Reynisfjara is a black sand beach in Iceland located close to the town of Vik. Located close to the ring road, it’s certainly worth a visit. You can explore the black sand of the beach, see the basalt sea stacks Reynisfjara and see the basalt columns that form the cliffs. These natural phenomena make for a great photography location with a wonderful setting!
How to get to the Black Sand Beach
The black sand beach Reynisfjara is located in the south of Iceland, along the ring road. So if you’re doing a road trip along the ring road, you pass by very closely to Reynisfjara.
Shortly before you reach Vik (assuming you’re coming from the direction of Reykjavík), you leave the ring road and turn right into road 215. You then follow that road for about 10 minutes until you reach the parking lot of the beach (located here). It’s an easy road to drive and parking is free of charge.
If you’re staying in Reykjavík, the drive to Reynisfjara is about 2.5 hours 190 km (120 miles). You’ll need about an hour to visit the black sand beach, so it’s doable as a day-trip from Reykjavík. This visit is best to be combined with a visit to the nearby waterfall Skógafoss.
What to See at the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach?
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Let’s start our list of things to see with the black sand beach itself, Reynisfjara. From the parking lot just walk a bit south and you’ll be on the beach. You can’t miss it. Once you’re on the beach, you’ll be able to go left or right.
When you take a right, you’ll be able to walk on a spit of land on the beach. It’ll be quiet here. Not a lot of people go in this direction. If you keep following the beach, you’ll reach Arnardrangur, a basalt sea stack on the beach. You can read more in our article on Dyrhólaey and Kirkjufjara Beach.
When you turn left from the parking lot, that’s where all the people are. And for good reason. Here you’ll find the basalt sea stacks, the basalt cave, and the basalt stacks of the cliffs. In 1991 the beach Reynisfjara and the area nearby were ranked by National Geographic as one of the 10 most beautiful non-tropical beaches of the world.
Black sand beaches can be formed in two ways. When the hot lava gets to the sea, the hot lava and the cold sea collide. In certain conditions, the lava then explodes, leaving behind the small black sand particles. Another way black sand can be formed is by erosion of volcanic rock. When searching on the internet, it isn’t clear to me which way the black sand of Reynisfjara was formed.
Reynisdrangar – Basalt Sea Stacks
The basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar are at the east end of the Reynisfjara beach. When you reach the sea, you’ll see them. If you want to walk close to the basalt sea stacks, the walk from the parking lot is about 300 meters (1000 feet).
In folklore legends, the basalt sea stacks used to be trolls that pulled nearby ships from the ocean on the shore. The trolls could only live at night. One night the trolls stayed out too late. As a result, they were turned into stone at sunrise. These petrified trolls are the 3 stacks you can see standing in the sea.
Apart from the wonderful scenery, the area Reynisdrangar is a great place for bird watching as well. The sea stacks are a nesting location for lots of birds. Birdwatchers can find puffins, guillemots, and fulmars at this location. It’s a truly magical place to visit, for everyone!
Reynisdrangar Cliffs and Basalt Columns
When you walk on the beach in the direction of the sea stacks, you’ll walk next to the cliffs of Reynisdrangar. And it’s just magnificent. The cliffs are made of basalt rock. The basalt columns of the cliffs are really large and impressive. You can climb on the basalt stacks to take some cool photos.
Basalt rock is formed by lava that contains a lot of the metals magnesium and iron. If the lava cools down fast enough, basalt is created. Basalt columns are formed by thermal expansion of the magma, causing the cracks that create the columns. If the magma cools very quickly, small basalt columns are formed. When the magma has more time to cool, there are fewer cracks and the basalt columns are larger. 90% of all volcanic rocks on earth are made of basalt. You can read more on basalt on Wikipedia.
Hálsanefshellir Basalt Caves
Along the cliffs of Reynisdrangar, you’ll also find two caves of basalt. The walls and roofs of the caves are made of basalt columns and the floor of the cave is composed out of black sand. When you arrive at the beach and look left, you’ll see the first cave, Hálsanefshellir.
If you stand in front of the cave, Hálsanefshellir has basalt pillars on the right of the cave entrance. You can see this cave in the first photo of this article. The other cave on the beach has basalt columns on the left of its entrance. You can see this cave in the photo above. It’s not really large though, but it makes an impressive sight. And a great opportunity to take some more photos 📸.
Hiking to the Reynisdrangar Cliffs from Vik
Another thing you can do is hike from the parking lot, at the weather signs of Vik, to the cliffs to have a great view of the area. If you want to make this hike, you can park your car where it says Wettertafel Vik on Google Maps (location).
The hike is marked on Google Maps as well, so should be easy to follow. It takes about 50 minutes to reach the viewpoint. The viewpoint is marked on Google Maps as Viewpoint of Reynisfjara and Dyrhólaey. The hiking trail is 3.1 km one-way (1.9 miles).
We planned on doing the hike ourselves, but we ended up skipping it. There are two reasons for that. First of all, our visit to Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara took more time than we anticipated.
And second, when we were on the beach the weather was fantastic. We even took off our jackets and walked in our T-shirts. But as you’ll notice, in Iceland the weather can turn very quickly. When we arrived at Vik, the weather turned and it was cloudy and looked like it could rain any minute. And we didn’t feel like making the hike in the rain. So we skipped the hike. But if you did the hike, let us know how it went please 🙂.
Tips for a Nearby Visit
As mentioned earlier, Reynisfjara is located close to the town of Vik. Almost near the ring road. If you visit Reynisfjara as a day trip from Reykjavík, we recommend combining the trip with a visit to the famous Skógafoss waterfall.
When driving the ring road, you can do the same. Though if you have more time at hand, we’d recommend a stop at the nearby Dyrhólaey and Kirkjufjara beach, which is about 20 minutes away. From there you have a great view of the beach Reynisfjara and you’ll be able to admire a basalt arch.
Another stop that’s near, and can be done on an evening is the Seljavallalaug swimming pool. This free pool is located close to Skógafoss. And a great place to end your day!