Things You Should Know Before Visiting Black Sand Beach in Iceland

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When planning a trip to Iceland, visiting Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach should be on your list of places you can’t miss. Situated on the South Coast of Iceland, this black sand beach is a breathtaking sight. With its towering basalt columns, crashing waves, and stunning views, it’s no wonder loads of people visit Reynisfjara year-round.

Before you make your way there, there are some things you should know to stay safe & enjoy your trip.

The black sand beach is located near a small village called Vik. It’s easily accessible by car or on a bus tour from Reykjavik, and is just over two hours drive away from the beach and Vik.

As you arrive at the beach, it’s impossible to miss its dramatic landscape: tall sea stacks jutting out from the seascape and huge waves crashing against the shoreline. Its dark sand, formed by volcanic activity, creates a striking contrast against the crystal clear water and dramatic basalt columns.

Whether you’re interested in the stunning natural beauty, the folklore or just want to capture some photos, Reynisfjara is an awesome place to visit.

But beaches in Iceland can be dangerous, especially the black sand beach so I recommend reading this guide, as I’ll provide some safety tips and answer questions I get asked a lot about visiting the black beach.

Where is Reynisfjara Beach?

Reynisfjara black sand beach is located on the south coast of Iceland’s ring road near the small fishing village of Vik. It’s about 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Reykjavik. The beach is easily accessible by car, with the drive taking approximately 2-3 hours depending on road conditions.

It’s also possible to combine a visit to black sand beach with a visit to The Golden Circle, which is somewhere you should definitely visit when visiting Iceland for the first time. The Golden Circle is where you’ll find waterfalls such as Gullfoss, the Strokkur geysir, Kerid crater and Thingvellir National Park. Reynisfjara is about 2 hours drive from The Golden Circle.

Reynisfjara is a popular stop along the famous Ring Road, which circles the country and offers numerous opportunities to see Iceland’s stunning natural beauty. If you’re not hiring a car, there are also several tour companies that offer day trips to Reynisfjara beach from Reykjavik or you can choose to book a multi-day tour that explores multiple areas of Iceland. Regardless of how you choose to get there, Reynisfjara beach is well worth the journey. Its unique landscape and natural beauty make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Iceland.

How To Get To Reynisfjara Beach?

Basalt columns at Reynisfjara

To get to Reynisfjara black sand beach, you can either hire a car and drive here, or take a tour. Driving to Reynisfjara beach is a great way to explore the area and it will take about two hours.

You can easily hire a car from the airport. I recommend booking your car hire before you arrive in Iceland as this will give you more choice of car to choose from and access to cheaper prices. I like to use Discover Cars to find cheap car hire, as they perform a search comparison among all the car hire places available and find you the cheapest prices. Plus, they include free cancellation.

Last minute or same day car hire prices in Iceland can be super expensive, and you may find yourself limited to smaller less popular vehicles so booking well in advanced is recommended. I also recommend taking our insurance, including windscreen insurance as car bodies and windscreens can get damaged by gravel spraying off the roads in Iceland.

It’s also possible to combine a visit to black sand beach with a visit to The Golden Circle, which you should definitely visit when visiting Iceland for the first time. The Golden Circle is where you’ll find amazing waterfalls such as Gullfoss, the Strokkur geysir, Kerid crater and Thingvellir National Park. Reynisfjara is about 2 hours drive from The Golden Circle.

If you’re not hiring a car, there are also several tour companies that offer day trips to Reynisfjara beach from Reykjavik or you can choose to book a multi-day tour that explores multiple areas of Iceland. Regardless of how you choose to get there, Reynisfjara beach is well worth the journey. Its unique landscape and natural beauty make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Iceland.

Here’s some tours you could consider taking:

Why is Reynisfjara beach black?

black sand beach

Reynisfjara beach is black because it is made up of tiny black rocks called basalt. Basalt is a type of rock that forms when lava cools and solidifies. When the lava was hot, it was full of gases that needed to escape. As the lava cooled, the gases bubbled up and escaped, leaving behind holes in the rock. The black color of the rocks comes from the iron and magnesium in them. The iron gives them a dark color, and the magnesium makes them shiny. So that’s why Reynisfjara beach is black!

Can you swim at Reynisfjara?

Storm at black sand beach

No, you shouldn’t swim here. I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is to even approach the water, nevermind go swimming here.

