one was inside or hurt. Also be aware of when you are going in because you won’t want to be caught in the cave at high tide. Always be aware of your surroundings and the danger you can put yourself in here!
It’s not the only black sand beach in Iceland!
Reynisfjara is not the only black sand beach in Iceland. We personally visited three on the route around the Ring Road. This is simply the most popular because it is accessible and features Reynisfjell, a mountain with a base of hexagonal basalt rocks.
Other notable black sand beaches in Iceland are Diamond Beach, Djúpalónssandur, and Héraðssandar.
There are beautiful Basalt Rocks
The basalt rock columns are a totally unique natural feature that has to be seen to be believed. The 340-meter mountain with the hexagonal-shaped basalt columns is referred to as Reynisfjell, try not to confuse that with Reynisfjara (Beach), Reynisdrangar (sea stacks), or Reynishverfi (neighboring village).
We’ve seen only seen these columns like these at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and they are amazing! Unlike the Giant’s Causeway, it is possible to get some headspace from other tourists if you take a stroll down the massive black sand beach to the West. If you’re going to climb the basalt rocks make sure that you can get down from where you are and don’t climb up when it’s puffin seasons. Puffins routinely nest on these rocks and one step on their egg would make for a sad day
Don’t forget to stroll to Eagle Rock
If you take a long enough stroll you’ll come to find another high lava rock referred to as Arnardrangur. The name comes from 1850 when eagles roosted there. Arnardrangur meaning Eagle Rock in Iceland.
It’s a stunning natural feature well worth the walk. If you’re into photographs the rock also gives great perspective to the rest of the beach and landscape.
Read about Reynisfjara Folklore
Once you get over the color of the black sand beach and the rocky shoreline your focus will shift to the sea stacks jutting out of the ocean. The sea stacks are known as Reynisdrangar and they’re roughly 66m tall.
It is said that the two sea stacks were once trolls attempting to a snatch a large ship from the ocean. However, to their misfortune dawn arose too quickly and the trolls turned into stone. If that sounds familiar to The Hobbit, it’s because the author JRR Tolkien studied Icelandic folklore and language, using much of it in his novels.
The trolls now serve as home to thousands of nesting seabirds. In the right season, you can find fulmars, guillemots, and even puffins! Make sure to pack your camera if you’re a bird watcher!
There’s No Lifeguard!
Everyone needs to be aware of the surroundings on the beach as it very is dangerous. As the beach increases in popularity so has the number of fatalities. The Atlantic Ocean here looks wild because it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say this. These are the most powerful waves I have ever seen. Many visitors have been swept off their feet by Rogue Waves and dragged out to sea, most never to be seen again.
We spoke with a guide who has rescued a number of tourists at the beach and said that there only moments to catch someone in between waves if they get swept away. There is no chance of swimming in the strong currents along the beach so any rescue is likely to be a suicide mission. So not only are you putting your life in danger but your rescuers also. Never turn your back on the waves and make sure to mind children at Reynisfjara Beach.
We saw a lot of people attempting to get their photos with the waves in the background, and it’s simply not worth it. We see this behavior all over the world and it’s still something we do not understand. Don’t underestimate the ocean, especially here.
Tips For Visiting Reynisfjara Beach
- There is a small cafe and free parking lot for visitors. However, the cafe is expensive so if you think you’re going to get a hungry stop at an Iceland grocery store first.
- Restrooms are located here, but they either charge money or require being a cafe customer.
- Make sure to pack a down jacket as it very cold and windy on the beach.
- Your bag for Iceland should have a pair of decent walking shoes.
- Arrive either early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds and tour buses and to get some killer sunset and sunrise shots!
How To Get To Black Sand Beach
Driving to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is super easy as it’s only a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik along the Ring Road. We’d suggest downloading an offline map and using your GPS. However, there is plenty of signage so you won’t miss the turn.
You pass several interesting stops along the road including the waterfalls of Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. They’re both stunning waterfalls and well worth the stop.
Don’t miss Seljavallalaug nearby! It’s the oldest pool In Iceland
Speaking of lifeguards not far from Iceland’s famous black sand beach lies the oldest pool in the country. The pool was constructed in 1927 and it’s set in a beautiful valley. It’s a 20-minute hike from a rugged car park to reach the pool.
However, don’t expect a nice warm pool as it’s been neglected and the water is barely warm with a thick layer of algae on the edges. Come for the photos, not for a relaxing experience!
Consider a South Iceland tour
If you’re limited on time or don’t like driving in foreign countries there is a popular tour operated outside of Reykjavik that goes to the black sand beach. Some tours run over the course of several days including meals and accommodation. For people who do not like the stress of traveling independently, it’s a great option. The multi-day tours often combine Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach as well!
General Tips for traveling Iceland
- Rent a Campervan. If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
- Check here if you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Iceland!
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATM’s are found throughout the country
- If you’re doing a backpacking trip through Iceland make sure you have the proper backpack.
- Want to know what’s in the perfect Iceland packing list?
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive as hell? Well, it is! Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- The water is delicious in Iceland, but in case you are still feeling funny get a waterbottle that allows you to drink any water safely.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has strong internet infrastructure, and we were able to stay connected every day.
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