Have you seen the black sand beaches of Iceland?

As you approach Reynisfjara beach, it’s hard to miss the unworldly sea stacks rising up from the seafloor, protruding out of the darkness into the moody sky. Icelandic folklore says the basalt formations are two trolls, turned to stone during battle while failing to drag a three-mast ship to shore before the sun rose. It’s believed when driving near the cliffs you can still hear their wails and cries. This is just one of the many mysterious stories that you’ll find at the black beaches of Iceland. Read on to find out where and why they’re so unique.

Where can you find black sand beaches?

Black sand beaches may not provide the best sunbathing spots but they certainly provide some jaw-dropping views and intrigue travelers from all over the world with the mysterious atmosphere they create. Iceland boasts a number of black beaches awash with silky dark sand including Diamond Beach on the eastern coast near to Iceland’s highest mountain peak Hvannadalshnúkur, and Djúpalónssandur Beach on the west coast near Snæfellsjökull National Park. However, Reynisfjara beach lying in the southernmost part of Iceland is undoubtedly Iceland’s, and one of the world’s most beautiful black sand beaches. 

Why is the sand black? 

Iceland is a country full of volcanic activity, and this is the reason behind the black sand. The black sediment on Reynisfjara beach has been formed by boiling hot lava, from the currently dormant volcano, floating across the beach, then cooling and solidifying when hitting the cold water. After this cold hit the solid lava starts to break apart and forms small volcanic rock, which then gradually weathers down further to create smaller pebbles, thus black sand. 

How do you get there? 

Driving to Reynisfjara is easy. Situated just over a two-hour drive from the airport and Iceland’s capital, the black beach can be visited on a day trip from Reykjavik, while staying at The Retreat or Canopy by Hilton. Alternatively, stay within an hours’ drive of Reynisfjara at the luxurious countryside lodge Hotel Ranga, which is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Reynisfjara beach has been the eerie film setting for Game of Thrones, Noah and Star Trek, so this is a must-visit for the set jetters too with our Game of Thrones Iceland itinerary. 

What else can you see here?

Reynisfjara is not only famous for its black sand, but is home to some incredible coastal formations, from the church organ-like stack of basalt columns on the beachfront and Halsanefshellir cave below, to the ghostly sea stacks jutting out of the water. With the stacks originally being part of the Reynisfjall mountain range and everyday erosion still occurring, no two trips here will give the exact same view. Although this is a ‘beach’, the water can be ferocious, fitting with its eerie surroundings, with the occasional ‘sneaker wave’ creeping in, so return to Reykjavik to The Retreat at Blue Lagoon if you’re looking for a swim. 

Along the scenic drive from Reykjavik to Reynisfjara there are numerous places to stop and explore enroute, from the cascading waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, to the iconic Solheimasandur plane wreckage, only accessible from the main road via foot. You’ll also discover the cliff arch, castle-like lighthouse and nesting area for Puffins at Dyrhólaey.

Intrigued by Iceland’s black sand beaches?

Discover Iceland’s best black sand beaches, waterfalls, rock formations and wildlife on a bespoke trip here.

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