Iceland Black Sand Beaches
Are you looking for the most magical and outstanding Iceland black sand beaches? We've got you covered! Iceland's black sand beaches are rapidly becoming one of the most famous destinations for visitors or tourists in Iceland. The country offers a wide variety of scenic landscapes, with the best black sand beaches located on the south coast. In addition, several black sand beaches are distributed along the western and southern coastline. Each has a unique charm with mysterious folklore. Read on to uncover the best and most easily accessible black sand beaches in Iceland, why they are special, where to find them, as well as tips to bear in mind when exploring these breathtaking beach destinations.
Reynisfjara black sand beach during sunrise.
Why Is the Sand on the Beach Black?
Before you even look at the various Iceland black sand beaches, why is the sand black on Iceland beaches? Iceland is full of volcanic activities, which is why the sand is black. The distinctive sand found on Iceland's beaches results from the erosion of various volcanic materials.
The black sediments on the beaches are as a result of molten lava. The lava cools and solidifies upon hitting cold waters and then breaks apart to form small volcanic rocks that gradually weather to create smaller fragments of pebbles and sand. Most volcanic rocks are basalt containing high iron content, which absorbs light resulting in a silky dark color, hence the black sand.
Easily Accessible Black Sand Beaches in Iceland
Even though most visitors are only familiar with the famous Reynisfjara beach, Iceland features several outstanding black sand beaches. Here are our best picks of the black sand beaches to explore in Iceland.
Reynisfjara – The Most Famous Iceland Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara is widely known as one of the most popular black sand beaches in Iceland. It boasts enormous basalt stacks, stunning panoramas, and occasional roaring Atlantic waves. Apart from being the most beautiful and outstanding black sand beach in Iceland, Reynisfjara is a famous tourist spot that has attracted the international spotlight. The beach even appeared in several episodes of the renowned television series Game of Thrones and Star Trek.
Reynisfjara features incredible coastal formations, including basalt columns stacked on the beachfront and a Halsanefshellir cave. The stacks of the basalt columns were initially part of the Reynisfjall mountain range. With erosion constantly occurring, you're sure to find a different view come your second trip. This black sand beach also features ferocious waters that perfectly fit its eerie surroundings, with occasional waves creeping in.
Icelandic folklore indicates that the giant Reynisdrangar stacks resulted from two trolls that attempted to drag a certain ship onto the land. The trolls are said to turn into impressive sea stacks of basalt, which rise as daylight breaks from the ocean. However, observing the carved pyramid with impressively defined edges, it's clearly not believable that the tale is accurate!
If you visit the beach, be sure to take a close look at the iconic wildlife that reside in the basalt columns, such as fulmars, puffins, and guillemots. You'll also get to discover a castle-like lighthouse, cliff arch, and nesting areas for the puffins. While Reynisfjara beach is a must-visit destination when visiting the south coast, it's also among the most dangerous beaches in the country. You'll therefore need to follow all the necessary rules.
How to Get to Reynisfjara Black Beach
So, how do you get to Reynisfjara black sand beach? Driving to the beach is relatively easy and takes about two hours if you drive from the capital or the airport. This means that you can visit the black sand beach on a day trip. The beach is located about 112 miles (180 km) from the capital city of Iceland, which is Reykjavík.
Black Sand Beach at Vik
Apart from its famous black sand beach, Dyrhólaey also features an outstanding arch-shaped cliff that provides a bird's eye view of the beach. Dyrhólaey is a massive piece of rock with viewpoints and arches. The famous rock allows visitors to conveniently have a stunning panoramic view of lake Sólheimasandur and Reynisfjara. So, if you're looking forward to experiencing the best views of the black sand beaches in Iceland, Dyrhólaey is a perfect spot because it's located so high!
The beach is located close to Vik and the picturesque lighthouse on the top of the Dyrhólaey rock. Thus, allowing visitors to spot some impressive arctic wildlife, including some puffins that mostly nest during summer. The beach is also close to Reynisfjara beach, and you can easily tour the two beaches on the same trip.
