Guide to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, which sits in Southern Iceland, is one of the most notable tourist attractions in the entire world. This beach has won awards over the years, including Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet by National Geographic. Today, it attracts travelers from all over. In fact, over 133,000 people visited Reynisfjara in the first half of 2022. That comes as no surprise since black sand beaches are rare and only in a few countries. But Reynisjara is one of the most memorable ones and we are going to tell you why.
Jump to chapter
- How To Get To Reynisfjara?
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Trail
- Why is the sand black?
- Best Time To Visit Reynisfjara?
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Tide Times
- How much time do you need?
- What To Pack?
- Is Reynisfjara Beach Free?
- Is Reynisfjara Dangerous?
- Can you swim there?
- The Reynisdrangar Basalt Sea Stacks
- A Filmmaker’s Hot Spot
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is Iceland's most famous black sand and travelers come from all over to see it for themselves. The majestic onyx sandy shore is located on the South Coast of Iceland by the well-known town of Vik.
The beach itself stretches miles from the Dyrhóleay through Reynisfjara. In the summer months, you can even spot puffins here if you are lucky. The beach truly has something for everyone.
How To Get To Reynisfjara?
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is located in Southern Iceland, a two-and-a-half-hour drive southeast of Reykjavik. The beach is easy to get to since it is conventionally located along the infamous Ring Road, 110 miles southeast of Reykjavik. This means it is just far away enough to still attract a lot of visitors, without it being completely overcrowded.
From Ring Road, or Road 1 turn off onto Road 215, which is a paved road that will take you to the parking lot.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Trail
Once you park your vehicle you will see a designated trail that leads you to the beach. The trail is about 0.8 miles long and brings you to the beach on the sand. It is a very short walk which means it is recommended for all levels.
You will be able to read educational picture boards along the way, which explain the beach and the history behind it.
Why is the sand black?
The main reason you can find black sand beaches in Iceland is due to the island's volcanic activity. The black sediment was once formed by boiling hot lava. The lava comes from nearby dormant volcanoes, which have not erupted in a long time but are expected to erupt again in the future.
The hot lava would cascade down the beach before eventually cooling off and becoming solid. When cold hits a scorching surface, it can cause the hot surface to break apart. This forms small volcanic rocks, black beach sand, or small pebbles.
Best Time To Visit Reynisfjara?
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach can be enjoyed any time of the year. It is even prettier to see on stormy days when the gray sky and the black sand meet. Summer is the best time to go thanks to the extended daylight hours and Icealand’s Midnight Sun. This will give you more time to explore both the beach and its surrounding areas.
Winter can bring its own beauty as the snow provides a bright contrast against the black sand. If you are fortunate enough, you may even spot the northern lights dancing off the sea.
Sunrise and sunset are incredible times for photographers to visit the beach. The bright colors of the sky will mirror the ocean as the black sand helps illuminate the sky, creating an even more dramatic photograph.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Tide Times
Tide times are not super important when visiting Reynisfjara but they can help. Low tide is known to be a better time to visit because there will be more length of sand at that time. Low tide can also be safer if a sneaker wave does hit.
During High Tide, there is still plenty of sand left for you to explore. Hálsanefshellir Cave can be completely underwater during high tide though. If the cave is a priority on your list, then visit during low tide instead.
You can bookmark the World Beach Guide which updates the tide times daily.
How much time do you need?
The best part of Reynifjara is it can be a quick stop along your journey or an all-day event. You really only need an hour here to take pictures and admire the landscape. Since you cannot spend time swimming or lying out near the water, you can explore the area fast.
We recommend walking the entire beach, which could take a few hours. Photographers and bird watchers tend to spend more time here, thanks to the abundant wildlife and gorgeous sunsets that cascade over the beach.
What To Pack?
The beach can be very windy due to the coast in addition to common rainfall. You should bring a windbreaker or rain jacket when you visit, any time of the year. A hat and gloves are other articles of clothing you may need, even in summer. You should always check the forecast before exploring, as the weather by the sea can be unpredictable.
Don’t forget to pack your camera, whether you have a professional one or your phone, you will not want to miss a chance to take pictures here!
Is Reynisfjara Beach Free?
Yes, it is free to visit Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. There is no fee to access the beach or to park in the lot. So it is true what they say, the best things in life are free.
Is Reynisfjara Dangerous?
Iceland's beaches can be dangerous and Reynifjara is up on that list. This is due to the threatening sneaker waves that can come out of nowhere. Normally when storms hit a beach or the wind is high, you can see large waves grow in the distance. This can usually give visitors a heads-up as it becomes a red flag. Sneaker waves are different and there is no way to tell when one is about to strike the beach. They also hit further up the shore and have nothing to do with wind or weather. They are literally unpredictable which is what makes them so dangerous.
Over the last 15 years, about four people were fatally killed by sneaker waves at the most popular black sand beach, Reynisfjara. The deaths occurred between 2007 and 2022 and were caused by drowning once they were pulled into the water. The most recent fatality happened in June of 2022. There have been even more reports of tourists getting caught in these waves, but most of them were, fortunately, able to return to the shore.
You can still visit the beach, just be aware of your surroundings. While you may typically put your toes in the water on beach days, you are better off standing back and keeping your distance. In addition to that, never turn your back on the water. It is easy to get distracted by the striking Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, but if you are near the water, do not lose sight of it.
Can you swim there?
The water is too rough to swim at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Even if the ocean does look calm, do not enter the water. In addition to the sneaker waves, the tide can be very dangerous. The current is too strong and the temperature is freezing year-round. People have unfortunately been swept out to see just by getting too close to the water.
Have a beach day by going to a hot spring or swimming pool instead!
The Reynisdrangar Basalt Sea Stacks
Reynisdrangar is not only famous for its black sand, but the rocky basalt sea stacks are another jaw-dropping attraction. They tower 66 meters or 217 feet into the air, right out of the ocean floor. The columnar joints were created by lava cooling down quickly, resulting in geometrical shapes. The dramatic black sand pairs nicely with the misty ocean and rocky sea stacks at Reynisfjara Beach.
Sea birds nest here too, so this can be a suitable location to spot Arctic Terns, Guillemots, and Puffins. The Reynisdrangar sits high in the sea, making an impressive backdrop to your black sand beach photograph.
It is rumored that the sea stacks were formed by two trolls who attempted to drag a ship to land. They were then turned into the towering basalt sea stacks which rise from the ocean.
Another tale says a husband's wife was kidnapped and then killed by two trolls. The man angrily followed the trolls to Reynisfjara and froze them. That way they could never kill anyone ever again. Nothing pairs better than folklore and Iceland!
Visitors tend to overlook Hálsanefshellir Cave since it is not talked about as much as Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. However, the cave does sit right on the beach. It is massive and has octagonal basalt pillars at the entrance.
You will see tourists climbing the basalt pillars for once-in-a-lifetime snapshots. Sometimes you will even notice wedding photographs being taken inside the cave.
A Filmmaker’s Hot Spot
If you have not seen Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in person, you can still see it on the big screen. The beach has been used in a variety of movies and tv-shows and it is no wonder why. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will recognize the beach in the episodes North of the Wall and Eastwatch.
You may also have seen it in Star Wars: Rogue One, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and the television show, Noah. Of course, the beach is commonly used as other planets or countries in film, it truly is out of this world.
Are black sand beaches radioactive?
The radioactive black sands are usually concentrated in eroded areas.
What is the safest wave to swim in?
Spilling waves usually have less force and are the safest for body surfing.
What must everyone do before entering the water in an Icelandic swimming pool?
Showering naked is mandatory for all swimmers before entering the water.
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