The beach is known for having very strong and dangerous waves called “sneaker waves.” Sneaker waves can come unexpectedly and can be much larger and more powerful than the other waves. These waves have been known to sweep people into the ocean and have even caused some deaths. Even when it looks safe and calm, a sneaker wave can pop up and sweep you into the water. If you get swept into the sea, you have very little chance of being rescued in time. It is important to be very careful when visiting Reynisfjara beach, always stay a safe distance from the water and to never turn your back on the ocean.

If you are visiting the beach with kids, I highly recommend keeping hold of their hands. Do not let them run off, as they can easily end up near the water. If you’re not sure if you can keep your children away from the water, it’s best to skip going onto the beach and instead enjoy the view from the top. Here’s a recent news article that covers one of the incidents involving sneaker waves. Sadly what happened to the person in this situation, can easily happen again so please stay safe and pay attention to the warning signs.

When is the best time to visit Reynisfjara Beach?

The night sky over the Reynisdrangar rock formations

The beach is a great place to visit all year round and really your ideal time depends on what you’re visiting Iceland for. If you’re here to see the midnight sun, then you need to come in the summer. But if you want to see the northern lights, you need to consider visiting sometime between September to March.

In the summer months (June to August), the weather is warmer and the days are long due to the midnight sun. This is a popular time to visit the beach as the weather is more pleasant. However, it is also one of the busiest times of year and you may find crowds at the beach and in the surrounding area.

In the winter months (December to February), the weather is colder and the days are shorter, with the sun setting early in the evening. There’s more likely to be rain, storms and possibly snow. However, this can also be a beautiful time to visit and great if you’re taking photographs, as the more dramatic weather adds more atmosphere to your photographs. Plus you’ll have chance to see the northern lights whilst in Iceland during the winter. If you do visit the beach in the winter, it is important to be prepared for the cold and wet conditions and to dress appropriately. Check the weather before you head off, and have a back up plan in case of bad weather or road closures.

Spring and Autumn are also great times to visit. The weather isn’t quite as cold as winter, and there’s normally less chance of snow or storms. But there’s also more chance of seeing the northern lights than there is in the summer.

I personally prefer to visit Iceland In March. The weather is still quite cold, and there will be snow so you do need to wrap up warm. But the weather starts improving so there’s a bit less rain that in Feburary, and you’ll still get chance to see the northern lights. March is one of the less popular months to visit Iceland so you’ll also benefit from having less crowds. You might also find sales for tours, and cheaper accomodation this time of year.

Overall, the best time to visit Reynisfjara Beach will depend on your personal preferences, and . If you want to experience the beach in milder weather and enjoy outdoor activities such as horse back riding along the beach, then the summer may be the best time for you. If you prefer to have the chance of spotting the northern lights, capture photos with much more atmospheric weather or avoid crowds then the winter would be the best time of year.

How much time do you need at Reynisfjara?

If you just want to take some photos and take in the views, you could probably spend 45 to 60 minutes at the beach. However, if you want to explore the area more thoroughly, you may want to allocate more time. There are several walking trails in the area, such as this trail that offers scenic views of the beach and the surrounding landscape. This trail requires a moderate fitness level, covers 7.2km (4.5miles) and takes about 2 hours 30 minutes to finish but allow longer if you’d like to stop off and enjoy the views or take photos.

Can you take black sand from Iceland?

Hand sholding black sand in a shape of a heart

Visiting Iceland is a dream come true for many people, and one of the things that makes this place so special is its unique black sand beaches. While exploring these stunning sites, you may be tempted to take home a small amount of the sand as a souvenir. However, it is important to remember that removing sand from Iceland’s beaches is illegal. Not only could you face fines or even prosecution if caught, but taking away the natural resources of this incredible country can also have a negative impact on its fragile environment.

Anybody wishing to take home a memento of their Icelandic experience should look into buying souvenirs made by local artisans, or even something as simple as a fridge magnet. These items are readily available in shops around the country and provide a great way to commemorate your trip without having to break the law or harm the environment.

Can you take rocks from Black Sand Beach Iceland?

No, as with the rule against taking sand, it is strictly prohibited to take any rocks from Black Sand Beach Iceland. This location is a protected area and visitors must be aware that taking rocks away from the beach would not only disrupt the natural beauty of the environment but could also be a criminal offence. It is important to remember that if you wish to preserve the beauty of this area, you must leave all rocks where they are.

