Reynisfjara - The Famous Black Sand Beach In The World

Reynisfjara is a world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, one of the most unique attractions to tourists from all over the world.
July 16, 2021 | 16:32
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From Reynisfjara you can enjoy some great views of the Atlantic Ocean with the basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar to the East and the famous peninsula Dyrhólaey to the west. Reynisfjara is probably the most famous black sand beach in Iceland. The beach is a black pebble beach, located in the south of Iceland very close to the town of Vík and is easily accessible from the ring road.

Aside from the enchanting pitch-black coast dotted with smooth pebbles and stones, it has enormous basalt stacks, hexagonal-shaped basalt columns, stunning lava formations, towering cliffs, basalt caves, and breathtaking views of some stunning stone arches off in the distance! With the roaring Atlantic waves and thousands of birds nesting all over the cliffs and sea stacks, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful black sand beach in Iceland.

Where is the best black sand beach in Iceland?

Photo: Iceland
Photo: Iceland

The most spectacular black sand beach in Iceland can be found on the south coast, just off the Ring Road, 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Reykjavík. It takes a day to visit the site and return to Reykjavík, with even more amazing sights waiting along the way.

The famous black sand beach stretches many kilometers from the Dyrhóleay stone arches through Reynisfjara, extending up to the small village of Vík. Of all these stunning places, Reynisfjara is the most favored site thanks to its perfectly angular basalt columns, caves, and sea stacks.

The drive from Reykjavík is about 2 hours and 30 minutes (180km) to Reynisfjara beach. Drive on Ring Road nr. 1 heading east and turn on road 215 (before the town Vík). Drive for 6 minutes until the parking lot at the beach.

Photo: Iceland
Photo: Iceland

Why is the sand black?

Unlike many other black sand beaches in the world, the volcanic sand on Reynisfjara is almost always wet because it is in the rainiest part of Iceland. So, the sand never becomes dry and gray, remaining instead unbelievably pitch black. In winter, when snow covers the beach, the black and white mix and look like as if they are poppy seeds and powdered sugar.

The site was named after a Norwegian Viking called Reynir. He was the first settler in this area. Reynisfjara translates to “Reynir’s beach.” Reynisfjall (Reynir’s mountain) and the Reynisdrangar (Reynir’s pillars) can also be found here.

Photo: funiniceland
Photo: funiceland

Upon visiting the beach, travelers will immediately observe rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, known as Reynisdrangar.

According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns were once trolls trying to pull ships from the ocean to shore. However, these trolls were dim and went out too late in the night; dawn broke on the horizon, turning the trolls into solid stone.

Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.

So mesmerizing are these features that they featured in Season 7 of the HBO Series Game of Thrones; you can spot them in a few scenes shot ‘North of the Wall’.

Photo: Funiniceland
Photo: Funiceland

The sea stacks themselves are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species that can be found here include puffins, fulmars and guillemots, making it a must-see location for all birdwatchers out there.

Best time to visit

Photo: Funiceland
Photo: Funiceland

Reynisfjara can be visited throughout the year. The beach is just as beautiful under the midnight sun as it is with a blanket of snow covering the basalt columns. With luck, you may even find yourself under a sky illuminated by the Northern Lights!

If you are planning to visit Reynisfjara alone, please be aware of the tides as the beach can be very dangerous during high tide. We recommend checking the local tide chart and aiming your visit for low tide when the beach is at its safest.

Another option is to join one of our many tours and let one of our experienced guides plan and handle all of the logistics for you.

Potential Dangers

Visitors to Reynisfjara must be made well aware of the potential dangers present at the beach. First of all, the rolling, roaring waves of Reynisfjara are particularly violent, often pushing far further up the beach than many would expect.

Photo: Funiceland
Photo: Funiceland

These are called sneaker-waves, and they can appear when least expected, even on incredibly still days. There are no significant landmasses in between Antarctica and the shores of Reynisfjara, meaning waves have thousands of kilometers to build.

Visitors are advised to never turn their back on the waves, and keep a safe distance of at least 30 meters (98 feet).

Aside from these sudden and dramatic shifts in the tide, the rip currents offshore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag helpless people out into the freezing cold open ocean. A number of fatal accidents have occurred at Reynisfjara, the last of which occurred in January 2017.

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