… for a breathtaking experience!
Are you someone who doesn’t feel like being on a vacation unless you’ve got some sand between your toes? If yes then you’re a beach lover. Nothing could be more rejuvenating than relaxing on long stretches of soft, white grainy sand with a tantalising body of water flapping up against its shores. But how would visiting a beach that has risen from the ashes, sound? Volcanic ash to be exact! Yes… you heard that right. We are talking about the black sand beaches of Iceland.
Written by Jaya, edited by Andrea Gylfadóttir.
In fact, Iceland is home to several volcanic lava spread beaches, but the one that stands out is the Reynisfjara beach. What sets Reynisfjara beach apart from the rest is the presence of stunning basalt columns, towering cliffs, caves and lava formations. In fact, the rocky stacks rising from the ocean (also known as Reynisdrangar sea stacks) are a source of folktales.
Legend has it that these intriguing basalt columns were actually two Icelandic trolls who tried to drag a ship from the ocean to the beach before dawn. However, before they could do so daylight broke and these trolls were cursed to turn into stones. Whether you believe the story or not, these unique formations artfully created by nature have battled the powerful tides of the ocean since ages, and continue to stand tall in all their glory.
Guarded by the Atlantic Ocean on the south and the Dyrholaos lagoon in the North, the unique Reynisfjara black sand beach looks like another planet. It was created when molten lava flowing into the ocean instantly cooled off after touching the waters of the ocean. So, rather than fine black sand, the beach is made up of smooth and polished black pebbles of various sizes. Not a typical sight that you’d be expecting at a beach, but that’s Reynisfjara for you.
Another lava creation apart from the black sand on Reynisfjara, are the incredible stacks of dark basalt columns (called Gardar) that resemble a stairway to the sky. These basalt columns are so perfectly shaped that it is hard to believe that they are a creation of nature. The naturally occurring hexagonal columns were shaped when molten lava flowed, cooled and contracted hundreds of years ago. This process is known as columnar jointing.
The mesmerising landscape of Reynisfjara has made it a popular filming location. It has featured in several movies and TV shows including Season 7 of the popular TV series Game of Thrones.
How to Reach Reynisfjara
One of the most spectacular black beaches of Iceland, Reynisfjara should be a oart of every Iceland expedition. Located on the south shore west of the small village of Vík, the beach is easily accessible from Ring Road Nr. 1. If you are travelling from Reykjavík, you need to take Route 215 from where you will drive another 6 kilometres before hitting the black sand beach. Altogether, it is a two and a half hours drive from Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland. A perfect location for an adventure tour for those who want to explore the south coast further.
Places to visit around Reynisfjara
Located in the middle of south coast, Reynisfjara is surrounded by several stunning landscapes that are worth paying a visit. One of the major and closest landmarks to the Reynisfjara beach is the spectacular Dyrhólaey rock arch, also known as the ‘hill island with the door hole’. Standing at a height of around 120 m, the rock arch allows small boats and ships to cruise through it. The massive rock arch is a former volcanic island and has been formed as a result of volcanic eruptions. Above the Dyrhólaey stands confidently an old lighthouse that was first built in 1919 and was later reconstructed in 1927.
During your drive from Reykjavík to Reynisfjara, you will come across majestic water wonders of those of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, as well as the massive glaciers reaching out from Vatnajökull glacier, to name a few, Sólheimajökull glacier, Myrdalsjokull glacier and Eyjafjallajökull glacier. As you drive further towards the South Coast, you will cross the Vatnajokull National Park which includes several glacier lagoons with icebergs, and the Svartifoss and Dettifoss waterfalls. Reynisfjara is perfectly located for travellers who want to see everything from Reykjavík to the Golden Circle and all the way east to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and everything in between.
Best Time to visit the Black Sand Beach
If you want to witness the stunning basalt columns in Reynisfjara then you must plan your visit as per the tidal ranges of ocean water. When the tides are high, the powerful waves of water smash against these rocks with a huge force. Walking along the columns during this time becomes extremely dangerous. So, the best time to visit this world-famous black sand beach is when the tides are at their lowest.
Famous for its marvellous geology, the black sand beach of Reynisfjara should be in your itinerary if you have planned a visit to Iceland. However, caution needs to be exercised if you wish to experience the beach and its ocean waves. Don’t be deceived by the apparently calm ocean. It could send huge sneaker waves to the beach that can pull you inside without any warning. So, never turn your back to the water and avoid going too close to the waves. Apart from the ocean, also avoid getting inside the cave beneath the basalt rocks during high tides, else you get trapped inside.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Reynisfjara has been voted as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches (non-tropical) in the world by National Geographic. With its gigantic basalt stacks, roaring ocean waves and magnificent panoramas, Reynisfjara is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous black sand beaches of Iceland. Besides being featured on postcards and flyers, this world-famous beach has also featured in travel videos, documentaries and movies. So, lace up your walking shoes and head your way to this exotic marvel of nature in arctic country.
Tröll expeditions has numerous tours that include Reynisfjara in the itinerary, from multiday tours that take you around Iceland to shorter day tours that cover attractions on the south coast. Check these tours out for more information :