Black beach Iceland
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Imagine standing on a dramatic black sand beach with towering basalt columns, mysterious caves, and the powerful Atlantic Ocean crashing against the shore. This is Reynisfjara! The black beach Iceland boasts on its South Coast. A must-visit for travel enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure seekers alike. In this blog post, we’ll explore the natural wonders of Reynisfjara, how to get there, where to stay, and essential safety tips to ensure you have an unforgettable time.

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6 Reasons to Visit Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara is known for its unusual black sand and rock structures, made up of volcanic ash and basalt. This sets it apart from your typical beach and provides an other-worldly backdrop for photography and exploration. Situated near the village of Vík í Mýrdal and overlooked by the cliffs of Dyrhólaey, Reynisfjara is a must-stop on your South Iceland itinerary.

1. See the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks

Towering up 66m out of the ocean, the sea stacks at Reynisfjara are an impressive sight. Legend has it that the stacks are actually trolls, who were trying to drag a ship to land but turned into rock when day broke. Iceland’s natural sights all have their own folklore, often involving trolls and elves.

These dramatic basalt structures continue to erode and change, as the powerful Atlantic ocean crashes against them. They can be seen from different angles, depending which side of the beach you visit. A trip up to the top of Dyrhólaey will give you a birds eye view of Reynisdrangar.

2. Marvel at the Basalt Columns

The cliffs and caves at Reynisfjara are lined with basalt columns. These towering hexagonal pillars are formed from rapidly cooling lava flows and have been shaped by the powerful forces of nature over millions of years. Standing tall against the relentless pounding of the waves, these columns serve as another reminder of Iceland’s volcanic origins.

3. Step Inside Hálsanefshellir Cave

Reynisfjara is home to sea cave Hálsanefshellir. The cave is lined with distinctive hexagonal basalt columns. Hálsanefshellir is accessible right from the beach and visitors can walk inside this giant cave when the tide allows. You might recognise it as the Dragonglass cave from Game of Thrones!

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4. Explore the Cliffs of Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey is a small peninsula located on the south coast of Iceland. It is known for its stunning coastal views and diverse wildlife. The name Dyrhólaey translates to “door-hole island” in Icelandic, as it was once an island before being connected to the mainland by a natural arch.

Before getting to Vík and Reynisfjara, you can turn off the ring road to go to Dyrhólaey. A short drive will take you to the top of the cliffs, where you can see the famous Dyrhólaey lighthouse and panoramic views of the black beach Iceland is so well known for.

The cliffs at Dyrhólaey reach heights of 120 meters and are home to nesting sea birds, such as puffins, guillemots and razorbills.

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5. Visit the Charming Village of Vík í Mýrdal

Reynisfjara is located in Vík, a small village on Iceland’s Route One ring road, 110 miles Southeast of Reykjavik. Overlooking Vík is the iconic Reyniskirkja Church. In addition to serving as a religious and community space, this church is the evacuation point for the village. In the event the nearby volcano Katla erupts –did you know it’s overdue for an eruption?– Vík could be in the path of a devastating glacial flood from the Mýrdalsjökull glacier which sits over Katla. Villagers are instructed to head to the church at the first sign of an eruption. Living resiliently alongside nature is normal for Icelanders.

Hotels in Vík, Near Reynisfjara

Vík is worth a visit in it’s own right and I highly recommend spending a night here if your itinerary allows. The black sand beach Iceland is known for understandably attracts a lot of tourists. If you really want to take in Reynisfjara without the crowds, visit early in the morning before the first coaches get to Vík, or in the evening once they have left.

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A glass of wine in a geothermal hot tub, bliss!

I recommend staying at Hotel Katla whilst visiting Vík and Reynisfjara. The Nordic style rooms have everything you need for your stay. And the hotel Katla restaurant does a great breakfast, to fuel your adventure for the next day. Hotel Katla has parking, ideal if you’re doing a self drive Iceland trip. And the geothermal hot tubs and sauna are the perfect place to rest aching legs after hiking.

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6. Take Incredible Photos at Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara’s dramatic landscapes have made it a popular location for films and music videos. You might have spotted it in Game of Thrones, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or even a Justin Bieber music video.

As with all of Iceland, no two days are the same at Reynisfjara. During sunrise and sunset, the sky is illuminated with colour. Grey murky weather can give the beach an almost monochromatic look, whilst a visit during the blue hour in Winter could cast everything in purple and blue shades.

In the Winter, snow contrasts against the black sand. Whilst in Summer, you may spot blankets of purple when the lupines are in bloom. The weather in Iceland is unpredictable, but this only adds to the magic of Reynisfjara.

Can I Fly My Drone at Reynisfjara?

No, drones are prohibited at Reynisfjara. This is to protect the wildlife, as the cliffs at Reynisfjara and nearby Dyrhólaey are home to nesting birds. Guide To Iceland have a handy guide for flying drones in Iceland, which lists the no drone areas.

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How to Get to Reynisfjara

The best way to get to Reynisfjara is by car, as this allows you to stop off along the way and take the journey at your own pace. However, fear not if the idea of driving in Iceland puts you off. There are lots of fantastic day tours which can pick you up from your hotel in Reykjavik, or collect you on the way in Selfoss.

I first visited Iceland ten years ago. On my first day, I took a Golden Circle day trip along the South coast to Reynisfjara. It was during this trip that I first got to experience the beauty of Iceland and it left a lasting impression on me. The benefit of taking an organised tour will be the guide and all the information they can share about the places you’re visiting.

