Black Sand Beach: The Wild Beauty of Reynisfjara

Black Sand Beach: The Wild Beauty of Reynisfjara

Iceland’s south is home to one of the most beautiful coasts, our planet has to offer beyond the South Seas. The black beach of Reynisfjara reveals wildly romantic, though not entirely harmless nature.

The surf force wraps the place in a constant murmur. The Atlantic restlessly whips huge waves onto the black beach. Seagulls and puffins fly artistic figures in the air. Behind the beach the massive rocks of Reynisfjall mountain rise majestically.

Magic Aura teaches reverence for nature

The place seems to be surrounded by the aura of mystery. Black Sand Beach shows once again what breathtaking works of art our nature is capable of. Wind and water created this almost magical coast line, which clearly shows Iceland’s natural forces.

One of the most beautiful beaches beyond the tropics

Its black lava sand forms an extraordinary contrast to the surroundings. A visit feels like a stay in a natural amphitheater. Not for nothing, Reynisfjara is considered one of the most beautiful and famous beaches in Iceland. A good 30 years ago, in 1991, it was even on the list of the top 10 non-tropical beaches.

Three battlements in the Atlantic: the Reynisdrangar basalt columns

The visual highlight of the composition is formed by three free-standing basalt columns that rise out of the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Reynisfjara. Icelanders call this impressive rock formation Reynisdrangar. It was formed during the last ice age as part of the Reynisfjall mountain range. Wind and weather caused constant erosion. As a result, its connection to the mountain range was gradually lost.


Icelandic mythology: Two petrified trolls

It would not be Iceland if the three columns were not surrounded by various myths about their origins. One of the legends tells of two fighting trolls who wanted to bring a three-master ashore at night. But they were surprised by the sunrise and turned to stone. Since then they have been standing, imprisoned as a petrified memorial, off the coast of Vik.

Protective refuge: The cave of Reynisfjara

“Hálsanefshellir”, translated in English: “The cave on the beach” is another highlight on the coast of Reynisfjara. In Icelandic culture it has a long history as a protective refuge. It’s visit is highly recommended. However, the basalt culumn cave can only be visited at low tide or low swell.

Sneaker Waves: Beware of treacherous currents!

Visitors to Reynisfjara should know one thing: The beach can be as beautiful as it is dangerous! So-called sneaker waves, which at first sight seem completely harmless, can develop a deadly suction there. The dangerous thing is that they do not build up slowly and visibly like “ordinary” waves. Instead, they suddenly develop a huge one near the beach and reach the beach much higher than one would expect. Their pull when pulling back is incredibly strong. They can easily pull an adult from his legs and wash up with him. Suction power and the element of surprise – it is this combination that makes these waves so dangerous. Due to the recklessness of some visitors, the National Rescue Service Landsbjörg has to move out more and more often. Remember: A Selfie is not worth putting your own life and that of others in danger!

You should follow these rules when you visit the beach:


Best travel time, journey, tours, accommodation

Black Sand Beach is located on the south coast of Iceland, about 180 kilometres from Reykjavik and about 10 kilometres from Vík, the “capital” of the south. A trip to Reynisfjara can be ideally combined with other sights along the south coast by driving from Reykjavik (duration of the trip depends on the weather and is about 3 hours). These include the waterfalls Selljalandsfoss and Selfoss, the Wrecked Dakota and the village of Vík.

Basically, the beach of Reynisfjara can be visited all year round and offers its charm in every season. However, we recommend the summer months May to August, as the Icelandic winter – especially on the coast – can be very uncomfortable. Since a scree slope in summer 2019, the eastern end of the beach is closed to the public until further notice. This is a precautionary measure of the Icelandic authorities, as it is not possible to assess whether further departures are imminent. Before a visit, it is therefore advisable to ask the local tourist information in Vík about the current conditions.

Iceland’s south around Vík offers a whole cornucopia of sights. Those who do not want to rush should definitely plan two to three days for this region. About half an hour’s drive from Vík you can visit two mighty waterfalls, Skogafoss and Kvernufoss. An absolute highlight is the mountain Dyrhólaey. The cape is located at the western end of Reynisfjara and is not only for romantics and photographers an absolute hotspot for watching colourful sunsets. Also the view towards Reynisfjara is impressive from there and offers a wonderful overview of the whole beach including Reynisdrangar. With the view to the east, the sunrise over Reynisdrangar is also very spectacular. Puffins can also be seen on the cliffs between mid May and the end of August. The cute birds with their bright colours are a popular attraction not only for photographers. Only about 30 km from Vík you can visit the “Wrecked Dakota”, a spectacular airplane wreck in the sand of Solheimasandur.

Those who cannot spend so much time for a tour on their own and prefer to do a guided tour have several possibilities. Most providers combine the most important sights of the south in one tour from Reykjavik.

Vik is an ideal starting point for excursions due to its location and its supply possibilities. Many places of interest are in the immediate vicinity and the village offers everything for daily needs with hotels, camping, hostels, supermarket and petrol station. An absolute insider tip when it comes to overnight stays is the farm of Martina and Jón, which can be rented via Airbnb. The accommodation offers cheep rooms, a great breakfast with homemade products and a magnificent view of Cape Dyrhólaey. If you want to stay overnight there, you should look around early. Often the rooms are booked out far in advance.

In addition, Vík í Mýrdal offers accommodation in all categories and price ranges. The offer ranges from luxurious hotel rooms to simple guesthouses and cosy cottages. Outdoor fans will find a nice and affordable place to stay at Vík Camping in a tent, caravan or cottage.

Camera tips: Motifs & Equipment

For good photos, you should definitely have a wide-angle and a telephoto lens (ideal from 15mm or 200mm focal length) in your luggage. Alternatively, a zoom lens ( e.g. 28-105mm focal length) is also suitable. However, the aperture of the zoom lens should not be too small (from 3.5 – 5.6 F). A lens with a large aperture range up to F32 is also helpful for effect shots in backlight.

Reynisfjara is a place of atmospheric moments. The beach unfolds its special aura at colourful sunrises and sunsets. Sunrises can be observed very well at the basalt columns Reynisdrangar. The sun rises in the morning directly behind the rocky peaks on the horizon. The Reynisfjara cave and Cape Dyrhólaey are at least as attractive at sunset. If you wait for the right moment in the basalt cave, you will see the edge of the cave illuminated by backlight in golden tones. Another hotspot for the sunset is Dyrhólaey. When the weather is good, the sun sets in powerful red tones right behind the cape. Finally a tip for the pictures: With backlighting, small apertures (22 or smaller) can be used to achieve charming effects with the sunlight. With a small aperture, backlight sources form a nice star shape. However, you should make sure that the exposure time is sufficiently short, as backlight shots can quickly be overexposed. If in doubt, make exposure series or rather take a darker picture and brighten it up afterwards on the computer.

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