*Reynisfjara Beach is the most amazing black sand beach in Iceland. It’s truly a remarkable part of the world that doesn’t seem real. Read ahead for the ultimate guide to visiting.*
Reynisfjara Beach is a volcanic black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. It is one of the most scenic spots in Iceland, a country famed for its natural beauty. In all our travels it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
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. Reynisfjara beach has massive basalt stacks, a wild Atlantic ocean, and a 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 stopped at the beach on our Ring Road trip in a camper van. Despite being one of the busiest stops on our trip, Reynisfjara Beach was a fantastic stop and a great place to spend a couple of hours!
Where is The Black Sand Beach in Iceland?
There are multiple black sand beaches in Iceland, but the most popular is Reynisfjara Beach outside of the town Vík. It is just under 200 km east of Reyjavik, and the drive takes around 2:30 hours. The black sand beach’s proximity to Reyjavik, along with multiple amazing stops along the way, make it popular with tour operators.
A tour along the South Coast of Iceland to the beach typically includes stops at Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and the Sólheimajökull Glacier. If you don’t feel comfortable driving or want to pay for a rental car, these tours are a great way to see the beach.
Tips To Visit Reynisfjara
1. Where Does the Black Sand on Reynisfjara Come From?
The onyx black sand of Reynisfjara is formed from volcanic activity in Iceland. When lava collides with the ocean, it rapidly cools and shatters into small fragments of basalt. Those small fragments are what comprise many of the black sand beaches around Iceland.
During an eruption, a new beach can literally form overnight! So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that black sand in Iceland is fairly common.
Reynisfjara is a remarkable place on earth as the deep black sand contrasts with the white-capped ocean. Every volcanic stone is cold, smooth, and has a shine to it. Sunsets on Reynisfjara Beach are also out of this world as the black sand twinkles in the warm light.
2. 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 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, and you should only venture in when it is safe (low tide). Always be aware of your surroundings and the danger you can put yourself in here.
3. Reynisfjara Beach is 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 easily accessible and features Reynisfjell, a mountain with a base of hexagonal basalt rocks. It’s fairly close to Reykjavik, which makes it a destination for a lot of day-trippers. Many chose to visit the beach on a South coast tour that makes several other notable stops such as Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach.
Other notable black sand beaches in Iceland are:
- Diamond Beach
- Stokksnes Beach
4. There are Beautiful Basalt Rocks at Reynisfjara
The basalt rock columns are a 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, getting some headspace from other tourists is possible 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 season. Puffins routinely nest on these rocks, and one step on their egg would make for a sad day.
5. 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 came 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.
6. Read About the Reynisfjara Beach Folklore
Once you get over the color of the Iceland 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 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.
7. There’s No Lifeguard at this Black Sand Beach in Iceland!
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 many tourists at the beach and said that there are 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 many 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 at this black sand beach in Iceland.
8. Extra Tips For Visiting Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland
- There is a small cafe and a free parking lot for visitors. However, the cafe is expensive, so if you think you’re going to get 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.
- A great rainproof or windproof jacket would not hurt either. The weather can get insane here.
- Your bag for Iceland should have a pair of decent walking shoes.
- Arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds and tour buses and get some killer sunset and sunrise shots!
9. How To Get To Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Driving to Reynisfjara the black sand beach from Reykjavik is easy an easy 2.5-hour drive along the Ring Road. We’d suggest downloading an offline map, plugging the location into Google, and using your GPS. However, there is plenty of signage so that 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 Icelandic waterfalls and well worth the stop.
10. Don’t Miss Seljavallalaug Near Reynisfjara!
Speaking of lifeguards, not far from Iceland’s famous black sand beach lies the oldest pool in the country fed by a hot spring. The pool was constructed in 1927, the oldest in Iceland, and 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 beautiful warm pool as it is in disrepair, and the water is barely warm with a thick layer of algae on the edges. Come for the photos and the beautiful hike, not for a relaxing experience! Just bring some hiking boots for Iceland, as they’ll be helpful on the short hike and elsewhere.
11. 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 Iceland 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!
Helpful Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATM’s are found throughout the country
- 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 always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has a strong internet infrastructure and you should be able to easily stay connected.