How to Get to Dyrhólaey, Iceland's Black Sand Beach
To access the black sand beach located beneath the Dyrhólaey rock, you'll be required to pack your car in one of the parking lots and walk. You'll walk because driving on the beach is strictly not allowed. You can opt to head to the most popular viewpoint on Dyrhólaey to save you time and energy for walking to other nearby destinations.
Sólheimasandur – Black Sand Beach in Iceland With a Plane Wreck
If you wish to explore a unique location with an incredible sight, then the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck scenery is perfect. Sólheimasandur beach is the only one of the many black sand beaches in Iceland with a cool and unique plane wreck that is worth stopping by. The abandoned aircraft wreckage still lies at the spot it crashed way back in the 1970s. Everyone in the plane crash survived, which makes visiting the scenery okay. The sight of the plane will surely give you that unique post-apocalyptic feeling.
The spooky plane crash site is also located close to the famous Skogafoss Waterfall, which makes it easy to plan a hike to explore the two outstanding tourist attractions on one trip conveniently. However, if you're planning to hike, ensure you're there early so that the sun doesn't set while you're still hiking. In addition, ensure to check on the weather and dress appropriately for the hike, especially if you're visiting in winter.
How to Get to Sólheimasandur Black Sand Beach
Sólheimasandur is located close to Skogafoss Waterfall, approximately ten minutes away. You can easily spot the location from the road or use a GPS location for the parking lot before accessing the black sand beach.
Diamond Beach is a spectacular sight to look forward to when visiting the south coast of Iceland. There's an incredible view of iceberg chunks calving off the nearby washed-up glacier and floating on the large water body. The ocean moves the icebergs out of the lagoon to the black sand beach when the tides go in and out. The glacier pieces deposited on the black beach resemble diamonds due to the clear ice, hence the name Diamond Beach.
The amount of the glacier pieces on the beach directly depends on the tide and the amounts of icebergs present in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. There are times when you'll find small ice chunks and other times huge ice chunks. Either way, the view of the clear ice on the black beach is worth a visit. Apart from the shore with photogenic beauty, consider visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier to view the origin of the ice that scatters on the beach. You might also get a chance to witness some seals feeding or basking in the sun during summer.
How to Get to Diamond Beach
When visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier and Iceland's Diamond Beach, there are different parking lots. When going to Jökulsárlón Glacier, park your car next to the visitor center and walk to view the lagoon. However, if you wish to explore Diamond Beach, you'll head to the opposite side of the Ring Road, directly facing the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Stokksnes Beach With Mount Vestrahorn
Stokksnes is a hidden treasure on Iceland's east coast. The beach offers breathtaking views of the point where the sea meets the towering snow-capped mountains. The Stokksnes black sand beach is an excellent spot to experience the Northern Lights and watch the snow-capped Vestrahorn mountain in the winter months. In summer, the beach doesn't get any less good, as you'll get an opportunity to take some golden-hour photos.
A visit to Stokksnes black sand beach is the best spot to view the Northern Lights because the beach is so dark compared to the rest. However, bear in mind that the beach is quite devoid of visitors, meaning you could have the beach to yourself to explore without limitations fully.
How to Get to Stokksnes Beach
It takes approximately six hours to drive if you're coming from Reykjavik. The beach is located next to Höfn town, on the east coast of Iceland. You'll drive to Stokksnes Peninsula, park, and then take a walk on the beach.
Tips: Things to Know When Visiting Iceland Black Sand Beaches
The most important thing to note is that Iceland's black sand beaches are dangerous if proper caution is not exercised. Do not go too close to the water's edge because of the "sneaker waves" that may appear very calm and safe, but a huge one comes when least expected and could cause a disaster. Also, remember that the waters are not for swimming, so keep a safe distance.
Do not attempt to drive in on the beaches. It's not only unsafe because you might get stuck, but also, most beaches don't allow driving on the beach.
There are great photo opportunities, so ensure you carry a camera along and arrive early enough to be alone at the beach and have enough time to take photos without crowds.
Lastly, wear a wind and waterproof jacket and good waterproof boots because the beach can be windy.