However you choose to get to Reynisfjara, you’ll be travelling along the Route 1 ring road. Reynisfjara, Vík and Dyrhólaey are all just off Route 1 and well sign posted, so incredibly easy to find.

Parking at Reynisfjara

There’s plenty of parking at Reynisfjara, but it does get busy when the coach tours begin filing through. Parking costs 1,000 ISK per car (£5-6) on the lower level and 750 ISK on the upper. I’ve been here tons of times and honestly am not quite sure what constitutes upper and lower, but essentially you can expect to pay a fiver.

Toilets at Reynisfjara

There are toilet facilities at Reynisfjara, inside the little shop and cafe complex, the service station and restaurants. It’s worth making use of them, as the next public bathroom in either direction is at least an hour away.

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The Ice Cave Bistro usually has amazing views of Reynisfjara. Unless it’s snowed heavily, as it had when we visited in December 2022!

Cafes at Reynisfjara

When passing through Vík, we often grab food at the Ice Cave Bistro. It has enough seating that even during busy periods, you can get a table. They have a varied menu, including good vegetarian options. And views looking out across Reynisfjara. If you just want to grab a coffee, cake and go, there’s also the neighbouring Lava Cafe.

And there’s always the trusty N1 service station, which sells sandwiches, snacks, ice cream and fast food. On our route 1 road trip around Iceland, I lived almost exclusively off of N1 veggie burgers.

Why is Reynisfjara Beach Dangerous?

Iceland’s unique geography is both what makes Reynisfjara beautiful (So beautiful, National Geographic ranked it amongst the most beautiful in the World!) and dangerous. With no land mass between Iceland and Antartica –nearly 18000km away–, big waves can gather momentum and crash onto the beach. These big sneaker waves are hugely powerful and sadly in addition to carving out the rock formations on the beach, have claimed lives.

Sneaker Waves

Unfortunately any visit to Reynisfjara will include seeing a tourist getting soaked by an unexpected sneaker wave, usually whilst taking a photo. I don’t imagine these people realise how much danger that puts them in. The waves have so much momentum behind them, they can knock you off your feet and drag you out to sea.

In addition to staying on the sand above where the waves are breaking, a good piece of advice is to never turn your back on the sea at Reynisfjara. No photo is worth dying for!

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Selfoss to Vík itinerary

I give the same piece of advice to everyone who asks when it comes to Iceland, hire a car and stay in Selfoss when exploring the South. You cut out an hour of driving between Reykjavik and Selfoss, that you would have to do for the Golden Circle and South Coast sights. So presuming you’re coming from Selfoss, here is my tried and tested itinerary:

Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi Waterfalls

Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi are your first stop. Seljalandsfoss has toilet facilities and a cafe. You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss in Summer and in Winter, admire the huge icicles which line the cliffs. A short walk from Seljalandsfoss is Gljúfrabúi, a waterfall hidden behind cliffs. There are good hikes and view points from Seljalandsfoss, which make it a good place to spend longer if your schedule allows.

Back in the car and 30 minutes down Route 1, you’ll reach the second Golden Circle waterfall, Skógafoss. I visited Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss on my wedding day for photos and we were lucky enough to see rainbows!

Eyjafjallajökull

The most infamous volcano, outside of Iceland. In Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull is one of many and one of the smaller, less notable volcanoes on the island. Eyjafjallajökull is of course known for being impossible to say –AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl (-uh) … Does that clear things up?– and for stopping all air traffic in Europe back in 2010.

If you want to get a look at this pesky volcano, there’s a great view point on Route 1, shortly after your Skógafoss stop.

Sólheimajökull Glacier

An incredible glacier on the South coast which is super accessible. You can get a good look at it from Route 1 and a short hike takes you to the outlet tongue. Fun fact, this is where me and my husband said “I do” back in 2016! If you have time (but not enough time for a whole wedding) a guided glacier hike on Sólheimajökull is well worth doing to get a closer look at the blue ice, ice caves and formations.

Dyrhólaey

As you approach Vík and Reynisfjara, you will see signs for Dyrhólaey. Taking this turn allows you to not only explore the cliffs at Dyrhólaey, but get a good view of Reynisfjara and the sea stacks. Drive up the track to the top of the cliffs to see the lighthouse, panoramic views and nesting birds.

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Finally, you’ll arrive in Vík and Reynisfjara. After you’ve finished exploring, grab a bite to eat and drink before heading back. During the Summer months, the drive back to Selfoss is incredible and you can revisit all the stops along the way. Often with fewer people there!

During the Winter months, you may be driving home in the dark, but that’s equally beautiful. Iceland’s table top mountains look ominous and dramatic in the dark. And keep your eyes pealed for any sign of the Northern lights.

The drive from Selfoss to Vík takes under two hours. So with all of your stops factored in, this is a great way to spend a day in Iceland, taking in some of the raw nature Iceland has to offer.

A South Coast day out to remember

Reynisfjara more than lives up to its reputation as one of Iceland’s most stunning natural wonders. From the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks to the Basalt columns, every corner of this beach offers something spectacular. Whether you’re stepping inside the Hálsanefshellir Cave or exploring the cliffs of Dyrhólaey, the beauty of the black beach Iceland offers at Reynisfjara is unmatched and a must-see for visitors.

Are you ready to explore more of South Iceland’s hidden gems? Start planning your adventure today and discover what this magical region has to offer.



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