Furthermore, as a courtesy to other visitors and nature itself, please do not remove any stones from their original locations, carve things into the basalt columns or try to damage them in any way. Doing so may prevent other people from having the same experience as you have had on your visit. Please keep in mind that Black Sand Beach Iceland is an exceptional place and should be respected for its natural splendour.

How much does it cost to go to the Black Sand Beach in Iceland?

Access to the beach is free, and for those who are travelling by car, there is free parking available. You can also take a bus from Reykjavik via Selfoss, to the bus stop near the beach (the bus stop is called Vík í Mýrdal). This bus route takes about 3 to 4 hours due to needing to change bus in Selfoss, so I only recommend doing this if you’re planning on staying in Vik overnight.

If you are taking a tour then the price will vary depending on how long you plan to stay at the beach, the size of the tour group, and if any other attractions are included in your ticket price. For a day trip tour from Reykjavík that visits both Reynisfjara and The Golden Circle you’re looking at about $93 to $200 per person depending on the exact itinerary. For those on a budget, check out this tour that starts at $93 USD per adult. If you’d prefer a multi-day tour, prices start to increase to around $550 USD for a 2-day tour that includes a trip to the Icecaves and a 6 day tour that covers The Golden Circle, the South Coast, and the North including Myvatn starts at $2090 USD per person.

How do I get from Reykjavik to Black Sand Beach?

Reynisfjara black sand beachck beach

The car park for the beach is located just off the ring road, before you get to Vik. So you can easily drive here from Reykjavik or other areas of Iceland by following the ring road. If you’re driving, use your GPS to navigate to “Reynisfjara Beach Parking, Reynishverfisvegur, 871, Iceland” or check this Google Map link here. When driving along the ring road you can spot the road by looking for a yellow sign saying 251 Reynisfjara, and just after you turn onto the road there’s a second larger blue sign with a map of what can be found along the road. The car park, is at the end.

You can also take a bus from Reykjavik via Selfoss, to the nearest bus stop to the beach. This bus route takes about 3 to 4 hours due to needing to change bus in Selfoss, and you’ll also need to hike a bit so I only recommend doing this if you’re planning on staying in Vik overnight. The bus stop is called Vík í Mýrdal, and is located in Vik so you will either need to following a hiking trail, or get a taxi to Reynisfjara.

The hiking trail takes you over the cliff that splits the beach, so you can always enjoy the views of both beaches but it is a 5km walk and can be quite steep and uneven. The hike itself can take over an hour so you’ll need to allow time to hike, to and from the beach.

There is another stunning black sand beach located very near to Vik, called Black Sand Beach Vik on Google Maps (view the map here). This beach offers views of the cliffs that split the beaches in half and a slightly further away view of the Reynisdrangar rock formations in the sea. But this beach lacks the basalt columns and cave you can find on Reynisfjara. Still, it’s somewhere worth stopping when traveling along the south coast or if you choose to stay in Vik.

Where can I get a view over Reynisfjara?

View of Reynisdrangar rock formations in Iceland during sunrise

If you’d like to look over the beach from high up on one of the nearby cliffs, I recommend that visitors to Reynisfjara also head up to Dyrhólaey. This area has free parking, and gives you an amazing point of view across the area. It’s a great spot for taking photos as from the viewing point, you can see the whole of the beach plus the Reynisdrangar rock formations. If you visit early in the morning, you can also catch the sun rising which adds extra atmosphere to your photos.

Whilst up at Dyrhólaey, you could also check out the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse. From here you enjoy views towards Dyrhólaey Beach which is another Icelandic black sand beach .

Where can I stay near Reynisfjara?

There are a variety of accommodation options available for those looking to stay near Reynisfjara including hotels, guest houses, hostels and even a campground. If you’re visiting during the summer you could consider camping, there are several campgrounds in the area such as Vik Campground that has picturesque views of Reynisfjara.

If you’d prefer to stay in a guesthouse or a hotel, there’s some really good places to stay in and around Vik.

Guesthouse Reynir is a family owned and ran guest house located about 2km from Iceland’s black sand beach, that is one of the most affordable places to stay near the beach.

You’ll also be near the town of Vik so you can easily visit a supermarket, find somewhere to eat or even see the Icelandic Lava Show whilst staying here. Guesthouse Reynir offers a range of rooms, with access to a shared bathroom and shower facilities. There’s also a few rooms available with a private bathrooms. During your stay you’ll also have access to a common area that has cooking facilities and a dining area so this is a great place to stay on a budget.

