Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland: Your Guide
Iceland is known for its active geology – it’s sitting right on top of a geothermal hotspot after all. That means hot springs, geysers, and of course, volcanoes (but you probably already knew that)!
Another product of Iceland’s geology you won’t want to miss is the famous black sand beach known as Reynisfjara. But there’s not just one “black sand beach” in Iceland – in fact there are dozens!
So where can you see them? And why are they black anyway?
- See Iceland’s black sand beaches on an affordable self-drive tour.
All about Reynisfjara black sand beach
Probably the best-known black sand beach in Iceland is Reynisfjara. This beach is located on the south coast, a couple of minutes’ drive from the village of Vík.
As with all black sand beaches in Iceland, its sand is made up of volcanic rocks that have been slowly ground down over thousands of years.
Reynisfjara beach stands out from the others thanks to a few unique features. First, there are the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. You can see these 3 sharp pillars of rock from both Vík and the Reynisfjara beach itself.
- Explore Reynisfjara and its surroundings on a 5-day trip to Iceland.
According to Icelandic folklore, the sea stacks were formed when two trolls were dragging a three-mast ship ashore. As the sun came up, the trolls and the ship turned to stone and have been standing there ever since.
Another feature of Reynisfjara beach is the tides and currents. Powerful sneaker waves can reach quite far onto the shore. When visiting the beach, make sure you follow the signs to stay safe.
Something else that draws you in at Reynisfjara are the long cliffs that line the beach. They’re made up of black hexagonal basalt columns – leftovers from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago.
And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may well recognize Reynisfjara as the location of Eastwatch-by-the-sea, the Night Watch fortress located at the end of the Wall.
Breiðamerkursandur: The “diamond beach”
In recent years, Breiðamerkursandur beach in southeast Iceland has become a popular stop-off.
Sitting within the Vatnajökull National Park, the beach is easily accessible off the Ring Road (AKA Route 1). More precisely, the beach is located right next to where the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon drains into the sea.
- See the diamond beach on an Iceland Ring Road tour.
Breiðamerkursandur is sometimes called the “diamond beach”, and for good reason. Polished “diamonds” of glacial ice wash up on the shore, glistening against the pitch-black sand.
The sight is truly awesome (in the original sense of the word), and makes for some great pictures! If you’re into photography, pay a visit and experiment with capturing the ice diamonds from different angles.
Imagine going there after dark, with the Northern Lights dancing across the sky and reflecting off the icebergs. Now that’s an experience you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
- See the Northern Lights on an Iceland winter tour.
- Blog: Northern Lights in Iceland – All about Aurora Borealis.
More black sand beaches in Iceland
Being a volcanic island smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland has its fair share of dramatic coastline. This is a country shaped by raw natural forces, and it shows.
And although Reynisfjara and Breiðamerkursandur are some of the most spectacular black sand beaches in Iceland, there are plenty more dotted around the country.
Below we’ve rounded up some of our favorites for you, all of which are easily accessible by car:
- Arnarstapi – This is a must-see stop on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Arnarstapi is famous for its arch-shaped rock, which will at some point collapse into the sea. Check it out before it disappears!
- Djúpalónssandur – Towards the end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, this beach was once home to a fleet of fishing boats. On the beach you can still see the four lifting stones that fishermen used to test their strength.
- Lóndrangar – Not far from Djúpalónssandur, this is more of a craggy cliff than a beach. Still well worth a visit though for its 3 impressive sea stacks.
- Sólheimasandur – This beach just off the Ring Road in South Iceland is famous for its plane wreck from the 70s. The American Navy plane ran out of fuel and crash-landed on the beach, where it’s been lying ever since.
- Úlfseyjarsandur – A stone’s throw from Djúpivogur village center in southeast Iceland, this black sand beach has dramatic views out onto the Atlantic Ocean.
You might have figured it out by now, but sandur means “sand” in Icelandic. The word for “beach” is fjara or strönd. On a map, look out for place names ending in these words to find even more cool coastal spots.
Are all beaches in Iceland black?
The short answer is no! Whilst black beaches are certainly common in most parts of the country, there are yellow and red beaches too. These are formed from ground-down seashells, like elsewhere in the world, or different types of rock.
One of the most striking examples is the Rauðisandur beach in the Westfjords. It’s just as well the beach is red, as the name means “red sand”.
Perhaps the most unconventional beach in Iceland is Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík. There the seawater is heated so you can swim in it all year round – and it has an amazing hot tub!
But the really odd thing about the Nauthólsvík beach is the sand itself. The sand isn’t local to the area – in fact a few decades ago, it wasn’t there at all.
The beach’s yellow sand is harvested from other parts of the country and topped up every couple of years. This makes sure the beach maintains its tropical feel year after year.
When it comes to black sand beaches and other spectacular coastal scenery, Iceland undoubtedly delivers.
The best thing is, you have so many options. Pretty much wherever you are in the country, you’re not far from a stunning beach.
That said, the south coast and Snæfellsnes peninsula pack in the most black sand beaches. On a self-drive tour, you can easily access these parts of the country and complete your Iceland beach bucket list.
Ready to plan a different kind of beach vacation? Take a look at our self-drive tour itineraries!
About the author
Max has been back and forth from Iceland since 2009. He lived and worked there for several years, and although he’s moved away, he left a piece of his heart there. When he’s in Iceland, he loves to relax in the ‘hot pot’, chow down on some local food, and catch up with friends. He speaks Icelandic fluently, so if you need to know how to pronounce ‘Fagradalsfjall’, he’s your guy.View more posts by Max
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