If you’re on a higher budget, you could consider staying at the Black Beach Suites. Located about 4km from the beach, this aparthotel offers a selection of studio apartments that sleep up to 5 people, plus they have free parking and free WiFi.

Each of the rooms have a private bathroom, kitchen, free WiFi and more. If you’re really wanting to treat yourself you could also upgrade to a room that offers a sea view. As well as beign close to the beach, you’ll also be under 10 minutes drive from Vik and 15 minutes drive from the Dyrhólaey viewing point.

What To See in Vik

View of vik church, and the Reynisdrangar rock formations in Vik

Before or after you visited the beach, I recommend checking out Vik. If you’re only driving through and have limited time, it’s at least worth visiting the church called Vík i Myrdal Church. This beautiful church is featured in many landscape photos of this area, and is definitely worth visiting.

The views from the church are pretty, and if able to do so I recommend going up the hill slightly for a better view over the area (as pictured above), this gives you the chance to get the black beach, Vik Church and the rock formations in one photo! It’s such an incredible view and definitely recommended. Just be careful of any ice, as it can be super slippery.

If you’re staying in the area for the night, or can stop off for the day you could go to the Icelandic Lava Show, where you’ll be able to experience watching red hot lava upclose. This is the only place in the world offering such an experience, so it’s really a unique experience. Entry to the Icelandic Lava Show starts at $43 per adult. If you’re coming on a tour to this area, many of them will take you to the lava show. You can get tickets here.

If you’re looking for something adventureous, you could choose to go snowmobiling over the Mýrdalsjökull glacier which is located in the north of Vik. During this snowmobile adventure, you’ll get to ride all the way from the Mýrdalsjökull base camp to the Katla Volcano Caldera. You’ll also get to admire the amazing views across the south coast of Iceland from the Katla Volcano before heading back to Mýrdalsjökull. Snowmobiling is really fun + with the views, its such an awesome experience. You can check availability and book here.

More Travel Tips & Resources

  • Get Travel Insurance – Don’t leave home without travel insurance. Travel insurance can cover you in case you have an accident, get sick, lose your passport or other belongings, miss your flight, or if part or all of your trip is canceled or delayed. If you’re in the UK, I recommend using Allclear, for the USA you should consider AXA and for the USA, UK + Rest of the World check out SafetyWing.
  • Hiring a car I recommend booking your car hire through Discover Cars. They offer 24/7 support, and free cancellation. They help by finding the cheapest car hire available, by searching hundreds so companies so you don’t have to.
  • Booking budget-friendly accommodation – I normally book hotels and hostels through, as they allow me to filter for properties based on my needs. They also have a great free cancelation policy. For my UK holidays, I normally use Park Holidays to book lodges/caravans and pet-friendly accommodation. For long-term stays and holiday rentals, I use VRBO.
  • Booking Tours – When I am booking tours, I like to use GetYourGuide or Viator. They both have great selections of guided tours, skip-the-line tickets and city passes. For tours run by locals, AirBnB Experiences has some great selections as well.
  • Booking Flights – I always find my cheapest flights using Kiwi or Skyscanner. Both search for the cheapest flights, and let you filter by stops, times, etc so you can find the cheapest options. You can also sign up for Jack’s Flight Club to be alerted to cheap deals if you’re happy to travel anywhere.
  • Travel eSims – If your phone supports an eSim, I recommend using Airalo. They sell eSims based on country, region, and even global ones! There’s one for almost every country and they can work out cheaper than sim cards.
  • Travel Sim cards – If you don’t want an eSim, then this Orange travel sim card will have you covered for Europe or this Global Sim Card that works in over 200 countries. Make sure to check out my sim card guides for information on buying local sim cards.
  • Face masks – Not just for covid! I’ve worn an n99 face mask on planes since 2017, as they’ve helped me avoid getting sick from other passengers’ germs and avoid bad smells. I always wear a Cambridge Mask when visiting countries with high pollution such as Taiwan, as they help against air pollution, bacteria, and more.
  • VPN – Whilst traveling you’ll normally end up using WiFi in public places or at your accommodation, which may not be fully secure. I recommend using Proton VPN, as they don’t track your browsing history and are reasonably priced.

Travel Resources

Travel resources to help you save money, stay safe and plan your travels.

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